Dampier in Western Australia in 1971. There’s good money to be earned working for Hamersley Iron. Miners, steelworkers, crawler excavator drivers – workers from all over the world come here to sweat away. When the sun goes down, these grafters make their way to the industrial hick town’s only pub where they drink, recall their homes and get involved in fights. They can really use a vent for all that anger and frustration. But this particular night things are somewhat quieter than usual. In the back room a dog is drawing its last breath. But this isn’t just any old cur, this is Red Dog, a dog everybody here knows and loves and about whom everyone has a story to tell.
When Red Dog first turned up here, the pub at Dampier was a wild and desolate place. Drinkers, bruisers, gamers and con-men – everyone who came here seemed to kick up a stink. And yet, once a customer got to know Red Dog they were transformed. Take Peeto, for instance; the dog seemed to bring out a softer, more sentimental side in this brash giant of a man that nobody would have dreamed existed. Red Dog even helped Vanno, a lonely Italian, to find the love of his life; moreover, the dog managed to make miner Jocko – a man with a dark past – learn how to be a little friendlier. But then Red Dog lost his heart to John, a drifter who found a job working as a bus driver for Hamersley Iron. Clearly, this was a case of love at first sight, and from that moment on, Red Dog sat enthroned next to his master on the passenger seat. And it stayed that way – even when Nancy distracted John’s attention for a while. But John was not long for this world. Red Dog, who couldn’t understand this, parked himself outside John’s beach hut for weeks, waiting for him to return. No doubt about it, Red Dog really is a character – and tonight everyone is prepared to agree for once.