A Blue Mountains break

When a holiday rental’s promotional material features pictures of pups enjoying the property, it’s a safe bet your dog is in for a warm welcome.

Sure enough, on arrival at Secret Garden Cottage in Katoomba we found an indoor dog bed, a jar of treats and even a doggie guest book detailing local walks and activities for four-legged visitors.

Harry gives Secret Garden the sniff of approval.

Harry gives Secret Garden the sniff of approval.

Tucked away on a quiet residential street, the cottage is a 10-minute walk from the centre of Katoomba, on the other side of the highway. It’s warm and cosy with an open log fire, comfortable beds and a decadently deep claw foot bath tub.

Harry enjoys a winter warmer.

A winter warmer.

Secret Garden is well-supplied for a winter break, with board games, books and an extensive DVD and CD collection. There was even a “pet calm” CD with music to relax your animal. We gave it a whirl but it didn’t seem to have much of an effect upon Harry – I think he’s more of a jazz man.

The highlight of our stay was definitely the cottage’s namesake: its stunning garden. Harry loved exploring the pathways, losing himself in the scents of the shrubbery, and I was just as happy sitting in the sun with a cup of tea and watching him. It’s peaceful and private and the perfect antidote to city living.

Taking in the country air.

Taking in the country air.

Out and about we found lots of cafes with outdoor seating where you can dine with your dog. If you want to indulge in some retail therapy, the Leura Doggie Store is dedicated to luxury goods.

As dogs are not permitted in Australian national parks, walking options in the Blue Mountains are limited. We consulted the guide at the cottage and found several dog-friendly bush walks listed, backed up by some recommendations from previous guests in the visitor’s book.

The walk to Minnehaha Falls, a few minutes’ drive north of Katoomba (access at the end of Minni-Ha-Ha Road) is a scenic path through bushland and dogs on leash are allowed. It’s not an easy walk, with some pretty big steps for smaller dogs to negotiate. There were also a few dramatic cliff drops, which made us thankful Harry was safely on-leash. We ventured far enough to glimpse the falls, about a one-hour return trip.

Minnehaha Falls

Minnehaha Falls

Over in Wentworth Falls, dogs on leash are permitted on the Charles Darwin walk, which follows Jamison Creek – and the footsteps of the famed naturalist.

The path starts from Wilson Park on Falls Road and eventually leads to Wentworth Falls. Unfortunately we couldn’t make it this far as the second half of the track is in national park (signs alert you to the fact). It’s worth noting that the boardwalk sections weren’t ideal for Harry, who kept losing his footing in the wide gaps. Anyone with a larger dog might also struggle with a set of steep metal steps near the beginning of the walk. Harry had to be carried down and I can’t see that working out so well if you have, say, a Great Dane.

The Blue Mountains might not be the best spot if you’re looking for lots of outdoor adventures with your dog. But for older dogs like Harry, who are happiest pottering around the garden or curled up in front of a fire (Him Indoors seemed content with these options too) Secret Garden Cottage makes a perfect getaway.

Round and round the garden.

Round and round the garden.

For more information go to www.secretgarden-cottage.com.au

The view from ... the car. Sadly for us, no dogs allowed in the national park.

The view from … the car. Sadly for us, no dogs allowed in the national park.

A night at the flicks with Fido

We love a night at the movies but are less keen on leaving our hound home alone. So Centennial Park’s open-air Moonlight Cinema, with its dedicated Doggie Nights, is a highlight of our calendar.

Dogs are in fact permitted at any Moonlight Cinema session, on the condition that movie-going mutts are well-behaved and kept on a short leash. The regular Doggie Nights, scheduled throughout the season, are extra assurance that your dog is a legitimate and welcome guest.

Both Harry and Him Indoors are fond of their creature comforts, so Gold Grass tickets are worth the $35 investment: best seats in the house, a comfy bean bed to lounge on, and food and drink wait service from the friendly staff – who all seem to be dog-lovers, judging by the level of attention Harry received.

Harry spots a particularly enticing picnic at 12 o'clock.

Harry spots a particularly enticing picnic on the back row.

IMG_4300The Belvedere Amphitheatre is the perfect place to settle down with a picnic and a pig’s ear ahead of the film. As the sun goes down, bats circle overhead and Harry comes into his own as he becomes fly-and-mosquito-catcher extraordinaire. One snap of those jaws and pests are promptly eliminated – beats the Karate Kid and his chopsticks, hands down.

