Bella is just like any other dog: she loves food, friends and catching a ball. But, unlike most, she has a very important role with Newcastle’s team of rangers.
The two-year-old Golden Retriever is the city’s first ‘ranger dog’, and she joins the group in its patrols along the Bathers Way coastal walk and at the off-leash dog park at New Lambton.
Bella’s role is to help teach the community about responsible pet ownership.
Her owner, and accompanying ranger, Allan Hong, says she is very sociable and has helped the community approach his team with any concerns they may have.
“The idea of Bella coming along on patrols came forward when I started working with council last year,” he says.
“We were doing a lot of proactive patrols in the area, and dealing with a lot of different dog matters and having a dog with us just made sense to me.
“When she is around, other dog owners can see that we are dog lovers as well, we are not just there to hand out tickets.
“Before I had Bella with me, a lot of people were stand-offish with us, they wouldn’t approach us at all or tell us about issues.
“But, having her around has made us more approachable – a lot of the public are bringing up issues or dog-related matters with us now.”
Newcastle’s Deputy Lord Mayor Declan Clausen says Bella plays a vital role in the city that is home to more than 44,000 dogs.
“Bella is supporting our ranger team, helping educate the public and dog owners right across the city about responsible pet ownership, so making sure we have dogs on leads in public places and just helping with general socialisation of dogs,” he says.
“We know that they [is a dog] in almost every house, so, it is really important that we all play our role to make sure they are adding to our experience when we are out in public rather than some of the anti-social issues that do occur.”
Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes adds Bella helps make sure people are exercising their dogs safely.
“As a trained member of staff, Bella the ‘wonder dog’ has been helping our rangers along the coastline,” she says.
“We have spent the last decade planning and constructing the Bathers Way walk and a lot of coastal improvements to celebrate this wonderful coastline, so, by the very nature of doing, that we are attracting more people [to those areas].
“Everyone seems to be a pet owner these days and this is a wonderful way of educating them in a positive way.”
Bella’s trial with the team has been so successful that council is hoping to make her an official member of the team later this month, with plenty of dog biscuits as a reward, of course.