Warrnambool’s longest-serving penguin-protecting pooch, Eudy, has died at the age of 12.
Eudy and her sister, Tula, were the first maremma guardian dogs specifically trained to protect the now world-famous little penguin colony on Middle Island, near Warrnambool.
Maremmas have guarded the island’s penguin colony since 2006 when fox attacks and trampling saw the population dwindle to fewer than 10.
The ingenious move to use Italian sheepdogs on the island was a resounding success, with population numbers returning and the colony’s first protector, Oddball, immortalised on the silver screen alongside Shane Jacobson.
However, Oddball’s time on the island was in fact rather limited, with Eudy and Tula taking over soon after the idea took wing.
Eudy patrolled Middle Island for the final time last summer after 10 years on the job, officially hanging up her leash to join her sister in retirement.
She died from an aggressive form of bone cancer in her front legs.
‘The true heroes’
Trish Corbett, who runs the Middle Island program, said without Eudy there might not be a penguin colony to protect.
“Eudy and her sister, Tula, have been the heart and soul of the project; they’re the true heroes,” Dr Corbett said.
“It was always lovely to see how excited she was to get back to her island after a break.
“She had a beautiful smile and it always shone brightest when she was there.”
Eudy’s final resting place will be the island she so fiercely protected, with a public memorial to be held for the dog at a date to be set.
Dr Corbett said the project would not be the same without Eudy.
“Eudy spent her last few days at my house with loved ones visiting her, and went to sleep with a stomach full of roast chicken and a cool breeze on her face,” she said.
“Rest peacefully, beautiful girl.”
Warrnambool City Council’s Mayor, Vicki Jellie, said Eudy was an icon of the city.
“The Middle Island Maremma Project has captured the hearts and imaginations of millions of people around the world, and there will be so many people saddened by this news,” Cr Jellie said.
“From the day she arrived in Warrnambool as a puppy to begin her training, right up until her final summer where she was able to hand over to the next generation of guardians, protecting penguins was a job that Eudy carried out with aplomb.
“While it attracted so much global attention, the project itself is delivered by a small, dedicated team, and I’d like to extend my deepest sympathies to everyone who worked with Eudy over the years who I know will be feeling this loss immensely.”