Only one year to go, now, 'til party time!! Doesn't all the hype make you want to throw up?
What is it with this year 2 000 thing, anyway? Clocking up all those zeroes naturally attracts some attention, I suppose! Of course, we know the new millennium really starts on 1 January 2001, don't we?
Nevertheless, we are very close to having the Sanctuary in absolute, tip-top shape and the year 2 000 is as good a date as any to finalise many years of intensive effort.
What a year we had in 1998! We did more business than ever. While tour buses may be down a bit, we seem to be getting more than enough casual visitors on weekends to make up the slack and as you know, membership is at an all time high. Merchandise exports, largely to the United States, have been tremendous (thanks Monica and Marie!), and our Dingo sponsorship scheme has been an outstanding success.
Media interest continued with our organisation being contacted to comment on problems with human/Dingo interactions on Fraser Island, the new legislation relating to Dingo ownership, genetic research and more. With more members and more resources, our public profile is improving and things are keeping busy. Whew!
What a long way we've come from those gloomy days in the early 1990s when we stood at the brink, contemplating the abyss ...
Of course, it never pays to be smug in the fearsome face of fickle fate. This year will be no time to rest on our laurels. We need to make an effort to finish the building work so we can go on to other things. Oh, there really is not too much more to do!
We need a disabled person's bathroom and renovations to the floor in the meeting hall (Dingo Hut). With puppies expected this year, we desperately need to get the proposed treatment centre on the way. The centre will double as a place where Dingo matings can take place, and later, bitches can whelp and we can carry out early puppy-rearing. Finally, we need to build one new enclosure to replace the one which will be lost with the treatment centre. That's it!
Any donations or other useful offers of help to get building finalised this year will be gratefully received!
Poor signposting continues to be a bugbear for visitors looking for the Sanctuary. I am sure we can pick up on a significant quantity of passing trade. The Macarthur Regional Organisation of Councils recently selected us as one of five key tourist attractions in Wollondilly Shire. We need to capitalise on support such as this! We are reviewing opening times to help us qualify.
A truly insidious invasion needs addressing this year. The troops are well camouflaged. I confess I've passed by them day after day, totally oblivious. Now I've noticed them, the extent of advance is unsettling.
Lack of water has probably saved the situation somewhat. But that has taken a toll on new plants and we are now religiously watering the grass in the picnic area and gardens. They have responded tremendously.
But so have the weeds - inevitably the first things to rear their ugly heads. There is a veritable pastoral botany lesson here in the form of blackberry, blackberry nightshade , ink weed, peppercress, plantain, marshmallow, paspalum, phalaris, fireweed, purple top, bindiis. And those are just the ones I know! We had khaki weed, too but it went with about ten truckloads of beautiful topsoil we lost when the parking area was under construction. A small consolation, I suppose.
We probably need a group effort in the form of one or two days specifically set aside for deweeding, but consistency is the key. So if you notice weeds about and are physically capable of so doing, please pull 'em out.
Finally ... Fire Prevention
The spectre of wildfire perennially casts a lurid glare over planning priorities in our naturally vegetated Sanctuary. Bargo is a pretty dry ol' hole and what water we get tends to come in bursts. Water conservation, in the form of rainwater storage tanks, and suitable, combustion driven pumps are on the agenda.
The treatment centre will provide a safe haven for some of our canine residents on unprotected boundaries and could probably incorporate guttering and a water storage tank in its design. Perhaps we can look into additional tanks when our building work is completed and paid for.
With unseasonally cool weather until the beginning of December, and then very dry weather, fleas seem to have gone into hiding. I think this is part of the reason for the excellent control of fleas we are seeing this year.. No environmental sprays were used - only Frontline Top Spot. Bathing has been minimal. Amber's flea allergy dermatitis, quite serious only a couple of years ago, has resolved entirely and she now sports a luxuriant, rich chestnut coat Snowdrift looks shiny and sleek.
We recently switched dog food as a result of a donation from Green's General Foods and are currently feeding Buddy, which seems to agree well with our canine residents. Everyone seems to be in fine coat.
Muzzle irritation, probably a result of mosquito bites, seems to have subsided this year.
Of course, there is always something to plague us. This year it seems to be sore ears, and Amber, Mandawuy, Teena and Yothu have all had sporadic problems which we are treating with ear cleaner and antibiotics.
Breeding Season 1999 ... and Puppies!
With the summer solstice well and truly past, my least favourite time of the year, Dingowise, is almost upon us. There have been some minor scuffles in the Sanctuary. Now nights are longer and cooler, 'Hostie, li'l hyaena that she is, has been giving Remus the hint as to what will soon be on all the Dingoes' minds. The fact that they are desexed makes little difference - they know!
