Oddball: The Dog Who Saved The Penguins
The amazing story of Oddball, the dog who protected the fairy penguin colony in Warrnambool, seems too amazing to be true.
But the gentle, fluff ball, a Maremma, protected the vulnerable group of penguins from foxes for years until she retired.
The wonderful story was made into a film starring Shane Jacobson (as farmer Swampy Marsh) and it was a hit all over the world.
Oddball is a male dog in the film, but the real Oddball was a female and she has been living out her old age on a farm in Victoria since her retirement.
Oddball died last week, aged 15 years.
The local Warrnambool community paid tribute to the guardian of penguins and is mourning her loss. They will erect a statue of her to honour her memory.
When local fisherman discovered hundreds of dead penguins and native birds on the tiny Middle Island, off the coast of Victoria, Swampy Marsh, a local chicken farmer and owner of Oddball had an idea. Foxes had killed the birds, just like they tried to on his own chicken farm.
He thought his strange but lovely dog could help.
"We had the idea having morning tea on the chook farm," Marsh said to the SMH. "The local paper was saying it's terrible what's happening to the penguins and there were pictures of dead penguins all over the front page.
"I said to Dave Williams, who was working for me at the time, 'I reckon the dogs could do this job'. He said 'yeah, I think you're right'.
The environment officer in the local council said no to the idea – dogs were banned on the tiny island, but Swampy wasn’t deterred. His dogs looked after his chickens so well, he couldn’t see why fairy penguins would be any different. The foxes didn’t stand a chance.
"But luckily he resigned and moved on and a young fella that I knew from surfing days, Ian Fitzgibbon, took over the job. I knew Ian had a brain and I was able to talk to him. He decided to set up a committee and the rest is history."
Oddball spent an initial 3 weeks on Middle Island and guarded the penguins so well, they gave her a fulltime job. When Oddball was assigned to the island, there were only 6 penguins left. Now, there are roughly 200.
Maremmas still look after the penguin colony.
Shane Jacobson spoke to the SMH
"I love the fact the story lives on past the credits because every day these dogs continue to do this thing."
Rest in peace, wonderful Oddball, and may your legacy guard many little fairy penguins for generations.