The rock clamber between Woody and West Bays at low tide is one of my favourite Rakino activities; there are plenty of toe and hand holds to mitigate the risk of a skin-tearing plunge into the sea, but enough a frisson of danger to make it feel like an achievement in light adventurism.

We revisit familiar landmarks, the Exhibitionist Amorous Stick People, the kingfisher nests, the black-backed gull strafing danger zone, the Siren Pool fringed with Neptune’s Necklace, whilst giving the penguin roosts a wide berth, just in case.

Unlikely sirens in the Siren Pool

On our most recent rock reconnoiter, we’d just carefully negotiated the last and most vertical part of the rock climb, sharp rock oysters beckoning below in the churning turning tide, when I spotted a series of boil-ups happening out in West Bay between our rock outcrop and the Three Sisters. A fisherman in a small boat to the west of us looked astounded as columns of spiraling silver sprats pursued by sizeable kahawai seethed all around the bay.

The white-fronted terns were first on the scene to aerially assail the sprats. About thirty terns rapidly appeared closely followed by a couple of petrels. Unfortunately I don’t know what species of petrel they were but there are a number of different species to be found in the Hauraki Gulf, including this small treasure, the white-faced storm petrel which is a resident on our neighbours The Noises, to Rakino’s east.
Two pied shags, a heron and a foolishly inept juvenile black-backed gull joined the fray, its parent barking commands to its hapless offspring from the comfort of the shore.

Teams of muscular kahawai were rapidly herding sprats inches from our jutting rock perch, and I briefly fantasised about having a fishing rod to hand, but I quickly dispelled that scenario. I half-jokingly suggested this would be a perfect feeding frenzy for an orca or three to join, and dawdled as Simon strode off towards the final rock scramble before the sandy sweep of West Bay. Moments later I heard him shouting that orca were out in the bay. Thankfully I was carrying my second-best glasses, though regretfully not my binoculars. The Orca were trawling along the inward side of the Three Sisters, no doubt invigorated by the boil-up-inspired carnage.

This is the first time we have seen orca off Rakino, and despite the relative distance from where I was standing, I was not disappointed. One breached, which was just downright fantastic. I hadn’t fathomed how large orca were. They are surprisingly larger than a dolphin, news to a novice cetacean spotter. I think I’ll spend more time down by the seaside instead of swamp toiling. That should hopefully improve my odds of seeing orca-stimulating boil-ups in future. 🙂

Get thee to the AGM!

(or, We Need to Talk About Island Democracy)

The Anarchist Amanuensis will not be attending the AGM of the RRA this lovely sunny Sunday morning. Apologies in advance to anyone who might miss my hot take on the meeting, but I lost heart somewhat after the Easter 2021 meeting in which the majority of members who were ineligible to vote by dint of not having paid their subs voted to be allowed to vote. It was never made clear exactly who was eligible to vote; I know I was, as I had paid my subs unbidden, but these are simply minor details that mean nothing, unless you are concerned about adherence to the constitution of the incorporated society.

I also lost heart when I realised the ‘minutes’ of the Labour Weekend meeting of 2020 were not written up till March 27 of 2021, a matter of days before the Easter 2021 meeting. I guess this is because the only person taking minutes in 2020 was me. I guess that also means someone had to bodge together minutes from the agenda of the 2020 AGM, and my Anarchist Amanuensis ‘minutes’. This may seem inconsequential, but only if you are unconcerned about adherence to the constitution of the incorporated society.

This meeting a motion is to be passed by Chairman Clews with regard to changing the constitution. We are not advised what the motion is. The constitution says this:

ALTERATION OF RULES The Society may make, alter, amend or add to any of the rules at any Annual, Special or Ordinary Meeting of the Society after ten working days’ notice of intention so to do shall have been given to members.

This is awkward, because we were only advised of the agenda on January 28th.
It doesn’t really matter though, unless you are concerned about adherence to the constitution of the incorporated society.

You’ll get to vote for for new committee members at this meeting. The constitution says this:

Nominations in writing for the election of officers, signed by the nominee and his/her proposer, shall be in the hands of the Secretary in sufficient time to allow voting papers with the names of all nominees theron, (sic) to be in the hands of the voting members at least fourteen (14) clear days before the holding of the Annual General Meeting.

