This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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2013 Travels August 7


I slept in – until 8.20 am. Obviously so too did dog.

The daily temperatures were creeping up into the high 20’s, but the nights were still cool. Last night was 11 degrees. Too warm inside Bus for the doona, but the one thin throw I had was definitely inadequate. I hoped the fleece that daughter was sending arrived soon.

John cooked crumpets bought yesterday, for breakfast. He buttered mine before I realized. They were still raw and inedible, but couldn’t go back in the toaster with butter on. I threw mine out. John turned up the setting when cooking his and the results were better.

Our hairdresser neighbour left today, heading south. They were very amiable neighbours, but I would not miss the noise of their on-board washing machine, going flat-out every morning while I was sitting outside having breakfast. It seemed that such machines were so small that washing must be done every day. Not for me!

I cleaned and coated the interior vinyls of Terios, and put the sunshade up across the front. There was no shade here for my poor little car, through the day. I also took the hitch pin out of the tow receiver on Bus, and put in the lockable one, with a key on each of our key rings.

Walked Couey on the beach, to some distance beyond the last house. That’s the longest walk we’ve done together, this time, probably about 5kms all up. Last time here, we regularly walked south as far as the creek mouth, but I didn’t think John would manage that, this time. I’d noticed that, when I was walking Couey alone, and John was back at Bus, she was increasingly reluctant to go too far from the campground.

Today’s walking was hot. I must start taking some fresh water on walks, for dog, so she wouldn’t be tempted to drink sea water. She did do some playing in the shallows on this walk, but suffered no ill effects after.

We encountered a couple walking along the beach, who eyed off the dog – on her lead, as she always was around people. The guy commented that he thought tail docking was illegal these days. I would be rich if I had a dollar for every time I’d had to explain to people that she was a breed that naturally had a stumpy tail, etc…etc…

Couey’s (natural) stumpy tail is evident in this picture.

During the crazy period, last weekend, a couple with a Coaster bus and a couple of little dogs, had arrived and set up on a fairly uneven area down near the lit-up tents. Today they moved onto Site 22, which had a large cement slab to park on. It looked, at first glance, like one of the better sites in the park, but was a bit too close to the central rubbish skips, if the wind was in the wrong direction! They were also in line with the night time whiff of the over-loaded septic tanks. As we passed the site, on the way back to camp, had a chat with them. They lived in the Dandenongs, not far from us.

We had happy hour sitting out under our awning, with crisps and an extra beer each.

Tea was sweet and sour scallops, done in a tempura batter, with rice. Very nice too, with strawberries to follow for dessert.


2011 Travels August to December


Although we hadn’t known it at the time, the wintertime jaunt through the south was to be our last trip with the van.

The breathlessness that had affected John at Beachport did not go away at home. Doctor ordered a range of tests be done. Initially these were inconclusive, but then a stress heart test was to be done at Maroondah Hospital, towards the end of August. Being independent, he drove himself, but by the time he parked Truck and walked to the clinic, was in such a state that he was immediately taken to Emergency.

I arranged for him to be transferred from there to our preferred Epworth Eastern, where he was admitted. After some time and further investigations a triple bypass procedure took place. Given John’s recent history with surgery and blood clots, this was a rather worrying time, but all went well. Altogether, with the stay in Epworth and the following rehab, he was away for over five weeks. I think dog had decided he was never coming back. In amongst the various surgeries and issues of the last part of the year,  Couey turned one.

On her first birthday

My surgery for shoulder reconstruction which had been scheduled for the end of August, had to be postponed. It was some time before John was allowed to drive himself anywhere again, and so the shoulder was not fixed until December. Then, an arm in a sling was a distinct handicap in the preparation of Xmas tea. Fortunately, most of the family multitudes were elsewhere this Xmas, but I managed to prepare a cold feast for the expected seven – only to have that reduced, at the last minute, to three (M and ourselves)  due to extreme thunderstorms and flooded roads. We dined for days on leftovers.

Also in December, John saw the specialist who had done his most recent hip replacement two years earlier. Pain, discomfort and stiffness had continued in that leg. Our doctor felt that the replacement was not functioning properly, but specialist wouldn’t hear of that being an issue. He wasn’t much help and could only come up with suggesting that the leg artery might be blocked like the heart one had been. We came away with our previous impressions confirmed – that he might have to replace hips for the sake of his bottom line, but he was really only interested in the more acclaimed role of fixing up sports stars, especially footballers. John decided he would just have to put up with it.

