The dogs shown below are just a few of the camp dogs that I have had the rare privilege of sharing my life with over the past three years or so.
For reasons I won’t bore you with I’ve now been obliged to leave them at my previous home at Yuendumu and move – dogless – to Alice Springs.
But I look forward to seeing them all again very soon.
These dogs have been a large part of my life for the past three years – walking with them, talking to – and being talked to by – them, caring for the sick and injured and burying those that succumbed to illness, were stomped on by camels, kicked by bulls or bitten by snakes. And for all the effort that it has taken to care for them I’ve received it tenfold and more in return.
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Whenever I’d get home from a trip to town or beyond they would be there at the gate in all of their howling, frantic glory – Blacko ready to jump up, all power, twisted jaw and huge feet clawing at your belly, Trevor nipping at a heel or two, Sole sitting back sulking, waiting for the pats she knew that only she truly deserved and all the others greeting me with a cacophony of howling and barking.
There is nothing quite like the outpouring of unconditional love and affection from a plague of beautiful dogs at your feet.
I miss them all terribly.
So here they are – most of these photo’s have been taken by a friend who has spent a fair bit of time of late looking after the dogs as their surrogate parent during my absences to work on my book project and while my significant other was away.
This is Luna – the matriarch of the group. She’s pretty old now, slow to get up from a rest and the slowest of all the group on their daily walks. In her prime she was a rigorous enforcer of group discipline and a good ripper and fighter – more than a few dogs have carried her signature mark of a chunk ripped out of the top of one or more of their ears.
This shot was taken at a rocky outcrop we know at the ‘amphitheatre’, a few miles out of Yuendumu in the town’s borefield.
From the left we have Nangali, an old girl with a crippled back leg that she drags along behind her with a steely determination and a grumpiness that knows no bounds, next to her is Rosita, a terrier cross with toe-curlingly bad breath, a penchant for dancing and who is always ready for a pat, a scratch and a check for burrs and grass-seeds, above her is the brindle Linda, second on the matriarch pecking-order and who loves to talk dog-speak to you and to take possession of any and all dog-toys that come within range. Next to her is Rambo, the senior male dog and possessor of a singular and gentlemanly grace and charm, behind him and partially obscured is the three-legged Corazon, so-named because of the two heart-shaped patches on his flanks.
Sally, a young pup now with a family in Sydney, can just be seen behind him. In profile is Tits aka Titties – “mother of ten” and the adoptive mother and obsessive-compulsive groomer of most of the pups that pass through the house. Then Luna, who you’ve heard about above.
Behind Luna you can just see part of the now-famous Mr Fluff aka Fluffy (featured in an earlier post here). Then Blacko and his tongue – more on him later. Next to Blacko is Sole – also the subject of an earlier post. Finally the large dog on the right is Malaki, who belongs to someone else but is always keen to jump into the truck to go for a walk or a swim.
This is Maja – a chihuahua-cross with all of the nervousness and affection that breed is known for. She’s had at least one set of pups and was a very attentive mother. Once she learned how to get onto the bed she would be there every night – snuggled up against the hollow of my back – wonderful on a cold night. Only problem is that she is so small that you can roll over the top of her without really noticing…
This is everybody’s best friend Blacko, with Valiente, Possum below him and a posse of wet dogs chasing through the shallow water of the dam in the background. Blacko came to us as a very energetic and loveable pup, who, in the way of all small pups is cute until you realise that his paws are huge, and the rest of the body will follow.
Blacko has a problem with his jaw – it seems that he either has a genetic defect or was injured when very young – one side of his jaw is locked and he can only open his jaws a few centimetres. That hasn’t stopped Blacko eating and growing though – but we do have to watch out that he doesn’t get bones stuck in his jaw or throat. Blacko has the most loveable nature and is always ready to poke his big head into your lap for a pat and a scratch.
Possum is my absolute favourite of the latest crop of pups to have passed through the house. She is obviously out of one of the small group of dogs at Yuendumu with characteristic short legs and barrel bodies. As a pup she had the absolutely endearing habit of falling asleep within about ten seconds of being on your lap or arms. As she gets older she takes longer to sleep but loves to sit on the couch or chair with her head resting in your lap. A wonderful pup with a gentle nature.
I love this shot – it captures the wildness of the rocky outcrops and country around Yuendumu and it has my favourite – if it is possible to have a favourite among this beautiful plague of camp dogs – dog, Sole.
Sole – as I note in my earlier post dedicated to her – was a great runner in her prime. Now she is getting a little older, has a bit of arthritis in her front left leg and is less fit than when she was running seven or more kilometres a day.
Sole is generally a pretty quiet dog – often preferring to lie in the cool of the bedroom for much of the day – and most nights she will have her own corner of the bed. One summer I took her for a trip by road to Darwin from Yuendumu, a round trip of more than three and a half thousand kilometres, in a car with poor air-conditioning. After a few hundred kilometres it was clear that Sole was very unhappy with the arrangements and she lapsed into a sulk that didn’t ease until we got home to Yuendumu a few weeks later.
Needless to say she has been less than keen to get into that car from then on.
A this final shot is of a place we used to go camping and walking with the dogs – a beautiful floodplain along a seasonal creekline.
Lots of birds, lots of room for the dogs – a great place.