This is mildly inconvenient, given the voting forms were only sent out as an attachment on January 27. Don’t fret; it’s only significant if you are concerned about adherence to the constitution of the incorporated society.

At any rate, I wish you all a lovely meeting, and I hope you’ve paid your subs. It’s my fervent wish that some fresh enthusiasm is injected into the committee to take on the not inconsiderable challenges currently facing Rakino; our community amenities, our fire resilience, and our lack of representation on the Waiheke Local Board. Some fresh faces across the board are desperately needed.

Over and out,
Anarchist Amanuensis.

Preventing Future Pest Incursions

The current Darwin’s ant invasion has got me thinking about risks and risk mitigation.

With regard to keeping our environment on Rakino free of undesirable fauna, the risks of pests getting to the island are high, and the consequences are severe. The costs of the rainbow skink incursion were in the tens of thousands, and we can only cross our fingers and hope that the Darwin’s ant incursion can be dealt with swiftly.

I don’t know how the ants got to Rakino, but there is one vector we can eliminate. I know from experience when I have brought plants from Auckland to Rakino that Belaire is assiduous in checking they have been dealt with according to protocol in order to stop spread of Rainbow Skinks and Argentine Ants. I’m so paranoid about being ‘that guy’, that I soak my plants in buckets for two days solid before taking them to our island. Often the bio-security staff are down at the pier with the sniffer dogs too, which is excellent. All commercial transport operators moving goods or people to or among Hauraki Gulf islands will need to have a Pest Free Warrant also, which is a further protection.

The weak link is people with private boats who may not be aware of the protocols around moving plants from the Mainland to pest-free islands.

I’m proposing that we utilise the already excellent existing Rakino Nursery further; talking with John MacKenzie about the native plants we’d like to be planting, seeing if the range can be expanded even further. John does his best to eco-source seed for propagation, and the nursery has expanded recently, which means more trees grown on island, so no risk of incursions.

Of course, people also want to plant exotics, annual flowers, vegetables, herbs, and fruit trees, so these are also possible vectors of pest transmission if they are being transported to Rakino.

What do the gardeners think about having a couple of plant/seed buy, sell or swaps a year? Cuttings are easily taken from many of the pretty exotics that birds love on the island. I’m particularly thinking of the callistemons (bottlebrush) which are a magnet for bellbird and tui. They also pose a risk because of myrtle rust, and along with pohutukawa should not be transported to Rakino. We have to protect our big old pohutukawa as best we can. I’ve also got my eye on a number of beaut hibiscus that I’m keen to get cuttings from.. Seed collection is very easy with regard to annual flowers, and commercial seed packets are completely safe, of course. It could be a great theme for a market day.

Next year Rakino is 20 years pest free, so it’s unfortunate timing for the ant incursion. We are incredibly privileged to inhabit an island that is free of predators. It’s actually very rare internationally, and we shouldn’t take that status for granted. I suggest we come up with a framework to stop further incursions, and take responsibility to stop the potential risks ourselves.

I’d love some feedback, and further thoughts about this. 🙂

The Visitations of Randolph Kākā

A selection of excellent kākā noises to listen to while you read this story!

The first time we saw the kākā was in late Autumn of 2020. It was just on dusk post lock-down and we were wending our way down our driveway after visiting our local night market.

He was a high dark mark on the sky above us, distinguishable only by his joyous prehistoric skraarking.
We jumped up and down screaming with sympathetic delight, because that is the effect kākā have when you realise they are in your suburban Auckland neighbourhood.

Kākā have been spreading out across the Auckland isthmus for a few years now, charming, charismatic winter visitors to bush-clad suburbs. The Auckland kākā belong to a flock originating from Hauturu Little Barrier Island in the Hauraki Gulf, who after breeding migrate further afield to forage before returning to their island haunts in early spring to breed. .

It was a few weeks until he finally arrived in our backyard, a flurry of tui in his wake. He sat in the kanuka alongside our deck, fluting and cackling, and I rang my Dad, and held the phone out towards the tree so he could hear. I was gabbling with excitement.

