Wednesday 30 January 2019

Latest Review of Merigal Dingoes. Reviewed Jan 25, 2019 by T. R. Robinson

Thank you to Tanya Robinson for taking the time to read and review my book Merigal Dingoes.

A marvellous anthology of stories which reveal, among other insights, what it is like to live with a dingo and the challenges that and the running of a dingo sanctuary hold. Those who are not from Australia or have no links with the country, may not appreciate for generations dingoes were designated as vermin to be ‘legally’ ‘disposed’ of as and when encountered. This is the fundamental situation and attitude underlying these revealing tales.

Intertwined with the dingo tales are some elemental accounts of the decades long battles Berenice Walters, founder of the Merigal Dingo Sanctuary, had with Australian authorities to have the dingo recognised as a breed of dog rather vermin to be exterminated without thought.

A long standing debate, among some, regards the question of whether animals have spirits, souls, etc. in the same manner as humans. Whatever a reader’s opinion it cannot be denied they certainly have personalities with some even displaying evident character traits. This book assuredly proves the point. Within these anecdotal stories there is a mixture of humour; sorrow; love; dedication; commitment; challenges; battles; and achievement (success). No more will be said so as not to spoil the enjoyment for prospective readers.

A couple of points readers should be aware of:

Though Pamela King is shown as the primary author, the book is actually a collection of stories or accounts written by numerous individuals, including Pamela King. Some go back decades. Readers will note some would benefit from a little editing nevertheless, to have done so may have ruined authenticity.

Though the chapters are generally short most include a lot of information (interesting and educational). This can result in it being slight tiring to read too many in one go. It is suggested the best approach would be to read in short bursts to enable the details to be assimilated properly.

The book also includes an excellent range of photographs.

Four stars (4*).

The book is available in paperback and digital (kindle e-book) formats.

Note: To some extent, though the book stands on its own feet and should be read as such, it is also a precursor to the biography of Berenice Walters (founder of the Australian Native Dog Conservation Society and the Merigal Dingo Sanctuary) the author is currently in the process of writing. One to look forward to with anticipation.

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Wednesday 23 January 2019

Berenice Walters, Australian Cattle Dog Breeder – updated blog

This is an updated blog from October 2016 and includes additional information.

Not many people know, before she committed her life to dingoes, Berenice Walters and her husband, Bern, were leading breeders of Australian Cattle Dogs for 25 years. They bred dogs that were both exceptional working dogs and champions in the show ring.

Her interest in registered Australian Cattle Dogs started in 1952 when she and Bern, purchased a pup and founded Wooleston Kennels.

They first saw "show" cattle dogs at the Moss Vale show. Noticing some were very dark, almost black heavily built dogs, they wondered what they were. 

These dogs were much larger and heavier than the Wooleston working cattle dogs - and yet they resembled them. They learnt there were two types of cattle dogs – these show dogs and the lighter built working dogs. Bern made up his mind there and then they would beat them at their own game with dogs bred exclusively from working stock.

This was not only the start of a new era for the Walters but the start of a new line of Australian Cattle Dogs that dominated the show ring for twenty years.

Wooleston was the first to export Australian Cattle Dogs to the USA in 1969 and both Berenice and Bern were active members of the Australian Cattle Dog Club.
Wooleston Blue Jock

Their most famous dog was Wooleston Blue Jock who reigned as top Australian Cattle Dog between 1966 and 1974. He was seven-time runner up Best in Show for All Breeds and five times Best in Show at Australian Cattle Dog Specialist Shows. In 1967 he won Best of Breed at the Sydney Royal Easter Show over 150 other Australian Cattle Dogs. In fact he won Best Australian Working Dog at Sydney and Brisbane Royals, Best of Breed at Melbourne Royal and was three times Reserve Challenge at Sydney Royal.

This was quite a turn around to the time Bernice showed one of their dogs in the 1954 Sydney Royal Easter Show and a woman spectator, commented  “Oh, I didn’t know you could show street dogs at a Royal!”

