During my time living at Keilor Downs between 1989 and 1996, perhaps the most memorable incident was when I went to Keilor Downs Plaza to look at the video shop (I was then obsessed with movie ratings and the possibility that violence was due to young children watching violent or rude films – a view I have by no means entirely discarded) and tied as I usually did our pet border collie, Minty, outside the shop.
After a brief stay in the shop – a shop I have no recollection of ever visiting again – I found that Minty had forced the leash loose and had run off. I thought with considerable sense that Minty would go back to our house in Daimler Avenue. When I went back there, my family, including my late uncle and father, said Minty had gone up to the north along Rodney Drive and Belmont Avenue where there were two places I frequently visited. One was a small milk bar, where I often looked at the movie ratings of the VHS tapes in the store as I bought milk. The other was a large reserve at the northern end of Belmont Avenue, where I occasionally played on the swing (and was even then seen as too old for that though I had not put on the vast amount of mass I have now). When I found the playground, Minty had gone and I was very worried.
My assumption was that if Minty had left the park where my family said he had gone, then Minty would have kept walking in the same direction since at the time he had not returned. Thus I kept walking, following my instinct on this line (and my recollections from over two decades ago) up Belmont Avenue and then Copernicus Way, Chichester Drive and up to what was then known to me as Keilor-Melton Road. There was no sign of Minty at the time, and having neither a mobile telephone nor coins for a public phone, I was really worried but I still kept walking, expecting Minty would be somewhere around Calder Park Thunderdome. I never found the dog, and I could not imagine how worried my parents would have been (I had no money and it was the pre-mobile era), but I knew only to keep going and going in hope. By the time I was at Keilor-Melton Road, I did not know whether to walk further north or just keep looking, but there was never a sign of Minty. Eventually, I was so tired I felt I had to walk back home, and I found, to my shock, that Minty had come back soon after I went off looking for him! My mother said he was not a “north-heading dog” as I had naïvely assumed from when she said Minty went after escaping the leash.
Within my family, this story has long been a legend, but the amazing thing is that Time in ‘The Amazing Science Behind Pets That Find Their Way Home’ has shown that the knowledge discovered from this old family incident is widespread. Mummy said to me when I came home very tired that Minty actually knew his way home, and Time’s tale of a dog walking much further than from the park on Belmont Avenue certainly verifies what my mother said to me more than twenty years ago! According to Bonnie Beaver’s research which was quoted in Time, dogs create overlapping scents – which in the case of Minty would no doubt have been acquired while my brother and I walked him to and from the park for a few years before he escaped the leash. No doubt, when Minty escaped the leash he knew where the familiar scent of home was, and went back to that and then to the park on Belmont Avenue.