KELLIE: Ladies and gentlemen, mesdames et messieurs, boys and girls, and fellow Golden Retrievers young and old. Today it is my very great pleasure to introduce to you my new Golden companion here at No 86. I speak, of course, of the estimable CH Buffalo Forever Rustic, a.k.a. Dusty, late of Buffalo Kennels at Exeter in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales. Yep, on 5 May this year I got really lucky. That was the day that Dusty arrived to begin her new life at No 86.

What happened was that Mike and Sandra Patterson, who run my old alma mater Buffalo Kennels, reluctantly decided to place three of their female Goldens with people they knew would look after them well for the rest of their lives. All three little ladies on offer were absolute charmers, of course; however, in the event, my Pack Leader and Alpha Female decided on Dusty, in large part because she is a half-sister of mine, our Dad having been the incomparable CH Lawnwoods Rustic Rian UD, a.k.a. Rian.

My little sister was born on 20 January 2007, so she was about three and a half when she came to live with me. I say "little" not only because she is my junior in years but also because she is markedly smaller than me in actual size. She has a hugely appealing, pixie-like demeanour about her, and has loads of personality and winning little ways that charm the socks right off all the humans who meet her. I must say that she has turned out to be a wonderful companion, and we get along extremely well together.

KELLIE: Anyway, I thought I'd introduce my little sister with a collage of photographs from her earlier days at Buffalo Kennels. In the photo at top right, that's her in the middle with her litter-mates Ponting (left) and Delta (right). And, yes, she did pick up a number of prizes in the show ring in her Buffalo days, including First Place Intermediate Bitch at the Sydney Royal Easter Show in 2009.

DUSTY: The Pack Leader says that you've always got to see things from the Golden's point of view. I mean, the humans had known what was going to happen for a couple of weeks, but I woke up on 5 May 2010 thinking it would be just another day, like any other. And then, without warning, I'm whisked off to a strange place many, many miles away, in company with another Golden I had never seen before. It's a bit of a shock to the system, let me tell you.

DUSTY: Just before Kellie and I jumped in the car for the journey back to Canberra, our humans took the opportunity to get a photograph of us both with our famous Dad Rian. This was the first time Kellie had seen her Dad in almost a decade, and it was great to see them both together. That's me on the left, our Dad in the middle, and Kellie on the right.

KELLIE: I was so glad to see my Dad one last time. And, I'm sorry to say, it really was to be the last time, because shortly after my visit, on 21 May, he passed away. This came as a tremendous shock to all of us because he just seemed so chipper and full of life when we last saw him. Needless to say, Mike and Sandra were just simply devastated, since they always said that Rian was the best Golden that they had ever had, or would ever have. He was a very special fellow, and Dusty and I were so proud of him.


Pictured here, just a few days before he passed away, with the lady who looked after him from the day he arrived in Australia as a puppy: Mrs Sandra Patterson of Buffalo Kennels, Exeter, New South Wales.

DUSTY: I must admit that I had to make a quite few adjustments during my early days at No 86. I mean, I had never slept inside one of those big human-size kennels before, and everything was quite strange and new to me. For example, that big thing called the "plasma television" in the lounge room had me completely spooked. I was quite happy to go into the lounge room when it was switched off, but, whenever the Pack Leader or Alpha Female switched it on again, I just high-tailed it down to my trampoline bed in the main bedroom, and refused to come out. In fact, it took me until the first week of July before I summoned up enough courage to stay in the lounge room when the TV was on, and I eventually learned that there was absolutely nothing to be afraid of. Looking back, I feel a bit silly about the whole thing, really.

One thing one simply must do when one moves to a brand new environment is crank the old schnoz into gear and conduct a detailed olfactory investigation of every single place you go, filing the resulting data away in one's extensive olfactory database. That's what I'm doing in the picture on the left. In the picture on the right, I'm fetching a tennis ball, floppy ears in the flip part of the flop cycle.

KELLIE: Over the next few weeks, I introduced my sister to some of my favourite walks in Canberra. First up, amongst several, was a stroll over in Deeke's Forest, which by now was recovering well from the disastrous 2003 bushfires. Another special one I thought she would enjoy was the RSPCA's annual Million Paws Walk around Lake Burley-Griffin. We met up with our two good friends Dayna and Angus for that one. The picture at right shows us with Scott, the Alpha Female and Kate, taking a breather before joining the thousands of other dogs taking part in this yearly event. (That's Dusty and me with the bandanas.)

DUSTY: Another great walk hereabouts, I discovered, is along the Cooleman Nature Trail. It's only five minute's drive away from No 86, but it's so quiet and peaceful up there, with no traffic noise and no sight of the urban areas, that you could be a hundred miles out in the country.

KELLIE: As you may recall, my Mum Breeze and I used to get into terrible trouble up there, wallowing in mud puddles and chasing kangaroos and generally driving the Pack Leader to distraction. So it's all on-leash time up there these days, I'm afraid. And since we encountered a few kangaroos during this particular visit, I felt compelled to apologize to Dusty for the fact that we were not allowed to give chase.

DUSTY: What an absolute bummer! I tell you, there are few things more frustrating for a Golden Retriever than being denied the opportunity to give expression to our primal hunting instincts. I'm going to have to get a legal opinion on the validity of this restriction I think.

KELLIE: One nice thing about Canberra, and which Dusty seems to appreciate, is that we get these beautifully calm days in the middle of winter when there's not a breath of wind and the sky is either totally blue or only lightly clouded. Commonwealth Park is a great spot for a stroll on such days.

In the picture at left, you can probably see a bare patch and a scar just above my right leg. And there's another larger bare patch with two scars on my left rump. The explanation is that, about a week before that picture was taken, I had to have three small lumps removed from my person. Bit of a drag, I know, but, all-in-all, I'm glad I had it done. There was an agonizing three-day wait until the pathology report came back, of course, but I'm pleased to report that, in the event, there was nothing to be concerned about. So all I have to do now it get that fur grown back again before the start of the summer swimming season. I'm working on it.

DUSTY: One of the things I have learned about life at No 86 is that I must necessarily interrupt some of my walks in order to pose for the Pack Leader's camera. According to Kellie, this somewhat tiresome obligation is stated in the fine print of our respective contracts, so there's no point in trying to dodge the issue I suppose. Best just cooperate while it lasts, in the certain knowledge that Kels and I will eventually be allowed to proceed on our peripatetic way, sniffing here and sniffing there, as is our wont.

So here I am on 25 July 2010, having well and truly settled into my new life at No 86, and having become, according to the Pack Leader, Alpha Female and Kellie, a fully-fledged and honored member of my new family.