In the aftermath of John’s surgery, we decided that, for him, our style of caravanning was no longer feasible. There was too much “heavy” work involved, and he was – for the first time ever – finding Truck uncomfortable to drive in traffic. The cold and wet winter trip had been uncomfortable, confined as we often were, to just the van.

We agreed to wait until next year to clean up and sell the van – just in case we had second thoughts when John was stronger. It would be a hard final decision to make – the van had been such an integral part of our lives for the past fourteen years.

From the tropical north…..
……to the cooler island in the south……
… the coasts…..
…….to the outback ranges………..and all points in between

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2011 Travels March 23


About tea time last night, K, the lady who had bred Birdy phoned us again, with a bit of a saga.

Around New Year, she had bought a new pup  for herself, a pure Stumpy-tail Cattle Dog, something she’d long wanted. This pup was the accidental offspring of two working dogs, somewhere down in South Gippsland, and was the only pup born (or that the farmer let survive?).The farmer was impatient to get his mother dog back working, so the lone pup was sold to K, at only six weeks of age.

A very fat sole pup
Late December 2010

K’s existing dog – Birdy’s mother – acted as a kind of surrogate, ensuring some degree of dog socialization of the new pup.

Feb 2011 Couey and Birdy’s mum

Since New Year, though, K’s life had changed rather radically, she’d had to go to work full time, and she really had no time to train this new pup and manage two dogs.

Trouble managing that ear…..

We would really be doing her a favour if we would go round and see the pup, with a view to taking her.

This was just too soon for me. I was still a weeping mess over Birdy. I told John to make the token gesture of going round there, as he was more hard-hearted than  me, and able to say no.

John returned. He and pup had taken one look at each other – and it was love at first lick! She was, he said, totally adorable. Moreover, he was sure she was looking at him in a way that was pleading for him to remove her from a rather rough and ready household of teenage boys, one of whom had named her Cougar.

There was really little discussion. John’s heart was committed.

Next evening, after dark, we both went to K’s, paid her for the out of pocket costs the pup had entailed, to date, and brought Cougar – soon to be Couey – home. K lent us the crate she was used to.

Couey was, at this time, four months old, all awkward gangly long legs. I had to agree with John – she was gorgeous. She tentatively explored the house, was only prepared to venture into the yard if one of us went with her, then seemed content enough to sleep on a footstool by my feet, while we watched TV.

First night in her new home…

Her first few, acclimatizing nights, were spent in her crate; then she graduated,  happily enough, to what became her permanent bed.

Couey had never been out of K’s back yard, since arriving there on Xmas Eve. We were soon to find that, as a result, the outside world was a large and fearsome place to a timid dog. She was already house trained though – a blessing, and obeyed some basic commands. After a couple of days she was tentatively exploring the back yard – but not prepared to actually venture into the shrubbery.

Who could resist that face?

A couple of days after acquiring her, we took Couey for a Vet check. She cried while we were driving there in Truck! Had to carry her inside. She was two kgs heavier than Birdy was, at the same age. She checked out all OK. We resolved that she would benefit from puppy school, and booked her in for sessions run at the Vet Clinic.

Three days later,  we ventured out with her on a lead, she totally froze, terrified, when a car went past. She walked much better on the lead than we’d expected – clearly a very quick learner. But she barked at other walkers on the trail, and cowered at objects like prams and cyclists. Poor little girl. Introducing dog and world would be a long process.

By now, we’d been well amused by Couey’s explorations about the place. She fell into the swimming pool and got a massive fright. Instinctively, she could swim – but in the ensuing seven years we lived there, she never once went swimming in that pool, or any body of clear water. This was good, in terms of pool upkeep. On a really hot day, if we were in the pool, she would – very carefully – pick her way down onto the broad top pool step and lie there, with her tummy in the water. We were to discover that muddy water was a different matter…..

It took Couey only a couple of days to discover a supply of ripe figs, dislodged from the large back-yard tree every night, by possums and bats. Clearly, she was not exclusively carnivorous.

Puppy school continued horizon broadening. At 4 months, Couey was older than the other pups, much bigger than all of them, and initially terrified of them all, cowering in the corner behind me. But it all improved, with time, though she never became much interested in dog play. Apart from a degree of dog socialization, and owner training, the trainer taught the pups to tolerate thunder. She taught me the enormous value of peanut butter – for training purposes and pill administering.

