Wantok – The Honiara Legend Reply

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Wantok can be quite affectionate

By Shane and Cherolyn Mulligan

Editor Note:  Wantok is still looking for a good home from December 16 as Julie and John head home. If you would like to provide him a new home, please call Julie on 768 0630 or John on 768 0950. They would love to hear from you!

Friends in New Zealand have forwarded on to us a story by Julie and John in the Pineapple Post about the famous Wantok. We lived in “their” house at Ngossi from April 2007 to July 2011, and we were delighted to hear that Wantok is still performing sterling service as guard dog. Our Kiwi friends lived in the end house on the next ridge to the west of us. We have many many fond memories of the fun we had in that house at Ngossi, parties and dinners etc, with Wantok buzzing around the yard barking his head off at anybody who dared to came near.

We arrived in Honiara in March 2007 and lived in the King Sol for the first month while we desperately looked around for somewhere permanent to live. Expat housing, and indeed housing in general, was in very short supply at the time and we were very fortunate to hear of an imminent vacancy at Ngossi through the International Morning Tea Group. We hope that the Group is still active as it was an invaluable network, especially for newly arrived expats. We departed the King Sol, and relocated to Ngossi on 1 April 2007 – on the morning of the earthquake and tusanami disaster at Gizo, killing 52 people. The house was unfurnished as the previous tenants were there for about 7 years and had all of their own furniture, and subsequently took it with them on vacating. A senior AusAID official (as it was then called) and his wife who lived in a lovely cross-shaped house at Tasahe very kindly loaned us some basic items, and we also ventured over to Chinatown and bought some things at George Wu & Co while we arranged for a pile of stuff to be shipped from home.

I was working for Cardno with the Government Housing Project in the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Surveys in Hibiscus Ave. We were supposed to have guards at the house as the security situation was a bit dodgy at the time, but we figured that local guards would go home to their families if trouble developed (fair enough too) so we decided to look for a guard dog even though we never had dogs previously. A lady by the name of Annie was working at Leilei and was going home, and she spread the word that she wanted homes for 2 dogs, so we quickly went and saw her. Annie’s house at West Cola was owned by one of the local advisers in our project, but the house was already spoken for but not the dogs. That’s how Wantok, and his trusty friend, Bruno, arrived at Ngossi. Wantok and Bruno became famous throughout Honiara because of their incessant fighting and snarling, to the extent that we were known to live at the house with the 2 crazy dogs. They were exceptionally energetic and raced up and down the fencelines and delighted in scaring the living daylights of anybody who happened to walk past. They soon wore the grass away all along the fenceline to the extent that the ground was bare just inside the fence.

Wantok and Bruno

Wantok and Bruno

We had never owned dogs previously and we became concerned about their incessant brawling. They really used to get stuck into each other, as Wantok was an energetic nutcase and the older Bruno wanted to be top dog. Confrontations were pretty regular, and they earned a bad reputation amoung our neighbouring Solomon Islanders. They actually got on reasonably well, and a lot of it was just noise and showtime. One day, we decided to take them to Dr Baddlely who had a clinic at Chinatown to see if he could calm them down somehow. I tied them to restraints in the back of our RAV4 but they were so excited that they struggled free, and set themselves up on the front passenger seat and looked around with great interest as we drove along. I still recall the looks of amazement as we drove past the Central Markets at Wantok and Bruno sitting regally in airconditioned comfort while everybody trudged along the road in the heat!

The vet gave us some welcome advice about controlling dogs, and gave them an injection of some sort which would be effective for a short period and slowed them down for a couple of weeks. That was long enough for us to be able to calm them when they got restless – at least for a while anyway! Sadly I had to get Bruno put down in 2010 when he got really sick and could not eat. Wantok’s personality then fully emerged and he became a good doggy friend, as well as an exemplary guard dog. He was a very energetic dog and a very alert dog, who was seemingly always on watch even when he was asleep. He seemed to be able to differentiate the sounds from particular cars, and would regularly hear our cars or friends’ cars approaching from out of sight, and would he wait at the gate for the car to arrive.