Who doesn't love the trailers?

Who doesn’t love the trailers?

Slightly less convenient is his tendency to bark at shadows once the sun sets. We had to gently remind him that nobody likes a noisy cinema patron.

Lights, camera, action.

Lights, camera, action.

Regular Doggie Nights are scheduled throughout the Moonlight Cinema season, which runs until March 29.

The closest entry to the cinema is via Woollahra Gate on Oxford Street.

For more information visit https://www.moonlight.com.au/sydney

House rules according to the Moonlight Cinema website:

  • Dogs must be kept on a short leash (2m or under) at all times.
  • The owner is required to pick up after the dog and keep it quiet during the film.
  • Remember to bring a drinking container and water for your dog.
  • Aggressive dogs will be denied entry. If a dog becomes aggressive or fights with another dog, the owner will be told to immediately remove their dog from the venue.
  • Dogs classified as “dangerous” or “restricted”, and dogs needing to be muzzled, will be denied entry.

Surviving the dog days of summer at Silver Beach

The hot and humid days have been getting to Harry and he’s been very lethargic of late.

We thought a trip to the beach might liven him up and so we made our way to Botany Bay, where dogs are allowed off-leash at Kurnell’s Silver Beach.


Harry looks as morose as the weather as he gazes across Botany Bay.

Dogs are permitted any time between the third and fourth groynes (jetties) from the western end, although they are prohibited on other sections of the beach.

A storm was brewing on our drive down and the heavens opened as soon as we parked up. We took shelter with a coffee at Kurnell Village Store, which happily had undercover outdoor seating, until the rain eased off.


I need gum boots.

Harry’s aversion to the wet stuff includes rain water, bath water and salt water. So, as usual, he refused to enter the bay and remained resolutely on dry land, preferring to sniff the seashells and seaweed than try his luck in the shallows.

Taking in the sea air.

Taking in the sea air.

It’s a good sheltered spot for dogs who like to swim, although the off-leash section is quite a small stretch. Silver Beach was quiet on the grey and gloomy day we visited, but I imagine it could get crowded and a little crazy on a sunny day.


I don’t understand why I can’t eat the dead things I find on beaches.

Captain Cook’s landing place at Inscription Point is close by, in Kamay Botany Bay National Park.  There are walking tracks, a visitor centre, picnic spots and a lookout in the park, but unfortunately dogs are not allowed so we couldn’t explore this area.

A small children’s play area, reserve and public toilets are adjacent to the off-leash section of the beach. There’s plenty of on-street parking along Prince Charles Parade, as well as a car park at the western end.

For more information visit Sutherland Shire Council website.

A respite from the heat in Sydney’s rainforest retreat

These high temperatures can put even the most active dogs off their daily walk. Now Harry is a such a good walker (*glows with pride) I don’t want the warmer weather to put him off our daily constitutional, so we’ve been seeking out shady excursions that aren’t too taxing for either of us.

We discovered Cooper Park last year, after it was recommended to us by a friend and fellow dog-owner. And what a beautiful find: just a few minutes’ from Bondi Junction, this is a lush and expansive place of peacefulness.

Welcome to Cooper Park.

Welcome to Cooper Park.

Dogs are permitted in the park but they need to be kept on a leash. It worked out fine for us: we simply put Harry on a retractable leash, which allowed him to take a leisurely amble and sniff to his heart’s content.

We entered the park from Bellevue Hill Road and made our way down the steep steps (not so much fun on the way back) and down into the gully.


Following Cooper Creek, we meandered along the walking tracks which took us past pools and moss-covered stone bridges, under shady canopies and through a forest of tree ferns.


Damp, dark and cool, Cooper Park feels a world away from a hot summer in the city.


Dogs are permitted on a leash throughout the park and off-leash on the turfed sports ground adjacent to Suttie Road between 4.30pm and 8.30am. There are several cafés near the park entrance on Bellevue Road for those needing an after-walk reviver.

Cooper Park has plenty to offer for a full day out, with a children’s playground, picnic areas, toilets and a tennis court. For more information visit Woollahra Council website.

Friends reunited at Sirius Cove

We’ve been hearing a lot about the dog-friendly beach at Sirius Cove, Mosman. One of the few spots in Sydney where dogs are allowed on the sand and in the water, so surely the perfect place for a playdate with an old friend?

