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The Farmer + The Golden Guru

Craig + Charlie

Name: Charlie    Age: 11    Breed: Golden Retriever

Charlie in three words: Big, goofy, sweet. 


Craig Thorburn grew up on a hobby farm in Central California, surrounded by animals. With dreams of one day having a farm of his own, it was during the 70’s when Craig left behind his idyllic California farm life as a young hippie, keen to explore the world. After living in Indonesia for over two decades, Craig finally made his way to Australia.

Now a retired activist and academic, Craig is currently living his dream on 57 acres of Victorian countryside. In addition to a wondrous menagerie of farmyard animals, Craig shares his hobby farm with daughter Tina and her rescue pup Reggie, along with his four-legged best mate, Golden Retriever-come-spiritual guru Charlie.

We spent some time on Craig’s hobby farm to see first-hand the bond he and Charlie share. And we’re pretty convinced that if Charlie could speak, he’d tell us that he too is living his (and every dog’s) dream.



A Place to Call Home + Hunting Fails


Where does your story with Charlie begin?

It was many years ago, and it all started when my partner at the time found a family in Berwick with a litter of purebred Golden Retriever puppies. We picked Charlie (he was called ‘Goldie’ originally) from seven other brothers and sisters. He was not the most gregarious of the bunch, but we thought he was definitely the sweetest.

Over the years, Charlie and I have lived all over Melbourne. We’ve stayed in Malvern East (where he used to go walkabout with alarming regularity!), Oakleigh South (which he loved because there was a little reserve with an oval at the end of our street, and an abandoned quarry next to that…) and now we live in Anakie. Here, Charlie has become the dog he was born to be.


You and Charlie must have a great life together on the farm. What’s an average day like?

A regular day involves lots of Charlie lying about on his back, with his legs up in the air.

We definitely take a walk or two and if the weather’s fine, Charlie will go for a swim at the dam. He loves to get wet, and takes great enjoyment from getting everyone else wet too! He loves being with people much more than with other dogs, or any other type of animal.

Charlie also loves to devour bones, and especially toys. Chew toys last an average of 11 minutes before they become random bits of rubber!

“Charlie always gets lots of cuddles. Whatever he does, he’s ‘Good Boy!’ and gets a pat or a cuddle. He likes to talk out loud when he gets his cuddles.”


Does Charlie have any odd-ball behaviours?

Charlie’s an avid mouse hunter – though his enthusiasm is rarely matched with success. And we always know when he can smell a fox, because he’ll start barking in falsetto.

His favourite place to lie down is somewhat inconvenient, being square in the centre of the kitchen or in front of the refrigerator door.

“He’s the only Golden Retriever I’ve ever met who doesn’t love riding in a car, and he absolutely LOVES being at the vet.”



Playing Dumb + A Dog Dalai Lama


What are some of Charlie’s most funny or memorable moments?

When Charlie used to go walkabout in Malvern East (there was a golf course across the road where he loved to roam), good samaritans would sometimes catch him and lead him up the road to Ashburton Vet. En route, they’d walk him right past our house. And Charlie would be having such a great time that he’d never give any indication he lived there!

“A couple years ago, Charlie had a growth on his jaw and the vet recommended a jaw resection. The surgery was successful and he recovered quickly. It has changed nothing for Charlie – he still eats sticks and bones with aplomb – and he clearly has no clue how goofy and undignified he looks with his three-tooth grin.”


Another story is that we used to have a miniature Dachshund named Benji who was extremely devious and would make a habit of destroying things. Whenever I’d come home from work, I would immediately know if Benji had been up to mischief – not from Benji’s behaviour mind you, but from Charlie’s manner and posture.

If Charlie was slouching, contrite and tail down, that meant Benji had mangled something. If Charlie was happy, with tail wagging, that meant Benji hadn’t been a dickhead that day!


If Charlie was born a person instead of a dog, what kind of person do you think he’d be?

Charlie would be the happiest, most gregarious and friendly person you’ve ever met. He reminds me of what I imagine the Dalai Lama to be like.

“Charlie is like my guru and spiritual guide. The more I can be like Charlie, the better I am.”


At Dogfolk Pet Photography, we photograph dogs and the people who love them.

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