Pete & Lady

A pair of clever canines showed the San Diego Zoo that Australian dingoes are not lightly dismissed.
  • 1940s
  • 1950s

“They’re ordinary yellow dogs!” That’s what visitors would say when they came across the dingoes at the Zoo. Yet people would stop and watch, discovering that these Australian canines were really not ordinary at all. Keeper Georgia Dittoe was in charge of the Zoo’s dingo pack, which included a pair named Lady and Pete. In a 1946 ZOONOOZ article, Georgia noted that they were not at all friendly at first, but eventually she won them over.

Nonetheless, when she was in their exhibit she had to stay on her toes. “Pete stalks me all the time I am in his cage. If I am aware that he is creeping up behind me he knows it and behaves himself, but if I get careless he gives me a gentle nip just as a friendly reminder to always protect the rear.” Lady had another game with Georgia, far less gentle: “She has a playful habit of hitting me in the back with her two stiff front legs, every ounce of her weight behind the blow, and though I keep braced all the time I am in the cage, I very nearly fall on my face when she hits me.”

By night, dingoes Lady and Pete would let out their unmistakable yelp-howl, getting the Zoo’s coyotes and wolves to chime in. By day, Lady and Pete paid close attention to and took tender care of their pups. Like any couple, they were not without their quirks. Keepers noted that while watching over the pups, Lady would often sit on top of Pete, perhaps thinking “he makes quite a fine soft pillow” and she knows right where he is! Pete didn’t seem to mind this arrangement a bit. Keepers declared him a wonderful dingo and that “he will protect her against anything.”

But sometimes Pete wasn’t so keen on sharing his coveted bone with his Lady. There wasn’t dirt to bury his bone, so he would “sneak” to the pool of water once he was sure Lady and the pups were otherwise engaged. Digging furiously—and splashing everywhere—he would carefully place the bone in the pool and, you guessed it, proceed to “bury” the bone with water! ZOONOOZ described the aftermath: “With the air of a job well done, he swaggers to the top of the cage for a nap. Lady always looked the other way.” Moments later, however, when Pete drops his head on his front paws and dozes off, Lady quietly heads to the pool for the jackpot. Even with dingoes, love is give and take.

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