Kellie & Breeze: Bit of a drag, really. Just as we were psyching ourselves up for some major adventures in previously unexplored parts of Canberra, the Pack Leader had to nip into hospital for a couple of quick operations. Nothing serious, mind - just a bit of routine maintenance. But, minor servicing or no, the unfortunate fact is that the consequential enforced convalescence period kind of cramped our style for a month or so. Limited-duration walks, no running, no swimming, no jumping up on him unexpectedly and sending him staggering backwards. In short, not much fun at all. Heck, he even called in the Pooch-Mobile lady to give us our baths, a matter that he had previously insisted on attending to himself (clad in wetsuit and breathing through a snorkel, he always says).

Breeze: So here we are immediately after suffering the ministrations of the Pooch-Mobile lady, drying off in the spring sun. Boy, you should have heard our performance when we were in the Pooch-Mobile lady's bath. You'd have thought we were being subjected to all sorts of insufferable indignities. But it's just that forced-air blow-dryer whatsit that we can't abide. An invention of the Devil, that apparatus. Small wonder that Kellie tried to chew the nozzle of the thing.

Breeze: Fortunately, the Pack Leader was fully recovered by the time my daughter's third birthday rolled around on 4th October. In fact, he was feeling so fit, and it was such a beautiful day, that we decided to eschew the traditional birthday visit to Capital Grooming for the traditional birthday fluffing up. Instead, we headed over to the ol' Molongolo River for a bit of a splash and giggle. If you ask me, that's a far more agreeable way to spend our time than being fussed over at the beauty shop. I mean, it's not that I object to being fussed over; it's just that swimming is in my blood, and thus the aqua will always have top priority so far as I am concerned. (In fact, the Pack Leader is convinced that I have gills lurking somewhere under my golden fur.)

Anyway, here's a picture of that rascally daughter of mine enjoying herself near the white water on the morning of her third birthday.

Breeze: My daughter was still very "puppyish" in her behaviour at this age. In fact, most people say that you only have to look at Kellie to tell right away that she is chock full of mischievous intent. She just has that way about her. (The Pack Leader says that the only reason he lets her get away with it is that she is chock full of canine charm as well - something he says she gets from her Mum, hem, hem.)

Kellie: And here we both are refusing to come out of the water when called by the Pack Leader. I tell you, when my Mum and I hit the briny it takes considerable effort on the part of the Pack Leader to persuade us to vacate the drink and start the journey back to No 86. "You two are the only fish I know," he says, "with fur instead of scales. I've known white pointer sharks and humpback whales that are less at home in the water than you two."

Breeze: With most of the burned pine trees cut down, the authorities finally allowed we Canberra citizens back into the (former) Stromlo Forest. Yep, everything that you see in this picture used to be forest before the bushfires of January 18. It's just not the same as it was, of course, but, hey, it's still the open air and wide open spaces, and thus a great place for a walk on a sunny day.

Kellie and Breeze: We are on the leash in this picture because it is just about the start of the snake season in this neck of the woods. Some ten species of snake appear hereabouts in the summer, the most dangerous being the dreaded Eastern Brown Snake. Trust us on this: you never want to get bitten by an Eastern Brown because its a sure-fire way of stepping off the twig in double quick time. Still and all, any snake that starts to get fancy with Kellie-Bomb and The Breezer is going to be in very big trouble indeed. It simply doesn't pay for any creature without floppy ears and a waggy tail to get uppity with the Terrors of Blackwood Terrace.

Kellie: My Mum's ninth birthday occurred on 5th November, so it was off to Capital Grooming preparatory to some birthday pictures being taken down by Lake Burley-Griffin.

Now, my Mum gets very excited when she knows she is near the water and was barking like crazy as the family Mazda pulled into a parking spot right on the lake next to the yacht club. In fact, she was so excited that she broke right out of the Pack Leader's grasp when he opened the back door, bounding off the back seat with explosive force and racing like a fast-moving freight train right into the water. Entering right into the spirit of things, I slipped effortlessly past the Pack Leader while he was still looking like a stunned mullet, trying to grasp what had just happened. In a trice I was in the lake with my Mum, both of us swimming around and barking like mad things.

