When I was at uni a girl named Lucy was looking for a housemate and I was looking for a house to live in. I didn’t know anything about her except for the fact that she was doing the same degree as me. We are very different but then on some levels, the same and living together, we quickly became good friends. Seven years later she is one of my dearest friends.
After we completed our teaching degrees, I started working at a school in Melbourne and Lucy decided to move to a remote Aboriginal community in the Northern Territory called Ngukurr. 2,000 people live in Ngukurr, with around 50 ‘white fellas.’
While Lucy was living and working there, an unexpected and definitely not planned, little fur ball came into her life and changed her life for the better. That fur ball, who Lucy called Missy, has now turned into one of Lucy and Toby’s best friend.
Andrew and I were lucky enough to visit Lucy while she was living in Ngukurr and it was such a fantastic, once in a lifetime opportunity that we still reminisce and smile about. When we visited her, we met Missy for the first time. Missy was very much an outside dog. When Lucy was at work, Andrew and I would let Missy come into the house and let her have breakfast with us, curl up on the couch with us and when we heard the school bell ring, we would quickly put her out before Lucy came home, as if nothing had happened.
Here is Lucy’s story on her ‘handsome’ girl, Missy.
“This will sound silly, but Missy is my best friend, she is a loyal dog. I love coming home to her at night after a long day at work and her be so excited to see me, she is very excitable which is something I love about her and something that can annoy me at times. She is like a gentle giant, she is very tall and sometimes people get put off by her size but she is very gentle and faithful. I would say she is a handsome dog, her face is so chiselled and she has beautiful eyes. My favourite part of her is the small curl on her chest, the colours all blend and meet at the end of the curl, I find it to be very unique. The curl adds to her handsomeness. Personality wise, she is very playful and as I said before, easily excitable especially when she sees someone for the first time, she is overjoyed to see them, a little bit too much sometimes. Missy loves to be around me so when I am not around, she can get upset, crying and whinging for me. She can be very annoying at times, when I move from room to room she is always in the middle of my path, she also demands her walks in the afternoons, she will always go to the door and wait for me to take her and that can sometimes make me anxious.
I didn’t plan for a dog in my life. I was living in Ngukurr, it was my second year there and I lived on my own and had lots of visitors from the community coming in and out of my home and I was busy enough with work. My next door neighbours, they had just come from Queensland and they had brought their dog along, it was a black sheep dog and it didn’t take long for her to become pregnant with a camp dog (the term ‘camp dog’ is used to describe the often motley groups of dogs found in and around Aboriginal communities across Australia) and on Valentines Day, she had four pups. I went over to see them and my neighbours said, ‘you should have one’ but I said, ‘no, no, no.’ Even though I didn’t want one, everyday I would go over to see the pups and they kept insisting on me getting one. Everyone in the community told me not to get a dog because it would tie me down. The owners were really pushing me to get one, eventually all the pups were taken except one and this is when I thought that maybe I should get the last pup and I did. I named her Missy. The first night I took her home I had no idea what to do with her. I was asking so many questions, asking people what I should do with her. Missy was crying so much each night and I didn’t know why. Everyday in my lunch break I would run home to check on her and to see what she was up to, whether she had weed inside or destroyed anything. Once Missy got all her injections, she became an outside dog and lived in my huge backyard where she could watch all the people pass by and watch the camp dogs roam the streets. To everyone’s amusement I tried to get her to walk on a lead which was much harder than I had anticipated. The Aboriginal community would always laugh at me when they saw Missy on a lead and would point to the lead and ask histarically, ‘what’s that?’ Eventually I decided to ditch the lead which became much easier to walk Missy and all the pointing and laughing and questions stopped.
The reason why people within the community found the way I looked after Missy funny is because camp dogs are free to roam around as they please within the community. Visiting neighbouring homes and even visiting the schools, especially at lunchtime. While I was working at the local school, there was one dog called Tiny who was really fat and she would spend a lot of time at school in the doorways trying to cool down from the help of our air cons. The dogs in Ngukurr were allowed to go into church, into the local swimming pool, everywhere except for the local shop, the owners did not like that. Sometimes you would see a family go for a day of hunting and the dog would go with them, they looked like they were just another member of a family, off for a day of hunting. The dogs in Ngukurr are very free to do as they like.
When Missy was 3 months old the vet was coming to the community and so I took that opportunity to get her de-sexed because I couldn’t get to the local vet in Katherine and I didn’t want the cycle to continue with Missy having puppies. So she was de-sexed on the back of a Ute. The vet that performed the procedure was new at the job and she didn’t really know what she was doing and it took a long time to complete the operation. After the surgery, Missy was so sick and vomiting, I was so scared, my little baby was in pain. Seeing her like that made me become instantly attached to her and that was the first time that I realised, this would be my baby for life.
Missy has for filled my life, saying this makes me laugh, but it’s true. Before I got her I didn’t realise the opportunities a dog can give you. The opportunities being the company, the exercise, socialising with other people you wouldn’t usually socialise with, the comfort, knowing someone is always home waiting for me, always happy to see me. I moved around a lot within different indigenous communities and Missy was the one constant thing in my life that made all these transitions easier for me to handle.
Now I have moved back to Melbourne. Moving back, I was worried about how Missy would make the transition from bush dog to city dog. It has taken a year for Missy to make the transition. The transition was hard for me too and I found her quiet demanding when I was trying to settle down into the routine of city life. Missy was very needy because she went from being in a big yard to being in a town house. Back home in Melbourne, she became an inside dog rather than an outside dog. One thing I did notice her miss is being surrounded by a lot of other dogs. In Ngukurr, there were just as many dogs as people around and I know that she definitely misses seeing all her camp dog friends. In Ngukurr, Missy would see the river and just jump in and have a swim, back in Melbourne I took her for a walk around Albert Park Lake, she saw the water and just ran and jumped in but couldn’t get back out because of all the concert walls. It was such a struggle pulling her out. She hadn’t learnt that the city was very different to all the nature you find out bush.
I love my girl and am so glad she entered my life, I’m proud of her and how she has transitioned from bush dog to city sleeker. She’s a good girl.”
^ Missy and Toby, best friends.