Harry arrived early, eager with anticipation.

Harry arrived early, eager with anticipation.

We were there to meet Finn, a former pal of Harry’s from his days at Monika’s Doggie Rescue, whose owner Annette had recently spotted our blog and made contact.

A Monika’s Doggie Rescue volunteer, Annette also runs a website, Where Pets are Found, dedicated to reuniting lost pets with their owners, as well as finding homes for pets up for adoption.

Finn and Harry had been buddied up together at Monika’s due to their similar temperaments. It was hoped that the placid Finn would be a calming influence on Harry, who was struggling to cope with the pound environment. They had similar back stories, both having been rescued from Blacktown Pound, and, thankfully, they have both now found their forever homes.

When the big moment of reunion arrived, Finn gave Harry a warm welcome and became extra playful and energetic in his company.

Alas, Harry did not appear to remember Finn and showed him the same ambivalence he shows for most dogs. He did, however, briefly allow him access to the ball, which is pretty good for Harry.

Always more fun to share, Harry.

Always more fun to share, Harry.

Much more heart-warming was Annette’s reaction to seeing Harry again. Having recalled a fearful little hound who used to tremble when held, she was now greeted by a very different dog. One who wagged his tail and was very pleased to meet a new friend, especially such a keen ball-thrower!

It summed it up best when she remarked: “He was like a little old man and now he’s … a dog!”

While Harry still has his old man moments, he spends a lot of time like a playful puppy; never more so than when he hits the beach.

We’ve come a long way since doggie death row at Blacktown Pound.

We’ve come a long way since doggie death row at Blacktown Pound.

We had a very successful afternoon at Sirius Cove, with several games of ball on the grassy reserve and some energetic romps on the beach.

It’ll be a great place for a splash and cool down in summer and an ideal place for Fido to meet old friends and new.

Harry and Him Indoors wait for their ship to come in.

Harry and Him Indoors wait for their ship to come in.

Sirius Cove Reserve

Unleashed dogs are permitted on the beach, grassed areas of the reserve and in the water all day Monday to Friday and before 9am and after 4pm on Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays.

For more information see Mosman Council website 

Celebrating in Sydney Park with a dog that will (finally) walk!

We have had a breakthrough with the walking issue. It’s not been easy and it’s still not perfect, but it is significant progress – and definitely worth celebrating with a trip to one of Sydney’s most expansive and dog-friendly parks, Sydney Park in St Peters. And here’s how we do it:

  • We’ve scrapped the harness and use only a collar. Harry reacts so badly to the harness; looking sorry for himself at best, going rigid with fear at worst. Since he’s still not such a keen walker that he half-strangles himself with eagerness, we think the collar is best for him.
  • The leash never goes on until we’re out of the front door. Putting the leash on while Harry’s inside seems to create some kind of mental block and he’ll resist immediately. Only once we’ve walked out will I clip the leash onto his collar – and he seems perfectly happy with this arrangement.
  • I am always in a good mood when we go for a walk. You would think it’s the most thrilling part of my day as I skip out of the door in a bid to encourage Harry to do the same.
  • Harry gets a treat when we make it out the door. But only one (otherwise he stops and looks up at me expectantly every two minutes) – and then we walk.
  • We have followed the exact same walking route daily for several months. Harry seems to feel more secure when he knows what direction we are heading in, and that the trip always ends back at home.

And so we are making the most of this new-found enthusiasm for trotting out the door – as opposed to being dragged, bribed or tricked – with longer and more frequent walks.  

Hiking the hills at Sydney Park.

Hiking the hills at Sydney Park.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a better dog-walking spot than Sydney Park. Dogs are allowed off-leash at all times on the former brickworks, but are not allowed in the wetlands, the oval, cycling centre, playground or barbecue areas. With 40 hectares to roam, there’s plenty of space for everyone.  

Taking in the city skyline.

Taking in the city skyline.

We loved the rolling hills and shady woodland areas, views of the city skyline and water dishes for dogs.

A woodland walk.

A woodland walk.

There’s heaps to keep non-canine walkers entertained too. Fitness equipment, a café, and an amazing kids’ playground and bicycle track, complete with miniature traffic lights and road signs.



