1st August 2009
Pep turned 112 in July.
The old bloke is part deaf and part blind and for most of the time looks all of his advanced years. He sleeps inside by the fire at night and in a sunny spot in the garden during the day. He will bark at strange noises if the other dogs bark loud enough to wake him first. But occasionally he relapses from this routine. He was with me at the woolshed the other day when I noticed him staggering across the rocks and tussocks towards a large flock of white cockatoos in the next paddock. He stumbled and swayed and pulled up at the hinge netting. Yet he hasn’t always been an old dog…
Back in 1994 Pep and I were working near Mt Ida in Western Australia. Have you googled Mt Ida yet? There it is, tucked up past Lake Ballard (a salt lake), about 100km north-west of the thriving metropolis of Menzies (population 50). I was in this obscure corner of the world with a drill rig looking for nickel and Pep was the one and only camp dog.
My camp consisted of an office van and a kitchen van with my swag on a stretcher bed under the stars.
The fieldie (my offsider) had his swag on the opposite side of the kitchen van and about 50m away was the driller’s camp.
Pep would fill in his days chasing things. He regularly rounded up feral goats in the morning and then climbed trees to torment goannas in the afternoon.
By evening he was usually stuffed and I would put him on his rug below my stretcher bed. Without fail I would wake several hours later to find a warm spot by my stomach where a small black dog had stealthily burrowed into my swag.
One night I woke without that familiar warm spot and had to go looking for the terrier. As there was still merriment issuing from the driller’s camp I stumbled through the stunted trees in their direction. There, sitting around the campfire with the drillers, was Pep, chewing on a roast bone longer than him. He couldn’t have looked more pleased if they had propped him up on a chair and given him a can of rum.
Another time we were all going a bit stir crazy from the extended bush stint and decided that a night at the Menzies Pub was what we needed. Three drillers and myself crammed into the front of the truck, closely followed by Pep who was not about to miss out on the action, and we set off on the 100km journey over rough and rutted roads. On arrival at the watering hole an indignant Pep was told to guard the truck while we went inside.
The night was long and entertaining, as nights in country pubs can be, and towards the end there were only half a dozen of us left when the barmaid’s jack russell wandered through the bar. “Isn’t she lovely” sighed the barmaid, “she’s on heat, I just wish I knew where I could find her a mate out here?”
Well the drillers and I couldn’t quite believe what we were hearing and Pep definitely couldn’t believe what was happening when he was dragged from the truck at midnight and introduced to a frisky female under the pool table at the Menzies Pub.
And now you’re not going to believe it when I tell you the two dogs got stage fright. Pep has since fathered pups from one end of the country to the other but there was no romance that night in Menzies.
In 2009 I was sure my old dog would pull up at the hinge netting but he was determined to see those pesky cockatoos off the property. His watery eyes focused and he was through the fence and onto the hunt. Unfortunately the cockies went north and Pep started heading east towards Coolatai. Maybe, in a fit of remembrance, he was trying for one more shot at romance at a country pub.