Scentpost - July 1999

Newsletter of the Australian Native Dog Conservation Society Limited

590 Arina Road (PO Box 91), Bargo, NSW, 2574 Australia 'phone +61 46 841 156 fax +61 46 841 156

e-mail - merigal@zip.com.au

Elusive Puppies!

Well ... where are they?? The puppies, that is!! Oola mated with Echo, briefly became a little rounder, and then ... nothing. Obviously still hopeful weeks after the puppies would have been due, she and Echo have dug themselves a den.
Daintree's mating to Bloomfield resulted similarly in disappointment. And Wattle to Humpty-Two? Again, nothing!
The only pitter-patter of li'l paws has come from the four doggie babies born to 'Magic and 'Rangi, our Australian Cattle Dogs. And with the last of those recently departed, we are again puppyless!
Not to be discouraged, we have our fingers crossed for Nardoo and Snowdrift who've had some encouraging, though unplanned matings a few weeks ago. Stay tuned!

Sanctuary Improvements

I don't have a treatment centre or disabled persons' bathroom to report just yet, but they're coming! Meanwhile, we haven't been idle!

Flooring

We should probably give up referring to the meeting hall as the "Dingo Hut". It doesn't do justice to our newly-refurbished floors! Here's the story ...
In weeks past, volunteers have arrived some mornings to find furniture mysteriously in disarray, hammer and nail punch lying nearby. What was going on?
Well, last year cattle-dog owning friends, Peter and Yasmin Whiter, were visiting and Pete took the opportunity to look at our sadly neglected floors in the meeting hall. "I think that's cypress pine", he commented enthusiastically.
It didn't take much to convince Pete, carpenter, builder and self-acknowledged wood-lover, that he could do something pretty wonderful for our floors. He and wife, Yas, kindly offered to return with the necessary equipment at an unspecified date. Then they would sand back the floor and seal it with polyurethane sealant.
But before the floor could be sanded, all the nails needed countersinking to protect the sandpaper and drum of the sanding machine. Guess who did that. What a job!
Anyway, we finally worked out a date for the floor refurbishment. The weekend scheduled for the big effort drew nearer and I feverishly began to move furniture from the building.
On the Friday Pete and Yas were due, I discovered the tacky-looking vinyl tiles in the kitchen were just sitting on a layer of masonite. I tugged on it gently and it moved a bit. I pulled harder and the whole lot came away. More nails to countersink and staples to pull. Yuck!
Pete and Yas got here late Friday night. Unloading the van the next day, we found we were short of sandpaper, and so began a tour of the Wollondilly Shire in search of more.
By about ten o'clock, we had located what we needed in Camden, and before the morning was over, the Dingo Hut was full of the noise of a MacPherson sanding machine in high gear.
A little after three PM, three tired and hungry workers emerged from the chaos in and around the building for a late lunch. Lunch? Uhhh ... yeah. Heh. One minor detail -food!! Better get some. Off to Bi-Lo.
Then back to work before darkness set in, and by seven, the floor was ready for the first coat of sealant!
After that, it was unanimously declared "beer o'clock" and a cold Cascade Premium sure helped settle the dust!
Later that evening, Pete's prowess "waltzing" with a Polivac highlighted years of experience. Guess that's one way to fill in a Saturday evening in an isolated fishing area when there's no dance in town! Then the second coat went on.
And then it was time for red wine, and for a baked dinner, care of ... me. I think I could have served up fried sawdust and no one would have noticed. We were all that tired. No one stayed up very late that night! The final coat of sealant went on the next morning.
The meeting hall now looks an entirely new building. Gone are the chipped, brown paint, most of the ugly cracks, and the general gloom. The floor is a rich, honey colour, with the striking patterning, enhanced by age, of cypress pine. Sun shining in the windows onto the floor suffuses the room with a warm, golden light.

Dingo Sanctuary Ablaze!

