Yes, welcome back to the starship Merigal which, I hope, will be coming to you in its new, commercially printed format!
Over the last couple of years, we have been trying to upgrade the presentation of Merigal, but have been continually thwarted by technical problems. Ron Marke had been printing our Journal for many years, for which I think we should all be immensely thankful. His efforts have kept the cost of producing our Journal to a minimum - far less than what it would cost to be done commercially, and he greatly improved the presentation of the Journal when he took over its production.
However, crunch-time has come. Ron has sold his equipment a while ago and we have to look at getting printing done elsewhere.
Of particular concern to me has been providing graphics of reasonable quality. I really get disappointed when carefully-chosen graphics come out looking like grey-black, shapeless smudges. Our laser printer has 600dpi output, which gives high-res graphics, however, we had not been able to reproduce them adequately using methods readily available to us.
In some cases, to get around this problem, Ron and I produced "hybrid" Journals - I printed the graphics pages, while he printed the text. All this has contributed to wear and tear on printing equipment belonging to Berenice and a need to supervise printers for hours on end, which was becoming intolerable. I am still trying to get over my dread of producing a print medium publication.
I avoided long shifts at the printer in the last edition by having the Journal done on an A3 photocopier. It just was not good enough. With any luck, this edition will be a vast improvement. And I don't think the cost will be any greater than the photocopied edition, though the days of really cheap printing are definitely over, unless someone wants to suggest another option which will give us timely output of reasonable quality.
The cost factor is an issue, which we will need to consider, however, I hope we can offset it by increasing membership. As the print run increases, costs should go down. Also, the new format will require us to be a little more disciplined over the size of the Journal, which will now be a multiple of four pages, and usually sixteen to twenty pages long.
We have been very pleased to be taking on a lot of new members in recent months. Indeed, I seem to remember our membership bumping along between a hundred and a-hundred- and-twenty-odd members years ago, however, membership is now somewhere around double that.
The good news is that, along with the many donations we receive, this is giving us a basal level of income which is allowing us to continue with improvements on the property. We are currently in the throes of upgrading visitor facilities so we can greatly expand our educational programs.
The bad news it that when we are printing mailers for distribution of our Journal, it is far easier to miss someone out. It is more difficult to be able to say, "Well, I didn't notice so-and-so's name there."
With due respect, while one can be scathing of people making mistakes on databases, but it does require a huge amount of attention. Anyway, rather than attempt self-justification, I'll just implore you to let us know if you even suspect a problem.
And, I wasn't intending a bitch session, but just letting you know we have made changes to the way the database is managed, and will continue to review this. It is a bugbear for the members of many organisations, and we apologise for any inconvenience caused by problems in the past.
After a spectacular growing season, things have become dry, dry, dry! The grounds have gone ahead tremendously with our rather strange summer, though and, ignoring dust and dead grass, things are looking marvellous. It is raining as I write the final draft of Scentpost, so keep fingers crossed for more!
Flies are still about, and the odd flea has been detected, though our spraying program in the spring of 1996 has prevented major outbreaks. We aim to continue planting trees and shrubs, and plans are in progress to create a screen of trees along boundaries on both north-eastern and south-western sides of the property.
Our neighbour has moved in and I can report quite a positive chat with him recently. Noise from the Dingoes does not appear to be a point of contention with him, which is a relief. If breeding-season Dingo antics don't drive our neighbours mad, then I think we'll be right for other times of the year! :-)
Even so, a screen of shrubs is planned to reduce any potential nuisance from the Dingoes on the boundary. We are also pleased to report that our new neighbour seems to have a desire to maintain the wonderful stand of timber at the rear of his property, and has positive environmental leanings. That is indeed encouraging!
As mentioned earlier, the big challenge is to improve our visitor facilities to make the Dingo Sanctuary a more attractive place to visit.
Work will proceed soon on fitting out our new reception building fronting onto the parking area. We had already taken delivery of this transportable building, as previously reported, and the next stage will be to add a veranda. Upgrades to the building, which will double as a reception and office area, will allow us to be available at all times to people entering the parking area so confusion as to where to go can be avoided. We thank Margaret Fulton for her support for this program.
Despite having successfully dosed all the females with contraceptive, some of the males are becoming a little pushy with the post-solstice testosterone rush. Boys will be boys!!
Fission of the Wild Mob
Mulga has been giving his half-sisters hell at breakfast over bones. After usual peace-keeping efforts failed, ChloŽ has finally been separated from her sister and half-brother with a nasty bite to her rear end. Mulga even chased Ozy when Ozy was here on his usual Thursday visit. Mulga, a large dog, with a very large head and teeth, has been given MPA.
... got a dose of MPA too, after curling his lip at a couple of our new volunteers. MPA is a synthetic progestagen which mimics the effect of the female pregnancy hormone, progesterone. Snowdrift can tell you that it sure shrivels you up between the legs!