Lord of the tanekaha tree

One morning when I was lounging in bed I saw him land on the deck outside the window to investigate some apple left out for the waxeyes. I watched him delicately grasp a piece of fruit with his zygodactyl foot. He discarded it as beneath his dignity; apparently kākā have the exalted tastebuds of Roman emperors and only a platter of persimmons and peeled grapes will suffice for these patrician parrots. There are no luxury fruits available in the bush gully behind our house though; I think the kākā are attracted by the tall old-growth kanuka and tanekaha that provide an outlook, as well as sap to suck, and grubs to winkle. kākā are adept at bark stripping kanuka in order to fossick out food.

The first time we had a truly close-up encounter with the kākā we had christened Randolph was when he suddenly landed in the tree outside my workshop and insouciantly climbed down using his leatherman beak and feet as grappling hooks before positioning himself on a slim branch perch to investigate the tui feeder. An agitation of swirling tui whirred and clicked in dismay as Randolph grabbed their drink container and gently tilted it, releasing a steady stream of liquid, much to their consternation.

We immediately observed that Randolph was a handsome bird, khaki/brown, a silver fox slick-down of whitish-grey feathers atop his head, a blush of copper on his cheeks, a flourish of brass behind his dark eyes, and a huge hooked slate-coloured beak. His impressive scaly talons grasped the branch and the container, and we had a brief flash of his red pantaloons.
We don’t actually know if Randolph is a male or a female, because we haven’t seen him side by side with another kākā of a different sex. There is some sexual dimorphism in kākā , the females are slightly smaller, and the males heads and upper beaks are considerably larger.

A sneaky kākā peek

Kākā are ‘deep endemics’ from the family Strigopoidea, an ancient group that split off from all other parrots millions of years ago. Kākā belong to the genus Nestor, along with the kea, and two extinct kākā , the Chatham kākā , and the Norfolk kākā . They have a close relative in the kākāpo. I keep reading that kākā and kea species are claimed to be ‘primitive’ on the basis of their early departure from other parrot species, but really it means they are the most basal clade of parrots, taxonomically speaking. In simple terms this means because of the break up of Gondwanaland, they are a direct descendant of a proto-parrot, without the variety of divergence you see occurring in other parrot species. They are more distinct from all the other parrots than all the other parrots are from each other.
However, because kākā and their fellow NZ parrots have adapted and specialised to the unique environment of the isolated islands they inhabit over a long time period, they are unlikely to have a close resemblance to their proto-parrot ancestor. That’s enough of the dry science for now though.

I took to keeping a diary of his visits. September was a busy month for backyard kākā sightings. He came almost every day, the earliest visit at 3.09 am, on Sept. 21, when he fluted intermittently through the early hours of the morning.

As I sleep lightly, I was able to keep track of when I heard his alarm clock fluting. A diary entry from Tuesday Sept. 15 reads 5.58am- a joyous cackling skraak, & light fluting to the South

6.08am- considerable fluting

5.30pm-ish- skraaks
Other diary entries describe ‘exuberant clowning in the canopy’, and yet another says ‘Yesterday he flew past the ranch slider at low altitude – let loose a loud startling skraak which caused screams of fright – 1pm.’
Saturday Sept. 19 says 5.46am- a flurry of cackling skraaks to the south followed by querulous fluting. #skraakflutetseep.

There is a little ballpoint pen sketch of a kākā head adorning the page.

I developed a vocabulary of kākā sounds; skraaking, fluting (light, diminishing, or querulous), tseep-tseeping, cackle-hissing, gurgle-growling, gurgle-cackling, snarl-skraaking, and the curious WEE-do, which is almost an electronic noise. I recorded his chatter obsessively, and made videos of his visits. Randolph was unperturbed by the distraction he caused, and not alarmed by our interest in him. One exciting day Randolph had a friend fly in for a chatter. I have a recording of this event in which we are heard to exclaim excitedly “There’s two of them, TWO of them!”

A diary entry on Wednesday Sept. 23 states 8.30am- a kākā flew South past the bedroom window followed immediately by two large kākā who flew from the South & then wheeled down into the gully. No skraaking- a couple of light flutes.
We worry about humans imprinting on wild animals, but I think the urban kākā imprint on humans.

