Kellie: It may be the middle of winter, Mama, but I rather fancy a refreshing dip in the ol' Molongolo River. How say you to that?

Breeze: I say let us proceed with all due haste, daughter of mine, and the devil take the hindmost.

Kellie & Breeze: Yep. There's nothing more calculated to banish the cobwebs than a nice refreshing dip in the ol' Molongolo on a crisp mid-winter day. For reasons which escape us, the Pack Leader and Alpha Female are somewhat reluctant to join us in the water during these excursions, and simply content themselves with throwing sticks and shouting encouragement from the river bank. We think this reluctance may have something to do with the humans' unfortunate lack of a double coat of fur. Something like that. The paragon of animals, they call themselves, and they don't even have a double coat of fur! Unbelievable! (No waggy tail either, more's the pity.)

Kellie: Those rocks seem a tad slippery, Mama. Would you like some help?

Breeze: Not at all, daughter of mine. There's not a rock on this planet capable of defeating The Breezer. Not even Mont Blanc ...

Breeze: ... Not even Uluru. Not even K2. Not even Kangchenjunga. Not even Makalu. As for Cotopaxi in the Andes, well, I was having an off day.

Kellie: Well, after all, it was just after you had swum the entire length of the Amazon without taking a break.

Breeze: Funny you should mention that, because this bit reminds me of those piranha-filled rapids near Manaus.

Kellie: Let's just fetch the sticks, shall we Mama?

Kellie: Remember Oskar the German Shepherd, who is owned by my Pack Leader's daughter Sam and her husband Tom? A really top fellow is Oskar - the original gentle giant. He stays at our house sometimes when Sam and Tom are out of town, and I can tell you that he is always the perfect house guest. It was only natural, therefore that my Mum and I should insist that the Pack Leader take some pictures of us so as to document our long and highly agreeable association with the big guy with the really weird ears.

Breeze: "What the heck," I said to Kellie, "While we're here we may as well have a couple of individual portraits taken, even if we do look a bit 'raggedy-Anne' at the moment. If we cooperate, it will put the Pack Leader in an agreeable mood, which means that he'll be less likely to go ballistic if we three persons of the canine persuasion suddenly race off in hot pursuit of kangaroos or the like." "Smart thinking, Mama," replied Kellie, "And yet another example of why I'll always walk in your shadow."

Kellie & Breeze: Ahem, well, we really didn't want to tell you this next bit, but we are under orders from the Pack Leader to do so. He says that he thinks it only fair that out readers be apprised of exactly how we two Golden rascals have conspired together to take years off his life.

Kellie: As usual, Mama, our Pack Leader grossly overstates and over-dramatizes. Then again, I'd have to concede that we did cause him considerable distress on 30 August 2005. In fact, truth be told, its a day I'd rather forget myself, so I think I'll let you tell the tale.

Breeze: Fair enough, Kellie. So anyway, dear reader, here's how it all went down. On the afternoon of that day we two Goldens were on a hillside track in the former forest way over on the north side of the Molongolo River, trotting along about fifty yards ahead of the Pack Leader and Alpha Female, as is usual when we are off the leash. Suddenly, for no reason that the Pack Leader or Alpha Female could discern, we both took off like rockets, racing at top speed along the track as it curved around the hillside and descended towards a river crossing some way in the distance.

At that point, the Pack Leader wasn't too concerned because he figured that Kellie and I had simply smelled the water and decided to head for it with all due despatch. (After all, we always did exactly that when we knew we were near the river.) However, when he and the Alpha Female arrived at the river crossing a few minutes later, Kellie and I were nowhere to be seen! Only mildly agitated at this stage, the Pack Leader asked the Alpha Female to remain at the river crossing while he returned to a "T" junction and raced down a track which paralleled the river on the northern side. He did this because he knew that we had previously displayed a keen interest in that particular area (for reasons which remained totally obscure to the humans, incidentally).

