Summer is a busy time for people in my line of work. Summer means shows, crowds, sweat in the eyes, tired dogs and exhausted trainers. The past three seasons, I’ve dutifully limited my time off, ensuring that I pull my share of the load at work. This has led to a bit of a burnout much sooner in the season than I’d like. This year (2017), I decided to be proactive and thus was able to secure a couple of weeks off during the hottest time of the year. Tim and I packed up and headed to Australia to meet friends, play tourist and teach about disc-dogging.
After 36 hours of travel, we arrived at our AirBnB outside of Brisbane. We spent several days checking out the local attractions including watching the crocodile show at Australia Zoo. As you can imagine, I am pretty interested in watching other animal shows. It gives me a chance to see how others have problem solved common issues with working with animals in front of a large audience as well as how they engage and inspire that audience. Australia Zoo knocked it out of the park. Not only are they working with wild animals that are not easily trained (alligators and crocodiles), but they are doing so in a way that doesn’t force these animals outside of their natural tendencies and behaviors. They keep the audience engaged while teaching about animal conservation, I left the show feeling inspired to get involved and do my part to help. It was also pretty cool to watch Robert Irwin (AKA Mini-Steve) having a large part in the show.
It was great playing tourist, but I was itching to get my hands on some dogs, especially Australian Koolies. Luckily, there were plenty signed up for both the Brisbane and Melbourne seminars as well as the Koolie Club of Australia herding day. Two of my dogs, Bazinga and Zip Tie, are koolies who were imported from Australia as puppies. Having just entered the world of breeding (their first litter was born just over 5 months ago), this trip served an additional purpose of allowing me to do hand-on research of various koolie lines. I knew prior to our trip that koolies are a highly diverse breed not only in looks but temperament as well, this trip solidified that information. I had a skewed impression of the breed as a whole prior to the trip because my two are pushy, hard-minded and intense, but the majority of koolies seem to tend towards the softer and more sensitive side. As far as future litters of koolies goes, this trip was incredibly valuable to my education as a koolie breeder and it will play a key role in future pairings.
While those two experiences were incredibly important, here is a list of other note-worthy observations of Australia from this American:
- It gets cold in Australia. There was ice on our car in Melbourne and the kangaroos were adorably fuzzy with their winter coats on.
- Even though it was frigid, there were still parrots of various kinds flying around. It was mind boggling to see a group of cockatoos flying through the sky while I was wearing a winter coat.
- Male kangaroos are creepy. Female kangaroos are adorable.
- It is ridiculously difficult to find normal iced coffee. Iced coffee apparently means “iced milk with a splash of coffee”.
- Driving on the left hand side of the car is terrifying while going up curvy mountain roads bordered by cliffs.
- There were exactly zero spiders and snakes even in Brisbane where it was 70-85 degrees. We even went hunting for them and turned up empty-handed. My theory is that they don’t actually exist and Australians just fabricated the idea of them to keep other people from realizing how amazing Australia is.
- There were very few obnoxiously large trucks and SUV’s. Drive what you need, no more than that is necessary.
- Australians are pretty much Canadians with cool accents. Everyone was so friendly and enjoyable to talk to even after they knew we were from America.
- The dog trainers in Brisbane are easy-going, loads of fun and very talented with their dogs.
- The dog trainers in Melbourne are crazy and dedicated. Freezing temperatures and 20 mph straight line winds couldn’t stop them from playing with their dogs!
- The brewery business is alive and well in both Brisbane and Melbourne.