Kākā imprinting on humans

Often Randolph’s visits were heralded by a pertubation of tui. I would glance out my workshop window and see an agitation formenting in the tall trees outside, tui blasting in from all directions and positioning themselves like spectators in a Roman ampitheatre. More often than not he would blithely ignore them, as he perched quietly high in a tree, calmly ring-barking small branches, his presence betrayed by seeds and bits of bark dropping to the ground from his ministrations. If he hopped down to investigate the tui feeder he was rewarded by messerschmitt attacks as tui took turns to swoop at him, executing last moment swerves.

When that became tiresome he would suddenly turn tail and freewheel down the gully flashing his brilliant red underthings, and skraaaking with mirth.

Kākā are omnivorous birds, with a diet consisting of fruit, berries, flowers, nuts, seeds, nectar, and small invertebrates and their larvae. They have long slender upper beaks for tearing bark, as well as brush-tipped tongues for sap-licking and nectar extraction. Their zygodactyl feet, meaning two toes forward and two toes backward, also give them the advantage of the equivalent of two opposable thumbs on each foot which are the perfect tools for grasping and climbing.

The combination of being a powerful flier and having a varied diet is that kākā can forage afar as various foods come into season. We note that Randolph disappears as soon as the kowhai start blooming in early Spring, and I start to see posts appearing on social media of kākā enjoying the yellow blossoms all over Auckland.

On one occasion a tui thwocked into my workshop window, a very uncommon occurrence, as they are accomplished fliers, whirring and gliding over and around the house frequently. He had knocked himself out cold, so I called Simon down to tend to him. As Simon bent over the tui, Randolph plonked suddenly down onto the branch above Simon’s head, curiously craning to see what was going on. I dislike anthropomorphising, but I had observed what appeared to be a reasonably good-natured chase going on earlier, tui beak to kākā butt and vice versa tearing at speed past the house, and wondered if the tui was an inadvertent victim of the game. The tui was fine after a few minutes quiet time in a cardboard box, and I doubt parrots feel much remorse.

It’s all fun and games till someone smashes into a window pane.

From Sunday Sept. 27 there are no kākā sightings recorded in my diary, just an sad little entry that says ‘The long silence 🙁 Have the kākā returned to Little Barrier?’
They returned for a brief visit in early October, but breeding season was in full swing on their Hauraki Gulf island strongholds, so we had no expectation of seeing them till winter of 2021.

Kākā have very specific requirements with regard to a suitable breeding nest. They prefer cavities in large old forest trees, at least 5 metres above the ground which they line with woodchips. The female lays a clutch of about four eggs which she incubates solely, and the male kākā brings her food.

Kākā evolved and adapted in an environment without mammalian predators, and under those conditions, being a cavity nesting Nestor was a good solution. Unfortunately the introduction of predator species has been disastrous.

The worst indicators for kākā success are the presence of stoats and possums.

From the time the eggs are laid till the time the chicks can fly is three to four months, which is a very long time for the female kākā to be vulnerable to predation. The high ratio of male birds to female birds is stark evidence that predator control is essential for kākā to flourish. Likewise, fledglings often fledge before they can fly or climb, so spend some time on the forest floor before being able to find safety in the treetops. This makes predator control of cats, stoats, and rats vital to ensure their survival.

Predator control has been proven to work in favour of kākā . The Pureora Forest Park in central North Island is a case in point; a fourfold increase in kākā in 20 years, from 640 in 2000 to 2600 in 2020. Even more exciting is that the ratio of female to male is approaching 1:1, as opposed to 1:2.1 previously!

Kākā are still regarded as under threat though.

If kākā are visiting in your neighbourhood, or a suburb nearby, the most efficacious things you can do to encourage them and make their environment safe is to trap assiduously for rats, mustelids, and possums, and plant the native trees they love for food and habitat. Most areas in New Zealand have volunteer groups that trap, weed, and plant. Every effort helps, no matter how small it may seem.

Randolph and friends reappeared this year, earlier than last year, but they also departed earlier. I haven’t heard or seen a kākā since September 20 when Randolph dropped in for a raucous chat. I’m hoping they appear for one final visit, but if not, I’m confident of their return in winter of 2022.

