Why the Dingos?

By Kaitlin Young

We knew we were going to be making shirts, and Zebra Athletics CEO Kyle Fisher and I had been discussing what to do with the profits. The team at Zebra had come up with a great design, but it would be a little while before they were ready to sell. We wanted to give to an organization, preferably canine related, but we hadn’t settled on one just yet.

Earlier This Year, I Had a Bit of a Disaster Trip to Australia

I managed to break my orbital floor, the thin sheet of bone that separates our eye from our sinuses. Unfortunately, when this happens, the extent of the damage cannot be properly assessed immediately due to swelling. You also cannot fly because the increase in pressure could cause severe injury to your eye. I was told I could be cleared in a week, or in a month, but certainly not yet. My 5-day trip turned into an indefinite one, at least until I would have a follow-up visit the next week. Needless to say, I had some time to kill.

kaitlin young eye

I was alone and would be hanging out by myself unless surgery was needed. I couldn’t visit gyms to train, as even nose-blowing was forbidden. I wasn’t to bear down, and any increased pressure in my head was to be avoided. I rented a car and got to learn how to drive on the other side of the road. I also got to experience getting pulled over for screwing up a turn. Fortunately, my purple-red eyeball and the statement, “Sorry, Officer, I’m not even supposed to be here, but I broke my face,” elicited some sympathy on his part and he decided to let me go.

I ended up having to have three additional check up visits and stayed for an additional two weeks. In that time, I stayed at a variety of Airbnbs. The first bit was a complete mess, as one Airbnb was not as advertised, and the host appeared to sneak me in past the staff working at the front of the gate. I opted to leave that situation and booked a second place. When I arrived, there was a person sleeping in the bed. Oops! They had forgotten to take their mother-in-law’s apartment off the app. The very nice, very high gentlemen staying in the main house offered to let me crash in one of the spare bedrooms free of charge. I decided against a week of partying with them but appreciated the gesture. Now I had two, one-week stays worth of payment tied up in the Airbnb system (which were later refunded) and had become a bit gun-shy to book that long again. From then on, I only booked three or four days at any one place. Thankfully, the rest of the trip was smooth sailing.

Here Come the Dingos

Australia is famous for its wildlife parks, and it’s no wonder. I was staying in Western Australia, near Perth. I can’t speak toward some of the larger cities on the eastern coast, but in Western Australia you’re allowed to get so much closer to the animals than most places in the United States. There were a handful of destinations visited in that time, and each of them allowed visitors to go right in with the kangaroos and wallabies. Most of the aviaries were the sort you walk into and where you can feed the birds. I got to hold and feed a koala bear, while his friend became very jealous — she was pregnant and they don’t allow the preggers to be held by visitors. Several of the places also had Dingos. Unlike predators here, they were not kept far from people. There was no glass or other barriers apart from something you might have for your dog in the backyard. There may have been a sign that you should not pet them through the fence, as you may be on the receiving end of a bite, but that was about it.

kangaroos

The final Airbnb was about an hour outside of the city. It was a private unit on something of a rescue farm. It was run by a lovely woman named Tess and her husband. She had horses, goats, chickens, and dogs. Several of the animals were set to be slaughtered but were fortunate enough to take up residence at her place to enjoy their retirement. We spoke about the dangers of various wild animals in the US and Western Australia, and about the political climate of each country. (Did you know Australians can be fined if they don’t vote?) It was my favorite stay of the entire trip.

I had hoped to see more dingos up close, if possible, before heading home. As it turned out, the Crossroads Dingo Rescue was less than 20 minutes from Tess’s farm. There was no information on how to visit, unfortunately. Why not? I thought. Maybe I’ll shoot them a message. It couldn’t hurt to ask! Sure enough, they responded and said that they aren’t usually open to the general public, but they occasionally did tours and I was free to stop by.

Stop by, I Did.

I was greeted by Warren, who runs the rescue along with Ann, who I later met inside the house. To my surprise, this was not a separate compound. This was their home. Inside the house they had a few kenneled dingos. Most of them were feral. They snarled and cowered in the back of the kennel when I approached. Ann told me that they rotated the dingos between the house and the various outdoor yards, partly to acclimate them to their caretakers and partly due to space. They had nearly 20 in total. Most of them would not be friendly to other dingos, so they all need to be kept separate.

Some of them had been taken from the den as pups or were orphaned. Some were mature “problem” dingos that needed rescuing. Some were dog hybrids. People mistakenly believe that they can be raised as a pet. Owners become upset when they discover that, no, despite being adorable, a dingo is as wild an animal as any other. As a result, they’re sometimes abused. We cannot expect them to behave like a domesticated dog, as they aren’t one. Unfortunately, people don’t often manage their expectations well, leading to relinquishment or worse for the once loved dingo pup.

As we toured the property, we came upon one boy, Django, who had been found in a terrible state. He was originally purchased to be a pet. He was full of mange and puncture holes from a screwdriver when he came to Crossroads Dingo Rescue. Now he looked like a regular healthy dingo, albeit with a few scars. Even with his rocky start, he was quite sweet and cordially allowed me to pet him through the fence. The amount of human contact each dingo was up for varied, and they were not pressed for more than they were willing.

We walked down to the end of the corridor which opened into a big open yard. This was a space that each dingo could explore individually and then be let back into their personal space. They brought in Mirrhi, a three-year-old female who had been living there since she was brought in at five weeks. She had been born in a wildlife park and sold to an owner who was unaware of the challenges of a wild pet. She was a cuddler, but then she’d be on her way sniffing about and demonstrating her athletic prowess by expertly climbing everything in sight. Warren explained that due to their intelligence and athleticism, it is important that fencing is planted deep, incredibly high, and leans into the enclosure. With so many farms and livestock nearby, an escaped dingo could be disastrous. They were currently saving to hopefully improve the fencing so they could give more space to the dingos.

Crossroads Dingo Rescue is Not Federally Funded

The labor and most of the income come directly from Warren and Ann, who also work full time. Caring for 20 wild dogs at once is a hell of a task. Any additional help or pay is volunteer-based. I don’t expect we’ll make millions from Striking Viking shirts (fingers crossed!) but what we do make will go directly to Crossroads Dingo Rescue, assisting this generous couple with their mission to improve the lives of dingos in their custody and elsewhere.