Young hooligan, Mandawuy, was not at all pleased to receive his medicine! Although the skin was not broken, I still have some bruising on my left ar m to remind me of his displeasure! Oh, well. We put our volunteers before his male posturing!
By the way, Mandawuy and Lasca have been moved to the Stockyard paddock which gives them more room and they seem a lot happier for it.
The rather timid, tricolour dog with Teena has been a bit more pushy lately, too, although too shy to be a problem. The Dingoes had begun their love songs again, indicating someone's contraceptive was just about losing its effect. Guess who the lucky boy was?
Sadly for Koori, we dosed Teena again before he really had time for much fun, but he got in one mating, nevertheless. Going on the resutls of matings in previous years , Teena will not conceive. Koori's quickie was what we term here a "mating of desperation".
... of course, was most put out to have an available bitch just across the laneway unavailable to him as alpha. So he was getting a little steamed up. He seems to be settling down now.
And the moral is ...
All the Dingoes become more excitable and aggressive in the breeding season. Males may challenge, especially if you get between one of them and his bitch. So, Dingo-handlers, be careful!!
Operation OATH (Oola Around the House)
Pam Hartley and I can announce with great pleasure that Kadoka and Willie have been introduced successfully and are now kennelled together.
We tried walking the pair together some weeks ago with moderate success. Willie, cranky little hussy she is, didn't like having a dog walking behind her, so started to growl with Kadoka on her trail.
So we swapped them about. Kadoka is quite tactful, and just ignored Willie's puffing, leash-pulling attempts to catch him up.
Well, we still weren't sure what'd happen when they were introduced. This is always a time when one has one's heart in one's mouth. Kadoka turns ten this month and, much as we love Willie, we don't want to see ol' 'Dokey get hurt. But, on a recent Tuesday, we agreed it was time.
The one acre paddock was chosen as the place to "r-r-r-release the hounds!" It has plenty of new sights and scents to take the attention of the most determined fighters.
I took Willie to the bottom corner of the paddock diagonally opposite the gate at the top. After some initial confusion, Pam brought 'Doka into the gate corner.
Indeed, there are so many distractions in the forested, one acre paddock that I think neither would have chanced upon the other for some time, had not Willie followed me to the top of the paddock as I began to walk up. When she met Kadoka, there was a brief moment of nose-to-nose, stiff-legged, tail-over-back posturing with only the pair's very tail tips wagging rapidly. Then there was a choked bark from someone. Then Kadoka just began to go about his own business with Willie leaping around him joyfully. Success!!
'Hostie and Romulus
With Kadoka now living with Willie, 'Hostie has been on her own. But not for long. She is now running with Romulus where Oola used to be.
Operation OATH Complete!
... And Oola now comes around the house on a regular basis! As yet, minimal damage. At least she hasn't tried eating the house again! If she does, we'll be saying, bl**dy OATH!
The One-Acre Paddock
Some of the younger dogs,especially 'Dusty, accompanied by her mother, Jedda, have been enjoying the now complete one-acre paddock below the Dingo night-enclosures. When we get leashes and check-chains to take them there, they both crow in anticipation!
As far as our other residents, nothing much to report. They are, in general, busy just being themselves.
This is cruising along. We have one grant applicaton in, and are waiting for the outcome. Meanwhile, a very pleasing number of samples, Dingo, Australian Cattle Dog, and of general domestic dog origin, is builidng up. We have been extracting DNA from blood, liver, skin and muscle tissue. New primers have been ordered so we can look at more loci, and we will be able to run a greater number of samples for each locus. The more samples we look at, the more we can be sure any promising results are significant. We are looking at applying for funding for the projectas an industry/government collaborative effort, so we may be asking for donations specifically for the research at some point along the track. The DNA work, if successful, will give us a much more objective means of assessing the purity of Dingoes in captivity resonably conveniently than we've had before, so it should be a great step forward for Dingo conservation in general. We'd be interested in feedback.
As Berenice has commented elsewhere, our ageing 486 has had its productivity bolstered by the addition of a Pentium, which is more able to handle some of the graphics and printing work we put our systems to. It will form the hub of a little network which will allow us to link our eception, this office, and Berenice's work area together so we can continue to work while waiting for visitors on weekends.
We also hope to have an electronic mailing list up for members, supporters and others interested in discussing issues relating to Dingoes. All this has been achieved at no cost to the Society.
A very pleasing result overall, with a lot of new ones, though we are still waiting on just a few renewals. No, I'm not naive enough not to realise the usual small number have inevitably made their comment on management here by voting with their feet, but on the premise that a good percentage of the few outstanding may have overlooked things, please help us by sending us your remittance soon. When renewals are late, that means we have to sit on our hands waiting for funds for one or more projects. Heavens - I could be out earning money for myself and having a good time instead of doing that. We need all of you!!