It’s taken more than a year of daily walks to get to this stage with Harry and there are still occasions when the old reluctance to walk returns (when it’s raining, when he’s very tired, or when I try to take him in a direction that, for reasons that remain a mystery to me, Harry does not want to go). But for the most part, our dog now follows me to the front door and trots straight out after me. I can’t tell you how happy this makes me. Unfortunately, we have had no such breakthrough with Him Indoors, who still struggles to rise for an early morning walk. We shall soldier on with that particular problem. Sydney Park, Sydney Park Road, St Peters. For more information visit the City of Sydney website.

Dog-friendly beach shenanigans in The Shire

It has come to our attention, thanks to some less-than-subtle comments from family and friends, that our dog is becoming a little stout around the middle.

Since Harry trembles with longing when he’s in the vicinity of food (Him Indoors is much the same actually), I often find myself wanting to over-compensate for any neglect in his past by sneaking him extra treats here and there.

However, while some portliness is forgivable in his golden years, we want our mutt to live a long and healthy life and have therefore been trying to curb the flow of treats and encourage more vigorous exercise.

A trip to the beach is one of the best ways to get Harry’s heart rate up and so we decided to give him some off-leash action at Greenhills Beach, near Cronulla.

The sands at Cronulla are forbidden for Fido.

The sands at Cronulla are forbidden for Fido.

We enjoyed an initial on-leash stroll and sniff along the boardwalk at Cronulla, then a bite to eat at one of the many pavement (so dog-friendly by default) cafes before driving a few minutes up the road to Greenhills Beach.

Dog on a mission.

Dog on a mission.

Greenhills is off-leash from 4pm to 10am daily. You’ll find it north of Wanda Beach and accessible via track 5 at the far end of the car park. Dogs must be kept on a leash in Wanda Reserve (the grassy area around the car park).

Taking a breather.

Taking a breather.

This long stretch of sand is ideal for dogs with boundless energy. It’s unpatrolled and seemed to be predominantly in use by dogs and their owners when we visited, allowing plenty of chance for canine socialisation.

He got friendly, down in the sand.

He got friendly, down in the sand.

As soon as Harry’s paws hit the sand he seems to get an injection of energy – and I get a little insight into what he might have been like as a puppy. Ah, if only we could have found each other sooner.

A trip to the beach is an exhilarating experience for all of us, with the chance to get some sea air, exercise and a release of endorphins. The only downside is it leaves us all feeling a bit like this by the end of the day:


For more information visit Sutherland Shire Council website.



Pupcakes and cupcakes for our one-year anniversary

It’s one year today since we adopted “golden oldie” rescue hound, Harry – and the past year has been a big journey for all three of us.

Harry is a different dog entirely: playful, affectionate and a lot less fearful than he was this time last year. He’s still reluctant to leave our home (although this is getting less and less the case), still jumps at shadows, and still runs for cover when Him Indoors loudly cheers on his football team. But I’m confident we’ve made progress and we’ll make a lot more in the years to come.

We’ve also had to make adjustments for sharing life with a dog. There have been freedoms to give up: rising early each morning to walk Harry (even though I’m sure he’d rather we didn’t bother); racing home after work instead of heading for drinks in the city… but daily laughter and lots of love and fun in return have more than made up for any sacrifices we’ve made.

In short, it’s been a great year – so what better way to celebrate than with a cake? And not just any old cake but a pupcake from Sydney’s Sparkle Cupcakery.

This luxury bakery, on Foveaux Street in Surry Hills, does a line in special dog treats which are ideal to mark an occasion such as this.


Pupcakes on display.

A pupcake is made with wholemeal flour, grated apple, apple juice and honey, and topped with ground meaty treats and a bone-shaped biscuit. It looked good, it smelled good – and it was devoured in seconds.

The red velvet and salted caramel cupcakes we ordered didn’t last much longer.

Although dogs are not allowed to take a seat inside, there is some pavement seating where you can enjoy a coffee with your pupcakes and cupcakes. Take-home pupcakes are also available, packaged beautifully in black and silver Sparkle packaging – so of course we brought one back to celebrate the special day.


Harry was keen for his take-home treat.

This weekend we’ve done all of Harry’s favourite things. We’ve visited the beach, we’ve sniffed slowly around the park, we’ve played a lot of ball and we’ve eaten well. And as we reflect on the year gone by, on Harry’s progress (and Him Indoors’ transition to dedicated dog owner) we just hope we’ve made him as happy as he’s made us.


