And so I entered the new millenium, dragging my shell-shocked humans behind me. (Yep. January 2001 was the beginning of the new millenium. You do the arithmetic.) It wasn't long before I started venturing beyond the confines on No 86, and acquainting myself with a strange and somewhat bewildering outside world.

According to the Pack Leader, one of the things one must look for in a Golden Retriever puppy is a jet black nose. Personally, the colour is immaterial to me, as long as it functions effectively - that is to say, about a thousand times better than the average human shnoz. Hah!

Anyway, here's a picture of my three-month-old-nose, with me attached. Judge the colour for yourself. Blacker than black, if you ask moi.

But back to the outside world. First item on that particular agenda was four weeks of Puppy Pre-School.

So here I am in the Pack Leader's little sports car about to set sail for pre-school for the first time. "Since we've only got two seats in this thing," asked the Alpha Female, "What are we going to do when she's fully grown?" "Well, I guess you'll just have to get out and walk," replied the Pack Leader. The Alpha Female, it must be said, failed to see the humour in that.

Round about this time the Pack Leader bought me my official day-time residence. OK, it's insulated, it's colour-coordinated, and it has little window thingies in the side that I can open on a hot day. But where is the air-conditioning, the wide-screen television, the hi-fi and the automatic computerized doggie treats dispenser? I mean, we're not talking luxuries here; we're just talking bare necessities. Sheesh!

Listen up, people. The motion on the table calls for a significant increase in treats and pats for all persons living at No 86 who have waggy tails and floppy ears and who happen to be named Kellie. All those in favour of the motion, bark twice. Arf! Arf!

That's it, then. Motion carried on the voices.

My humans often say that, at this age, I was just a little canine dynamo, forever racing around at top speed and hardly ever stopping to catch my breath. What tosh! In refutation of this outrageous claim, I herewith submit these shots of me in two of my quieter moments, both of which lasted for all of 15 seconds or so.

Did I mention the outside world? Well, the major part of the "outside world" in my particular neck of the woods is what we refer to in Oz as the bush. You're not a true Oz Golden Retriever unless you go out in the bush and commune with nature from time to time. Anyway, here I am well away from the bright lights and communing with the aforesaid nature. Fortunately, this was not the snake season because, frankly, I don't have much time for snakes. Kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, and rabbits are OK, but snakes give me the absolute willies.

Stalking: that's the thing. When you are out in the bush, you never know what you might come across. I mean, I have it on good authority that the bush abounds with all sorts of wildlife fit for stalking - lion, wildebeeste, cheetah, leopard, wart hog, you name it. So here I am stalking a fierce tiger, which I just happen to know is cowering in a defensive posture just behind that tree.

Nope. Wasn't a tiger after all. Probably a crocodile scared off by the approach of the cunning Golden huntress. Think I'll take a breather after that effort.

Up until this time, I had contented myself with shredding all the flowers and shrubs I could lay my jaws on in the backyard of No 86. Not content with that, I decided, towards the end of January, to try my hand (or rather, my paw) at open cut mining operations. I managed to sink several exploratory shafts on the back lawn, digging with such manic energy that the Pack Leader was convinced I was going to end up in China.

"First my flowers are totalled, then she chews up my shrubs, then she goes in after the fish in Bessie's fountain, and now this," exclaimed the Alpha Female. "I wouldn't worry about it," said the Pack Leader, who is generally so laid back that one can hardly detect a pulse. "Look at it this way: If she strikes oil, we'll all be rich."