The stories about Wantok were legendary. He was a Gold Member of the Honiara Chorus, and the children over the road in the High Com Staff Quarters used to get him started by making realistic yowling noises and then our dogs would joyfully join in. What a racket. They used to terrorise anybody walking anywhere near, and had a particular aversion to a couple of noisy trucks that went past the house. They just about went berko when the trucks went past and the drivers used to delight in stirring the up by revving their engines and yelling and laughing in true Happi Isles tradition as they went by. I recall one time when our furniture arrived and was being delivered by a truck from Point Cruz with about 6 boys on board. They started unloading and then Wantok and Bruno somehow got out of the laundry where I had locked them in, and went for the boys. I have never seen blokes move so fast – they jumped from the ground to the very top of the load without seeming to twitch a muscle. They would not come down until I got the dogs chained up well and truly to a post in the garage.

Another really troublesome (funny later) incident was when I was leaving for work one morning – I had to open the gate then get back into my car and drive through and then shut the gate behind me, and unbeknown to me about 6 pigs that a neighbour down the hill was fattening up had escaped and were contentedly rooting around unseen slightly downhill in the long grass outside our gate. Wantok and Bruno spotted the pigs and zipped out the gate at warp speed and got stuck into the pigs. Well … what a schmozzle, the dogs were barking frantically, the pigs were absolutely screaming blue murder, the pig owner raced up and joined in the melee trying to save his pigs and was shouting his head off at me, and I was yelling at the dogs. It was bedlam. People appeared from nowhere (like they do in Honiara when something interesting unfolds) and they were all hugely amused by the spectacle and the din, though the audience sensibly kept well clear. I was not going to get too close on foot either, so I jumped into my car and drove into the mass of struggling animals and edged backwards and forwards and yelled and blew the horn, and eventually cornered the dogs and grabbed them and shoved them back through the gate. Eventually order was restored. The pig owner was very upset about his poor pigs but the pigs seemed OK except for a few bite marks. The pig owner and I had a bit of a chat in the Sollies way, and after the handover of some Sol Brew all was well again!

We nearly lost Wantok for good one day when I went to the Saturday market in my car, and later Cherolyn went to the golf club in her car. Wantok was very attached to Cherolyn and he dug his way out under the front gate and raced off after her, but she did not see him. The gate area was later concreted. We were quite upset when we both came home later, and realised that Wantok was gone. We drove all over the place trying to find him. Our neighbour’s guards said that he saw Wantok at Town Ground a day or two later. We drove around the district shouting Wantok! Wantok! when we saw a dog that looked like him in the streets, but soon stopped shouting when all the Solomon Islanders in the street all stopped and looked around to see if somebody was trying to call them!! Anyway, about a week later we were resigned to the fact that Wantok was gone, and it was so quiet without him and nowhere near as safe. Then an colleague in our office who lived at Lengakiki called me to say that Wantok was at their gate. This adviser had taken over my previous job along with my old company car. We could only think that Wantok remembered the car from when it was garaged at Ngossi, and he saw/heard the car leaving the Lands Ministry in Hibiscus Ave and followed the car from Town Ground to Lengakiki. Wantok was very hungry and thin and dirty and had been in plenty of fights during the week by the look of him, but he was so pleased to see us and be returned to Ngossi!! It could only happen to Wantok – a very lucky dog.

Wantok has a distinct appearance. Nice golden fur and a pointy nose and stick-up ears. We have just come back from a trip to Fraser Island, and could have sworn that we saw his rellies among the wild dingos there. He was actually a nice dog, albeit a nuisance at times with all the noise. Even though there were breakins nearby, we never had any trouble the whole time we were at Ngossi, and we have no doubt that that was because of Wantok being Wantok. He was an excellent guard dog, and showed he meant business, but was friendly and quite protective to those he knew. He used to watch over the lookalike house next door as well, and took quite a shine to our friend Wendy who worked at SIBC, and lived next door.

The Housing Project contract expired and we left Honiara in July 2011 after 4 and a half approx years of hard slog at work, and lots and lots of fun times. We traveled around and loved our time in the Sollies. Beautiful place and nice people, The house at Ngossi was owned by Gus, and we introduced Gus to David and Jan who were arriving when we were leaving. David and Jan had had a previous stint in Honiara, and had visited us at Ngossi a number of times, and were keen on moving in when we departed. We were very pleased that David and Jan wanted to keep Wantok as we were quite worried what to do about him when we were getting close to go finnis.

We gathered from Julie and John’s story in the Pineapple Post that they, in turn, took over the house along with the famous Wantok when David and Jan left Honiara. We are so pleased that Wantok has been well cared for and is still going strong, and is looking after his owners in his inimatable style. He is a very lucky Happi Isles dog.

If anybody visits Julie and John at Ngossi, then please give Wantok a good pat from us, and perhaps a tin of oil tuna – the one with the blue label, he used to love it.

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