In Memory of the Davey
Jorja, Alexis & their Malamutes, Neo & Mishka
It was with
great sadness and shock that we learned of the loss of our friends Rob & Tash,
their young daughters Jorja
and Alexis, and their beloved Malamutes, Neo and Mishka,
in the devastating Black Saturday bushfires that hit Kinglake on 7
Our hearts go out to
their families, Mike, Liz and Olivia Halls and to Joan, Leon, Darren &
Shane Davey, to their extended families and other close friends. The
tragic and devastating loss is also shared by their other family of
which we are all a part - the close-knit family of us that represent the
Alaskan Malamute and dog-sledding community in Victoria.
The fact that so many people have spoken, phoned or emailed us about
Rob, Tash and the girls, sent cards, photos and their memories, or have
come along to the memorials to share in remembering them is a testimony
to the number of other people whose lives they had an impact on.
We can’t help but feel that Rob would have been absolutely stoked to be
the centre of attention, and seeing himself and his family in the papers
and on TV – he always was one who liked to be in the limelight and in
front of a camera, if only it weren’t for all the wrong reasons this
time. Tash would probably have been a little embarrassed at all the
fuss on their behalf, but I am sure would have been humbled and quietly
pleased all the same.
Our own memories of Rob and Tash go back about 12 years to when we first
met them in 1996 at the Thursday night Malamute club workshops. Rob was
a big, pony-tailed bloke accompanied by the pretty young Tash, a bright
yellow ute and a couple of rather overweight Malamutes, their first
Mally Kody and Rob’s pride and joy, the young Indi. After our workshops
we would all gather at Hungry Jacks, McDonalds or Rossi’s Pizza and our
It was not long before both Rob and Tash became involved in the sport of
sled dog racing and the Malamute club, and both took on a number of
Committee roles over the years including Rob being Vice President of
Activities, Sledding and Obedience Co-ordinator, and Tash being
Vice-President of Breed Welfare, Puppy Registrar, Treasurer and
Publicity & education officer.
They entered in the occasional dog show quite a few years back, but
Rob’s distaste for dog washing and getting up early soon put an end to
that despite some encouragement with a few wins coming Mishka and Indi’s
way. It didn’t matter to Rob if Indi lost or won, in Rob’s eyes Indi
was perfect and could do no wrong. How he loved that dog.
Teamed with Indi, Rob soon made an impression on the top placings in
sledding events, and of course those Puma leggings made an impression as
well, but maybe not such a favourable one! Of course Tash was always
there as the ever-present steadying influence and support team to Rob
and their dogs, as well as competing herself in events. Rob always
denied being competitive, but competitive he certainly was - we often
joked that we needed the St Johns ambulance at events to revive Rob when
he had pushed himself so hard he collapsed on the ground once over the
finish line. How much was a bit of overacting and how much was real we
will never know!
We have many memories of Rob rushing back to the finish line after a
race to check out who he might have beaten. Many a time he tried to
sneak a look over my shoulder at the clipboard to see the results, or
inventing an excuse to go in our caravan where the results board was
written up. We pretty soon learnt the results had to be hidden if we
wanted to keep them a surprise.
Such was Rob’s enthusiasm to do well that he often came across the
finish line ahead of his team, a fact we never let him forget, and even
in a competition with Tash for the winning place Rob was busting a gut
to beat her over the line. Tash ran a dog for the fun of it, regardless
how well she did and with whose dog she did it, but in the one season
where Rob relented and allowed Tash to run the young Mishka she did very
well winning the 1-dog point score competition which had only ever been
won by a male in the past. Of course such a fast dog wasn’t going to
stay out of Rob’s team for too long, and in the following years he ran
Mishka and Neo in the 2-dog class with many wins in the Point score and
State Cup events coming their way.
Much to Rob’s delight in particular, his name appeared many times on
several perpetual sledding trophies, a fact he was only too happy to
relate to anyone who would listen. It seems quite fitting that some of
those perpetual trophies were lost with them in the Kinglake fires, we
can’t help but feel he would have been happy to take them with him. The
trophies will be replaced, but this time they will be dedicated to the
memory of Rob, Tash, the girls and their dogs, with one being named the
Malindiko Trophy after their kennel name, and the other being named the
Davey Memorial trophy.
Rob and Tash were particularly keen on encouraging the kids and helping
to get them involved in sledding, and had just last year started running
in the Pee Wee races with Jorja. We know Rob would have been very much
looking forward to competing again with Kosi in the coming sledding
season, but sadly Kosi was to pass away suddenly and unexpectedly just a
month before the tragedy that would almost surely have cost him his life
in any case.
Rob came along to a few weight pull events and had a go at hiking with
lndi and Mishka, earning them their backpacking titles and Indi his
Working Weight Pull Dog title. His attempts at the 75 km 3-day hikes
however were not quite as successful, with one of Rob’s favourite
stories being how he consumed a whole pack of Panadeine Forte in the
space of a weekend of hiking. To his credit he tried a few times and
I’m sure he enjoyed the camaraderie of the hikes even if his body didn’t
take so kindly to the physical demands placed on it.