Happy anniversary, Harry.


To find your own four-legged creator of happiness, visit www.doggierescue.com (I recommend the golden oldies).


Sparkle Cupcakery

132 Foveaux Street, Surry Hills. Tel: 02 9361 0690. www.sparklecupcakery.com.au

Pupcakes are $3.30 each. If you can’t get to the store, delivery in Sydney is also available.



Harry turns hipster in Sydney’s small bar scene

The small bar scene that’s sprung up around Sydney in recent years has become renowned for its friendly and personable staff. Who would have thought they would be Fido-friendly too?

After hearing rumours that Redfern’s Arcadia Liquors might allow mutts inside, I was keen to find out more. An email from the owner assured me that yes, dogs are welcome. Warmly welcomed in fact.

“We love dogs and are always happy to have well-behaved hounds in the bar,” we were told.

“We like them on a lead otherwise there are too many racing dilemmas. I have a dog and he is in the bar pretty much every day of the week. He’s called Frankie.”

We didn’t need telling twice.


Stepping out for the night.


Harry enjoyed mixing with the cool kids. Made a change from me and Him Indoors…

Although Harry was a lone wolf at the beginning of the evening, the canine quota was upped with the arrival of Frankie.


Frankie hot-footing it into the bar.



Harry and Frankie take it outside.

This whirling dervish of a dog didn’t stand still long enough to snap a photo that will do him justice, so you’ll have to trust us when we say he is very cute. In fact it’s worth a visit just on the off-chance you might meet Frankie, who is apparently in the bar most days.

Aside from a handsome hound to admire, the bar also offers a snacks menu with a range of toasted sandwiches and antipasto. If you’re craving green space, head to the fern-filled courtyard at the back, or stay inside and enjoy the ambience of the exposed bricks adorned with fairy lights.


Even in the mid-week evening when we visited Arcadia Liquors was busy so, if you want to secure a seat, get there early.

If you know of any other great dog-friendly places in and around Sydney, please let us know at sydneydogslife@gmail.com or via Facebook or Twitter.

Arcadia Liquors, 7 Cope Street, Redfern. www.arcadialiquors.com. Tel: 02 8068 4470

Harry’s holiday with the Perfect Pet Sitter

Until airlines start allowing dogs to travel in the cabin en-route to the UK, I will, on occasion, be forced to travel without my trusty terrier in tow.

A recent visit to see family in Britain presented the dilemma of who would care for Harry while we were away. So when we heard about Perfect Pet Sitter Maralyn Nash through a post on the excellent Puppy Tales blog, we were keen to find out more about the service she offers.

Maralyn is a professional pet sitter who will stay in your home and provide top-class care for your beloved animals. This is ideal for a rescue dog like Harry, helping him to feel secure in the familiarity of his own surroundings.

We arranged a meet-up with Maralyn and immediately liked her. More importantly, so did Harry. She has a gentle but confident manner and we felt we could trust her with both our home and our hound.

When Harry discovered Maralyn was a keen ball-thrower, he was happy for her to come stay.

When Harry discovered Maralyn was a keen ball-thrower, he was happy for her to come stay.

Since Him Indoors and I give the worst helicopter parents a run for their money where Harry is concerned, we were grateful for Maralyn’s regular text updates during our break.

Maralyn even introduced Harry to a partner in crime.

Maralyn even introduced Harry to a swan-stalking partner in crime.

The extensive diary she left for us on our return was impressive. As well as detailing his daily activities there were photographs and GPS maps of the trails they had taken.

On the road.

On the road.

Harry had some amazing adventures: parks, beaches, cafes and car trips. But as Maralyn rightly noted, his favourite place of all seemed to be back at our place. I’m with Harry – there’s no place like home.

Maralyn summed up our dog perfectly when she wrote: “He seems a happy boy who just wants to be near you, and doesn’t ask much except to throw a toy and be kind to him.”

We felt confident Maralyn gave him the star treatment by doing just that. What’s more, she left the house in a cleaner state than she found it. Here’s hoping for a return visit.

Harry enjoyed plenty of TLC

Harry enjoyed plenty of TLC.

To find out more about the Perfect Pet Sitter, visit www.perfectpetsitter.blogspot.com.au