Dogs join in the trek

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Every dog may have its day but Bethan and Rubble are having about 65 of them.

In what may be the mother of all walkies the two search and rescue pooches are accompanying their owners, Luke and Tracy Edwards on a hike all the way from coastal Port Campbell to Canberra.

This week The Advertiser caught up with them on the Avoca-Dunolly roadside as they completed day 16 of their 1000 km trek.

The Port Campbell couple are both qualified canine search experts and say they’d had enough of leaving their four-footed friends behind whenever they took holidays.

Tracy, a Parks ranger and Luke, who works in Wannon Water’s assets department, say their holiday hike is mostly a means of raising awareness of the many contributions working dogs make in our lives.

“They’re just incredible animals,” Tracy said.

“We want to broaden the idea of working dogs which includes everything from search and rescue to threatened species conservation to guide and therapy dogs, to detecting parasites in cattle, or detecting fireant nests, or even detecting cancer in humans.”

During both the Christchurch earthquakes and the Japanese tsunami crises Tracy and Bethan, a six-year-old golden retriever, were on standby to help search for survivers trapped in the debris.

And even now as they stroll along the quieter back roads on their way to Canberra, 16-month-old border collie, Rubble is in training for his special role locating endangered quolls in the Otways.

“We’re carrying some quoll scat with us to help with his training,” Luke explained.

They expect to arrive in Canberra on June 20, covering about 20 to 25 kms a day at a leisurely pace.

The couple are carrying all their camping equipment and staying “anywhere that’s dog friendly” along the way.

“We’re carrying everything with us,” Luke said.

“We’ve got 10 days of dog food with us and seven days of human food.”

In Avoca they enjoyed a weekend stopover with Tracy’s parents, Suzanne and John Leyton, who run the Avoca Motel and also have temporary care of the couple’s veteran search dog, Delta, who is a little too old for the big walk.

At Avoca the spa suite accommodation and healthy serve of parental cooking helped ease blisters Tracy had accumulated.

But Bethan and Rubble were showing no such wear and tear.

“They’re loving it,” Tracy said. “And they’ve stopped pulling the leads. They understand this is longer now.

“We have a stop every five minutes,” Luke said.

“And they get back rubs then,” Tracy said.

Luke and Tracy say the mammoth stroll is proving a wonderful way to appreciate the scenery.

“It’s changed our perspective, Tracy said.

“You walk along and you catch yourself. This is just a great way of seeing it. You’re in it.”

The “Team Edwards” dogs are all proficient in searching, agility, obedience and air scenting, but Luke said that maintaining their skills requires constant training every day.

“It’s a lifestyle,” Tracy said.

So far the massive walkies does indeed appear to be achieving its main aim.

“The local media is picking it up along the way,” Luke said.

“We’re on track,” Tracy said.

“I’m pretty rapt that we’re on target, blisters and all.

“We’ve met really good people along the entire way. People have been kind. It’s been lovely.

“And it’s funny how everybody you talk to has got a dog story of their own.

“We’re updating our progress daily on Facebook. We’ve got an online public blog.

“We are not raising any money for us but there are many great working dog organisations that people can donate to and people can get to these if they go to our website which has links to a lot of different working dog organisations.”

The webpage can be visited at www.southwestvictoriandogs.com.

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