Dogs

Officer Harry Reporting For Duty!

Police pup Harry was on the brink of death when Colin gave him a helping hand
  • Making police enquiries in the remote town of Wanarn, WA, Colin Johnston found a pup in need of a lifeline.
  • Covered in ticks and on the brink of death, Colin nursed the golden-furred pup back to health. 
  • With a second chance at life, Harry has quickly become Colin’s right-hand man.

Here Colin tells his story in his own words.

As the dusty four-wheel drive rumbled through the endless red desert road, I took in my police beat.

Not much of a sea breeze out here, I chuckled.

It was April 2022 and I’d been in charge of the biggest jurisdiction on the globe – Western Australia’s Goldfields-Esperance police district – since November 2021.

Covering 1,033,013 square kilometres, one third of the entire state, it’s also one of the most remote!

While I missed popping out to a cafe for a cuppa, nothing beat the raw, vast beauty of the outback.

Based in Warakurna, WA – a remote Aboriginal community not far from the Northern Territory border and 300km west of Uluru – I was on my way to the nearby town of Wanarn, about 100km away.

There, while my policing partner Kylie and I were making enquiries about an incident, I spotted a scrawny golden-furred pup lying next to a fence.

The poor little fella looked about six weeks old and was in such bad shape.

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Poor Harry was covered in ticks (Credit: Supplied)

‘He doesn’t have much fight left in him.’

He was so skinny, his ribs showed, and ticks covered his ears and paws.

Scooping him up into my arms, I looked at Kylie.

‘He doesn’t have much fight left in him,’ I said, and she agreed.

We both wanted to help.

Wanarn is a small town with no vet, so we drove our tiny charge to the community’s health clinic.

But when we arrived, the clinic’s nurse – known to the locals as Dr Harry – put his foot down. ‘No dogs in the clinic,’ he said.

‘What if I name him after you?’ I suggested, cheekily.

Dr Harry wasn’t having it. But moments later, he came back outside with a pair of tweezers and a bottle of Betadine.

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Harry busy on the job (Credit: Supplied)

On the hour-long drive home, Kylie started removing the ticks from our new fur pal, who we decided to call Harry, in honour of the nurse with a heart of gold.

Working 10 to 14 weeks on in Warakurna, with two to three weeks off, I missed my wife and three kids, who were living in Perth. So I decided to keep the cute pup.

We spent four hours all up painstakingly removing every single tick followed by giving him a wash.

By 10pm, an exhausted Harry was motionless and wouldn’t eat a thing.

So I crushed up a tick treatment tablet and gave him some water.

Wrapping him up in a towel, I left him to rest in my cat Tiffany’s bed on the verandah before I hit the hay.

Waking up to the sound of banging in the middle of the night, I couldn’t believe my eyes.

Jumping up and down and banging against the door again and again, was Harry – full of life.

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Harry and me – we have a special bond (Credit: Supplied)

‘Someone’s feeling better,’ I smiled, giving him a scratch.

Bringing him inside, I let him up onto my bed.

Excited, he ran amok on the covers before falling fast asleep on the pillow beside me.

Waking bright and early the next morning, Harry was ready for his second chance at life.

After cruising in the back seat of my police car, Harry made himself right at home when we got to the station.

Kylie was happy to see him doing so well.

‘It’s a miracle!’ she exclaimed.

He got a little stronger every day, and by day three Harry was scoffing down mince, rice and peas with gravy that I cooked especially for him.

‘It’s a miracle.’

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Me and my family (Credit: Supplied)

He got on a treat with our other station dogs, Friday, a dingo, Red, a kelpie, Spotted Bob, an Alsatian cross, and Little Fred, a mutt.

My moggy Tiffany wasn’t such a fan, but they learned to live together.

Harry had the sweetest temperament and loved to play.

Within no time, he was my right-hand man, shadowing me on patrols.

Home to around 200 people, the Aboriginal community in Warakurna speak Ngaanyatjarra as their first language.

As the top cop in town, I did my best to learn some words including palya which means ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’.

Summer days here are long and hot – the sun is up by 4am and temperatures soar up to the high 40s.

Harry and I start our days at the Warakurna roadhouse.

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With my right-hand man (Credit: Supplied)

The only shop in town, it’s a popular meeting place in the community. It’s a good place to check if there’s any trouble brewing.

The locals love our top dog, Officer Harry, especially the kids – who are truly the highlight of my job.

Every month we try to put on an activity such as indoor soccer, a blue light disco, movie night or a community barbecue.

I’ll even hand out icy poles to the little ones.

Seeing their faces light up with big smiles and getting high fives from them is such a joy.

Playing his part, Harry, is now also an unofficial therapy dog, helping comfort domestic violence victims.

Sometimes he even pays our jailbirds a visit in their cells.

It’s been almost a year since I saved Harry. And we have such a special bond – he’s the companion I didn’t know I needed in remote Warakurna.

With Harry jumping on my bed to wake me up in the morning, I’ve traded my sleep-ins for sunrises and bushwalks – and I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

They say dogs are a man’s best friend, but Harry is so much more!

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Harry at six months old (Credit: Supplied)

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