A Dog of many Roles

Cairn Terrier on skatesCairn Terrier on skates

This is a remarkable true story of the adaptability of one little Cairn Terrier to changes in his life. This is based on a true account of how one Cairn Terrier's life changed from being a show and breeding dog, to a dog cast in the role of 'Toto' in an ice production of 'The Wizard of Oz'. Then he was adopted by an elderly person and became her 'Hearing Dog' and when she died, he became the resident dog in a kindergarten.

Written in the first person, this was first published as a story in May 1987 by the Kennel Control Council of Victoria (KCC) in their monthly Gazette. It was one of the monthly winning entries in a year long short story competition about pure bred dogs. The competition was judged by Mr Laurie Grant, all-breeds dog judge representing the KCC, Mrs Wendy Carlos  also an all-breeds dog judge, educator and part time journalist, and Mr Peter Hitchener, professional journalist and TV's well known Channel 9 news presenter. In its original form, this story was called 'My Life through the Eyes of a Cairn Terrier'[1].

My Beginnings

Us at 3 weeksUs at 3 weeks

Hello! My name is 'Jock'. I was born in a litter of just two. A lot of people came to admire my sister and me, but I seemed to be the favourite. So, imagine my dismay when a nice family came and chose my sister to take home! However I now had my mother all to myself. Not that that did me much good as she would not play with me the way my sister did and had very little milk left. But Mum did teach me how to dig holes, and how to make a great fuss of Muriel, my breeder, who brought me my food! Several other dogs lived in the kennels but I was always pleased to have Muriel to myself.

Me at 8 weeksMe at 8 weeks

But then Muriel put this lead around my neck! That meant I had to go where she went! I just sat there. I wanted to go the opposite way. But Muriel was insistent. I tried everything I knew. I rolled over, screamed, and even tried bringing up my breakfast. But the next day out came Muriel again with the lead. I eventually decided when that lead was around my neck, reluctantly, and against my better judgement, I had to follow Muriel.

Me as a Show Dog

Me as Aust Ch Yiri Nougat LadMe as Aust Ch Yiri Nougat Lad

One day Muriel put me on the back seat of her car. I sat and looked out the window. How wonderful! I could see the world! When the car stopped we were at a new place where there were lots of interesting smells. There were also lots of dogs in all shapes and sizes! I growled at the big ones (though some of them actually frightened me), but ignored the little ones. Muriel told me I was at a Dog Show and led me around an area where everybody had just one dog. We all paraded around together. I felt so proud to be the centre of attention with Muriel following me at the end of the lead.

Then I was placed on a table where a man called Mr. Judge talked to me and patted me and to my surprise, he felt my unmentionables! But I still liked him. So when we all paraded around again, I fluttered my eyes at him. Then Mr. Judge gave Muriel a ribbon. She praised and praised me. I was so pleased. We went to lots of these Dog Shows by car, sometimes even staying away from home for some days. I loved these outings as it meant I had Muriel all to myself. I am told that is how I became Australian Champion Yiri Nougat Lad. But I prefer to be just called 'Jock'!

Me with Robyn BurleyMe with Robyn Burley

But what that did mean was I had lots of lady Cairns come to visit me. That was great fun because, although some of them snapped at me, Muriel always held them so I could do what I needed to do. I have several Australian Champion children and grandchildren, they tell me.

But when Muriel got another Cairn who I think was my son, she left me home and took this other Cairn to the Dog Shows instead! I was jealous and hated him. So I tried to fight him at every opportunity. So I was put in a back kennel. The only way I could attract Muriel's attention was to squeak my rubber toy. I did this constantly, especially if Muriel fed the other dogs before me!

One day, Jane came to see us all. She took great interest in me. So, I squeaked my toy and fluttered my eyes like I did at the Dog Show until Jane said 'that one would be perfect'. She was obviously impressed by my extreme intelligence!

Me as a Performing Dog

Jane took me in her car to a huge ice rink where there were lots of people, but no other dogs. The Iceland Figure Skating Club were putting on a Pantomime based on the film the 'Wizard of Oz' and wanted a Cairn to play the part of 'Toto'. By this time I was 5 years old, my coat had darkened, and I looked like the Cairn who played 'Toto' in the film. Also, my mature coat would show up against the white ice.

Over the next three weeks I had to learn to walk on ice. I did not like it and complained - in much the same way as I did when I was a pup learning to walk on the lead! As the ice was cold to walk on, I quickly learned to escape through one of the exits. But Jane always caught me and put me back on the ice. I finally decided I just had to do it. Then Jane gave me goodies as rewards and many people made a big fuss of me. Apparently I had passed the audition.

