The Mirror News

Three and soon four dogs on a Toora tree

• Lynne Hawkes and Geoff Loftus are pictured with their dogs, both live and carved, in front of what’s become a new local landmark, the Dog Tree, on the South Gippsland Highway just east of Toora. From left is Saveloy the Kelpie, Lynne with a visiting puppy, Tank the husky/heeler,  Bruno the Tenterfield terrier in Geoff’s arms and Birk the Scottish deerhound.

THREE quite different dogs, with a fourth hound soon to join them, have appeared on the stump of an ancient cypress tree at the entrance to a small rural property on the South Gippsland Highway east of Toora.

Carved with a chainsaw and then carefully coloured by Leongatha school teacher and artist Andrew Noble, the sculptured canines are remarkably exact replicas of their live counterparts who live there with their owners, Lynne Hawkes and Geoff Loftus.

Climbing to the top of the tree is the couple’s largest dog “Birk” the Scottish deerhound.

Sitting next to him is “Bruno” the Tenterfield terrier and the self-proclaimed leader of the pack, quite apart from the fact that he happens to be the smallest.

Reaching up at the front is “Tank” the husky/Queensland heeler cross, and it won’t be long before “Saveloy” the red-and-cream Kelpie is up there beside his doggy mates, too, when Andrew comes back to create him.

The dog tree has been steadily evolving over the past three weeks and already it has become a popular landmark, with cars slowing down and stopping so their drivers and passengers may take a photo.

All four real dogs are lucky dogs indeed as each was rescued at different ages and from varying circumstances and adopted by Lynne and Geoff, one by one, and given a loving, lifelong home.

The couple moved to Toora a couple of years ago and were saddened to note that the two huge cypress trees at their front gate seemed to be dying, which did in time prove to be the case.

Eventually the decision was made to trim the trees before they started dropping limbs, which reduced them considerably but left several-metre-high trunks behind.

Lynne and Geoff “thought we may as well do something with the stumps, rather than just cut them down.

“A lady we met one day with her two dogs suggested we contact Andrew, who describes himself as a ‘chainsaw carver’ who works with ‘resurrected timber’ and we soon found him on Facebook,” Lynne said.

“We love how well Andrew has portrayed the three dogs he has done so far, cutting their shapes into the timber and making the different colours of their coats with paint and wood stain.”

“He’s burnt the timber to show the black of their eyes and noses, and the insides of their ears,” Geoff said.

“We can’t believe just how many people stop to admire the dogs and Andrew’s skill!”

Lynne and Geoff have been wondering about what to do with their other tree, and whether other similar stumps, such as the two standing in the Toora Heritage Pear Orchard, could become locally significant sculptures, too.

So far they’ve come up with seeing if they can get something like a community arts grant through the South Gippsland Shire Council or the Victorian Government and perhaps begin a carved tree trail for district residents and visitors to enjoy and follow.

“We think we might ask the Toora Primary School if they would be interested in running a competition among their students to find the best idea for our second tree,” Lynne said.

“That way the local community will become really involved and our dogs will have something great next to them too!”

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