Bungy jumping Granny McGarvey, little convict Grace, transported for stealing apples, Tahi the one legged kiwi. We’ve had a few travelling companions since we left home, but none as memorable as Red Dog.
Everywhere we go, we keep an eye out for local books to read the children. Often they’re really helpful to explain the new things we see around us, whether it’s bush tucker or volcanoes, and the adults usually learn something too. So when we discovered that there was a famous Pilbara dog, who’d had a book written about him by Louis de Bernieres, we had to get it.
Red Dog, so called because of the local red dust in his fur, belonged to no one and everyone in Karratha, at a time when the North West Australian mining town was little more than a collection of caravans. He’d turn up at people’s front doors expecting to be fed and watered, and they’d always oblige. He got the best seat on the mine buses and travelled the length and breadth of Western Australia, hitching lifts with his friends. In this impossibly remote, rocky, arid, place, largely populated by men far far away from their families, the lovely dog found it easy to make friends.
Although Red Dog is not a strictly a children’s book, there’s plenty in it to keep them interested. Red Dog’s famously stinky farts feature heavily, as do stories of his battles with local cats, and gun wielding caravan park caretakers. Like all the best books, it’s funny and sad in equal measure, with beautifully drawn characters and atmospheric descriptions of the otherworldly landscape of the Pilbara. Apparently it’s being made into a film, I hope they do it justice.
Our book, with its own covering of red dust, is now in an Australia Post box on a cargo ship, making it’s slow way home to London. One day, we’ll be able to read it again and remember our big adventure in the ancient red desert on the edge of nowhere.