The last few weeks have been a mixed bag. As far as the Society is concerned, financially we are in reasonably good shape, though we have a long way to go before we are really paying our way as a viable business. Membership has grown again this year. On a somewhat disappointing note, a small handful of long term supporters seems to have pulled out - yes, we do notice.
I have been doing some casual teaching at the University of NSW to supplement my income, so have been very busy.
While things continue to progress, we have had our share of misfortune for the time being I hope. I regret to say that we've lost one of our sweetest-tempered and best PR dogs, Kadoka. Unfortunately, I did not have time to get that into the last Merigal, with some rather unfortunate results. Things are certainly quiet without him. More later.
Things are never dull in these parts. I had been slaving to get the latest edition of Merigal, our Journal, out, and finally the finished product had arrived. The cattle-dogs, who have been enjoying eating our lemon tree over the last few days, much to my distress, were in the one-acre enclosure, enjoying being wild dogs for the day. I was in the kennels, doing that unavoidable task - scooping up after our forty-two resident canines - when Terry Lillee arrived with the printing.
Actually, working with the Dingoes is a great de-stresser, especially when one has the time to groom them and play with them in the course of the kennel-work. While we have a growing number of volunteers to help with the work and I feel our canines are well looked after, I've spent far too little time with them myself lately.
Berenice had not been feeling well, and had gone to bed, so I shuffled down the hall to show her the fruits of our labours. Then back out to finish the kennel work.
I had two enclosures to do, when an ambulance slowed at the front gate. I expected it to do a U - turn in the open area in front of the house enclosure, but it pulled up. Two men emerged and headed for the gate. Surprised, I walked up to meet them.
"This is number five-ninety, isn't it?" one asked. "We got a call from here." Immediately suspecting the worst, I led the men through to Berenice's bedroom where, but a few minutes ago, I had been chatting to her. Berenice is an asthmatic, and suffers from a progressive, undiagnosed muscular weakness syndrome (actually recently diagnosed as motor neurone disease). Slumped on the bed, she managed a breathless croak as we entered the room.
I went outside to help with bringing in some of the equipment. Having done so, I noticed that the gate had been left open, and Oola had got onto the street. I vainly hoped I could call her in before she realised I had absolutely no control over her, but it was too late. She had already started to cavort delightedly outside the front fence. I encouraged her to the gate at the top of the driveway, to see if I could encourage her in, but to no avail. With a toss of her head, she darted capriciously into the nextdoor neighbour's place ... the one we want to keep on friendly terms with, because we don't want any complaints about our dogs. "Bugger her!" I thought angrily :-(
Anyway, I went to get meaty bones, check-chain and lead to try and catch her, and left the driveway gate open. The Dingoes are not used to being off the property, and usually come back after a brief flirt with freedom. Sure enough, Oola inevitably became insecure at being on unfamiliar territory and was quickly inside the gate trying to steal from a box of bones I had defrosting. And, not one to miss the opportunity, I quickly collared her and locked her up. Whew!
Back at the house, I don't remember a lot of the ensuing activity. I do remember helping transfer the limp body to a stretcher while the leads of the electrocardiogram clattered to the floor. Immediately, the machine started up an inane chant ... "Check electrodes, check electrodes!!" Equally futilely, one of the ambulancemen told it to shut up. On reflection, it all seemed vaguely absurd. We got Berenice to the ambulance, and it roared up the street, headed for the hospital.
I 'phoned her in hospital that night, and she was OK, which was a relief. Actually, it was a relief to hear from her the morning after the ordeal. It was a close thing. I really wouldn't have been surprised had she died. So, things around here continue to be "interesting", day-in, day-out. But there are some kinds of interesting we could happily do without!
The day of our Dingofest dawned overcast, but without last year's drizzle. I got up at what I thought was half-past-five, as I did on the morning of the previous Dingofest, and was dismayed at how slowly the sky seemed to be lightening up. An hour and a half later, I commented disparagingly on a clock Berenice had bought from Berrima gaol which indicated six AM. Then I had to eat my words - I'd had my clock radio set on daylight saving time all winter (so I could enjoy the feeling of having that extra hour all through the cooler months) and had for some reason forgotten that on the morning, getting up at half-past-four instead!
Although advertising was not as intensive as for last year's event, and crowds appeared to be down, Dingofest was even more financially successful than in 1996, with over $1 700 being taken on the day, and three new memberships so far. I wonder whether the same or greater numbers of people passed through, but also whether there may have been fewer people here at any one time.
I think that the exciting new range of T-shirts we have available did a lot to boost sales of Dingobilia. Secondhand books also did well, and we can always take more of these, if they are in reasonable condition. Thanks to the Millers for their donation immediately pre-Dingofest.
