loyal com­pan­ion



BELLA, A SLEEK young dober­man, greets ev­ery ar­rival to Hope­ful, the Alto Olives grove at the foothills of the Great Di­vid­ing Ranges near Crook­well in NSW, with an en­quir­ing sniff. She stands tall and her look is bright and alert. There’s a sense that you’re be­ing ap­praised as a po­ten­tial play­mate. Her head cocks one way, then an­other, as she takes you in. Bella came to live on the farm with her owner Robert Arm­strong when he bought her as a puppy to be a com­pan­ion for his dober­man, Zac. She came from the same breeder as Zac; in fact he was Bella’s un­cle. “Zac was re­ally put out when Bella ar­rived,” Robert says. “It was in­ter­est­ing to watch them. But over time Zac be­came her men­tor. He taught her how to play with things. He’d wait for her to take her food first. It be­came a very pa­ter­nal­is­tic re­la­tion­ship.” Zac died at the end of 2015 and Bella has stepped up as top dog. “She has taken on a whole new role,” says Robert. “She’s an ex­tremely good guard dog and fol­lows me ev­ery­where.” Ev­ery­where in­cludes early morn­ing sur­veys of the olives, run­ning af­ter, be­side and ahead of Robert as he rides the quad bike up and down the ver­tig­i­nous slopes of the groves. Robert has al­ways had dogs and Bella is his sev­enth dober­man. “Dober­mans are re­ally gen­tle dogs, even if the pub­lic per­cep­tion is dif­fer­ent to that,” he says. “Al­though any dog’s na­ture de­pends on the per­son­al­ity of its owner,” he adds. Robert likes the de­fin­able traits of the dober­man. “They are good guard dogs,” he says. “In­ter­est­ing though, they don’t stop peo­ple com­ing into the house but they do try to stop them from leav­ing.” While Bella loves to nod off — at the back door, in a patch of sun, un­der Robert’s desk in his of­fice — she is al­ways up for a throw­ing game and waits pa­tiently for Robert to find some free time. “She wants to play all the time and she wants you to throw sticks and balls for her to re­trieve,” he says. “It en­cour­ages me to go for long walks with her, which is good for me. She keeps me young.” Bella re­trieves the sticks and balls with speed, but has a habit of not want­ing to re­lease them. She is also an in­vet­er­ate licker. “She thinks every­body is a dog.” To watch Bella’s long, lop­ing strides as she runs up the drive or across the grove is a joy­ful sight. Her stride — dober­mans stand on their toes, not their paws — is very dif­fer­ent to work­ing dogs, such as kelpies and bor­der col­lies that are nor­mally as­so­ci­ated with Aus­tralian farm life. “When I moved to the farm in 2008 it was only nat­u­ral that I would get a com­pan­ion an­i­mal and I did get a pair of work­ing dogs,” says Robert. “This area is renowned for its merino wool pro­duc­tion but I’m in hor­ti­cul­ture and work­ing dogs with­out work didn’t make sense.” Even though she’s still young, Robert hasn’t put Bella though the train­ing rou­tine he would have with his pre­vi­ous pets. “Train­ing is good for dis­ci­pline,” he says. “Dober­mans are not very good with ve­hi­cles and I do worry as there is a lot of ma­chin­ery on the farm. I have no­ticed lately that she seems to have more traf­fic sense. And, she’s just started to travel with me in the car.” Bella is con­tent to stay home though and has an un­canny knack of al­ways ap­pear­ing at the olive pro­cess­ing shed or of­fice in time for morn­ing tea. Then it’s time for an­other nap. “Dober­mans are great sleep­ers,” says Robert. For more in­for­ma­tion about Alto Olives, tele­phone (02) 4834 6022 or visit alto-olives.com.au


Bella the dober­man fol­lows her owner, Robert Arm­strong, ev­ery­where. FAC­ING PAGE Bella stretch­ing her legs in the Alto Olives grove.

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