Once upon a time, a sea of paspalum filled the green feed paddock. Cattle once grazed there, and the paspalum provided good feed for them in the days before better pasture grasses became available. But now the cattle are gone.
From its stronghold behind the one acre paddock, the paspalum had sent sticky tentacles snaking out into the neighbouring forest paddock, choking out native grasses and clogging waterways.
With the growing season over, the grass had become an obnoxious, brown mat, sullenly clinging to acres of ill-gotten territory. Finally, a cool, still Monday, gave us ideal conditions to act. Three of us plotted the imminent demise of the hateful grass.
That afternoon, I made repairs to the water line while George Parker and Margo Press brought down their torches, collected rakes, and assembled other fire fighting paraphernalia. It took but a match to set the ample dry matter alight. Soon the top corner of the paddock was crackling and blazing merrily.
Tip: If you intend to start a burn, make sure before so doing that your hose reaches to the bottom of the paddock. 'Nuff said. Good firebreaks, experienced helpers and careful selection of environmental conditions prevented any mishaps.
From the house, a lurid glow filled the view to the north-west, its gold-orange brilliance shocking against the star-spangled black of the night sky. The fire burned on and reached the middle of the paddock. Flames leapt four metres into the air. A black wattle sapling exploded, flared briefly, and was gone.
As the blaze reached the rear of the paddock, an eerie breeze suddenly disturbed the stillness. Trees in the next paddock started to rustle and sway and the flames leapt higher.
I felt brief satisfaction as blackberries at the rear of the paddock crackled and fizzed in the flames. Then the fire surged forward towards the firebreak. Another black wattle exploded in a sizzling mass of flame. I'd been busy extending the firebreak most of the time the paddock was on fire, and it was more than adequate, but I felt a momentary pang of concern. I needn't have worried. The fire hit the break, subsided into several small fires along the fuel boundary, and quickly faded into a line of twinkling embers. And that was it!
The green feed paddock is essentially a field of stubble for the time being. Ideally, it would be resown with a more suitable grass, but at this stage, we may just opt to keep it mowed.

Plumbing

On a more mundane note, more leaks in the mains pipe in the Sanctuary have plagued us in recent months, and I have replaced much of the pipe now - something like 100 metres of it, anyway. That's a lot of digging, believe me, so I appreciated those who've helped!

More on the Breeding Season

As much as I hate giving painful injections, "love songs", the Dingoes' collective, continual, sweet, intimate calls signalling imminent oestrus, bring me out quickly with needles, syringes and a bucket (well, OK, just a vial, really) of contraceptive.
Contraception usually can't be put off past early March, but this year, it was the beginning of April before I could procrastinate no longer. We've had reports from elsewhere, too, that breeding seasons have been different this year in a variety of animal species, so it seems our Dingoes are not alone.
The delayed season is a great relief in one respect, anyway. With the late onset, it appears I will only have to give one dose of contraceptive this year. From me, and from every entire, female Dingo on the place ... hooray!!

Other Doggy Stuff

Jarrah's Lump ... again :(

Jarrah and Jedda our oldest canine residents, celebrated their fourteenth birthday on 12 July. Jedda is doing very well indeed. Eyes sparkling, ears hard pricked, she prances about her enclosure like a young dog.
Late last year, a fatty-looking, smooth, white, encapsulated, partially fluid-filled, egg-sized lump attached by a small tentacle was removed from Jarrah's brisket and he seemed to recover well. The lump was submitted for histopathology, but we never received a report.
Anyway, by mid-year this year, the lump was back with a vengeance. It appeared to be largely fluid-filled with some connective tissue in it. An abscess from a low grade infection? We wish. Recent surgery revealed instead a rather advanced cancer, which had infiltrated the intercostal muscles, among other things. Full removal was not possible without causing mutilation, and so it will undoubtedly recur over the next few months. Jarrah has a 25 centimetre scar running from shoulder to brisket. Surgery was required for a diagnosis and the extent of the cancer may not have been evident in the early stages of the procedure. If it had been, I think we may have opted for euthanasia. However, the surgery has been done, and we have again a functional, if somewhat wobbly, dog.
On the bright side, there is no evidence of metastasis. Jarrah's lungs seem clear and he has no breathing difficulties. Over recent weeks, he has become steadier on his feet and seems to be getting considerable enjoyment out of life yet.
Jarrah enjoys regular walks, still has a good appetite, and joins in community sing-a-longs. Let's keep our paws crossed for at least six more months of quality life for him. I've got a nasty decision coming and I am not looking forward to it. Scummy tummy

Lasca is over her mosquito allergy, shown on Animal Hospital recently. At the beginning of April she received her usual dose of contraceptive. Some time later, the hair on her belly began to fall out and her abdominal skin darkened. I wonder if the contraceptive treatment had anything to do with it.
The condition is reminiscent of signs seen in cases of hormonal imbalance. Happily, there is no discomfort or sign of illness. A recent ear infection has cleaned up well with medication.