After a quick search of the area in question, and receiving no response to his repeated shouting of our names, the Pack Leader returned to the "T" junction and yelled to the Alpha Female that he was proceeding back up the main track in case we had returned to the point from which we had broken away. As it happens, and as he neared the top of the hill, he encountered my good self quite happily trotting down the track towards him. Given the fact that my head and shoulders were covered in black charcoal marks, he concluded that I had, in fact, been in the area that he had just searched, and that, having concluded my adventure, I must have cut across country to where I expected to find my humans. (The charcoal marks were the giveaway, incidentally, because the area in question was still covered in burned-out tree stumps and other detritus from the disastrous 2003 bushfires.)

But where was Kellie? Where on earth was Kellie? Acting on the only clue available, the Pack Leader raced me down the hill to the river crossing, handed me over to the Alpha Female, and returned to a wider search of the northern side of the river. This was not an easy task, because the terrain is very rugged in that area, the river bank is very steep, and the newly-grown scrub dense and tangled. But there was no sign of Kellie anywhere, so the Pack Leader returned to the river crossing and asked the Alpha Female to take me home as fast as possible, checking for signs of Kellie along the way, while he retraced our original route outbound from No 86, just in case Kellie had returned home of her own accord in that particular direction.

Eventually, all three of us found ourselves back at No 86, but with no sign of Kellie anywhere, and with the Pack Leader and Alpha Female becoming very, very panicky indeed. At this point, the Pack Leader developed the suspicion that Kellie must have gotten herself lost amongst the many gravel roads and tracks on the north side of the Molongolo, a huge area that he simply could not expect to fully search on foot. So he grabbed the mobile (cell) telephone, jumped in the car, drove to the forestry office, borrowed the keys to one of the gates to the forest, and started searching along those roads and tracks that were accessible by vehicle. As he raced away from No 86, the Alpha Female rang Tom at the Australian National University and asked him if he could race over on his mountain bike to assist in the search.

About half an hour later, having fruitlessly searched all the roads and tracks in the area, the Pack Leader headed back to the river crossing to rendezvous with Tom. By this stage, the Pack Leader was absolutely frantic with concern, because it was getting late in the day, clouds were rolling in, and we were clearly in for a bitterly cold and rainy night, with Kellie, in all probability, still out in the open. Other unpleasant thoughts began to intrude. Why did she not respond to the Pack Leader's calling? Had she perhaps fallen over the steep embankment into the river and become entangled in all the foliage along the northern side? Had she found herself in some other situation from which she found it impossible to extricate herself? Was she injured and unable to move?

Just as the darkest of these thoughts began to descend on the Pack Leader, his mobile telephone rang. It was the Alpha Female. A wet, charcoal-stained, and rather sorry-looking female Golden Retriever, who looked suspiciously like one Buffalo Rustic Kellie, a.k.a. Kellie Bricknell, had just appeared at the back gate at No 86.

The Pack Leader said later that he has never in all his life experienced a greater sense of relief and elation than he did when he received that particular telephone call. It was as if he had suddenly emerged from a very dark and scary place into bright and brilliant sunshine.

But where on earth had Kellie been? What part of the river had she crossed, and when did she cross it? What route had she taken to get home? How close had she come to grief crossing the two busy roads and other suburban streets between the forest and No 86? Why had she broken away in the first place? How did she and I become separated? Alas, neither the Pack Leader nor the Alpha Female know the answers to these questions, and Kellie's not telling. All we know is that she was a very subdued little lady for the rest of that day and that evening, so we're pretty sure that she had given herself a really bad scare one way or another.

Breeze: The Pack Leader says that the only reason he took these two pictures (me left and Kellie right) was to remind himself from time to time that all this actually happened and was not just a ghastly nightmare. He also shows them to Kellie and I on occasion, possibly as a way of laying some sort of heavy guilt trip on us. But we just wag our tails as if we have no earthly idea what he is on about. (Best not to dwell on these things, we always say.)