The youngest Dingoes on the place are Mandawuy, Lasca and 'Dusty - all four years old this season. The three puppies by Snowdrift out of Nardoo all went to Western Plains Zoo in 1996 and we have not bred since.
Wattle is seven, Daintree is seven. Nardoo, Oola, and Teena are all six. Shadow is ten and can probably be desexed. It would be nice to have a puppy from her without Yothu's breeding however, as he has thrown several puppies with skeletal deformities.
Maximising generation interval is good, but some of our ladies who would be first time breeders are getting on a bit. It is a concern.
This year, we are considering a number of matings, some of which will probably not be successful due to age. We are nutting out the details at present, but expect puppies this year!
Jarrah is now thirteen-and-a-half years old. Like many old dogs, he has been carrying around a number of pretty inactive lumps and bumps in his skin for some time. They are either lipomas, or little skin cysts.
Over the last couple of months, however, one lump chose to grow. To begin with, it was pretty slow, so surgery appeared unwarranted.
But it got bigger, and bigger. Finally, over a two or three week period, the lump swelled alarmingly. It started to point like an abscess. Jarrah was still as bright as a button (though he does nowadays seem to be suffering a li'l doggie dementia). Anyway, whatever it was, it now looked rather horrid, so time for some further investigation!
Nicole, one of Andrew O'Shea's veterinary associates in Narellan, attempted a fine needle aspirate, expecting a small quantity of fat. To our horror, a bright, red stream of mucosanguinous fluid flooded the syringe!
We then collected some blood from Jarrah's leg (cephalic) vein for a surgical work-up. This was an event in itself because, of course, Jarrah treated us to one of his infamous roaring episodes, terrorising all within earshot.
To cut the story short, Louise operated uneventfully on Jarrah one Thursday morning, removing a rather nasty-looking, partly fluid-filled lump from his flank. Jarrah has recovered well, actually appears healthier than ever, and we are just awaiting the results of pathology.
Most of the Dingoes go walking two or three times a week. Because his puppy socialisation with humans was inadequate, Koori is very people shy. Even on a harness, which does not put tension on his neck, he gets nervous of anyone walking behind him and cannot enjoy a walk.
To give him a change of scene, we have been putting Koori in the one acre paddock with Teena. Naturally, we have had some concerns in the past about catching him.
We don't worry too much now, though. Koori has become habituated to seeking shelter in a crate when people follow him, and can easily be caught and moved this way. It is nice to think that because of this, we can ensure he need not be confined to his enclosure.
Oola and Harry
Aside from some minor scuffling, this pair are essentially getting on well, and I have seen Oola get quite frisky with Harry lately. Oola seems to be learning that the best way to spend some time around the house is to make one's self scarce, and has been a lot easier to get on with when she does visit.
All the Dingoes have been pretty well behaved and there is little remarkable to comment on. 'Hostie's head abscessed, and so she is on antibiotics. Mandawuy is getting rather protective of Lasca. All signs I would expect at this time of year. Stay tuned for breeding season "fun"!
Remember the day the fire brigade was doing some hazard reduction burning in the Blue Mountains? The day the fire got away? That dreadful day with hot, gusty winds promising a killer fire season?
Last year's effort was our third Dingofest in its current form and we now have the format pretty well worked out. Part of what we detected as a reduction in attendance may well have been due to the event becoming too predictable. In particular, I think that if we wish to hold a parade of Dingoes again this year, we are going to have to do more preparation with our canine participants! Snowdrift, our savage, maneating alpha male again had to be carried around the ring while Pam Down read the commentary. What an embarrassment!
We had a minor catastrophe when a container of cash went missing and it appeared we'd done really badly incomewise. But it turned up in a search of Reception, so all ended well. The challenge in 1999 will be to revitalise the event with something new.
We regularly get calls from people for help with Dingoes which are threatened with seizure by the authorities, or have to be placed for other reasons. At some stage, it would probably be worth formalising policies on rescue, although this will probably hinge on getting more volunteer support.
A stray Dingo, obviously not wild, was found on the NSW Central Coast and has since been taken in by Norm and Sandy Needham.
Another Dingo, formerly in a pound in Nowra, has been taken in by a prospective member. I am sure we will be able to twist arms and get a report from both! :-)
Finally, we were notified by member, Dode Ford, that a friend of hers had recently lost an elderly Dingo mix and was looking for a replacement. Two days later, we were notified that a Dingo was available in at the Animal Welfare League and were able to pass on the contact details to the gentleman concerned. The crossbred Dingo has since found a home with him - a happy resolution to the matter.
Some good news on this front. Dr Alan Wilton put in an application for joint industry/government funding and it was successful. Our organisation, which is contributing $2 000 annually, for three years, (and me for two days a week) and Barry Oakman's group, are the "industry collaborators".