"Agent Mulga" of the FBI

Both Mulga and Coo-ee seem to be settling down in their new living arrangements. OK, this is cute! One day, I was taking a family around the Sanctuary on a tour. Introducing Mulga and Coo-ee to my group drew an enthusiastic response from a young boy, who immediately exclaimed, "Awwwwwww yeahhhhh!!! Cool!!! The X - Files!!!" "Musical Kennels"

Much as I'd like to be able to announce sometime soon our new treatment centre, the solution to our current space problems, it's going to be on the drawing board (or Auto CAD, I guess) for a little while yet. Many thanks to Peter Whiter for playing around with the design. We have to squeeze a top class treatment facility into a doggie charity budget!
Meanwhile, Willie, the canine "Merry Widow", had voiced her indignation at being relegated to one of the cattle-dog enclosures behind the house. This is one of the sunniest, best-grassed, most spacious places for a single to live, complete with lemon tree, now marvellously fruitful after some pruning by certain, former, non-Dingo residents! What's the beef?
Well, Willie is a thirteen-year-old swinging single and likes to be where the action is. Anyway, I had a plan!
We've been playing "musical kennels" for a while with Te Tui, Flea and Willie, giving them turns in the undesirable accommodation bordering the parking area. I think Flea was in there at the time. Things had to change. At my request, George Parker kindly undertook to move the junk, prominently displayed in all its untidiness to visitors, from the front kennel to one of the back ones. Following this I broke up and, with Margo Press' help, removed ten square metres of concrete.
Why hadn't we done this before? Ten square metres of concrete is one reason why. Whew! But no one has to use the gloomy, dilapidated, leaky pens facing the parking area any more.
Complete with drinker already installed, indoor accommodation and sunny, north-easterly aspect with a view of all the action, this is Willie's new pad for the time being.
And Willie is back to meeting visitors. If she suspects she is going to be left out, she will do little body flips and make noises of indignation as a reminder!

Visitations

We've been very busy with tour groups over the last two months or so as a result of favourable publicity from Animal Hospital and our entry in the Wollondilly Tourist Guide. Bookings are coming in continually, and with that and making a number of TV segments, it's required more than my usual state of disorganisation to get some office work done!
To add to the workload, we are now open from Thursdays to Mondays for casual visits. I don't particularly enjoy that, but it is a necessary prelude to getting tourism signage, which we would have been eligible for years ago had we been able to open the required hours.
Wiring up the new office in reception will be a big help as I will be able to work there with a direct view of the gate. That's the next job! It's a fact of life that in the Dingo game, we are no longer the only player in town, and if we want to survive, then we have to compete. I appreciate the forbearance of our volunteers in dealing with the new opening arrangements.
On a less serious note, while I was taking a group of visitors from the Sefton Catholic Club around the Sanctuary, someone asked, "What do you do with all the puppies?"
Feeling a trifle challenged about discussing Dingo contraception with a group of this religious persuasion, I cleared my throat and prepared to explain. Suddenly, another visitor in the group came to my rescue, summing it up nicely. "The Dingoes aren't Catholics, luv!" she said.
And that reminds me of another incident. One day I saw a car pull up at the front gate. Several, well-dressed ladies emerged and I was immediately suspicious. No one wears clothes like that to visit a Dingo Sanctuary. As they reached inside for satchels, my heart sank. If this was going to be another session attempting to flog me issues of Watchtower, I was going to call an end to it now. The signs sure were ominous! I prepared for battle. Attempting to cut through all the "Isn't it a lovely day? Your Dingoes are such lovely creatures, aren't they?" preamble, I got in first.
"Are you Jehovah's Witnesses?
"Yes dear," one replied courteously. "But we're not witnessing today.
We're having a bit of a holiday. Now, may we come and look at your lovely Dingoes?"
I nearly died.

