Ahhh, the breeding season! Close your eyes and picture Dingo silhouettes flitting over desert sands on a crisp, still night in the pale light of a crescent moon. Imagine their joyous calls as canine couples pledge undying Dingo love for each other ...
... and then come back to the real world with a good, hard thump!!
With age progressively taking away her sight, hearing, mobility and appetite, our oldest Dingo at the time, Taronga Yindi, was euthanased last year, leaving behind her mate, ten year old Harry. Yindi was the last of the Taronga Dingoes retired here.
Attempts at pairing Harry with Willie, alone since Kadoka died, failed . Since then, six-year-old Oola has had an uneasy, though somewhat better, relationship with him.
However, Oola is six, and had never been mated. Echo, the obvious choice of mate has an excellent temperament like Oola and both are showing all signs of making a very compatible pair, even with the physical attraction waning! Meanwhile, rather disgusted at Echo's good fortune, Humpty-Two has since moved in with a very eligible Wattle, where he seems content, and Paterson with Queenie where there is somewhat less contentment. This separates entire males, Echo and the covetous Humpty-Two!
To those not involved in the daily running of the Sanctuary, these accommodation adjustments may seem arbitrary and flippant, but be assured they are made with the utmost consideration!
Anyway, the complementary pair to Oola and Echo, Harry and Coo-ee did not work out. Coo-ee became intensely jealous of special attention Harry received.
So Coo-ee has moved in with Mulga, one of her offspring. They have the occasional dispute, but these are, in my opinion, attenuated and they seem to be working out their differences.
Harry and Koorinne appear to be getting on famously, sleeping next to each other in their trampoline dog beds, with only two disputes so far. One was the result of a fight going on elsewhere and the ensuing excitement which builds just like the excitement in a mob of idle teenagers at a shopping mall on seeing a fight break out. Only six weeks until the end of the breeding season. And not a day too soon!!
As you know, we've been gradually improving our canine residents' enclosures to give them more opportunity for mental stimulation. Nevertheless, they make good use of whatever they have at hand ... err, paw, for their amusement!
A favourite Dingo trick is to dig cavernous holes. In warm, summer weather, these soon become overgrown with grass, and all but invisible to anyone attempting to mow an enclosure. So nothing to do but grit teeth, keep eyes peeled, and amuse onlookers with crazy mowing antics!
The object of such pitfalls reaching deep, as they do, into the earth's crust is not to seek out bugs and other Dingo delicacies. Oh, no! Nothing living to be found that far down. Of course, in ZoŽ's (aka "bitch from hell") case, she may just be feeling homesick. Think about it.
Anyway, the idea is to play let's sink the mower and see how much trouble we can cause for the "prey" riding it.
Cattle-dogs take another tack which shows a fundamental difference between these two oft-compared breeds. No subtlety here. When you try to enter their enclosures, they time their joyful leaps of affection to connect with the gate just as you release the latch. "I love you!! ... And that gate planted in the middle of your forehead really suits you, ya know that?" Oh, by the way, 'Magic has just given birth to four baby cattle-kids. Two boys and two girls. Oola should whelp in late June, if she has conceived. Daintree should have a litter on the way, too. It's been four years since we have bred and kept puppies, so this is the year!
Lots of good things have been happening lately. Here's a sample, and it's not exhaustive!
The afterhours committee of the NSW Branch of the National Trust has come through with a two thousand dollar donation, and they are going to sponsor a puppy! So that puts all our puppy sponsors in good company, doesn't it?
We will be discussing with them a suitable day for a function at the Dingo Sanctuary for receipt of their sponsorship.
I suggest the two thousand dollars go towards the construction of the Dingo Treatment Centre, with a plaque to acknowledge their support and that others contributing matching donations or more be acknowledged on the same plaque.
Dog Food Donations
Thanks to Matina Butcher, National Sponsorship Coordinator for SuperCoat Pet Care, we have received so far this year about two hundred kilograms of dry dog food from SuperCoat. These ongoing donations help us to keep feeding costs to a minimum and put money into much needed upgrading of facilities at the Sanctuary, such as the Treatment Centre.
Sydney Pet & Animal Expo
For the first time, we took Dingoes to The Sydney Pet & Animal Expo, at Homebush Bay. We shared a stall with Margaret Bamford, who very kindly donated us space at no cost. And at Pet Expo, that's a saving of a lot of cost!!
Margaret Bamford is importing special quick release collars from the US and selling them under the business name, Dreampet. These prevent dogs becoming snagged on objects from which they can't escape. A number of dogs has died this way. If you want to know more, give us a call and we can put you on to her.
The Millers were there. And, of course, we met Margo, Mary, Elizabeth, Peg and John. Did I leave anyone out? Where were all you others who've complained before about our absence?
Anyway, it only took us an hour to get there. Don't ask about the trip home! Thanks Mary, Margo and Danielle for helping out at the Sanctuary and at the stall! Everything went pretty smoothly. With that in mind, maybe we could make the Sydney Royal next year! :)
The Big Cleanup
Hasn't the weather been unpredictable lately? Thirty thousand Sydney houses had roofs damaged only weeks ago. In Bargo, it was calm that night, but I could see swirling cloud and lurid flashes of lightning over the city. It looked like a bombing raid was going on!
