I have been pondering on the significance of the passing of our beloved abandoned island dog Moose or Mouss as he is known to the New Caledonians. How so many sailors came to meet him, how so many people were inspired by his story of survival, how to some he was a guide on Ilot Casy and to others a guardian of souls already departed.
I would like to suggest in this post, that Moose was much more than that. So let’s begin…
We often reflect on the impact of a human’s life as they depart this realm, but rarely does one reflect on the impact of a dog’s life. Humans get awarded medals, titles and the more, but our Moose, well what are we going to award him with?
How does one honor an animal that survived alone on an island and made it his land for all people to visit under his guidance?
How does one enshrine in history an animal, who was guardian of the past and who had such a tremendous impact on the future animal welfare across the outer islands of New Caledonia?
How do we put it in a few words a suitable memorial to a dog with an amazing personality, who abandoned by humans, nevertheless, united a people from across the world?
Well maybe we should begin with the story of a seaman, who lies buried on Ilot Casy, Moose’s island, namely Captain John Oliver.
John Oliver’s story is an interesting one. Apparently, he is considered one of the pioneers of New Caledonia and one of his sons was the first white child born in New Caledonia; as the French report said…”an Englishman!” As well as being in the Sandalwood trade, he was the first pilot (sea captain) commissioned by the French government to guide in ships. Stationed at Amedee Island he guided ships through the various passes, Boulari, Dumbea etc.
From the information researched by his great great grandson, Stuart Oliver, now living in Perth, Australia, John Oliver was born in Cornwall in the 1820’s and migrated to Australia. Stuart had been brought up to believe that John Oliver was a Frenchman who was lost at sea with his ship. However through his research he discovered that John Oliver was a Cornish sea captain who traded between China, Sydney and New Caledonia. His ship, La Thisbe, was lost 30 nm off Port de France now Noumea and he was buried on Moose’s island , Ilot Casy in Baie de Prony.
John Oliver was a well respected mariner who nevertheless was accused of the murder of a Kanak chief in his efforts to secure sandalwood. He was never convicted but his history hints at how the times were maybe less respectful of the native population. It is interesting that his great great grandson has worked throughout his life to overcome the different ways people are treated due to race and nationality.
So John Oliver was buried on Casy Island. His Australian family was thrilled to discover that his remains were laid to rest in the cemetery along members of the Alric family. They thought of Moose as his guardian.
So maybe it is no surprise that Moose looked after mariners departed and mariners very much alive. He was a mascot to the visitors of his island and he was proud to show Ilot Casy to them.
Through our YouTube channel, Catamaran Impi, and social media, Mouss brought people together inspired by his story and these people looked after him in his later years. People from South America, The United States and Canada, Eastern Europe, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Northern Europe and from the country where I was born Belgium. All of them, wanted to care for this one dog, who chose to live alone on an island.
We also made many new friends face to face through knowing Moose, many New Caledonians and not least Guy Kane who amongst all the veterinarians in New Caledonia was the only one who agreed to care for an abandoned island dog, a veterinarian who did not accept the status quo, but took a risk in doing something different and very much needed.
Through Guy’s work, a new interest in the animal welfare on the outer islands was sparked and as we sailed to Australia from New Caledonia, that spark was carried as a flame by the Down Under Rally, a new Australian company encouraging Australian sailors to explore New Caledonia, Vanuatu and Fiji.
They pledged a significant contribution for each boat that sailed to support animal welfare in New Caledonia. In addition to generous gifts via the YouTube community and the support of NGO’s in New Caledonia it became possible to benefit the long standing plight of animals on the outer islands of New Caledonia, more in particular on Ile des Pins, often called one of the most beautiful islands in the South Pacific.
There it has become obvious through the work of Guy Kane who has sterilized over 130 dogs over the last 3 months on Ile des Pins, that caring for animals also supports the local people who have little or no means to control the animal population without the help of veterinaries.
We are grateful to Guy Kane and the local animal welfare associations, the municipality of Ile des Pins, the Down Under Rally, our YouTube followers and Facebook friends who have made this part of the South Pacific a friendlier and more caring place. Through caring for animals, we have brought the people closer together.
So to come back to Moose’s legacy, I would like to see his story told on the Ilot Casy along side the story of captain Oliver, who was a mover and shaker in his times. So too was Moose, a star in highlighting the need for animal welfare in New Caledonia and through this bringing together people from all over the world. In his way setting right some of the injustices the Kanak people undoubtedly were subjected to during earlier years.
We love you Moose, we know you were just one dog but in helping you we feel we made the world a better place.
No matter what hardships we have lived, let’s focus on the positive and share a little love like Moose did. Let’s bring people together. Let this be Moose’s legacy. To view Moose’s story, please click the link below.