A TRAGEDY LED THIS DOG LOVER TO HELP OTHERS TRAVEL AUSTRALIA WITH THEIR PETS
“I LIKE TO THINK SOMETHING GOOD CAME OUT OF SUCH A TERRIBLE THING.”
Igrew up in California and left when I was 17. I had the wanderlust and went to work on boats in the Caribbean. I came across some of the rich and famous in my time there, Prince Aly Khan and Rita Hayworth.
I knew an Australian girl who worked on Bob Dylan’s boat Water Pearl. She was from Perth. When I came to Australia, I looked her up. I came here via New Zealand and travelled all around Australia — Sydney, up to Cairns, out west. When you travel, the world gets smaller.
I married an Aussie. We bought a house and had a couple of kids.
I worked in the casino industry in gaming management. We went back to the States for a time in 1984 when the kids were young so they could know their grandparents and I did a degree in casino management at the University of Nevada in Reno.
I’m a dual citizen but I think of myself as Australian. I’ve been here for 43 years, much longer than I lived in America and I’d much rather be in this country, especially now.
Anyone who knows me knows I love to talk. I can start and never stop. I think I’ve probably got my ideal job as a professional research interviewer. I get paid to travel around Australia and speak to people.
I’ve been working on a longitudinal study, Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia, for the past 18 years. It collects data on the lives of everyday Australians about their families, their work, their wellbeing, all sorts of things.
It’s just fascinating. I’ve been speaking to the same people once a year for the past 18 years. I have such respect for them. It’s almost like they’re old friends.
I’ve seen their children grow up. I’ve seen them get married and divorced, get richer or poorer, get bigger or smaller and get older. They’ve seen me do that too I guess.
I’ve learned a lot about people but I’ve also learned a lot about myself. The same questions I ask people, I ask myself too. It makes you assess where you are in your own life and how you feel about things.
My people know me now and trust me. I’ve been doing the study since the beginning. I think I’d probably be the longest serving interviewer these days.
I work in set areas — I do the Gold Coast and western Queensland, places like Charleville, Roma, Wandoan, down to Jindabyne. A lot of places on the east coast of Australia and down to Adelaide.
I do a lot of travelling for my work and I always take my dog with me. But I should really start that story at the beginning.
Some time back I got a puppy, a beautiful little blue merle border collie called Ada. She was being crate trained and, when she was three months old, I came home to find she’d been strangled through puppy misadventure.
I was so devastated I couldn’t talk for two months. I rang the owner of her dog parents and she told me Ada’s mother had fallen pregnant again that same day I lost her.
My next puppy was her sister. I called her Darla. She has the same eyes — a blue and a blue/green. I take her with me everywhere I go and that led me to develop Cruisin’ Pets, a free app to help other pet owners find petfriendly accommodation around Australia.
It started when I had to look for places that would let Darla stay with me. I researched everything on the app myself. There are about 2000 places on there now — hotels, motels, caravan parks, private accommodation. It’s not just for dogs but other animals too. Some can even accommodate horses.
The whole idea of the app is just to connect people who want to travel with their pets with places that are happy to have them. Sometimes the accommodation might only have one room that they’ll let animals stay in but it gives people an idea.
I found a lot of places will say it’s the local council that prevents animals from staying in their accommodation but that’s not actually the case. I called all the councils to find that out. Australians are big pet lovers. We’ve got one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world and the whole pet industry is such a growing market in Australia.
The app is something close to my heart. It’s all because of losing Ada; she turned out to be my inspiration. I like to think something good came out of such a terrible thing.