Most exciting is the news that kākā have been hanging around in kowhai trees up on Woody Bay Rd. over the last few days!

RRA Election time?

Is it time to review the function and performance of the RRA (Rakino Rate Payers Association)?

The objectives of the Association are set out in its Constitution.

At the Annual General Meeting candidates either volunteer or are persuaded to join the committee sometime later. There is no election process as is defined. Elected officers are those who volunteer for that role. Not much happens. There’s little or no communication with the membership. The Association doesn’t enjoy community support and more importantly respect. All fairly typical characteristics of any volunteer organization. Well-meaning. Volunteers doing their best, but is their best good enough?

In recent times things have been organized independent of the Association. We have enjoyed concerts at the Hall, the Nursery and at the Pizzeria. Yoga classes, art, weaving courses are all well received and supported. The community can make things happen if it has the will. Who needs the Association?

It does seem that decentralization will continue which questions the relevance of the Association and especially as it has seldom taken a lead or achieved much. The hall is but one example. Our emergency response capability is being withdrawn. The Association fiddles whilst Rakino potentially burns.

The Association is nevertheless essential as the body that represents us when dealing with say the Council. Council will only deal with the one voice. The problem with that one voice is that the committee is not democratically elected, doesn’t have a mandate on any position it takes, is seldom well informed and invariably reflects the opinion of the committee or some on it.

We have allowed this situation to occur. We don’t follow the prescribed process for the election of a committee and a Chair. We don’t give them a brief, a blue print for what we want for the Island, where we are going and how we want to get there. If we don’t manage change, it will happen regardless.

I believe the function of the Association should be three-fold;

  1. To achieve representation on the Waiheke Community Board.
  2. To represent the community with key stake holders and deploy expertise within the community for specific negotiations.
  3. To develop a road map which reflects the communities needs and aspirations, coordinate a blue print and invite people to take on specific function, unhindered. Performance is measured by success.

The Hall is a prime example as to why there must be change.

After years of talk, Stephen Thomas came up with a scheme to move and redevelop the existing building which he costed and presented to the community both on and off the Island. His concept was well received and he was congratulated on his initiative. We were to be canvassed for our thoughts. A no brainer really. Unfortunately, covid aside, nothing has happened. More of the same and for the same reasons.

We were told at the last AGM that Council preferred a new build on which premise a vote was taken to do away with the old and bring in the new. A concept by the Association was presented with a few boxes and improved vehicular access. It has since transpired that Council did not express that preference yet a new design is being developed after Stephen Thomas presented his vision and the ink had almost dried. Stephen had broad approval for his concept and has the skill set, drive and contacts to make things happen. Local trades, professionals and merchants offered their support. Meetings brimmed with enthusiasm and suggestions as to how it could happen and how individuals could contribute.

Stephen should be given the job to resolve the hall fiasco once and for all. He has the qualifications to present a concept and costings to the Waiheke Board, get approval from the Board, facilitate funding and consents, negotiate with Auckland Transport as regards transportation issues and bring the community together to build with fund raising if necessary. No one else on the committee has those skills and frankly they have had decades to demonstrate their capabilities. A significant job for a lone individual but Stephen is a team player and can call upon expertise within the community to finally resolve something which has been on the drawing board for decades.

No more delays awaiting the formation of a committee, no more waffle and grandstanding. Responsibility delegated to someone who know what they’re doing. Job done.

What else does the community need? Here’s but a few thoughts to make my point.


Lisa and Holly have shown to have the drive and passion to organize fantastic events with fantastic artists. They should be given carte blanche responsibility with an allocation of funds from the Association. The community should underwrite the associated costs and be willing to pay to participate rather than stand on the fringes and observe.

Sense of community

Why not our own flag, an Island logo, a letterhead, some merchandise that sets us apart. Let’s appoint someone with those skills, which may also include a programmer so that we can vote electronically on whatever design we prefer. The same program could be utilized at the AGM and at other significant decision times.

