CANINE FOLK HEROES

Even as early as the 1870s New Zealand was noted for its cruelty to farm animals. Unfortunately, this horrible treatment continues to the present day, especially with the barbaric treatment of unwanted bobby calves.

Thankfully, Kiwi urban dwellers have had a more humane relationship with animals. In fact, some have been raised to celebrity status. As I wrote in a previous blog, Opo and Pelorus Jack were both idolized dolphins. A number of statues around the country serve the memory of working dogs that have helped move mobs of sheep across the untamed New Zealand landscape of the early 20th century. Some early settlers understood the valuable contribution these dogs were doing and as a result, formed an emotional attachment to them.

FRIDAY THE SHEEP DOG

The best known of these dogs was Friday, a collie who belonged to New Zealand’s folk hero, James Mackenzie. In 1855, James was jailed for steeling sheep from coastal South Island farms. Prior to his capture his faithful dog herded around 1000 sheep over the mountains into the interior, then shifted them south to Dunedin where he sold them for a great profit. He apparently taught Friday not to bark. The pair became inseparable and when James was sentenced to 5 years hard labour, he pleaded with tears flowing into his red beard, to keep his dog.  “Leave the dog to me; she was mine, bought with my own money; she was doing no harm to nobody, and she was a good friend to me that has no other. Leave me the poor beastie! I’ll make your roads; I’ll break your stone; I’ll call myself thief; but let her stay. She’ll work for me, will never lift sheep more only let me keep her.”  The judge denied his request and it is not known what happened to Friday.  Mackenzie escaped three times during his sentence and was finally pardoned with the proviso that he leave the country and never return.  He left for Sydney but did however return, possibly looking for Friday but it is safe to assume he was never re-united with his beloved dog because he returned to Australia and never set foot again in New Zealand.

The story has a happy ending. Friday eventually turned up at the farm where he first helped James steel the sheep. He became the farm owner’s favourite dog and saw out his days there.

Friday (peelingbackhistory.com)

The inland area James and Friday discovered is now known as the Mackenzie Country in memory of the amazing feat accomplished by one man and his faithful dog. A beautiful statue has been erected beside Lake Tekapo and is claimed to be the most photographed animal monument in Australasia.

Statue in Memory of Friday (tekapotourism.co.nz)

While James Mackenzie worked through his sentence, he became a hero with tenant farmers who were being exploited by the wealthy run holders who set the rules on their vast properties. To these poorly paid and mistreated men James’ rebellious nature and free spirit, was an inspiration and encouraged them to fight for better rights.

PADDY THE WANDERER

Paddy was a brown and ginger Airedale terrier who strayed from his Wellington home after the little girl who owned him died. Her father is believed to have been a sailor. Paddy would wander the town looking for the girl and before long he was frequenting the Wellington wharves. His favourite spot was on top of the tally clerk’s stand at the entrance to Queens Wharf where he would sit to survey the activity around him. It has been suggested he sat on this vantage point in the hope of spotting his owner amongst the crowds coming and going from the wharf.

Paddy at Queens Wharf (nzhistory.govt.nz)

Wharfies and taxi drivers took an interest in the lost dog and soon began feeding him and looking out for him. His friendliness soon endeared him to more people and before long, humorous reports on “Paddy the Wanderer” appeared in the two daily newspapers. Crews also welcomed him onto their ships and before long he had travelled to Nelson, Greymouth and Auckland. He even made a trip to Sydney on a trans-Tasman freighter.

When he went missing for 3 months, the whole North Island was on the lookout for the now famous dog. When he finally turned up again in Wellington, he was given the freedom of the city and was often seen jumping on and off trams and buses. He knew the traffic lights and would not cross a street until the green showed. A number of organizations were happy to pay for vet fees and his annual registration. Of course, meals were never in short supply for the endearing animal. The Wellington Harbour Board finally took responsibility for Paddy and bestowed on him the title of “Assistant Night Watchman In Charge of Pirates, Rodents and Smugglers”.

By the mid 1930s, this wonderful dog was part of many people’s lives and he made headlines in 1935 when he flew in a Gipsy Moth aircraft.  He was placed in the forward cockpit and held by a taxi driver friend to ensure he didn’t panic and jump out. Stories about “Paddy the Wanderer” were eagerly read by the public because his gentle ways and unconditional love brought joy to the people of Wellington during the dark days of the 1930s depression.

In July 1939 Paddy became ill and local taxi drivers clubbed together to put him in a kennel to recuperate.  However, when a driver went to visit him he jumped in the back of his taxi and wouldn’t come out.  The man took him to the docks and made a bed for him in one of the sheds. Unfortunately, Paddy’s condition worsened and he died on his bed in the shed on July 17th.

His body was wrapped in a shroud and put in a coffin with the words “Paddy the Wanderer – at rest. He had no master but was a friend to all.”  A group of over 60 watersiders and seamen watched as the cortege of 12 taxis started on its short journey from Queens Wharf to the incinerator. Lead by a traffic officer, the procession brought downtown Wellington traffic to a standstill. It was truly a touching tribute to a good comrade.

The public donated money for a fitting memorial to their beloved Paddy. The Second World War delayed things but the memorial was finally installed near Queen’s Wharf in 1945. It features a water fountain for humans and a water trough for animals.

Paddy’s Memorial (WCC 2014)

In 2004, a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, after seeing the little memorial and hearing Paddy’s story wrote: “How can you not love a city that treats its strays this way?” Three biographies have been written on this Kiwi animal celeb.

With so much love showered on these animals, it’s a blot on the New Zealand character that bobby calves are treated with such barbarity but with media attention now focusing on this cruelty, it is hoped these poor creatures can be treated with the same respect Friday and Paddy were fortunate to receive from those they shared their lives with.

Ceidrik Heward

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