Play with it? Eat it? Run away from it?

After more research on the Stumpy breed, I found that purtist breeders and those showing the animals, regarded a mixed parentage of red with blue/black Stumpys as of no value. Couey had one red and one blue parent and this could be seen in some lights as a red tinge to her otherwise mostly black coat. I wondered if, in fact, K had seen this after acquiring her and realized she could never be used as a high quality breeder? Our gain……she was to become the best companion dog we’d ever known.

And so the weeks passed. By the end of April, Couey had been spayed, recovered, and we judged it was time to see how she took to caravanning……


2010 Travels The rest of 2010


John completed the rest of the six month trial on the new anti-clotting drug, with no apparent adverse effects. But then, trial period completed, it was back onto warfarin, with the accompanying weekly blood tests and see-sawing INR readings.

A while later, the trial drug was approved for use for a different condition, and our GP managed to obtain supplies of it for John to take, replacing the warfarin. Eventually, a couple of different drugs containing the trial substance were approved and put on the PBS list, and John moved to taking one of those. 

The puppy came home. The little female we had chosen had been the runt of the litter, but was so lovable – initially! She had some of the blue heeler markings of her heeler cross stumpy tail cattle dog mother – the tan eyebrows and facial marking, and paws. But she had a partial tail only.

We called her Birdy, just to confuse people!

Until now, I had not known anything about the Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog – or even that such a breed existed. But some research revealed that the breed was developed in Qld in the 1800’s, from a mix of ancestry similar to our blue and red heeler cattle dogs, but also a naturally bob-tailed dog used in stock herding work in some English markets, and probably some dingo. Those involved were seeking a dog with great cattle working instincts but also the stamina to work in the outback conditions. A “proper” stumpy is either mottled red, or mottled blue/black, but not a combination. A pure bred one does not have the brown facial markings and feet of the blue heeler breed. Our pup was definitely a mix of heeler and stumpy.

A red stumpy

The breed fell out of favour for decades and almost disappeared, but some enthusiasts bred up the line again, and had the breed officially recognised as distinct, with listed breed characteristics. So, a pure-bred stumpy is either blue-black mottled, or red-white mottled. They do not have the facial markings of the heelers. They have a naturally occurring stump tail no more than 4 inches long.

A “blue” stumpy

Birdy proved to be a very determined little lady. She did not like being shut in the laundry at night, and her crying kept us awake. Bit like having a new baby! Toilet training was not a concept she fully grasped, for a long time. She proved to be an inveterate chewer, not only of her toys, but also of anything with a wooden corner – like skirting boards! But she was very lovable and clearly trying to do the right thing – just having difficulty figuring out what that was. We eventually concluded that, being the runt, she may have been a bit brain damaged at birth.

Taking her for her daily walks at the Lilydale Lake was good for our fitness.

In September, John turned 70. I put on a pizza party for some of his surviving siblings, all older than him. The Bendigo family came down for a weekend, and grandson stayed on for a week of the school holidays.

Grandson and Birdy adored each other. Because of her scatty ways, he called her “mad dog”. She was very different to the two docile whippets he had at home!

Late in the year, after five month old Birdy had been neutered, it was time to see how she adapted to caravan life. She had already demonstrated that car travel was quite acceptable, and she behaved alright when she encountered other people and dogs on her walks.

With M, we went to a caravan park at Cowes, on Phillip Island, for three nights. Set up on a site that was a good distance from other campers.

We did some sightseeing and a lot of walking. Introduced Birdy to the beach. She took to the waves – literally. But made herself sick trying to bite the waves and thus taking in lots of salt water.

However the trip was not a great success. Birdy had no sense of boundaries. As far as she was concerned, anyone she could see or hear from the van was an intruder and she barked and growled accordingly. At night she spent a lot of time – in the van – barking and growling at noises only she could hear.

We concluded that we would have to be pretty cautious about travel with her, because we didn’t trust that she wouldn’t have a go at other campers if they came too close. Could just hope that, as she matured, and with more practice, she would settle down.

Birdy was definitely a two speed dog – either full tilt into running, digging, chewing…..or dead to the world.

Any gardens we didn’t want excavated had to be fenced….
That was my knitting!

And so ended 2010.