Hi, everybody, Cleo here. I’m a 5-year-old kelpie from Seymour, Victoria, and for years, I went to work every day at Puckapunyal with my dad who was in the Australian Army. I’m only an NCD (Non-Commissioned Dog) so forgive me if I slip into Army speak – it’s hard not to! Before Dad had me, he lived on the other side of the world and was in the British Army, but he and Mum came over from Scotland and then, fortunately, found me.
We love going away for weekends in the camping trailer, and they are rather obsessed with me – hence I have my own number plates!
I think Dad loves camping bcs it’s a good excuse to build a bivouac! Mum and Dad have been married for 23 years so I thought I would take them away on a military exercise, I mean a holiday, and we came down to Pine Hill caravan park in Lilydale in my camping trailer.
I booked a wine tour for us all, with Pooches & Pinot and kept a memorandum for record (MFR) to document all decisions and agreements reached during these communications, so as not to leave myself open to all sorts! Their ROE (Rules of Engagement) seemed clear and well thought through, so I took a punt and they sent us this absolute gun for the day, called Sandy, who drives a van, not exactly a CV (sorry, a Combat Vehicle) or an ARV (Armoured Recovery Vehicle), more of a Mercedes Vito, to take me and my parents to all the finest dog-friendly wineries in the Yarra Valley she could find, and I came along for protection. I’m a kelpie through and through; on the job all day, there to protect my NOKs (Next of Kin) parents from assassins, and people who wanted to approach them, talk to them, stroke me, sell them stuff, and make them drink excessive quantities of wine. I was basically C3I (Command, Control, Communications AND Intelligence – all on my own)! You’re right – huge responsibility.
There was no advance party, no reconnaissance had been carried out, so we were pretty much at constant risk, with no interrogation systems to identify vehicles or forces as friendly, as opposed to neutral or hostile! Plus no one had carried out any NCHRCs (National Criminal History Record Checks) on Sandy the tour guide or any of the cellar door staff we interacted with all day!!! So I always led the way, sniffing out any potential devices IEDs (an Improvised Explosive Device could so easily have been planted) & I was constantly checking for booby traps, that’s my EOD training kicking in, (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) and generally putting myself in harm’s way before they could. Altho I say so myself, I did a pretty darn good job and am writing from the safety of my own home, as we all got back in one piece. A job well done.
I’m glad I was there, because there were multiple potential terrorists hanging around in the Yarra Valley that day. Sandy, the tour guide was great and got even greater when I realised her jacket pockets produce treats if I nudge them.
I was a little surprised that I, as head of security, was asked to sit in the back of the vehicle, because I felt I couldn’t really protect my parents from where I was sitting, but I soon realised from my vantage point I could see out, and in fact perform obs and surveillance exceedingly well from the rear.
My parents are from Edinburgh where no one grows wine, so they love being in a wine region, especially one that grows Chardonnay (Mum’s fave) and a cool climate Shiraz (which just happens to be Dad’s favourite tipple). Personally, I drink water like it’s going out of fashion, so was very happy drinking the local Yarra Valley water all day and having the occasional rub on a carpet to have a good old scratch (my all-time fave past-time). Which is precisely what I did when we got to the first winery, Helen’s Hill.
We arrived at Helen’s Hill exactly on time (army precision for you) where a monster called Cookie (small white dog, appropriately named) ‘welcomed’ us noisily at the cellar door; a typical sentry I’m afraid, they have a small job to do, but are SO loud and bossy!
Obviously, I ignored her and just rubbed myself all over her carpet which truly annoyed her, as planned.
The fire was lit so I sat there looking beautiful enjoying protecting my folks in the nice warmth of the cellar door.
A charming man called Andrew rightly ignored Cookie and made a fuss of me, chatting heaps to my folks as he plied them with wine and ultimately sold them some!
Then, we were back on maneuvers and went to Yering Farm where I befriended Gemma who also poured and sold my parents a lot of fabulous wine. It would’ve been a perfect place for an ambush though, so I split my time between inside and out, on guard for the duration.
I took Sandy with me (safety in numbers, plus she has that pocket that dispenses treats, remember?).
When we’d finished at Yering Farm, Sandy then sensibly took us to Greenstone vineyards where we set up a temporary mess hall, and she produced an enormous lunch for my parents and me, no doubt to try and soak up some of the excessive amounts of alcohol they’d been plied with.
And I can highly recommend the carrots and cucumber on their platter. You don’t think I’d let them eat from the platter til I’d tried it do you – I wasn’t born yesterday – that’s the easiest way for the enemy to infiltrate, with poison!
It was a pretty full-on feral day weather-wise so every now and then I put on my jumper (it’s OK, we were in civvies not After Fives – (civilian clothing suitable to be worn to semi-formal events) but rest assured, I always wore it with my bandanna showing of course; dress codes are to be adhered to at all times – one’s uniform should never be compromised.
Greenstone was lovely and had the best view, but was heaving with people/potential threats and I let a few of them pat me, but only to a point. People clearly failed to realise I was working, and perhaps some of them were intentionally trying to distract me and keep me from my duties so they could kidnap my parents. It’s hard to know for sure, but I wasn’t taking any chances.
I had organised a splendid walk/march after lunch, but the weather gods were not smiling on us, so we were stood down from maneuvers.
Instead, we went straight to a gin & vodka tasting, up a charming laneway in a covered garden courtyard.
I appreciated being in a small, safe, enclosed space with walls I could keep an eye on and only one doorway. Covering your exits and entrances is key when it comes to surveillance – this particular layout gave assassins little to no chance of breaking through the perimeter.
At our final tasting for the day, Sandy took us to Payten and Jones, which was a very exciting funky alternative non-military style run organisation.
And whilst I was happy to listen to Andy tell them about wine for a while, I eventually just had to bark my intentions to leave! I rounded them up, got them to make any purchases they wanted (and yes they wanted them!!) and got them back in the people carrier safely, so I could get them back to base and put them to bed, as I myself had had a long day and found the whole exercise quite taxing.
As soon as we got back to the caravan park, I took to my camper trailer, requested silence and put myself to bed while my parents devoured a cake and bottle of sparkling wine, (which Sandy had given them and which I had vetted and deemed safe).
We all had the best time on our wine tour with Pooches & Pinot and I can highly recommend it, especially from a safety point of view.