Feb/Mar 2006 just near dusk, I was sitting having a beer in our pergola which overlooks a creek running behind our property; when I spotted movement in the scrub on the other side of the gully. A fox, I thought at first, but the movement wasn’t fox like. Through binoculars I saw it was the dog I’d spotted around the streets. She no longer had a collar, was looking thin and oft stopped to scratch the fleas. I watched her climb quite a steep slope and disappear into a cave in the rocks.
I realized she was not a pet occasionally wondering the streets, she was now feral and because of Christmas holidays there had been no kids at the school above her hide for several months, she’d lost a source of food. No discarded sandwiches etc!
The next evening I put a bowl of “dog chow” out behind our property; it was gone in the morning, however I was not sure it had been eaten by the gully dog (to which we’d been referring to her) or foxes.
After several months of putting out food, curiosity got the better of me – was it Gully or foxes? I also wanted to ensure it was Gully who ate the worm/flea tablets. So, every time I put out the food I would tap the metal bowl several times with a spoon. Then an hour or so later checked if the food had been eaten. For many months, the food was there for the check and gone in the morning. Then one night, it was gone an hour after putting it out.
Over time, we spotted her many times laying in the sun on the other side of the gully or walking through the scrub and she was no longer skinny.
From time to time we’d see her in the street whilst walking our Ridgeback, Sheba. There was no way she would let people within 30 metres.
After a while, she would appear within seconds of tapping the bowl. (taps) Still she would not approach until I was inside the gate, it was locked and I’d moved many metres away.
By this stage, Sheba had passed on and we had Zayne.
Gully would let me watch her eat from a distance and when finished eating would have a “doggy chat” with Zayne through the gate.
As soon as I tried to approach she would be off into the scrub.
Christmas 2007 – we noticed the gully dog was very “booby”.
Late January she’d become very “plump” and it dawned on us she was pregnant.
Then she disappeared for a week or so, didn’t respond to “taps” nor was the food eaten. Then, one evening I saw her walking across the clearing, much thinner and carrying what I thought was a rabbit she’d caught. We later realized it was one of her pups – dead.
A few days later, she responded to “taps” and everything was back to normal. Now, she was oft waiting at the edge of the clearing for me to appear with the food. She even started barking when I was late, particularly on weekends. Around Christmas I’d find her laying in the shade of the trees, in the middle of the clearing (much closer to the gate).
Jan 2009 – the gully dog was again pregnant. She did her disappearing act a few days before “Black Saturday”. Although no fires in the gully, the heat wave must have killed all her pups; for several days & nights we heard mournful howling across the gully.
Then she appeared near our gate, with her gentle reminder bark.
Every night my wife sat at the gate talking to “Gully” – each night she came closer and closer and eventually she ate whilst my wife sat and spoke to her.
A few weeks later my wife came running into the house most excited…
“Gully sniffed my fingers!” “I poked my fingers through he gate and she sniffed them, her nose touched my fingers and she even licked them!!”
The bond was there and the trust quickly escalated. Soon she would eat whilst the gate was open and we sat near her. At this range I could see she had a bad dose of mange; I spoke with the vet and there’s nothing oral for mange. Based on my description of the mange Derrick decided on the most probable medication. I was very pleased that she now trusted me enough to allow me to apply the medication, and even more pleased to see a considerable improvement within days.
Now at “taps” Gully would run passed the food and come straight to us for a cuddle and scratch behind the ear. Only after 5-10 minutes of affection would she eat. In a matter of weeks she had gone from keeping distance to preferring contact over food.
We then noticed sadness in her eyes as we entered our gate after the evening time together, she would limp away with head low, often stopping to look back.
I spoke with Stuart after a Four Paws class, and he suggested leaving the gate open to see what she did. Several times she crossed the boundary, but immediately turned and was off.
Then! One Saturday evening in mid April, she followed us well into the yard and stayed for several hours. The next afternoon, she came in and lay under the table in our pergola whilst we had dinner; not once did she try to take food or be a nuisance.
We couldn’t leave the gate open for the night and I didn’t want her to feel trapped, so late that night I walked her to the gate, she ambled off into the darkness and I locked the gate.
When I got home from work the next day (Monday) I found Gully and Zayne asleep under the table in the pergola. How she managed to get over a 2.5 metre fence, we’ll never know.
-Gully had adopted us-
Next day, I noticed a wound in her leg (which she must have done getting over the fence) so I called the vet to ask him to make a “house call”. That wasn’t going to happen, and the nurse suggested I try to get a collar on her and lure her into the car.
To my astonishment, I called her and she walked straight to me and without any fuss whatsoever let me put on a collar; then jumped straight in the car when I opened the door. Derrick, the vet, was equally amazed at her calmness as he examined her.
Many teeth were broken and badly worn from foraging for food.
“Lungs good, heart good, joints good – oh oh, not all good!” said Derrick
Right shoulder not good, arthritic yet “loose”.
X-ray showed an old break. Not damaged like a hit by car, or fall. So localized it was most likely broken by a severe kick. Probably the cause of her years of distrust for humans, and certainly the cause of her long term limp! Otherwise, very fit and well, considering her life.
A few months later, Gully came “on heat” and escaped. She returned a day later; so I spoke with Derrick. He advised that “at her age, pregnancy would probably be life threatening” although spaying at her age would not be a simple operation either. The operation could not be done until she was no longer in season, so we had time to consider. She escaped several more times, which made the decision relatively easy.
The operation went very well and Gully recovered very quickly; Lisa (the vet surgeon) said internally Gully was much healthier than could be expected and that maybe she was only about 6 years old instead of the 8-9 they had originally thought, based on external examinations.
From this point, Gully ceased to be an escapologist, loved to walk with us and Zayne, she adored long rides in the car and Stuart will attest she enjoyed her visits to “school” with Zayne. Strangely, even in the middle of winter, when Zayne would dash inside at the first invitation, even over the top of Gully as she lay at the door; she would not come in the house. She was happy on her bed in the pergola; and her eyes would “light up” in the morning as I came out to give her a cuddle.
Late November 2009 – both Zayne and Gully went off their food, it had become quickly very hot, so I concluded it was the weather. However a day or 2 later Zayne was eating normally and Gully was not.
December 1 – Derrick’s diagnosis was “I’m pretty sure the poor old girl has cancer and probably only a few months – we’ll do blood tests to be positive”. The next day Derrick called – “it’s worse than I thought, she’ll be suffering badly within days”
December 3, 6am – I opened the back door and invited Gully to come inside; although she’d refused many times before, this time she was in without hesitation. For the next 2.5 hrs she was never more than a metre from my side. Then she wandered off; I found her laying beside Zayne and the cat, in the sun coming through the front window.
Tears welled in my eyes. Time to go; I opened the front door and called Gully, she immediately got up and followed me out the door. Zayne did not move – they both knew!!!
Gully was euthanized at 9am December 3rd– the cancer so aggressive it had doubled in size in 2 days.
Vale Gully – She deserved an easier life.
From whence she came we know not. That she was a loving dog with a wonderful and most resilient nature, we are sure. We trust in karma for those who caused an immensely social being to lead such a solitary life. We were blessed she allowed us to share some of her life.
After her passing, many neighbours asked about her and were most saddened to learn of her fate. Turns out they too had seen her see her about the area over the years and worried about her on those very cold nights and very hot days. They said it had been wonderful to see how happy she was in her pink collar in our yard or walking with us.
January 17, 2010 – 10 am Sunday morning, we spread Gully’s ashes across the area she roamed for many years.
7 people attended; a neighbour who could not be there sent rose petals to spread amongst her ashes. RIP Gully!