Monday, November 30, 2009

Tails of the City

 Tails of the City: Sydney's passion for pets

After my little rant in my last post about dogs' lack of access to beaches and public transport, I flicked through my photo gallery and noted these images captured in February when the Museum of Sydney hosted an exhibition "Tails of the City: Sydney's passion for pets".

Sadly the exhibit showed a historical freedom for pets that is counterpointed by the current policies of the NSW state government and many local councils (including the many municipalities that make up greater Sydney). So while these banners fluttered over the streets, I was only 5 minutes away from Bennelong Point where you can't walk your dog at all. The Museum gift sold the notecards below enjoining people to "Take Your Dog With You By Rail" while we were minutes from bus, rail and ferry hubs all completely forbidden to dogs.

I'm sure the irony completely escaped the people who funded this exhibition :-(.

Take Your Dog With You By Rail

Too darn hot

 Wilma looks on PB250005

Sydney's had several bouts of high temperatures, with the mercury circling 40ºC in the middle of the day. On some of these days neither Munson nor I leave the house. When it's not too bad in the evening we venture to the park. There the dogs try to play under the shade of the tree next to our favourite hillock.

Batman & Munson PB270002

Munson & Morrissey (4mo) 

On Wednesday we welcomed a new malamute puppy to Sydney Park: Morrissey is a 4mo boy with very similar markings to Munson, and is half brother to Billie. I suspect he may outgrow Munson given the relative sizes of their paws and parents!  There are quite a few new big pups at the park: Wilma is a 4mo German Shepherd, yet to grow into her ears and tail; Argos is a 4mo Landseer Newfoundland who will undoubtedly outgrow everyone before long; and then Buddy is a 10mo Australian bulldog.

Buddy is not as large as Munson, but he seems to outweigh him already. The bromance between Munson and Buddy is a sight to see, as they wrestle endlessly regardless of the weather. I don't think a visit to the park is complete for Munson unless Buddy makes an appearance.

Size aside, Munson has become the de facto guardian cum policeman among the two-three dozen regulars at the park. He checks that puppy brawls don't get too rough, and when new dogs turn up, vets them carefully as Bondi used to do. Even with this role, he still likes having small dogs crawl all over him. One day he trotted out to the centre of the village green to say hello to a tiny silky terrier. He lay down next to it and waved his paws around to invite it to play. Finally he rolled onto his back and it clambered onto his belly. Magic.

Dackel Chips, Pierre, Munson & Wilma Pierre, Wilma and Munson 

One day this week we sitting on the hill while Munson raced around with his friends Jet and Taffy. A new dog turned up that wanted to play roughly with Jet without the appropriate sniff-and-assess introduction. Some of the folks sitting next to me noted that Munson was running around herding the new dog away from his mates, and having a few warning words when it crossed a line behaviour-wise. When Bondi was younger his tactic was to stand between two warring dogs, so they couldn't even see each other; it was like a Berlin Wall had suddenly been rolled out to divide them.

Munson & Hayden (age 15yr)Munson seeking shade

Munson & Teddy Teddy & Munson at Boat Harbour

On Sunday morning I got a call from Teddy's owner inviting us to join them down on the north end of Wanda Beach at Cronulla. I've never been down here before,  but this area (also known as Boat Harbour) has 4WD access on to a 2km stretch of sand, and dogs are also officially permitted off-leash. I believe this makes it the only ocean beach in all of Sydney where dogs have such access. Several others which had a decades-long record of dog access have been lost in recent years, even where the beach or bay has little to no human activity or wildlife presence. Sydney has fifty ocean beaches and many more harbour beaches on Port Jackson, Pittwater and Botany Bay, so the access level is pretty poor.

Eedra Zay was quoted in a newspaper article last year about the restrictions in the northern areas thus:

Unless they go for a long drive, most Sydney dog owners can forget about giving their pet a day by the sea. Eedra Zay, of the owners' lobby group Barking Mad, says the city's dogs are short-changed when it comes to beach access.

"Warringah and Pittwater councils expect people from 69,879 homes who own 28,845 dogs to drive to one legal area [Rowland Reserve, Bayview] to swim their dogs and this area has 26 car spaces," Zay says. "This is crazy when most of these people live within walking distance of a beach."

Sydney's public transport policy being what it is, you can't get to most parks or beaches unless you have access to a private vehicle.

Munson at Boat Harbour

Driving directions to Boat Harbour hereAn entry fee of about $20 applies, but you can get a 6 month season ticket for about $100. While you require a 4WD to travel along the beach, there is a car-park for regular vehicles at the top of the beach, and you can walk a few hundred metres along to the sandy stretch. For other dog off-leash areas in the Sutherland Shire Council area, check this page - NB the Boat Harbour area is referred to as Wanda.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Entre une leçon et une coupe de cheveux

 Munson, patient guardian of the fountain one moment Munson: playboy

Munson en pointe Munson & Bondi, July 2008

Between my French lesson and a haircut - positioned on opposite sides of Munson's favourite fountain,  I had a few minutes to play with the boy after he suffered through my revision of pronoms démonstratifs.

The last shot is a flashback to Munson playing there when he was three months old.

Just seeing Bondi in the background there still tears me up inside … but then I flick to another couple of happy memories from that month…

Munson & Bondi, July 2008 Sydney Park Munson & Bondi, July 2008 Sydney Park

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Boys on the bays

PB140013 PB140018

Lucky Munson had a busy day out - first the markets to pick up our friend Ghaith and rescue him from a week of work and study. Then to the beach at Botany Bay - from whence I've stitched together a panorama of the beach with the new aeroplane viewing platform.

Foreshore Road beach and viewing platform

Munson in the viewing platform

same QANTAS takeoff - seconds apart

Mid-afternoon we went down to Rushcutters Bay where Munson went to his usual bridge-viewing platform and  to sniff out some freshly caught tailor fish.

IMG_3685 6_stitch IMG_3688 

Finally, what do the cats who get stared at by dogs see?

What the cats who stare at dogs see

Friday, November 13, 2009


 early evening 

It's two months since the last Friday night barbecue for the Sydney Park dog regulars and irregular drop-ins and passers-by. Each of these get-togethers has been special in its own way, but tonight we were blessed with cake(!) and Dave entertaining us on guitar for an hour. Munson's comic vocal stylings were occasionally entertaining.

 Mary tempts Munsonattending to table

dogs dogs dogs Dave plays for Munson

Dave plays

night collage

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Sand angel



sand angel Munson

Munson Teddy and Munson

The only other dog making an appearance at the beach this afternoon was Teddy the groodle, one of Munson's park playmates.

Monday, November 09, 2009

The dogs who stare at cats

wolf at the door Hi neighbour!

If there's ever a malamute who'll become bipedal, it's Munson.

If there's ever a good time to rake out Munson's fur, even the dense packed wool around his rump and flanks, it's when he's distracted by a cat.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Who let the dinosaurs out?

It's that time of year when every weekend has a neighbourhood festival. Today was the first time we've seen something new at the Newtown Festival - a man in an animatronic dinosaur costume.

PB08000220091108 Newtown Festival2-2

Munson had a few things to say about this creature - especially when it seemed to be 'threatening' some of the children sprawled across the grass of Camperdown Memorial Rest Park (possibly the most awkwardly named park in Sydney).


Despite the grey skies it was a warm muggy day, so I allowed Munson to cool down with a vanilla gelato.

20091108 Newtown Festival2-1