"One hundred and sixty dollars I paid to get you two fluffed up for the birthday pictures," sobbed the Pack Leader, "One hundred and sixty dollars right down the drain." The Alpha Female tried to console him, but to no avail. In the end he decided to just walk us round the southern part of the lake until we had dried out and then take his fool pictures.

So here's my Mum on her ninth birthday, after her unscheduled, though thoroughly enjoyable, dip in the lake.

Breeze: And here's the both of us, on the same afternoon, watching the yachts on Lake Burley-Griffin. (We're both on the leash because of the close proximity of black swans and the occasional kayaker. You know how we feel about those things, don't you? I mean, you know how we feel.)

Kellie: And here's another birthday picture of my Mum. This was taken when we returned home to No 86, by which time the Pack Leader had almost forgiven us for our lakeside transgressions. Almost. Well, actually, he was still pretty teed off, but a few wags, slurps and soulful looks got us back into his good books. What can I say; the Golden charm never fails.


Breeze: Of course, it's not all go, go, go and giving the Pack Leader a hard time. Nope, sometimes you will find us in deeply contemplative mood, me in my favourite spot in the kitchen and Kellie on her outside mat. This is where we hatch our plots. This is where we figure out new and innovative ways to wrap the Pack leader around our dainty little paws.

Kellie: All this "contemplative" bizzo is OK in its place, but, heck, we two Goldens are creatures of action. Action, I say. So it's hardly surprising that November saw us back in the Molongolo, up to our floppies in the wet stuff.

My Mum found herself hot on the trail of a couple of Lizards on this occasion. A really dedicated lizard huntress is my Mum. You should see her when she goes after those things. I mean, the level of concentration and single-mindedness has to be seen to be believed. She is utterly fixated on the chase, to the exclusion of every other consideration. Honestly, it just doesn't pay to be a lizard when my Mum is on the case.

Kellie and Breeze: Sam (the Pack Leader's and Alpha Female's daughter) and her husband Tom headed off to South Africa and Botswana around this time, meaning that we two Goldens had to baby-sit their German Shepherd (Oskar) for the duration. He's a real old sweetie, is Oskar. He used to try that tiresome male-macho-dominant-dog nonsense on us, but he's completely given that behaviour away now, having been completely bamboozled by our feminine wiles and trickery. As for the Alpha Female, well, for her part she often got herself bamboozled by the twisted leashes resulting from our game plan of continually circling round Oskar so as to keep his whopping big male ego in check.

Breeze: In fact, we often play the twisted leashes trick on the Alpha Female. Here's another example of her attempting to sort it all out. This picture was taken during a walk right round Lake Tuggeranong, which is in the southern part of Canberra. (The big shopping centre in the background, incidentally, is affectionately referred to by we Canberrans as "Legoland".)

Kellie: Towards the end of the year we finally (finally!) got some rain in this drought-ravaged country. We were so entranced by this that all of us, Goldens and humans alike, put on our genuine Aussie Dryzabone coats and just walked around in the downpour for ages. (That's the Pack Leader with us, doing his well known "Man From Snowy River" imitation. It's pathetic, really, him being a city-slicker and all.)

Kellie and Breeze: Sam was delighted to discover that the "concierges" at a charming little cottage she and Tom stayed at during their visit to the Western Cape winelands were three South African Golden Retrievers. (Yep, we Goldens are just everywhere.) There names are Lillie, Tim, and Sarah. Here's big sister Sam with Lillie, enjoying the morning sun.

Kellie and Breeze: And when she was in the Kalahari Desert in Botswana, big sister Sam came across this creature and had Tom take a picture of it. She tells us, with a straight face, that this is an example of the Kalahari Golden Retriever breed. Honestly, we don't know whether to believe her or not, given that the ears are not floppy and the tail is, to put it kindly, almost a total non-event.

Kellie: To finish up, here's a little video of my Mum and I enjoying ourselves in the Molongolo River in mid October. It's not as nice at this spot as it was before the terrible bushfires, by the water's just as wet thank heavens.