Media

Seems there's more competition for the limelight these days, but it's encouraging our organisation is still sought out for informed comment.

Electronic

Although we've done quite a bit in recent years with Channel Nine and Channel Ten, the ABC seemed to have been ignoring us. Just as I was beginning to think that the ABC didn't love us at all, I received e-mail from a program researcher concerning making a Dingo documentary for children.
Then, when filming was due to start, who should turn up but the Quantum†team, to film a segment for the ABC's Thursday night science show! Typically, filming went pretty smoothly in both cases. At one stage 'Dusty propped, backlit by the slanting, early morning sun, her coat ablaze in a fiery halo, breath surrounding her head in a cloud of white vapour! I sure hope they got that!
We filmed black Dingoes, white Dingoes, "Dingo-coloured" Dingoes, alpines, tropicals, inlands both human-socialised and not, in our naturally vegetated, one acre paddock. We really do have an incredible resource here in the Dingo Sanctuary, you know!!
And with two crews doing some filming, there will be material which can be shared between programs!
Quantum's producer decided to film some blood collection here at the Sanctuary, too, which was an interesting affair. As I had to take the blood, our intrepid reporter, Paul Willis got the job of Dingo holder. Echo is not a dominant dog and his wild roots are neatly counterbalanced by urbane charm. As expected, he behaved creditably. But I think Paul still had some concerns, such is the reputation of the Dingo.
I had concerns, too. The procedure, of course, is no more stressful or painful than a routine heartworm test performed by one's veterinarian, but a frustrated and uncooperative dog can make it look far worse.
The procedure went without a hitch and we now have Echo's blood for DNA extraction Hot on the heels of the work for the ABC, we received a call from NZ to do with a documentary series being made for FoxTel's Family Channel. At about the time we were due to film, our luck with the weather ran out.
I groaned as the chosen day approached and imagined a dozen exquisitely painful deaths for weatherman, Tim Bailey, as he announced more disgusting weather in his irritatingly, happy-go-lucky style.
Outside, the ground had acquired the consistency of Black Forest cake, the wind had turned icy, and the thought of leaving a blazing fire inside to cavort with muddy Dingoes, much as we love 'em, was rather less than appealing.
Thinking back on the day itself, I can't remember much of it. There was mud. There was more mud. I was tired from having dug up and replaced yet another section of pipe the night before. I think the thing which saved the day was that Bargo is such a dry hole and the rain essentially held off.
The producer was pretty thorough. We covered just about everything about Dingoes, except hereditary diseases, which I would have liked to address as people seem to be ignorant of them in Dingoes. Now we have to see what the editors in CA throw together.

Print

By the time you get this edition of Merigal, our spread in Puppies Australia†should be out (ed note: yep, it is - check it out!). Four colour pages of some of our best photographs in a magazine with a circulation of 20 000 should give us some nice coverage.
Oh, umm ... and there was one other thing ...
We were asked to supply a Dingo for a photo shoot for a new magazine. Predictably, the magazine is called Dingo. I was informed that it would be along the lines of Picture magazine.
As I don't shop in that part of the newsagent's, that meant little to me, however, I did not see any problem with doing a cover for a magazine, so we agreed to go ahead.
On the appointed day, our team showed up. What we had to do was get a shot of a model, skimpily-clad, posing with a Dingo in front of her as a cover shot. Oh, and it had been decided that they should do a similar one, topless, for a poster inside the mag.
Anyway, Jackie Collins is right. They do spray icewater onto the models' breasts to make them point. Heaven knows how they used the material they shot, but I guess we should try to get a copy for our archives. Apparently it's not restricted material, but it is not displayed on the counter, either.
On a more cerebral note, it was interesting to watch the interaction between models, human and Dingo. When people hear "Dingo", they still apply labels and I think our human model was a bit awkward with ChloŽ at first.
As the shoot wore on, the two began to work as a team, and the woman was able to pose ChloŽ herself without assistance from me. To me, this was as nice to see as anything else on offer.

