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Fond memories of famous Fred

Monday, 23rd May, 2011

FAREWELL: Local tourist attraction “Fred” the white Blue Heeler has passed away. FAREWELL: Local tourist attraction “Fred” the white Blue Heeler has passed away.

By John Casey

Broken Hill has sadly lost another of its most photographed famous faces.

Just like film-star Chips Rafferty, opera prima donna June Bronhill and artist extraordinaire Pro Hart, "Fred" the lop-eared Blue Heeler with the brown patch over his right eye has passed away.

With his distinctive markings and a character like no other dog, Fred became one of the city's most photographed tourist attractions over the past decade according to proud owner Jeffrey Strawbridge.

"The best part was he put a smile on everyone's face," Jeff fondly remembered.

"Whether it was young kids or the elderly, he attracted people like a magnet and tourists to Broken Hill could never get enough of him.

"Everyone was amazed by him and it was unbelievable how many people would stop and ask to take his photo," Jeff continued.

Whether Fred was decked out in his favourite sunglasses and Drizabone or riding almost likes a local dignitary in the back of Jeff's distinctive 1995 Longreach ute, he always drew a crowd.

"He had a bag of tricks and kept us all amused," Jeff recalled.

"I'd shape as if pointing an imaginary gun at Fred and he would rise up on his back legs and put his front paws up against a wall.

"He'd put on a real show and it is just so sad that ill-health got the better of him," he added.

Fred and his now heart-broken owner shared a 12-year bond as "soul mates" and the pair was so close Jeff can't bring himself to get another dog.

"I'm still quite emotional about the whole thing," Jeff said.

"But Fred had been struggling with 'hot-spots'(a common disease for dogs which attacks internally) and when the medication started to offer him little comfort there wasn't anything else that could be done.

"He was one of a kind, so there is no point in me getting another," he continued.

However, Jeff does have plenty of happy memories to take with him on his long-planned trip around Australia, which he will now be taking solo.

"If I was in a hurry to go anywhere I couldn't take Fred with me because his magnetism to people would add a couple of hours to a short trip to the shops," Jeff laughed.

"He was such a clever dog, a really intelligent animal."

"Everyone has been asking me about Fred and if the stories about him passing are true, so I wanted to let those people why they haven't seen him lately."

Jeff first laid eyes on Fred when the pup was just six weeks old and they have been friends ever since.

"I was painting my cousin's house when the litter was born and I said I'd take Fred because of his distinctive looks," Jeff said.

While the city and our tourists are poorer for Fred's passing, Jeff is also saying farewell to the Silver City where he was born on April 17, 1947.

A Vietnam veteran with the infantry 9 RAR who served with former Australian Defence Force chief General Peter Cosgrove when he was awarded the Military Cross, Jeff has his house on the market and has been planning a trip around Australia for years.

"The timing is right for me to move on," Jeff said.

"I'll spend a couple of months travelling around the country and probably settle down somewhere near my brother Dennis who is up in Queensland."

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