My Disappearing Dog on the Wilderness Ocean Walk

‘You have to find that place that brings out the human in you, the soul in you, the love in you’

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There I was standing on the middle of the trail listening for the dog but all I could hear was the sound of the waves of the southern ocean far below and the wind rustling through the coastal shrubbery. It had started to drizzle and I couldn’t find Jack the dog!

I am house sitting for three and a bit weeks in Denmark, Western Australia. It’s a sweet deal as Denmark is a playground for outdoor love and fun. Part of the house sitting responsibilities include taking car of a cat called Bob, a lamb called , three horses whose names I can’t remember, some chickens and a beautiful Kelpie cross something called Jack. The property is set on 10 acres and has the most stunning views down the valley. Don’t you worry, I definitely feel lucky!

The past few years I have been floating the thought of getting a dog. I like the romantic idea of running trails, exploring remote beaches and travelling cross-country with a dog as part of the company so I was beyond excited to have the dog as part of the house sitting deal.

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Let me tell you about Jack. She is a beautiful, sweet, energetic dog who like most Kelpies, is intelligent and likes to round things up. She is originally from a farm up the road in Kojonup but only spent a day in the yards as a pup but by all accounts, she was a natural. I was definitely rounded up when we headed off on runs through the nearby bush, when I was in the paddock feeding the horses, when I was collecting wood or even when I was bottle feeding the lamb. I wasn’t alone, everyone, including the cat was rounded up. Jack also liked to chase seagulls. When she caught sight of a seagull, everything else around her was forgotten. I had seen that in action the day before when she barrelled full speed into the ocean chasing a seagull only to trip over a rock a somersault head first into a rock pool which thankfully snapped her out of the zone she was in.

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I was warned about her fixation with moving animals but somehow on this particular run, I forgot that really important slice of information.

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We were running on the Wilderness Ocean Walk which is a 6.2 km walk from the Denmark Community Wind Farm through to Williams Bay National Park. A simple and simply beautiful undulating sealed trail that traverses the coastline and rewards the walker, runner, cyclists with seriously stunning vistas of the southern ocean, Monkey Rock, Williams Bay and the surrounding areas. It’s an easily accessible, undulating trail that can be completed as a one way or out and back with car parking at either end. (Denmark Community Wind Farm and Lights Beach car park). The other great thing is that you are allowed to take dogs into this area and it’s strongly recommended that they are on a leash.

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My first big mistake was to ignore the ‘dog on a leash’ rule. In my defense though (do not mention this to the rangers down here) it was early morning (6.30am) and my intention was to run out and back on the trail with the unleashed dog and enjoy those wild coastal views that this trail has on offer and hopefully not run into too many bikes or walkers. Yes, that’s right, I was very much looking forward to breathing in the ocean air, soak up the sea views and just run that trail. Only a small issue, the dog had other plans and so did the weather.

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The first couple of kilometres from the parking lot below the wind farm were uneventful. After ducking through the locked gate, it was approximately 1km of gradual gravel uphill to the wind farm before we hit the trail. The cloud was low, it was windy and there was passing showers. We started cruising along the trail. I was enjoying the fresh, crisp, stormy ocean air and the dog was enjoying running and sniffing practically everything as she normally does. And then, the large grey kangaroo popped up. In an instant her ears were up and she disappeared off the track in hot pursuit of the muscular, hopping beast just as a band of rain went through. I called and called and the only sound I heard was the wind rustling through the shrubby brush on either side of the track and the ocean crashing against the cliff far below and me standing there dog leash in hand with a pair of Patagonia running shorts and one of their capilene tanks. (please no lectures on the be prepared for weather thing)

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So, for a minute or two I sort of hoped the dog would return but the wind just kept rustling the shrubs and the ocean kept crashing against the cliffs. Another band of showers snapped me out of my trance and I started to work out exactly how I would manage my disappearing dog situation. Quite a few options went through my mind as I walked a bit. Given I was just going to run out and back I went light so the heaviest thing I was carrying or wearing was my mobile phone. The temperature was dropping with the wild weather so I decided the best thing to do was to walk back and forth along the stretch of the walk where she disappeared. So in essence there is a section of the Wilderness Ocean Walk where I believe I know every shrub, dirt, stick and crack in the trail. I paced back and forth along this stretch which was about 500m in length according to my GPS watch, occasionally calling for the disappearing kangaroo hunting kelpie called Jack. It was raining frequently, my thin running gear was damp and chilly and the dark clouds were building on the horizon. There was no dog and I had visions of her screaming through a paddock still chasing that kangaroo. I guess that was better than the fleeting thoughts of broken legs, falling off cliffs and snakebite.

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After about an hour of this and shivering in my wet clothes, I was rethinking my pacing back and forth plan and cursing continuously when suddenly she appeared on the track sopping wet, tail wagging, massive dog grin on her face and thankfully not dragging a kangaroo kicking and screaming back with her.

The run back to the car was fast and there were no stops and she was on a leash now. Completely stuffed she jumped in the back and promptly flopped down, still grinning and still wagging her tail. If only dogs could talk right?

Facts:

For more information on this super accessible, dog on a leash friendly walk check out denmark.wa.gov.au.