Kellie: My Mum had to have her pericardial sac drained again in early January, but she bounced back to full activity within a day or two. Needless to say, our thoughts then turned to the possibility of new adventures.

Kellie: I was just thinking, Mama, that the Pack Leader has never, ever taken us to see the big ocean. Keeps talking about it, but never does it. What are your views on this particular matter?

Breeze: My view, Kellie, is that the time has come to apply the figurative thumbscrews to our Pack Leader on the matter. So let's adopt our usual policy of non-violent non-cooperation until he relents.

Kellie & Breeze: And relent he did. In early February, the Pack Leader, the Alpha Female, and we two Goldens jumped into the family Mazda and headed for a place called Kookaburra Hill in the Kangaroo Valley up near the Southern Highlands. This was to be our base for a few days of rest and recreation. A good choice, really, because it is quite a lovely spot and only about thirty minutes from the big ocean. (Kangaroo Valley, incidentally, is one of only seven fully enclosed valleys in the world.)

Kellie & Breeze: We should probably mention, in passing, that Kangaroo Valley (left, above) is not all that far from our birthplace at Buffalo Kennels, which is located in the little village of Exeter in the Southern Highlands (right, above). Exeter is actually the highest point on the railway line from Sydney to Melbourne.

Kellie & Breeze: Kookaburra Hill, which is quite close to Kangaroo Valley village, is owned by a very nice retired lady academic named Pamela. She lives in one half of the house and makes the other half available to guests. We had a huge area to roam around in, and were particularly interested in the ponies and hens (we call them "chooks") at the rear. And we can't tell you what an absolute pleasure it was to wake up each morning to the calls of kookaburras and other sounds of the Australian bush.

Breeze: Well, actually, it was Kellie who displayed the most interest in the unfamilar early-morning sounds. To be perfectly frank about it, I was more interested in the taste of my early-morning bone.

Kellie & Breeze: We knew when the Pack Leader whipped out his trusty Nikon in the vicinity of Wedding Cake Mountain that a certain amount of posing would be required of us. Bit of a drag, really, though we must concede that there's usually a payoff for our reluctant cooperation. In this particular instance, it was an hour or so of carefree frolicking in the Kangaroo River, during which we were hugely entertained by the sight of the Pack leader standing knee deep in the river with his video camera in his hand.

Kellie & Breeze: On the second day, as promised, the Pack Leader and Alpha Female drove us over to the coast for our first look at the ocean. The chosen spot was Seven Mile Beach, near the mouth of the Shoalhaven River. (It was from this beach, incidentally, that the legendary Australian aviator Sir Charles Kingsford Smith initiated the first commercial air service to New Zealand. No long check-in queues in those days.)

So there it was: the big ocean. And, let us tell you, it is really, really big. Just a bit overwhelming when you are a Golden Retriever and seeing it for the first time.

Kellie & Breeze: But, hey, nothing fazes The Kellie and The Breeze for long. Pretty soon we were fossicking around like a couple of genuine old beachcombers, checking out every single thing worth sniffing at.

Kellie: Well, OK, I will admit that I was just a little fazed by that white foamy stuff. (I couldn't figure out why the water kept coming towards me instead of just staying where it was, like it does over at the lake.)

Not so my Mum, however. With her usual gusto and brio, she just charged right into the stuff. Indeed, there were times when the Pack Leader had to restrain her for fear of her being swept away by an undertow.

Kellie: Talk about self-confidence. I mean, here she is wrestling a white-pointer shark into submission. No, really.

Kellie: And here she is racing up to the Alpha Female and, if memory serves, asking permission to go back in the briny again. "May I go back in the water, Mum? May I? May I?" Irrepressibility personified, that's my Mum.

Kellie: Of course, it's not all fun and games at the beach, you know. We did have to do our spell on life guard duty. Here we are keeping an eye on things from our vantage point up in the sand dunes. If anyone had gotten into trouble with a white pointer, well, my Mum would have been on the case in a flash.

Kellie & Breeze: All to soon, the Pack Leader summoned us for one last posed photograph. Then it was on with the leashes and back to the family Mazda for a drive up the coast to the little town of Gerringong.

Kellie & Breeze: At Gerringong we climbed up a rather steep hill so as to get a better look at the big ocean, and to have a rest following our hectic activities at Seven Mile Beach. It was a beautiful day, and the views were quite splendid.

Kellie: And it was up there that our Pack Leader took what he regards as his absolute all-time favourite picture of my Mum and I together.

Breeze's problem with fluid build-up in her pericardial sac returned shortly after we returned from Kangaroo Valley. By this time there was no option but to agree to a subtotal pericardectomy - the surgical removal of most of the pericardium. The removed pericardium was subsequently analysed but provided no clues as to the root cause of her condition.

She recovered from the surgery quite well and, for a time, it seemed that her problem had been resolved. In mid-March, however, she began to lose her appetite and energy again. Further tests were conducted but the conclusions were that she had a condition that simply could not be defined. All we could hope for was that, with certain medication, things might turn around of their own accord.

Our family veterinarian checked her again on the Wednesday before Easter and concluded that there was no reason for major concern at that stage. However, during the following evening, she started to exhibit significant breathing difficulties. We raced her to the emergency veterinarian in the city, but her situation was such that there was nothing that could be done for her. It was clear that her time had come, and her brave little heart stopped beating late on the evening of 4th of April 2007.

There are simply no words to describe how completely devastated we were at the loss of our beloved little lady. It just seemed impossible that we would never again see that pretty little face and wildly wagging tail, that we would never again be awakened by her early-morning "alarm clock" barks, that we would never again have to retrieve all the chew-toys that she left scattered around the house, that we would never again watch her swimming happily in the lake or river, or trotting along with Kellie in the parklands and forests. It was as though a dark void had taken the place of a precious gift - the most wonderful Golden companion we could ever have hoped to have.

We buried her on the back lawn in the shade of a claret ash, placing her supper bowl, her leash, her coats and all her chew-toys beside her. In the summer we will erect a permanent memorial over her grave, surrounded by a bed of flowers.