Research

Things are powering along well, except I need to find more time somehow to finish my work in the laboratory and write up my thesis. In the last few months, that has been very difficult!
We can now be confident that we have the basis of a test for ancestry. This is wonderful news as we were by no means sure when we started this work that we would get one. Attempts to find consistent differences between DNA from different domestic dog breeds has not been successful. to date.
Of course, ongoing work will be needed to increase the number of Dingoes, hybrids and domestic dogs tested to ensure our test holds up. But things look very promising.
As a by-product of our work, we will also be able to identify a number of DNA loci useful for parentage testing in Dingoes. This will be helpful in verifying pedigrees.
My current work centres around differences between mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA for short) in Dingoes and domestic dogs. Mitochondria are special organelles inside cells which provide the energy for the cell to function. Mitochondria have their own DNA, separate from the cells' nuclear DNA. Each cell has only one copy of the dog's nuclear DNA. But it has hundreds or thousands of mitochondria, each with its own copy of the dog's mtDNA. This is useful when one is looking at small amounts of material. Where there may not be enough nuclear DNA for amplification, there may well be enough mtDNA.
Let's say we want to identify the level of incursion of domestic dog genes into a wild dog population. If this were minimal, then that would indicate that the population was largely pure Dingo, and one would have a good case to call for its preservation.
One way of doing this would be to catch, take blood or tissue from, and then release a number of wild dogs in an area. But there are two problems with this.
To begin with, it's expensive in terms of labour and funds. And secondly, livestock producers are vehemently opposed to the release of wild dogs after capture. Indeed, if it could be ascertained that a released animal injured livestock, a case for litigation could be made. So ... don't catch a Dingo.
Instead, collect their scats, or poop, if you prefer. Each time an animal defecates, it leaves a thin layer of intestinal mucosal cells on the surface of the scat. DNA could be extracted from these and used in tests for ancestry. But there is one hitch. The amount of nuclear DNA, the DNA our successful work has been based on, would be small.
If we can identify differences between domestic dog and Dingo mtDNA, then we may have the basis for a cheap test we can use in the field. A test which we can use to assess and make a case for the preservation of wild Dingo populations. Stay tuned!

Companion Dingoes

It seems that awareness of the new legislation regarding keeping Dingoes in NSW is gradually filtering through, with more requests for breeder referrals and also more requests to take Dingoes or mixes which are not working out. Concerning so-called "breeders" we are hearing stories of people who are placing puppies as early as four weeks and not providing any documentation on diet, medications given (such as worming!), or even, for what it's worth, some sort of attempt at a pedigree.
Others are providing males for stud to other breeds as some form of canine bucket chemistry. I would have less of a problem with this provided they could place all the puppies in good homes, but too often it's a "door to door with a basket of puppies - please take one" job. Gee, why not just get a pup from the local pound?
Inevitably, too, puppies are ending up in the wrong hands. Predictably, the result is calls in the vein of, "We-can't-handle-it-will-you-take-it-or-we'll-have-to-put-it -down?" Much as we would like to do something , in many of these cases the animal is so screwed up that it is beyond hope. What makes people think that others are going to be falling over themselves to take on their problems? And where the heck is the breeder who placed the puppy in the first place? OK, vent over.

DingoFest

Our annual birthday celebrations will be held on the third Sunday in October as usual. This year, that will be 17 October, 1999, with official opening time 10.00 AM winding down to an official close about 3.30 PM.
Peta Seaton, our local MP, will be our official guest. We hope a number of Dingo and other wildlife-oriented displays will be the highlight of the day.

Internet Stuff

I've managed a minor workover of our site at http://www.dingosanctuary.org/ with some tightening of coding to enhance the reliability of display from one browser to another, some added compression of graphics to speed download ... and ... the uploading of all the Scentposts from January 1996!
I still have a little work on existing, outdated pages, but am getting to the sponsor pages. Stay tuned!

Stop Press - Tax Deductibility ... YES!!

We've just received some very nice news!! The documents have been signed by the appropriate Federal Ministers and we're just waiting on the paperwork. In a nutshell, our twenty-two year effort to get tax deductibilty, initiated by former Federal Senator, Tony Mulvihill, has been successful!!!
This means donations to our Merigal Dingo Sanctuary Gift Fud will be tax deductible for people filing tax returns in Australia. More details in the next issue of Merigal.

Memberships

Things are proceeding well and we are on the way to another record fiancial membership. We will know more when we've chased a few late ones! Bye for now!!