The accompanying raffle was not as successful as last year's, and I perceive some members are a little fed up with raffles. Thanks to those who did manage to sell some tickets - income from it was over seven hundred dollars. Overall, this has put us nicely in the black at a time when we are often cash-strapped.
The parade of Dingoes went quite well, with most putting on a creditable performance. With the increased levels of visitations we are experiencing, the Dingoes are a lot more relaxed with crowds. Even Koori, our tri-colour Dingo, looked almost laid back on the day!
A new feature of this year's event was an interpretative bush-walk led by Elizabeth Smith accompanied by Graham Anderson. Regrowth and the reafforestation project at the rear of the property have advanced well, and the Dingo Trail is really looking good.
Guest of honour, Margaret Fulton spoke well, the day brightened, and everything went very smoothly. We needed far less overt preparation this year than we did last year, but there was still plenty of urgent e-mail and ICQ messages coming from Pam Down to indicate that there was no lack of planning going on behind the scenes. Thanks Pam (modems are handy eh? - hate to have to say "I told you so!"
Most of the hounds are in good health, tho' we are seeing a recurrence of the irritating "nose" problems again. We are now treating Lasca's and Nardoo's muzzles topically, and will try insect repellents just in case mosquitoes are the cause. Dog houses probably need re-spraying with diazinon, too. Lasca, who is particularly badly affected, seems to be on the improve quite rapidly.
Kadoka, our New Guinea Wild Dog we acquired from Taronga Zoo, has died. One Monday a little over two months ago, I had been doing some plumbing just above their enclosure just near the house. Nothing appeared to be amiss - Kadoka was his usual noisy, affectionate self.
Later, Mary and Margo were performing their usual kennel routine, and I understand that as they were walking up from the bottom of the Dingo quarters, Kadoka, jumping up and down and screaming, as usual, for a walk, collapsed and suddenly died.
I was preparing to go to work, and was headed for Sydney, so arranged to take his body up for post-mortem and retrieval of his testes, if he had any (Kadoka was a cryptorchid). I met representatives of Taronga Zoo in a carpark to hand over the body. It seemed a little sordid to part with him in that way - almost like a drug deal. And that was it.
Post mortem and histopathology didn't seem particularly illuminating - he appears to have died of a heart attack. Sounds suspiciously like Kimba's death, but Willie has had no problem in the same run.
More kennel reshuffling! :-) Some will remember that Romulus once lived with Oola. When Kimba died nearly a year ago, an opportunity came up to rehouse Kadoka with Willie, so we were able to bring Oola around the house (Operation OATH) and give Romulus a more feisty female who we hoped would stand up to him. (Yes, it is all very complicated!).
Unfortunately, Romulus dominated 'Hostie, too, over bones, so some of us felt that it was time to bring in someone who'd really get him under her dew-claw!
We have trialed a partner swap for the two brothers. Remus and Aussie-Host seem to be getting on very well, and we have two Dingoes in the one enclosure who really relate well to the public. Remus has probably been underrated as a PR doggie and his calm and friendly demeanour with visitors is very much an asset.
On the other hand, ZoŽ and Romulus still have some settling in to do. Romulus was looking a bit sad and sorry in the first few days, living as he now does with the Dingo familiarly known as the "bitch from hell". ZoŽ decided she owned anyone going into the enclosure and would not let Romulus approach.
On the other hand, Romulus continues to be very dominant over meat, so neither Dingo seems to have absolutely the upper hand. In fairness to ZoŽ, she has always let her male eat first, so Romulus may have taken advantage of this. Volunteers are reminded to be careful not to initiate jealously fights between these Dingoes and to be very careful when giving them treats. ZoŽ hasn't settled in her new enclosure, yet, either. We will monitor the situation closely.
We currently have a couple of very strange-looking "Dingoes" in our private cattle-dog enclosure.
In fact, they are not new "acquisitions", but paying guests. In the past, we have been leery of having boarders because of the potential for barking, damage to fences, and other doggie crimes. With much-improved facilities, and a cadre of reliable volunteers, things have changed somewhat, and we can now take in approved boarders.
Interestingly, the male of the pair, Olaf, has taken on the role of watchdog, being positioned as both dogs are on the south western side of our driveway at the top of the property.
The work progresses slowly. There are about four or five hundred loci at which to look for differences between domestic dog and Dingoes, and while we can make some intelligent selections based on the level of polymorphism (variability) at those sites, among other things, there is still a lot of work to do.
As I've mentioned before, two promising loci have emerged which warrant further study. And we have a bag of other tools into which we'll be delving over coming months.
Visitations seem to be up, and we are getting visitors from a variety of sources. As mentioned previously, increasing numbers of local visitors is an encouraging sign, as we are very keen to become an integral part of the local community and of local business.
These will soon be due. Timely payment means we can continue our operations rather than sitting here twiddling our thumbs. Thanks!!