We lost the camp dog, Junior last week.
As far as dogs go Junior wasn’t pretty.
He was a big, clumsy looking animal who seemed to outgrow his skin.
His gangly, long legs ended at four massive paws that were similar in size to a man’s hand.
The jet black short hair that coated 90% of his body was broken with only a couple of small patches of white but these were often hard to discern under the layers of mud from the nearby reservoir that he loved to swim in and the grease and oil from the machinery over at the workshop were he would often be found shading himself under a tractor or truck.
This large ungainly body sported many scars, cuts and holes, the result of his lately found passion for hunting down wild pigs that were often three times his size.
No, Junior certainly wasn’t pretty but he had a character and a nature that seemed to attract people like a magnet. With humans he was the most gentle and loving animal and every backpacker and farm worker felt that he was special to Junior.
This was an identical nature to Bing, his grandfather, the other gentle giant of a dog that was an inhabitant of the camp when we first arrived and who we lost a couple of months ago. Since the two dogs were strikingly similar in appearance and nature, the name Junior (Junior Bing) was bestowed on him.
From a very small puppy he would sleep under my desk while I was working on the computer often wrapping himself around my feet. This never stopped and as he grew large he’d bring an awful smell into the office with him, (the result of his wanderings around every nook and cranny of the farm), and still crash down over the top of my feet.
During the heat of the summer, as the temperature hit the high 40’s, Junior would scratch and whimper at the office door until I softened and let him in to the air-conditioning. When it was time to leave, either because I had to go to work in the kitchen, or his smell became too much, I would need to literally drag him out of the office.
While still a puppy this intelligent animal learned to unzip the caravan annexe and would sleep the night in our laundry basket on top of the dirty clothes. When he got too big for the basket he’d curl up on our camp chair or just spread himself over the annex floor.
This extremely loving animal became quite dear to Kerrie and me, quite an achievement for Junior as we’re certainly not dog lovers.
So one day I was going for a walk around the top of the huge reservoir #1 when I spotted Junior running toward me from some escapade that only he would ever know about. As he came to me he turned around and started walking with me.
His back came up to my upper thigh and as we walked I talked to him and ruffled his huge floppy ears and he would take my hand gently in his mouth as he trotted contentedly beside me.
We walked on around the reservoir for a couple of hours like this with the dog never leaving my side.
It was about half way around the other side of the reservoir that our walk was interrupted by the appearance of a huge King Brown snake.
It was without fear of either Junior or myself and it would rear up as Junior got anywhere near it.
I kept calling him away, and he would come to my side only to go back to the snake as it seemed to follow us around the track.
Presently he made an all-out lunge for the snake grabbing him near the head and shaking it wildly in his mouth.
The snake was obviously hurt by this attack and when Junior finally dropped it the thing slithered toward the bank of the reservoir and headed to the water below. Junior now had an obsession with it and followed it into the water as I still tried in vain to call him back. He repeatedly attacked it until it appeared dead, floating on top of the water without muscle movement.
Junior seemed proud of his achievement and kept going into the water and bashing the seemingly lifeless snake with his huge paw. It was almost as if he wanted the snake to continue the game.
As he grabbed the reptile once more in his moth the thing reared up with a last breath attack and hit Junior at least three times before another final violent shaking did for the snake.
I think Junior would have been bitten at least ten times during this attack.
He finally obeyed my yelling to “Come on” when he tired of the game and waded to the water’s edge to get up the bank. As he reached the edge of the bank another snake, a small Red Bellied Black, slither past directly in front of Junior. He went for it violently but this this time the Black hit him at least three times on the nose and face before scurrying away unharmed.
Junior went down almost immediately. Was it the build-up of venom from the King Brown finally taking effect or was it the renewed introduction of a different type of venom from the Black Snake? I don’t know.
He lay partly in the water, his body unmoving except for a whimpering and an occasional ugly screech.
I went down to the water and tried to pull him out but he was a dead weight and far too heavy and I couldn’t get a foot hold in the soft mud.
Foolishly I had left my phone at home as I never intended to walk for so long and that side of the reservoir is quite remote and off the beaten track for the farm vehicles. I decide to head back to the workshop as quickly as I could to get Shannon’s gun and a ute and I would have been quite prepared to put that dog out of it’s obvious pain and suffering.
I felt rooted to that spot however, and I thought Junior would not last the hour or so it would take me to get to the workshop and back. I decided to wait with him and talk with him while he was still breathing. I just didn’t want to die there alone.
After about half an hour of talking to him an amazing thing happened!
His head, with his mouth now frothy with saliva, began to move and his eyes began to flicker.
I began to encourage him to “Come on, get up”.
Eventually he propped himself up on his forelegs and I was able to help him by pulling him up the bank a little.
To my absolute astonishment he staggered the rest of the way up the bank to my constant encouragement. He flopped down on the track and I patted and talked to him until eventually he sat up and then stood, very shakily, on those huge paws.
I walked slowly back the way we had come walking backwards, calling him, until he finally started a shaky walk. Within about 15 minutes he began to walk much stronger, and then this evolved to a walk which was normal. He would periodically jump into the reservoir and cover his whole body with water, taking huge gulps before jumping out seemingly completely unaffected by his ordeal.
Within half an hour or so he was trotting perfectly normally back toward the workshop. He would be way in the distance and then stop and wait for me to catch up before trotting off again.
By the time I got to the workshop I couldn’t find him so I assumed he was under a tractor somewhere shading himself after his walk as was normally the case.
I was elated that this wonderful dog had survived such an ordeal.
I told Kerrie the story and we took off in the car to get a photo of the dead King Brown.
That evening Junior didn’t turn up for his dinner outside the mess room as he always did without fail and we assumed he had gone out with Shannon.
By the morning he was still nowhere to be found and eventually Shannon found his lifeless body still under one of the tractors from where he probably never moved after he made it to the workshop.
How could the death of a dog be so moving to non-dog lovers like Kerrie and I? I know this, Junior will always be a huge part of the many memories we’ll cherish from the time we spent at Koramba Cotton Farm.