I suppose you could say that, by mid-2001, I was virtually a fully grown Golden Retriever, give or take a millimetre or two. In fact, the Pack leader said that, if I didn't stop growing soon, I'd no longer be able to fit inside my day kennel. But, frankly, I wasn't all that interested in spending time in my day kennel. No sir, I much preferred getting up into the hills and exploring the rest of the landscape around Canberra, nose in full overdrive. I am, when all is said and done, more of an adventuress than a homebody.

A Brief Digression: In Australia, the Driza-Bone coat is more than just an item of apparel; it's more of a cultural icon. I mean, if you are a human type person, you cannot call yourself a genuine Aussie unless you own a Driza-Bone coat.

These things go way, way back to the nineteenth century. In fact, they began life aboard the early windjammers that used to ply the great southern oceans in the days of sail. When eventually the sailors went ashore they took their by now renowned wet weather coats with them. Once ashore, the coat was adapted to life on the land, with a fantail to protect the seat of the horse rider's saddle, leg straps to keep the coat from taking off in high winds, and extra long sleeves.

Anyway, here's the thing: In about mid-2001, Driza-Bone coats became available for dogs (and not before time, if I may say so). Needless to say, I immediately insisted that the Pack Leader buy me one. My thinking was that, if I had a genuine Driza-Bone, he (the Pack Leader) would no longer have any excuse for not taking me for a walk when it was raining.

So here I am modelling my new Driza-Bone coat. Note the blue piping on the collar. That is actually neon piping, which is connected to a little battery and switch located in an interior pocket. So, when we go for a walk at night, the Pack Leader just throws the switch and there I am: walking down the street with my collar flashing on and off like a neon sign. Personally, I think this makes me look extremely silly, but the Pack Leader thinks it's rather cool, so I suppose I just have to humour him.

Treats. That's what I store in those little pockets at the sides. (I knew you were wondering about that.) And, in the future, that's where I'll be carrying my MP3 player.

Yet more posing for the Pack Leader's camera. Honestly, sometimes I think he thinks I'm a canine Elle McPherson. Boring, boring, boring.

OK, so the Alpha Female is the strict one when it comes to the observence of Kennel Rules at No 86. Frankly, there are quite a few things I can get away with with the Pack Leader that I wouldn't even dream of trying when the Alpha Female is around. But, hey, that doesn't mean that the Alpha Female and I aren't the best of pals. In fact, here we are enjoying a companionable mid-winter stroll around Lake Burley-Griffin and a quiet moment of reflection on a grassy bank. (I'm reflecting on the ducks down on the lake and how I could really stir them up if the Alpha Female would just let me off the leash.)

And it must be said that the Alpha Female did introduce me to some strange new creatures while I was learning about the outside world. I had seen horses and rabbits and cats, etc., at this stage. But then one day we came across these strange creatures at the edge of a pine forest. I still haven't a clue what they are; but, hey, any creature with four legs and a tail is OK by me.