We've had nothing to rival Sydney's disasters, but some very sick looking black wattles were putting our fences in jeopardy. And where would our Dingoes have been by the time we'd discovered the damage?
Again, Craig Blanch of Southern Tree Care was ready to help. He quickly contacted friend, Warren Hough, of Bowral Tree Service. The wood had gone like steel, and there was pretty much a full day's work in it for both men. As with last year, we were quite prepared to pay for the work, but like Craig, Warren, who kindly provided most of the equipment, donated the work, a good five or six hundred dollars' worth, to the Sanctuary. In addition, all the wood was sawed up, and George Parker has brought most of it up for us to use as firewood.
Removal of the dead wood, has dramatically reduced fire hazard within the Sanctuary . And you wouldn't credit the difference removing the dead trees makes! Thanks Craig and Warren!!
Dimity Bjork of Creatures on Call organised a paid appearance for 'Dusty at The Dome at Homebush Bay along with other native Australian fauna for a convention of trauma surgeons.
Margo assisted with handling 'Dusty. The appearance generated some favourable comment, and we got paid for it, too. Thanks, Dimity, for thinking of us!
Who saw us on Animal Hospital? Lots of people, apparently! I think this has brought the most feedback we've had from any segment in the last five years. And we received some welcome donations, too.
Other things which are in the pipeline are an appearance on FoxTel's Lifestyle Channel, in a new colour magazine called Puppies Australia (not promoting pet Dingoes, by the way) and a new men's magazine.
In print, we managed some comment on Dingo preservation in The Sydney Morning Herald recently. And a nice spread in All About Dogs in Britain, kindly written and organised by Dr Kim Bryan who also donated her fee amounting to one hundred dollars Australian.
Visitations are looking up in the coming months with several tours booked. We need to get to work on RTA signposting. One of the requirements for this has been to advertise more extensive casual open hours, and so our entry in Wollondilly Tourist Guide will indicate casual opening times from Thursday to Monday. As I am finishing up on my one day a week paid work, I will have more time to help out.
It looks like we will soon again have new neighbours. However, the people considering buying the property on our north-eastern boundary did us the courtesy of calling to chat to us, and seem to be dog friendly. I'm relieved we are not getting a herd of goats next to us, or a couple of young blokes who want to fill the place up with rusting car bodies they're working on, noisily revving engines all day and night.
We are again planning to hold DingoFest on the third Sunday in October. President Luci has been running workshops for our Dingo handlers and all the Dingoes are coming on well with the use of positive training methods. Hopefully, we will have a good team for a display at DingoFest which will be held in lieu of the usual parade.
The workshops show that people who are not behaviour or training experts can make progress with adult Dingoes using positive methods.
Dianne Atkins visited a recent session, and it warmed my heart to see her rise without cue and assist the handlers with their training efforts. It was wonderful to see Koorinne respond to her use of a food lure by performing the desired manoeuvre in one smooth motion. What kind of positive reinforcements will ensure we get you back, Dianne?
That day I had to smile, which is rare as most know I am a grumpy old you-know-what. Thanks Luci for sharing your time with us and thanks to all who've participated so far.
With additional money available, Elisa Mokany has been working solidly in the lab. on microsatellite loci. We now have a dozen or more proving informative in telling the difference between Dingoes and domestic dogs. I have done some work on the microsatellites, too, but hope to spend time on the pressing problem of developing a cheap and low-effort means of assessing the ancestry of free-living wild dog populations. If we can establish that their ancestry is likely to be largely pure Dingo, then we have a case for preservation. More soon!
The sponsorship program is going wonderfully! But we could use more support specifically for fencing. This would allow us to create large, secure areas where the Dingoes could engage in natural behaviour. Perimeter fencing would protect birdlife on wetlands at the back of the Sanctuary from foxes and feral cats. Finally, we'd have better facilities to assist in making documentaries and films on Dingo behaviour.
Remember, too, that at about this time next year, we face a GST. That means that the cost of fencing and building could go up considerably.
The next site scheduled to be fenced is a six thousand square metre area behind the existing one acre paddock which we call the Green Feed Paddock. This area is the site of our windbreak, masterminded by Elizabeth Smith, which will ameliorate weather conditions in that spot.
We want to use the area for doggy activities for our Dingoes (especially the puppies), with agility and obedience gear, lure coursing and other fun things to help develop their personalities and keep them amused. It'd also be neutral territory where our Dingoes could gain some social skills by being exposed to visiting dogs ...
So, I propose making it available as an offleash dog park to members, and possibly others, with well behaved dogs, in return for a small subscription fee - say about nine dollars a month to members. Six and twelve month subs. would be discounted. This would cover weekend access to the fully fenced park and to scheduled events./activites, and would fund the acquisition of equipment.
This way, we get our fencing, and our supporters get a good quality dog park with facilities and scheduled activities. What do you think?