Programme CoverProgramme Cover

During the performance I had to run around the skating rink.  I was placed in a basket attached to a push bike ridden by the Wicked Witch. As she rode around the rink, I had to jump out of the basket and find Robyn Burley who was playing the part of Dorothy. She had some cabana for me. Robyn would then pick me up and skate around the rink with me under her arm. Robyn was also an Australian Champion. I suppose like me she also had to go to lots of Shows to become an Australian Champion.

Then I had to sit in the centre of the ice rink while everybody skated around me to the music. The audience was amazed I sat there for so long. But what they did not know was that there was a hot water bottle concealed in my basket. Although I had never learned 'Obedience', I knew where it was warm! So from my warm vantage point, I watched everything that was going on.

We did eleven performances of the 'Wizard of Oz' and never made a mistake. Everyone was very pleased with me. At the end of each performance I got far more applause than any of the other performers! After each Show, I went to the party where they fed me with lots of goodies like sausage rolls. Although I hated  the bath before every performance, I loved all the attention afterwards!

Me as a Companion/Hearing Dog

Me and GwenMe and Gwen

After the 'Wizard of Oz' ended, I went back to my life with Muriel and all her other dogs. But a few months later, Jane came to see me again. I greeted her hoping we might go back to the Ice Pantomime. But Jane took me to her mother Gwen, placed me on her lap and said, 'Happy Mother's Day'. Gwen cried and said I was ugly. She had had Pekingese before me, but her hands were now not strong enough to manage that coat. Although I may not be as glamorous as a Pekingese, I knew I was far more intelligent. So, I snuggled up to her and put my paw on her hand every time she stopped stroking me. I soon won her over. For seven years, I was her constant companion.

Me as sketched by GwenMe as sketched by Gwen

How I loved Gwen! Her house was so warm, and I was allowed to go anywhere I pleased - on the bed but especially on the couch where we spent many hours. She even had a little doggie door so I could go from the kitchen to the garden whenever I needed to. There were no other dogs around, so I never had to squeak my rubber toy to attract attention. At first Gwen drove me everywhere in her car. When she got too old to drive, we went for little walks together. I had to be very gentle and walk sedately beside her as Gwen had to balance herself with a stick. So, I never pulled on the lead or barked at other dogs like I used to when I was young.

Jane came over regularly to visit us. But when she gathered up the soap and towels and went into the laundry I knew she was going to bath me, cut my nails and sometimes also trim my coat. So, I hid. It took ages for Jane and Gwen to find me. But that was good fun! After Jane had finished,  Jane and her mother always made a great fuss of me. Gwen also liked to draw and paint. So, one day after my bath, I posed while she sketched me.

I then became Gwen's 'hearing dog'. I took it upon myself to bark to tell her when someone wanted her, either at the door or on the phone. Gwen would follow me as I barked, praising me en route! I also now had other people in my life. Gwen's flat was attached to her daughter Sue's house, with only a connecting door between. Sometimes I would go into the house where Sue and her family lived. As they had not owned a dog for many years I managed to win them all over, especially Sue.

Then came a terrible day in my life. Gwen died. My world vanished before my eyes. Jane came over and she and Sue, who were sisters, cleared out everything from Gwen's flat!  Gwen's bed, the couch, and all those other familiar things were taken away. As I did not even have access to my doggie door any more, I lifted my leg everywhere in Sue's house to make it smell like my own! But Sue seemed to understand and installed my old doggie door in her laundry.

Me as a Kindergarten Resident Dog

Me at the KindergartenMe at the Kindergarten

Sue was the Director of a kindergarten. She thought it would be a good experience for the children to have a resident dog at the kindergarten. Some of the children had no experience with dogs and were frightened of them. But Sue knew I was intelligent and would win them over - and I did! At night, I went home with Sue to her house.

So, at almost fifteen years of age, I have a new life as one of the staff at the kindergarten. It is my job to make sure those children who were frightened of dogs will get used to me and learn that I would never bite. Some children even brush and comb me. I  snuggle up beside one of them at 'story time' and often get a piece of their apple. I have learned that the young toddlers that come with the mothers to collect the kinder children are not so gentle, and Sue is not always around to rescue me from them. So at 'going home time' when Sue is busy, I hide under the desk in the office until everyone has left. Additionally, I also hide when Jane comes to trim, bath me and cut my nails!


In this 4th completely different role, Jock continued as the resident kindergarten dog and Sue's adored family pet for his two remaining twilight years. Such was the amazing adaptability of this remarkable little dog.

References and Further Reading

[1] Jane Harvey 'My Life Through the Eyes of a Cairn Terrier' KCC Gazette, published by the Kennel Control Council of Victoria May 1979, Vol 53 No 5 Page 12