Amazing Animals That Are Ready and Willing

Bailey – a Seagull’s Foe

By Janine Flew

The seagulls that frequent the foreshores of Sydney’s Australian National Maritime Museum aren’t happy. The museum has a new staff member who’s making their once comfortable lives difficult. The newcomer, Bailey, is young, keen and also handsome. What sets him apart from the other folk who work at the museum is that Bailey is a dog.

Three-year-old Bailey has been brought on staff to deal with seagulls. The museum’s wharves and ships at Darling Harbour attract flocks of these birds. The mess they make is smelly and unsightly and damages the paint and varnish on the museum’s historic vessels, leaving staff with the unpleasant job of cleaning it off.

Over the years the museum has tried many methods to deter the gulls: humming lines, ultrasonic devices, fake birds of prey, sprinklers activated by motion sensors even hosing them – all have proved futile.

Earlier this year, security manager Adrian Snelling jokingly suggested getting a dog to do the job, then kept the joke going until his boss said, “So where’s our dog, then?” Meanwhile Adrian had discovered that other places such as airports had successfully used dogs to deter birds, and so in June 2016 Bailey was adopted from a local animal rescue shelter.

He was already named Bailey when he came to the museum. He was then bestowed the surname of a recently retired head of security, and a job title fitting of his responsibilities: Assistant Director, Seagulls.

Bailey is mostly border collie and true to his breed, he has unlimited energy and drive, and loves to chase things. Pigeons, cyclists, joggers, skateboarders and even passing boats all spark his attention.

Bailey adapted quickly to his new role. Luckily for the museum, chasing birds is what he really likes to do. Before he was adopted, his foster carer often had to bring him inside to stop him wearing himself out chasing birds all day.

In his first few days on staff, Bailey took the term ‘salty sea dog’ all too literally, launching into his new role with such gusto that he ended up in the harbour several times. Clearly he didn’t have much clue about workplace health and safety, and so he was fitted with a jaunty yellow life vest. As well as keeping him afloat, it has a handle on the back so he can be easily retrieved from the water. Wearing the vest also signals to him that he’s working and needs to concentrate on the job rather than play.

Bailey makes his rounds several times a day with a handler: early in the morning, once or twice during the day, and then at dusk, when there is no longer much human activity to spook the birds and they start to roost on the wharves.

His presence soon began to make a difference in gull numbers, as Bailey himself noted in his blog a few weeks after he arrived: “My enemies, the seagulls, have started to notice that I’m here to stay, and there aren’t as many as there used to be. When I started we had seagulls everywhere on the wharves, but now we have maybe five at a time. Those birds who’ve decided to stay have learnt to sit high up on the vessels, out of my reach. So frustrating!”

According to Adrian, Bailey isn’t exaggerating. “Normally when there are seagulls down here, Bailey will spot them and I’ll let him off the lead and say, ‘Bailey, go!’,” he explains. “He automatically chases the birds and is perfect for the role. The highlight of his morning is to come down to chase seagulls. And if you don’t take him down, he gets very upset.”

When he isn’t ruffling feathers, Bailey lives in the security office, where he has a cosy bed and round-the-clock company from the team of security guards. Pampering is part of his routine, too – every two weeks he is bathed and professionally groomed at the local vet.

Some days Bailey visits his two-legged friends in other parts of the museum’s administration building. In the evenings, he gets to loll about behind the reception desk, or chase balls across the wooden floors. The two places he isn’t allowed are the museum itself and the conservation laboratory, for the sake of the exhibits or artefacts.

As well as making a big difference to the state of the museum’s wharves and vessels, Bailey has been a great morale booster for staff. His playful, friendly ways are a big hit with his colleagues. Staff are encouraged to book a walk and play session with Bailey using the office email system.

Apart from saving the museum’s staff many hours of tedious cleaning, Bailey now has a secure home, a job he loves and plenty of new friends. This rescue dog’s story has ended happily for everyone – except the seagulls.

Max to the Rescue

By Helen Signy

Pete Roy opened the gate and was turning round when something hit him in the guts. The pain was more excruciating than anything he’d felt before and he collapsed to the ground, struggling to breathe.

There was no phone reception and Pete, a farm worker and musterer in remote Takahue, in far north New Zealand, realised he was in trouble. He was alone apart from his dog, Max, a huntaway–collie cross who had been his best friend for the last ten years.

Max knew something was terribly wrong. He sniffed and licked his master as Pete squirmed in pain, as blood slowly filled his lungs.

Pete staggered a few metres but couldn’t make it further. The pain was extreme and there was no way of accessing help. He turned to Max. “Go away back, boy,” he said. “Go away back.”

Max turned and headed off up the road, then a few minutes later came back, unwilling to leave. Pete sent him back, and after some time he again returned, alone. “Go away back, go get Angie,” Pete pleaded.

Angela Rose-Collins, his former partner, lived about 500 metres down the road. Max was a regular visitor to her house and she thought nothing of it when he ran into her house as she was doing some housework. She gave him a pat and sent him away. The third time, Max left with her little fox terrier, Roxy.

Pete watched out of the corner of his eye as Max returned to where he lay, pinning Roxy down with a paw and refusing to let the smaller dog go until its owner arrived.

By now nearly an hour had passed. Pete concentrated on keeping his legs straight and drawing in air through his nose. Max never moved from his position. Frantically watching Pete, Max kept glancing at the gate, impatient for Angela to come.

Sure enough, eventually Angela arrived, looking for Roxy. She immediately called the ambulance and before long Pete was being rushed to Whangarei Hospital, 150 kilometres away, where he was treated for a burst bowel. The ambulance officers said he probably would not have survived another hour had Max not gone for help.

“He’s been with me so long and he knew I was in trouble. I reckon if I was drowning he’d probably jump in and save me,” says Pete.

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