Working with the Top Dogs

Carey Edwards with Nimble. Photo by Carmen May.
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Carey Edwards rescues misunderstood, high energy Australian working dogs, dumped in suburban shelters. Carmen May reports.

It was only 9.30am but the enclosed arena of the Advance Dog Pavilion at the Royal Melbourne Show had already started to smell like a wet canine. There were two rings within the arena and both had artificial grass laid on concrete for dog shows and judging later that day. During the 11 day show dogs running in and out are bound to use the grass as a toilet. Pity to who ever is on duty to clean up after.

At the Royal Melbourne Show’s Australian Working Dogs Rescue (AWDRI) booth, Carey Edwards introduces himself with a firm handshake before being smothered by slobbery kisses by Nimble, his number one Ambassadog, perched on the table by the booth’s entrance. Their booth, on the far side of the arena, is an oasis of calm compared to the chaos behind.

Nimble, an Australian kelpie, and star of the afternoon’s AWDRI show, travels the country captivating audiences with her array of tricks, even squeezing a few movies and radio appearances into her hectic schedule. Not only is she also the world record holder in the extreme high jump, but also is so revered in the dog world that Carey’s contract with the Royal Melbourne Show insisted that she had to be included in their program as a main entertainer, he says.

As preparation for the shows get underway vendors walked hurriedly pass with bags of merchandise ready to be laid out –The Secret Life of Pets themed pet bowls and scratchy poles, anyone? Next door photographers set up for a ‘today only’ $20 photo shoot complete with ring lights, a podium and distracting chew toys. Breeders roll in their prize-winning dogs in giant cages, both dog and owner turning up their noses at the competition.

Carey Edwards with Nimble. Photo by Carmen May
Carey Edwards with Nimble. Photo by Carmen May.

Carey, a tall burly man with a big smile, and his wife Di started both the Cairns Dog Registry and Australian Pet Registry websites. These were to help the public in reconnecting stray dogs with their owners. They later took over the popular Australian Cattle Dog forum ‘AuCaDo’, broadening its scope to reach out to American members and coordinate their rescue efforts, by finding cattle dogs across USA and Canada.

The couple then formed their own organisation, deciding to be proactive and save lives from pounds and shelters around Australia. They recognised that there was a need for rescues for Australian working breeds, which eventually lead to the founding of AWDRI in 2007 in Far North Queensland.

“Ourselves we had kelpie-kettle dog cross and a pure Australian kettle dog as well. And the breeds are very much misunderstood, especially in suburbia, and the needs of the actual animals. Many of them end up in pounds and shelters because people just could not cope with the needs of the dogs being high energy animals,” says Carey, crossing his arms and leaning his back against the wall.

It has become increasingly noisy as judging for the miniature Chihuahuas has just started in ring 4 and Carey lifts the volume a notch as he tells Nimble’s story. For the road to stardom did not come as a simple ‘sit’ command.

Nimble came into their organisation at just six weeks old. Very much like Speedy, Carey and Di’s other canine, they intercepted her litter of eight at a pound. Six of them were girls. To Carey’s dismay, after a few weeks of her surrender, Nimble was turning out to be bitey, uncontrollable and very independent – a problem when dealing with the public. But he took a chance: he took Nimble in and trained her to become the Ambassadog that she is today, demonstrating to the general public what a problem dog can become in the right hands.

Just after midday Carey takes the lawn with Nimble for their presentation to educate people about working dogs. The pair draw gasps from the audience when Casey lies on his back, legs raised above his head while gingerly balancing Nimble on the soles of his feet.

“It is fantastic that she has given us that much exposure and she is saving lives because of it,” says Carey of Nimble with pride.