Townsville Bulletin - Townsville Eye - - PEOPLE - AS TOLD TO DE­NIS ERA WARD

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.


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