Other thoughts are; fruit trees along the berms, utilization of the land at the top of the Island for sporting events, a website which brings together all the other sites under the one umbrella, resolution of the mooring travesty, a welcoming committee for new owners, an information centre for visitors.

The possibilities are endless. Someone with a special interest or skill takes responsibility for a specific function after being provided with a broad outline of what the community wants.
Once again, answerable to us, not the committee which in time becomes largely redundant much as it is now but is no longer permitted to stymie innovative thinking or enthusiasm.

Thoughtful comment would be appreciated. The next AGM is over Labour weekend. Change is necessary now. I believe we need fresh blood on the Association. There are many talented impassioned people out there to make a real difference. I believe that needs to begin at the top.


North Island Saddleback

A handsome tieke, image credit Craig McKenzie

The North Island saddleback belongs to NZ’s unique wattlebird family, which includes the endangered North Island kokako, the extinct huia, and the likely extinct South Island kokako.. The decline of the saddleback began back in the mid-19th century when their forest habitat began to be cleared, and they were predated on by introduced ship rats, feral cats, and mustelids. Their steady decline meant that they were near extinction in the 20th century. The North Island saddleback was brought back from the brink by exhaustive work by DOC, and they now live on 19 islands, and their outlook for survival is very favourable.

Their vulnerability is due to the fact that they are often found hanging about at ground level. They are poor fliers, capable of clumsily negotiating short distances, but more often seen leaping from branch to branch. They are also bold and noisy, staking out territory fearlessly with displays of antagonism, dawn singing, and mildly threatening behaviour, such as grappling with the wattles of their foes, much like a 2am drunk.

Handsome birds, up to 25cm long, glossy black with a saddle of chestnut, and red wattles that dilate when in show-off display mode, they have all the panache of a smart-casual two-tone shoe, with a sharp toe and a medium heel! Their charming boldness and temerity enchanted early European bird fanciers as they are quite visible birds, and seemingly tame.

Maori legend says they got their bright saddle from Maui, who exhausted from his epic battle with the Sun asked the tieke to bring him a drink of water. The saddleback refused, so Maui swiped his still burning hand over his back as punishment, which gave him a blaze of bright plumage.

They nest near to the ground, in holes of tree trunks, in the crowns of ferns, or in epiphytes. Their fledglings can be spotted hopping about on the ground, building up wing strength. I wonder if humans had never arrived in NZ saddlebacks would be near flightless? I don’t know, but I do know that if the community continues to commit to not replacing our cats as they come to the end of their natural lives, tieke are a viable addition to our island population. We have sufficient habitat, and food for the predominantly insectivorous tieke to thrive.

Fire Prevention & Fire Safety

Dale Tawa from FENZ has kindly provided this link for us. It has plenty of simple tips with regard to reducing risk to your property should fire break out, and advice on applying for fire permits. Dale has also answered a question for me that I have been asking for a while. In case anyone else was wondering, NO, a charcoal/wood-fired BBQ in a prohibited fire season is not permitted.

A resident’s observations on our Hall complex.

My feedback for community hall, library, art room, mail room, emergency response storage, ferry terminal facilities.

I have carefully tried to list all of the uses of the island’s only community structure as it is important to keep all of these in mind while trying to decide how to move forward.

Moving forward is a key consideration, it would be a true shame to see the loss of any amenities  as amenities are a rare commodity on our beautiful Motu. I am fortunate enough to have made this island my home and so am in a position to see how, when and why these buildings are used. I certainly don’t deserve more of a vote than any other landowner but do have better perspective than most and, with all due humility, expect to be listened to.

My strong feeling is that the existing, historic, structure needs to be preserved in some manner. While a new build may have advantages in terms of a reduction in short term maintenance requirements it (to my mind) will not provide the same facilities as does the current structure. I in no way trust that Auckland council will consider an increase in size or utility of the building(s). I am trying to remain logical about the situation but need to briefly say I can’t see how any new building would hope to have the same warmth and heart.

My preferred option would be to remove the hall/kitchen section and move it, raised .5 metres to secure it against surge tides, to the area seaward of the existing toilets. The jutting section of the art facility could then be mounted on poles and a small 1.2 metre concrete wall built on the Southern edge to further protect all structures. This would also provide a safe waiting area for humans and animals. The existing parking beside the bins would be designated pick up and drop off only thus becoming a safe turning area for vehicles.