Wooleston Blue Jack
Jock’s father, Wooleston Blue Jack, had also been a champion show dog and worker. According to A Dog Called Blue by Noreen R Clark in 2003, most, if not all, Australian Cattle Dogs whelped since 1990 are descended from Wooleston Blue Jack.

Respect for Berenice in the field of Australian Cattle Dogs continued for many years. 

As dingoes began to dominate her life Berenice continued to be highly regarded for her knowledge of Australian Cattle Dog conformation, breeding and history.

She qualified as a breed judge and in January 1975 judged the Special Junior Showmanship Section of Bargo Show.

In September 1981 Berenice was invited to be specialist Breed Judge at the Australian Cattle Dog Society of NSW Championship Show and Obedience Trial

In September 1987 she was invited by the RASKC to prepare and compile examination papers for Single Breed Aspirant Judges for Australian Cattle Dogs.

In 1969 she met Mr AJ (Bert) Howard when his son purchased a Wooleston pup. They discovered they had a shared passion and became close friends.

He was particularly interested in studying the origins of the Hall’s cattle dogs tracing back to their original breeder, pioneer Thomas Simpson Hall (1808-1870) of Dartbrook station in the Upper Hunter Valley (his wife was a descendant of the Hall family).

It was Berenice who lit the fire turning his interest into an obsession he still pursues. They would regularly keep in touch by phone and meet every now and then to discuss his research progress.

Mr Howard, now a recognised authority on the history of the Australian Cattle Dog, agreed to being interviewed for Berenice’s biography that I am writing and told me:

Whilst I accept Berenice was known, and is being perpetuated, as the “Dingo Lady” I somehow feel her biography would not be complete without some mention of her love and breeding of cattle dogs—old timers knew and respected her as one who played a major role in breeding her iconic “Blue Heelers” at Wooleston Kennels. Even today, there is acknowledgement of her, and the acceptance that most modern-day prize-winning Australian Cattle Dogs trace back to her bloodlines.

She was proud of the fact that she bred working dogs for hardnosed drovers or cattlemen, and from the same litter she could produce a show champion. She once told me how nasty some breeders were—she was most upset when they too loudly clapped and cheered when one of their dogs finally won against her dogs. From that point on she became disenchanted with the show dog breeding fraternity, and I became aloof too.

Berenice once told me she and Bernie initially bred their famous Wooleston dogs from selected drover’s dogs brought down from Moree, and these drover’s dogs traced back to the Hall’s Heelers. It is significant that modern day Moree exists on land once part of the original Weebollabolla & Bullerue Runs, controlled by Thomas Simpson Hall. Members of various families either worked for or had access to the working Hall’s Heelers on these properties, including the Lanaghans, Hilliers, Wearne, and Timmins. families.

Today, the once rather commonplace country Blue Heelers are less evident, even in country towns—but a modern society should be reminded that Blue Heelers once played a vital role in the development of this great nation.

Comment on the Breed by Berenice

Berenice once wrote:

One has to accept the fact that animals adapt to their environment to survive. The Australian Cattle Dog, in many ways, has adjusted to a sedentary way of life and changed physically. However. I hope that the original dog will remain the icon on which to base the breed, that the Standard will not be continually amended to conform with modern day changes, both physically and mentally. Like the Dingo, the ACD does not suit everybody, but to try to breed out their unique characteristics is to destroy the breed. 

I do hope that acceptance of the Dingo as a domestic pet will not lead to it being drastically changed through selective breeding by people rather than by nature.  Our Native Dog is a sight hound with superb and skilful hunting instincts, a natural predator.  Some prospective owners of Dingoes ask how many generations it will take to breed out these natural instincts.  How sad when there are virtually dozens of breeds to choose from without seeking to destroy the personality of our native dog.

No breed is perfect to everyone, but I do admire the resilience, the cheekiness, the cunning, devotion and protectiveness of our very handsome heelers.  Their motto too often seems to be bite first, think after.  I do hope that the breed standard will not be amended again to conform with modern changes.  After all, it is the wonders of the past that has made this breed the icon of “Australianess” - the little Aussie battler.

She also stated in her papers there is not a lot of Dingo character in the Blue Heeler and Mr Howard confirmed this belief.

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