There's Still Fight in the Old Dog Yet. Bella, Chrissy and Tony.

Tony. Portrait by Che Chorley.

This is Tony. I met Tony and Chrissy at Haslam, halfway between Smoky Bay and Streaky Bay. Tony saw my setup and it sparked up a conversation. Tony is from a generation and place where police are wallopers and women are sheilas. He and Chrissy are prospectors, traveling Australia on the hunt for gold but they assure me it's more about the journey and the folk they meet than the precious metals in the ground. They run their operation out of a traveling rustic palace, a serious 4wd towing a caravan that's seen more of Australia than most. They don't mind wetting a line either and I was able to point them in the direction of a secret fishing spot not too far from their camp, in return they invited me for a beer around their campfire and told me a few yarns of life in the bush, one stood out. Tony and Chrissy are the kind of people who put themselves in interesting places and interesting things unfold around them.

'She was 7 years old missing for 7 weeks we had her for over 70 hours I think her lucky no is 7 and she was found in the 7th month.'

Tony and Chrissy were out bush in the goldfields of Laverton, Western Australia. An area of arid climate and weather extremes, a hard landscape. 'It was a drizzly wet day when I decided to go detecting, not long after leaving our camp I noticed two wedged-tail eagles at a low level, my instinct told me to go in their direction. Some ten to fifteen minutes later I caught a glimpse of a creamy coloured dog in a fetal position on the ground, my first thought was that it was a dingo asleep.'

What Tony had found was not a dingo, but rather Bella. ' i approached I could see a pink collar and lead, big enough that you could have lead a horse by. I made several vocal sounds, there was no response. The dog lay motionless in the fetal position, I looked at it in disbelief.'

Bella was a well-loved family pet who'd gone missing 7 weeks earlier. She had the whole town of Laverton out searching for her, cars, motorbikes, 4wd buggies, the lot. The search continued for weeks unofficially but the town had begun to give up hope. This had all happened unbeknownst to Tony and Chrissy. Tony continues, '...I then noticed that the end of the lead was snagged and completely jammed under a large rock, the dog was going nowhere, it was one of the saddest things that I have ever seen. I asked myself why and how could this be? After making the initial vocal sounds with no response I hit the coil of detector on the ground besides the dog, it then opened its eyes in slow motion. To its joy it saw me kneeling down beside it and not an eagle.' Tony was elated, and reckons that if he hadn't followed the eagles, Bella wouldn't have lasted the day. '...I gave her some water, she then slowly raised herself on all four legs. I continued to give her more water, a little at a time, my aim now was to get her back to camp and with the help of Chrissy show her she had nothing to fear.' After 7 weeks of freezing nights and searing hot days, Bella was safe and in the warm embrace of Tony and Chrissy.

Photo of Bella the day she was found

Tony and Chrissy bought Bella back to town, somewhere in the back of Tony's mind he recalled a flyer announcing a lost dog, there at the Post Office he saw it again.

Bella is a white female staffy who has been deaf since birth and will not respond to voice commands or calls. Lost Thursday 5 May in the Hawks Nest area. $500 reward for a safe return.

Tony called the owners who immediately jumped in their car for the 2800km round trip, you can imagine their elation and surprise. While they waited Chrissy and Tony tended to all of Bella's needs and reflected on her survival. 'She has endeavored to survive in one of the most remote areas of our country, surviving the extreme weather conditions with no shelter from the heat, cold , wind and rain. It is a testament of her willingness to survive. Tony puts her survival down to a few factors ironically one of them being the fact that she had jammed her lead between rocks, ' this may have been a factor as she was unable to get food, and with the wild dog baits in the area this may not have such a good story to tell.' Tony had collected a few of her droppings to show what she had been surviving on, her diet had been just sticks and leaves. Tony's bush sense to follow the eagles was of course another factor in her survival and considering that they had planned to break camp that morning, a little luck went a long way too.

Tony and Chrissy loved the movie Red Dog, 'he may have been a movie star but to us Bella is a true legend of Hawk Nest, Laverton. As Bella left our bush camp in the back of her owners Troopy, she glanced at us to say thanks, Chrissy and I stood with tears of joy for we had experienced a once in a lifetime moment, Bella thank you!

Chrissy, Tony and Bella

'Better than finding gold' reckons Tony and Chrissy. Cheers for the tale and best of luck on the gold hunt. Tony and Chrissy politely declined the reward.

The two photographs of Bella are courtesy of Tony and Chrissy.

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