As a final note I hope all due efforts have been made to consider the non internet savvy in our community. Of course there are limits to any form of communication but all must be consulted on decisions that affect all. Aside from the natural beauty it is the personalities of us all that make the island a special place.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Josh McCann

Latest Options for Rakino Hall

Waiheke Local Board Meeting, April 21, 2021

The latest report on options for the Rakino hall come to the same conclusion as the previous one; the only viable solution with the available budget is to lift and shift the hall as in the image above. Don’t forget to have your say here.

Feature image credit Julianne Taylor.

Celebrity interview: Billie the Dog

…also wishes to be known as ‘Billie the Wonder Dog’, and ‘Captain Puppy’…

BtD – (races out, bark-howling) You startled me!

-Billie the Dog! How the very devil are you?

BtD – (stares at me with mad dog eyes and scritches thoughtfully under her left armpit with her left back foot) Can’t complain, can’t complain. Summer was pretty busy, but it’s quietening down a bit now.

Me – Would you care to expand on that?

BtD – There are a lot of expectations on me over summer; I’ve got to be patrolling down at the beaches, rounding up any swimmers who exceed the 5 metre zone, hauling buoys around down at Sandy Bay, rounding up black back gulls, and I’m expected to jump off the wharf, repeatedly. I also have to ride around on the back of ATVs, bark-howling. It’s pretty exhausting, but it’s what the fans want.

Billie the Dog giving a recalcitrant swimmer the stink-eye.
Billie the Dog, rounding up a swimmer who has inadvertantly exceeded the 5 metre zone

Most of my fans won’t be back till Labour Weekend, so I can spend a bit of time in front of the fire working on tricks for next summer.

Me – Ye-e-e-e-s, I’ve noticed you’re pretty popular with certain age groups; I was sitting in the back of the Josh-mobile with you once and a bunch of kids walked past. I said “Hi kids!”, in a bright cheerful voice, and received a dull grunt of “Hi” in response till they saw you, at which point they all excitedly chimed “Hi Billie!!!”. You just pointedly ignored them. What is that about? Why can’t I get that kind of adoration?

BtD – (smirks) Well, let me ask you this; how many times would you be prepared to jump off the wharf wearing nothing but a fur coat and a winning smile?

Me – ………

BtD- Whilst emitting a high-pitched yelp??

Me – Okay, point taken. No-one would want to see that.

(At this point there is a long awkward silence, only broken by the sound of BtD making a submerged noise as she chews on her under-carriage)

Me – How have you been keeping busy lately?

BtD – Ha! Interesting you should ask. I scaled a couple of vertical cliffs yesterday, and scared the living bejeezus out of a snorkeller down at Woody Bay. I just followed him into the water while he wasn’t looking, and then appeared suddenly in front of his mask when he was least expecting it. Do you know how hilarious it sounds when a human tries to scream through a snorkel?
I think he thought I was a bearded shark. It would only be funnier if someone made me a shark fin costume!
Aside from that there are still a lot of bidibids about, so I like racing through the annual weeds to see just how many prickly seeds I can collect in my fur coat. It gives Josh something to do at night.

Billie the Dog with friend Chubb. Magnificent under-carriage

Me – Okay. Very good. Ummm, maybe just a few technical questions then; what exactly is your breed, and what is your top land speed? It’s been noted that you are quite fast. (smiles winningly, trying to get interview back on track)

BtD – I’m some class of excellent working dog, hence my propensity to round up humans like the silly sheep they are. I have a magnificent beard. You figure it out. I don’t know my top speed but it’s probably about 40kms an hour. I should challenge Wim to a race!

Me – That’s a very interesting idea. You’re extremely photogenic, are you happy with this picture as a feature image?

BtD – Oh yes. You’ve captured all of my best sides.

Me – Great! Well, thanks for your time. I’ve brought you this bone as a gift, to show my appreciation.

(silence, marked by crunching sounds)

Percentage data charts perfect for infographics. 10%, 20%, 30%, 40%, 50%, 60%, 70%, 80%, 90%, 100%