Bass Strait Maritime Centre


Well it seems like forever since we all saw each other at the Bass Strait Maritime Museum.

Jaydeyn and Sarah are doing a wonderful job keeping the place afloat however speaking of Sarah: she has asked me to put together a short story of Zumbo, my dog.

Zumbo at the BSMC. Photo: Jaydeyn Thomas


Well Zumbo is more than a dog to me, he’s actually my assistance dog. So, what is an assistance dog? They’re dogs that assist their owner and are purpose trained for specific functions. In my case, severe vertigo at times and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). As a veteran who suffers from this condition, also a disability from trauma of a low back injury, I qualified for a trained assistance dog. Although Zumbo was already partly trained in most aspects of PAT (public access training) he needed to be purpose trained for my specific needs. I applied for a German Shepherd or a Rottweiler because I weigh 91kgs and I needed a large strong dog who could and does support me if I am about to fall or just stumble due to my vertigo.

Normally an applicant can wait for as long as 12 months or more for an assistance dog however Zumbo came to me in just 5 weeks. The trainer and suppliers called me and said we have the perfect dog for you. Virgin Airways flew Zumbo from Sydney to Launceston for free because he is an assistance dog. Anyway, after purpose re training Zumbo for approximately 3 more months by myself with guidance from the trainer, I made enquiries into Zumbo’s past history. Well, he is full of surprises!


Zumbo at the beach. Photo: Martin


Turns out Zumbo (or Zummie as I call him) he served in Afghanistan as an IED or (improvised explosive device)  sniffer dog. So, me being retired ADF now I knew why they told me we have the perfect dog for you. We are best of buddies and he’s more than just a dog to me. He’s my buddy, my rock, and emotional release from PTSD.

Apparently Zumbo is a Yank LOL he come from a well-known Rottweiler breeder in Tennessee USA who breeds pure breed rottweiler puppies for service dogs, for the police, military, customs and security. Zumbo served in Afghanistan for two years and also in Germany as a security dog at a US/West German airbase. He was used mostly as a sniffer dog but also along with his handler did house to house search in ISIS strongholds to sniff out ordinance or (bombs and bomb making materials). He was retired at age three years after training for one year and serving for just over two years in the military. He was flown by the RAAF from Kabul Afghanistan to Richmond AFB in NSW to be used as a security dog for the RAAF along with German shepherds and was used for just five months.


Zumbo loves a car ride. Photo: Martin


Unfortunately, due to leaving his post not once but 3 times while scran (food) was on in the canteen, he was retired from service. Turned out his weakness is hamburgers. I’m guessing the yanks fed him burgers or parts thereof, so, I was fortunate enough to score a wonderful smart partly trained very valuable Rottweiler at a bargain basement price which shall remain untold.


Zumbo in the Reflections Room. Photo: Jaydeyn Thomas


Just to cap off I started to look into Zumbo’s background when I realised some and many of his traits were extraordinary e.g. he would walk not beside me but in front of me, on or off lead, approximately 4 or 5 meters and zig zag (no doubt from his roadside IED sniffer training). So it took me some time to retrain him to walk beside me but not on a loose lead but a somewhat taut lead to assist with my condition. Also, reaction to loud noises e.g.  a balloon bursting at a birthday party and many other things which I not have time to go into.

However, just a quick couple of short stories: in 2017 my brother came to Tassie to visit us. We walked Zumbo to the Bluff jetty, almost opposite the BSMC, two little boys were fishing off the end. They had a backpack near them. Zumbo crouched down with the hair up on his back and then sat looking at me. I asked the boys what they had in the backpack saying, it’s okay I’m not a cop, just my dog is very interested in your bag. I asked if he would look inside for any ordinance? He found one 22 calibre spent cartridge from bunny shooting with his dad some four months earlier! Now there was a slight breeze and we were outside, but he still picked up that shell case, what an amazing nose? My brother was stunned.


Devoted dog friend. Photo: Jaydeyn Thomas


Secondly, my wife and I normally go into Bunnings main entrance but prior to COVID-19 we went into the garden section entrance. While on lead he dragged me straight over to the pallets of fertilizers doing the exact same actions as at the jetty but looking at me as if to say dad, dad, there’s a shipload of fertilizer here (fertilizer being of course one main ingredient of bomb making).

Anyway, that’s my short story of my amazing dog Zumbo. By the way his favourite play mates are German Shepherds. Not surprisingly, his girlfriend is a German Shepherd.  Oh, by the way, Zumbo is fully trained and registered with the DCC as an assistance dog. He is a gentle giant of 61kgs and not at all aggressive as his training may suggest. Sniffer dogs are used for that purpose – not attack or protection purposes.


Zumbo staying close. Photo: Martin


Cheers everyone, ????

Martin (one of the many volunteers at the BSMC)


Please note, we welcome assistance animals at the BSMC!