New Holland, 2020
Dogs have played a central role in the lives of New Zealanders. Whether working farm dogs, police dogs, loyal companions, mascots, little heroes or fictional dogs, they have become a special part of our culture.
Our Incredible Dogs: The Stories behind the Statues looks at the dogs that have been memorialised in public statues, plaques and sculptures around the country. It tells the stories behind the statues to show the role that dogs have played in our history.
In this book, you can find out about George the Jack Russell who saved a group of children from an attack by two pit bulls, legendary cattle rustler James Mackenzie and his famous dog Friday, Rajah the wonder dog who did amazing tricks, Search and Rescue dogs, and dogs from much-loved books and cartoon strips.
It’s astonishing how many dog statues and sculptures there are around New Zealand. Where can you find them? Well, for a start – Waiheke Island, Te Aroha, Katikati, Tauranga, Hamilton, Tirau, Rotorua, Gisborne, Napier, Hastings, Manaia, Hunterville, Feilding, Wellington, Christchurch, Lyttelton, Methven, Fairlie, Lake Tekapo, Wanaka, Roxburgh, Dunedin and Hindon railway station!
The story behind the book
Once you start looking, it’s surprising how often you come across a dog statue or sculpture. There are statues of other creatures too: a kiwi at Otorohanga, a bull at Bulls, a cow and calf at Matamata, sheep in Hunterville, a crayfish at Kaikoura, trout at Gore and salmon at Rakaia. But there are more statues of dogs than any other creature. Trying to figure out why that is, and where they all are, made writing this book a lot of fun.
I’d already written a story for the School Journal about Paddy the wanderer, and I knew about his plaque and drinking fountain down on the wharves. Paddy’s story is both sad and happy, so that made a good start.
‘I couldn’t get to all of the statues, but I had fun tracking down as many as I could. One of my favorites was Stephen Mulqueen’s Rua Kuriwao (Red Bush Dog) which is near the Matiatia Headland Walkway on Waiheke Island. The huntaway at Hunterville is a statue we’ve driven past many times, going north or south on SH1, and we’ve also walked often past the dog hook at Paekākāriki on the Kāpiti coast.
But it’s not just New Zealand that has lots of dog statues. You can find them all around the world, like this one called “Girl with her Dog” in Budapest, Hungary.
One of our most famous dog stories is that of the dog Friday, belonging to James Mackenzie. Some people think that Mackenzie was a thief and a sheep stealer. Other people think he was a brilliant shepherd (with a very smart dog), lonely and misunderstood and unfairly treated. This newspaper article from 1855 offers a large reward for Mackenzie’s recapture.
Reviews and articles
“Werry’s history books always contain small details that surprise me. She sees things that others overlook and then uses them to add zest to her work… This is a fascinating non-fiction book with a wide appeal.” (Trevor Agnew in Magpies, vol 35 no 5, November 2020)
“Our Incredible Dogs will be a valued addition to the bookshelves of dog lovers and school and public libraries.”
Thanks to Rachel Moore for this review on The Sapling.
Lately there’s been a lot of discussion about statutes – who gets commemorated, and whether in some case we should continue to commemorate them. Statues of dogs, on the other hand – heroes and companions – seem uncontroversial. “Why New Zealand’s most beloved statues aren’t just of humans” by Brett Atkinson (Stuff, 2 August 2020) includes a number of the dog statues in my book.