Updated: Sep 27
Bruce’s story is one of coincidence, luck and the power of a winning personality!
My husband and I were backpacking in Western Australia, working our way up the coast in a 4WD that we had converted into a camper. Footloose and fancy free we had stopped at a service station in the remote town of Turkey Creek, to fill up with fuel and use the facilities.
Sitting in the car with the door open waiting for my husband to come out I was nudged by a wet nose and looked down to see a young dog looking up at me from where he had plonked his head on my lap. I tentatively gave him a stroke – I say tentatively because he wasn’t the healthiest looking dog with very little hair; sunburnt crusty skin; a broken tail and a host of ticks hanging off him. Looking at his poor condition I was surprised at how cheery he was, he had a sparkle in his eye and was clearly confident in approaching strangers.
My husband made his way back to the car and gave me a look which conveyed ‘I know what you’re thinking and it’s not going to happen’. So we gave him a bit of a fuss and prepared to get going. As we shut the doors and turned on the engine the dog shot me a look of total rejection and walked out to stand in the road and watch us drive away. I couldn’t help myself but turn around to look as we drove off and it was the saddest sight – a lone dog, tail between his legs watching his new found friends drive away.
I gave myself a good talking to, the idea that we could offer the dog a home was ridiculous as we were a pair of backpackers living in a car – I was going to have to get over it. Both my husband and I were pretty quiet for the rest of the drive, which was a 5 hour journey through the empty bush of Western Australia. As we went to bed that night my husband said ‘Do you want to go back and get the dog?’ I laughed and reiterated that it would be a foolish thing to do as we were in no position to take on a dog. On waking up in the morning after a night reliving the sad look of the dog as we drove away, when my husband asked which way we would be heading, I replied ‘Back to get the dog’. He gave me the type of resigned, single nod favoured by long suffering husbands everywhere and off we went on the hot 5 hour journey back to Turkey Creek.
We had a plan to ask at the roadhouse if he belonged to anyone, if not we would take him with us and find him a home when we got back to the city. After asking the staff at the roadhouse it became clear that he didn’t belong to anyone – he had been living at the roadhouse for a while begging for scraps from passers-by.
Bruce hadn’t spotted us yet, he was sleeping peacefully in the shade of a caravan, possibly dreaming that a crazy English backpacker was on her way to scoop him up and take him away to a better life. Obviously he was right and off we went on the same long journey, this time with the addition of a mangy dog sitting on my lap shedding ticks that I systematically disposed of out the window.
After a serious amount of tick removal, a wash and some food the dog had claimed us as his people; we named him Bruce (as it doesn’t get more Australian than that). Bruce had a whale of a time being a backpacker’s dog and life got even better for him when we went to work on a horse ranch and he spent his days running with the horses and receiving endless fuss from staff, guests and customers.
I’ve so far neglected to mention the huge vets bill we sprung for to get rid of his mite infestation (he really did need some hair) and the hours spent chasing him around trying to put sun screen on him to protect his bare skin as details like that fade after a while!
As all good things do, our backpacking days came to an end (in no small part due to the dent in our budget made by Bruce’s vet bills) and we headed back to the suburbs of Perth.
Bruce found his forever family (us) and we stayed there for 4 more years until we moved back to the UK in 2015 where Bruce happily lived as an Aussie dog in the Fens, with a full coat of hair and having forgotten all about his beginnings as a stray in Turkey Creek.
Bruce was my best friend until January 2021 when we sadly had to say goodbye to him at 10 years old due to him having lymphatic cancer that was no longer responding to treatment. He changed my life completely, rescued me many times over and was totally dedicated to his family. If I could go back I would pick him up, spend all of my money on him and re-live every single moment again without a second thought.