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The Dogs are all right

Updated: Jul 31, 2020

Hugo swallows his pride and talks about how dogs make our lives better

Now, I don’t usually like to let any of the canine species hear me talk well of them … but … even I have to acknowledge that pooches sometimes play a pretty important part in our modern life.

Black and white sheepdog herds a flock of sheep over a green paddock
We're all familiar with the classic image of the working dog, but Hugo has been looking at other ways dogs help us and improve our lives

Once upon a time dogs were working animals, and by that we mean hard working dogs on the land, herding sheep and cattle and earning their keep, but as time goes on we are discovering that the (don’t let them hear me say this) many special talents that dogs of different breeds have are now playing many crucial roles in our community.

Of course, by these days we’re all familiar with Assistance Dogs, who’s roles have expanded from their traditional seeing-eye dog role to provide support to people with all types of challenges, from dogs to help those with physical disabilities such as blindness or physical disability, to dogs specialising in supporting those afflicted by autism, PTSD or alzheimers.

But aside from the massive contributions that these dogs make, my canine brothers and sisters are also finding many unusual ways to use their skills for the benefit of their humans.

Perhaps most famous of all because of their big screen exposure are the Maremma Sheepdogs who have used their skills to protect all sorts of animals vulnerable to predators all across Australia, from goats to chickens, and from bandicoots to penguins.

A Maremma dog crouches low to touch it's nose to the tip of an inquisitive penguin's beak
Made famous by the movie "Oddball" Maremma's are being used to live with and protect all sorts of vulnerable animals (image courtesy of the ABC)

Using Maremma’s as protectors for vulnerable animals is becoming much more common, and if you enjoy your free-range eggs, chances are increasing that the chickens they come from are being protected by a Maremma.

But then there’s Bailey, who works for the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney as Assistant Director: Seagulls. Rather than protect small feathered (or furry) animals, it’s Bailey’s job to keep the wharves and ships of the museum clear of seagulls, and more importantly their droppings!

Bailey, a black and white sheepdog wearing a yellow life vest looks out over the harbour at the National Maritime Museum looking out for seagulls
Bailey is on the look out for seagulls at the National Maritime Museum in Sydney

Bailey has been so successful at his job that the Opera House Bar and Opera Kitchen have introduced five new “Chip Protectors” to keep greedy gulls away from harbourside chip lovers!

I mentioned support dogs before, but it’s not just humans who benefit from the love and support of pups. Dare I say it, one of my own species – Cheetahs – are starting to form strong bonds with dogs.

A near adult cheetah cub stands with a brown dog in their shared zoo enclosure
Kasi & Mtani became friends they were little, and ended up sharing an enclosure

You see, young cheetahs tend to be anxious and, just like for people, a non-judgmental companion can make a world of difference to their mental health. Zoos all over the world are now pairing baby cheetahs with pups to help them feel safe.

We’re also discovering that dogs can play a role in health, such as in animal-assisted therapy, while some dogs may even possess the amazing ability to “smell” illnesses and diseases like cancer.

And we can’t forget the dogs in the protective services, whether they work for the police or armed forces as tracking dogs, bomb detection dogs or search and rescue specialists, spending their career saving lives.

All in all, when you start looking into it, dogs aren’t just pets – many of them make huge contributions to our lives and our communities, making them safer, easier and nicer paces to live.

So maybe, after what I’ve learnt, dogs aren’t so bad after all. They certainly are earning their keep.

And what of cats, what do we do, I hear you asking? Simple. We don’t need to do anything – we’re cats!

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