KELLIE: January 20th was my little sister Dusty's fifth birthday and, as you would expect, it was another perfect day in Canberra. After she had received her presents and treats, she happily agreed to pose for some birthday pictures in the front garden and on the back lawn. This was one of those rare occasions when she did not have a chew-toy in her mouth. (She used to alternate between her turtle, her squirrel and her elephant, but these days she tends to favour her kookaburra and her lorikeet, probably because she discovered that she can make them utter their birdsongs if she bites them in the right spot.)

As the Pack Leader and Alpha Female will tell you, Dusty seems to have been fully pre-programmed with every endearing little mannerism and behavioural quirk that members of the canine species have ever invented in order to make themselves even more appealing to humans. I mean, she's got charm by the bucketload, has my Dusty. She just has a way of bringing a smile to your face, no matter what mood you are in at the time. The only downside to her is that she loves to look out the front window and bark at the passing pedestrians and cars, which can be a tad tiresome when you are trying to have a peaceful afternoon nap.

KELLIE: Just a few shots here of us enjoying a January morning on the back lawn. In the shot at top right, that's the grave of our illustrious predecessor Bessie in the background. The grave of my Mum Breeze is at the right of the shot at bottom left. We make sure the Pack Leader regularly waters the flowers and shrubs on and around the resting places of those two wonderful ladies. He'd be in big trouble if he didn't.

KELLIE: STOP PRESS! LAKE BURLEY-GRIFFIN! 29 JANUARY 2012, 11.01 AM! DUSTY SWIMS FOR THE FIRST TIME! Yep. Dusty has finally taken her first few strokes in the briny. The Pack Leader had not wanted to rush things, but eventually he gave up on trying to entice her to simply follow him out to the deeper water. Instead, he changed tack by just very slowly taking her out a short way while sort of half-carrying her around her middle. All the while, he kept his head close to hers, saying reassuring things to her. He'd just keep her out there for a while, half floating and half supported, while she gradually got used to being that low in the water with no ground contact.

Anyway, on the second day he tried this, and on about the third time he took her out into the deep in this manner, he suddenly felt her legs starting to paddle away. This was the moment he had been waiting for, so he just gave her a little push and off she went, swimming by herself! She only went about 10 metres that first time, but she had definitely swum her first strokes all by herself.

Well, there's no turning back now. A few more weeks and she'll be ready for the Olympics.

DUSTY: Here's Kellie enjoying a stroll over at an aboretum at Yarramundi Reach, which is quite near the dam that creates Lake Burley-Griffin. You see here the usual thoroughly self-confident Kellie (or over-confident Kellie, as the Pack Leader would say).

I say that because a couple of books we have about looking after a blind dog suggest that they should always be kept in a a totally familiar environment. Well, that simply doesn't apply to our Kellie. She had, in fact, never been to Yarramundi Reach before, but she trotted around the place as if she knew it like the back of her paw. It's the same wherever we take her. We simply don't have to worry about her freaking out and refusing to move or whatever. Quite the opposite in fact. In fact, she is forever annoying the Pack Leader by wandering off by herself, even in a new environment, and even though she can't possibly know what's in front of her.

She's a class act is my Kellie. Completely irrepressible.

KELLIE & DUSTY: You may recall that, in the past, we occasionally looked after Angus and Dayna, who own Scott England and his wife Kate. Well, sadly, and as is recorded on these pages, dear Dayna passed away last August. However, her spirit lives on at Scott's and Kate's place in the form of one of her daughters, whose name is Taylor.

Taylor is an absolutely lovely lass, with a very gentle and affectionate nature. She's the perfect companion for Angus (who, we might observe in passing, is one heck of a hunk, hem. hem), as was Dayna before her. We have gone for walks together on the odd occasion, and they stayed with us a whole weekend in January.

Here we are during that weekend, performing our sacred communal Golden Retriever morning ritual, the purpose of which we are sure you will recognize. From top to bottom: Dusty, Angus, Taylor, Kellie.

Taking a breather during a Sunday morning walk over at Dunrossil Drive, our favourite walk in Canberra in late February.