ANDCS Limited has been able to fund this largely through increased contributions as a result of support for the Dingo sponsorship scheme. Thankyou to all our contributors and give yourselves a pat on the back from us!!
The grant means that instead of having to make do with twelve thousand dollars annually from an ARC small grant, we will now have thirty thousand annually for three years. This means that other people such as research assistants can be enlisted to speed up progress. As far as lab. work, things slowed down over Christmas and I don't know if we'll have any honours students working on the project this year. The microsatellite work still seems promising. And we have a good bank of DNA samples from Dingoes and hybrids all over Australia, so we can begin to look at regional differences.
Instead of microsatellites, last year, I worked with CATS primers. Primers allow us to amplify (or clone) segments of DNA so we have enough to use in tests to compare differences between DNA of different origin. The CATS primers amplify DNA from different positions than microsatellite primers, but the approach is identical. We are just looking for consistent differences between dog and Dingo DNA.
Unfortunately, the CATS primer work was fiddly and did not generate a lot of useful results. Alan and I have discussed this and we have a few ideas, so if I get time and we get some more primer from the US, I may try again. This year, I will work on RAPDs, which are short primers capable of binding to multiple sites on strands of DNA. Where they will bind depends on sequences on the strands, and so differences in sequence become evident through differing product sizes evident after amplification. Unfortunately, they are very sensitive to experimental conditions and repeatability can be a problem.
Lot of interest in this department right through the year, of course. In this most recent case, changes to the Rural Lands Protection Act brought the attention of a journalist from the Sydney Morning Herald who phoned for an interview the day after the legislation had passed. The following day both television and radio had picked up the story.
By mid morning, both the ABC and Channel Seven (Seven's crew came by helicopter as you see) had despatched news crews, and the 'phone rang off the hook all day.
Interest on radio continued right through the week. The following week, we were beating a well worn path to Channel Nine so Sheila and Oola could appear with veterinarian, Steve van Mill and Steve Liebman on The Today Show.
I think we were able to counter a lot of the fluff, fuzz and puppy kisses side of the issue that was coming from the media.
Of course, we do not promote Dingoes as pets generally, although with time and commitment, they can do well. Indeed, we have mixed feelings about the recent changes.
It is good that Dingoes will no longer be considered pests specifically, and with loss of the pest tag, their image should improve. I wonder what supporters of the Chamberlains have to say, now?
On the other hand, abuse by shonky breeders is now easier, and we hope they do not become a fad pet. Current trends are encouraging.
We recently upgraded our software - a recipe for high blood pressure as you know. Say goodbye to comfortable routine as, to justify the cost, manufacturers screw around with the way everything works leading to despair and utter confusion. Revolutionary, intuitive design leads to greater functionality and increased productivity? Come in sucker! And by the time you figure it all out, they are invariably ready with the next upgrade!
Seriously, this upgrade seems worthwhile as it includes voice software, which I am hoping will help Berenice. She has trouble typing for extended periods.
Predictably, although we were on the nail with processor power, yep, you guessed it! They got us on memory. So I'll have to order more, which I knew I'd have to do anyway. Oh well.
For those who want to check it out, I have recently tightened up HTML coding on the main pages of our site, http://www.dingosanctuary.org but I am aware there are still a few bugs. Please report any problems you have with display and download times and I'll try to do something about them. And yes, merchandise graphics and Australian pricing on merchandise is on the way!
Luci Ellem will begin a series of behavioural workshop type sessions at the Sanctuary on the third Sunday of the month beginning February. Please see the accompanying circular!
Just a quick note to remind all that since we are constantly getting medications in for the Dingoes, I am happy to make available for sale products that we would normally have in stock. I will also consider ordering things in but will require a deposit in this case This does not include S4 drugs - if you need this stuff, please consult your regular veterinarian!
I want to keep this really simple. So, the system is ... prices are essentially what we pay for them plus a li'l bit to cover our effort. Plus you pay any applicable sales tax. Also, you must visit the Sanctuary and pick up the gear yourself.
For example, at present, we have:
Drontal Allwormer 35kg $6.50 ea
Frontline Top Spot 20 - 40kg $15.00 ea
The Drontals are a good size. About half will do a medium sized Dingo in fit condition. If your name is Ozy Dingo Clifton, you will need a whole one.
We also do a li'l boarding, subject to our being happy that we can fit a dog or dogs into our routine without jeopardising the peace and tranquillity of the Sanctuary. Generally, we would include them in the daily activities of the Dingoes. Details available on enquiry.
Memberships are now due! A good flush of memberships and Dingo sponsorship renewals means we have some cash in the kitty to start on business for the 1999 year. Great!! But we've got a lot to do, so please don't delay! Thanks!!