Excerpt from a letter by John Taylor, cousin of my uncle, Maurice George Blencowe. Others mentioned – my great, gran, Matilda Blencowe (nee Nourse), Maurice's aunts Miss Olive Blencowe, Mrs Ivy Taylor nee Blencowe & her son, Norman Taylor.

Toby the Wonder Dog


Dear Anne,

I regret that you did not have the opportunity as I did of knowing your Uncle Maurice.

When Maurice returned to Australia after his harrowing time after Singapore, he went to Leeton on his recuperation leave and stayed for some time with us in Mallee Street where he struck up an immediate companionship with our dog, Toby. They played games and took walks together and spent long periods just sitting together. We all felt that Toby played a big part in Maurice's recovery.

One thing was certain - Toby formed a very deep affection for Maurice. After Maurice re-joined his unit Toby would rush up to every man in Leeton in army uniform thinking that it was he.

One night Toby, who was normally a very quiet dog, set up a most mournful howl and try as I might I could not calm him. Incredible as it seems there were two wet streaks down his face, tears running from his eyes. None of our family could explain his behaviour since he seemed in perfect health although for some time very lethargic.

Some days later Dorothy rang from Sydney to tell us that she had been notified of Maurice's death in New Guinea on the date of Toby's inexplicable crying' - 2nd October 1943.

Could a dog many thousands of miles away sense the passing of a friend? Impossible: it had to have a more rational explanation, a very sore stomach or something. I personally did not accept the rationale - I was quite sure that Toby had felt a very deep personal loss.

I eventually forgot this event, but many months later Toby again set up his howl in the very early hours of one morning. On this occasion I got out of bed and went out to him, even climbing into his kennel and nursing him, but nothing could calm him. Again the tears flowed down his face.

About 7:00 a.m. Olive rang to tell Mum that Grandma had passed away in her sleep. Had I at the time had a watch, I have always felt that I could have told everyone the exact time of her death.

Between Grandma and Toby there was a wonderful relationship. Grandma was a woman of farms where dogs were treated the same as horses, cows, sheep and not allowed inside the 'house fence'.

When it came to Toby, he won her devotion entirely. By this time she was infirm, so that when she visited, Toby had to be kept in the back yard until she was safely out of the taxi and settled on a chair. Meanwhile Toby was going berserk in the yard and jumping against the back -door, barking to be let in until the door was opened and in came the hurricane.

Across the wooden veranda all was well. When he hit the kitchen Lino his legs went like pistons getting little progress until he finally reached the carpet when he’d apply the brakes and creep the final inches to her chair, and lay his head gently on her lap. She would put her hand on his head and there he would stay until told to lie down – whereupon he would lie with his chin on her foot.

Aunt Olive had a dislike for dogs so it caused an outburst when one day we visited Grandma and Toby pushed his way in and ran directly to Grandma's bedroom and laid his chin on the bed. Olive exploded, 'Get that dog out of here, 'to which Grandma very quietly replied, 'Olive, that isn’t a dog – that’s Toby!'

I was now firmly convinced that Toby felt the loss of those he loved, but it presented me with a problem. My brother, Norman was serving in New Guinea and how would Mum react if Toby turned on another of his performances? Should I suggest that Toby be put down? Mum, who had originally refused to let Eunice and I adopt this stray dog, like everyone else was devoted to him but the worry to her if it returned was unthinkable.

Luckily the Americans saved us the worry with a big bang.

At the 2015 BFA Reunion in Ringwood, family members exchanged other psychic experiences, some involving Toby.

Anne Burton,
NSW, Australia