MUSTER DOGS: Premieres Sunday, January 23, 7.40pm, ABC TV / iview
How could anyone resist the offer to take home a rambunctious pure-bred Australian kelpie puppy?
For 34 -year-old third-generation grazier Aticia Grey it was a no brainer.
She knew it would be a challenge to bring a pup up to speed as a muster dog in just 12 months, especially as the drought-stricken Glenforrie station she inherited in Western Australia's Pilbara region was unable to sustain any cattle.
But for Aticia, the best thing about the four part series Muster Dogs is it shows what these dogs are capable of and gives them the acknowledgement for the role they play as working dogs.
The show is a deep dive into the hard life of five graziers who choose to work more with muster dogs rather than rely on too many vehicles. They have one year to train their pups to be the champion muster dog of the litter.
For Aticia, it was love at first sight, but there were a few bumps along the road for her and her female pup Gossip.
"She was all cuteness, with a gremlin-like face and really big ears," Aticia says.
"But she had her own opinion and was not afraid to voice it," - hence the name.
"We didn't really establish a bond until we started working together."
Aticia says she didn't realise how much you could work with dogs, and only began to move away from generational farming methods nine years ago, implementing a regenerative agricultural plan which relies on them.
"I wouldn't be on the land if I didn't have my dogs. I couldn't imagine trying to do it without them now. They have educated the cattle on how to behave. They have the ability to read the body language of the stock and communicate to them what they want.
"It was fun, she's [Gossip] got a lot of work drive and a lot personality."
Aticia's stock was agisted two stations away - which in the Pilbara is a four hour drive there and back. But when you work a station in the west, that's not unusual.
Meeting the nine month milestone was a struggle for Gossip and Aticia.
"Because we had destocked our property in the drought I didn't really have the cattle around to work with. We were about a month behind schedule.
"Thankfully, the drought broke in February 2021.
"Our yearly average is 250mls. We got 150ml all at once, but it fell gently so it soaked in. It was great to show it all [the property] coming back to life."
Aticia's memoir titiled Muster Dogs was released in November 2021.
"I am an accidental author. It was meant to be more about the show and the different people in it, but it ended up being about how I grew up on the station, how we work with the dogs and the show.
"It's something I had thought about doing. It took about 10 months, although it was meant to be four months, but I really enjoyed the process.
"I didn't really have the time. It was originally supposed to be three hours a week but it was much more than that.
At 70,000 words, that's understandable.
" I didn't have any idea how much it would take," she says.
Muster Dogs is a uniquely Australian story of why these hardworking animals are integral to the Australian agricultural industry.
Also taking on the challenge were Frank Finger - farmers in Clermont, Queensland, for more than three generations; former stockbroker turned-sheep-grazier Rob Tuncks of Gippsland, Victoria; Joni Hall of Clermont, Queensland, who travels alone with her pack of dogs across the Top End mustering cattle; camp drafter and gifted horse trainer station owner CJ Scotney, based in the Douglas Daly district in the Northern Territory.
- Neil McDonald - runs world-class working dog and stock handling schools all around Australia. His wife of 30 years, Helen, runs their sheep property.
- Peter Barr - a second-generation farmer, whose family has been breeding kelpies for the past 30 years. He is a training and trial dog expert.
- Joe Spicer - an award-winning kelpie dog breeder and trial dog champion. With more than 100 trial dog titles to his name Joe understands the value of quality bloodlines.