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The True Story of Red Dog


Hitchhiking Kelpie of the Pilbara Region
Statue honoring Red Dog in Dampier, Western Australia

Statue honoring Red Dog in Dampier, Western Australia

© Tourism Western Australia

The true story of hitchhiking, people-loving adventurer Red Dog of Western Australia's Pilbara region has been adapted for the screen. Based on the book by British novelist Louis de Bernières, Red Dog the movie hit Australian cinemas in early August 2011.

There's a statue of Red Dog in Dampier, Western Australia, welcoming people to the Outback town, and it was this statue which apparently started de Bernières, author of Corelli's Mandolin, which has also been turned into a movie, into writing the story of Red Dog.

Red Dog was a fully paid member of the Transport Workers Union, an official member of the Dampier Salt Sports and Social Club, and had his own bank account.

Red Dog was, of course, a dog, a red kelpie born in the mining town of Paraburdoo in 1971, and a much-loved member of the Pilbara community.

Known simply as Red Dog, the red kelpie was known for stopping cars on the road by walking right in the path of an oncoming vehicle until it stopped and then he would hop in and travel to wherever the car driver was going.

He took bus rides as well and, once, when a new driver pushed him off her bus, the passengers all disembarked in protest.

Red Dog's travels bought him as far south as the Western Australia capital of Perth but mostly among the mining communities of the Pilbara and the coastal towns of Dampier, Port Hedland and Broome.

He was quite well known as the Pilbara Wanderer.

Red Dog is portrayed in the movie by the red kelpie Koko who bears a strong resemblance to Red Dog.

De Bernières acknowledges his novel's sources as two factual accounts by Nancy Gillespie and Beverley Duckett, respectively, as well as press clippings in the Dampier and nearby Karratha local libraries. The people characters in the book (and the movie) were mostly fictionalised.

Red Dog the movie stars American actor Josh Lucas and Australians Rachael Taylor and Noah Taylor and New Zealander Keisha Castle-Hughes. Red Dog is directed by Australian Kriv Stenders.

The movie highlights the landscape and unique character of the Pilbara region as well as telling the story of Red Dog with humor and great affection.

Red Dog died in 1979.

The Dampier statue of Red Dog is inscribed:

The Pilbara Wanderer
Died November 21st, 1979
Erected By The Many Friends Made During His Travels

Sidelight: See also the story of another legendary Australian canine, The Dog on the Tuckerbox.

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