Tash quite often accompanied me on hikes in recent years with Neo, who
was nicknamed “Fluffy-Man” for obvious reasons, and went on to gain
Neo’s backpacking Title. I know she was looking forward to go hiking
again with Kosi, but sadly it was not to be.
Rob and Tash always contributed to the AMCV’s fundraising with many a
bottle of wine being donated and other activities such as Trivia Nights
and Wine Tasting events being organized by them. They were regulars at
many of the pet expos the AMCV attended and were always keen to do their
bit to help educate the public about the Malamute breed. The Alaskan
Malamute Club will remain forever in their debt for the countless hours
they both contributed in their various roles, at events and at pet
Rob and Tash had always
loved our dogs almost as much as their own, especially Rob’s favourite
Tuggy, and went on to own three of our Windchill Malamutes, Mishka, Neo
and Kosi. We had always got on well with them, but this cemented our
relationship and they became like family to us, Rob even calling his
beloved Indi the “honorary Windchill Dog”.
We were pretty keen back then and often got together with the dogs for
training runs always followed by a pub dinner or fish and chips. Rob
was notorious for his rather ambitious order of 2 grilled flake, a
souvlaki, a cornjack, dim sims, potato cakes and chips. Of course
despite his protests that he would eat the lot, he was lucky to eat half
of it. Rob did love his food and I’m sure the dogs loved the fact that
so much was left over for them!
Those who stayed at Omeo in the caravan with him will tell of the
mysterious disappearance of a whole packet of mint slice in the middle
of the night – no prizes for guessing who the culprit was. We soon
learnt that if you wanted any food left for yourself it was a matter of
hiding it very well or putting it under lock and key.
The camp fires at our sledding events would sometimes become quite noisy
and animated gatherings, often with Rob presiding and telling somewhat
dubious jokes and getting up to all sorts of pranks with the boys. Tash
would often roll her eyes and go to bed early as Rob’s behaviour got
just that little bit too much for her. On most occasions Rob was a
happy bloke when he had one too many, and we soon learned to get out of
his way and lock the door to avoid being the victim of some of his
practical jokes and pranks.
Mind you, that didn’t stop him from up-ending our caravan at Omeo one
year by hanging onto the back of it while we and our cat Phoebe were
inside sleeping. He always thought it was hilarious to picture us all
in a crumpled heap up one end of the caravan along with Phoebe’s kitty
litter tray. Of course it didn’t happen quite like that, but then again
Rob was never one to let the facts get in the way of a good story.
In any case, Rob was a bloke who would have done anything for you, and
somehow we usually ended up laughing along with him even when his sense
of humour got a bit out of hand. We can still hear Tash saying as she
so often did “Rob, I can’t believe you said that!”, which of course was
an open invitation for him to take it just that one step further.
We always felt our composed, compassionate and devoted Tash was the
perfect partner to counter Rob’s exuberant nature and larger than life
personality. If anyone had the patience and tolerance and to settle Rob
it would be our sensible Tash, and she did. We always reminded Rob just
how lucky he was to have Tash – anyone who knew her will agree she was
one in a million.
Rob and Tash lived with us for a year and half before taking the big
step of buying their own property, the lovely green haven that was their
home at Kinglake, just a few kilometres up the road from us. It was a
joy, and probably also a relief to some, that Rob and Tash also
formalised their commitment to each other and finally tied the knot in
2002 at Lovegrove Winery, and we saw the mellowing of Rob over the past
few years as he began to settle into the role of family man and Dad with
the arrival of Jorja.
Ralph was honoured and proud to be Jorja’s Godfather, and we were
equally as delighted with the arrival last year of Lexi, who we had
nicknamed “Little Robbie” and Rob jokingly called “Mini Me”, such was
the strong resemblance - Rob even pointed out to us that little Lexi had
the same “muffin top” as her Dad.
Apart from his family and good wine, Rob had a love of film and
television, reflected by the naming of their Malamute “Neo” from the
film “The Matrix”, “Indi” being named after Indiana Jones and Jorja
Trinity after Jorja Foxx from CSI and Trinity also from “The Matrix”.
Rob always used to amaze us by being able to recite dialogue from the
Star Wars movies word for word, and wouldn’t miss any opportunity to do
his Darth Vader impersonations.
We remember a trip we did with Rob to South Australia to compete in some
sled dog races. The first series were in Mt Gambier followed by the
State Cup in Adelaide. Do you know how many wineries there are on the
way to Adelaide? It seemed like Rob went into every one - we didn’t
think we would ever get there. While we looked at the craft shops in
Hahndorf, Rob had to visit every cellar outlet and wine bar and do some
thorough quality control on all their products, and of course always
tried to amaze the staff with his vast knowledge of wine, and he usually
succeeded. And being so close to McClaren Vale, well, that took care of
the next day. That Rob and Tash went on to have their own wine
business, Davey Wines, seemed inevitable.
Another passion of Rob’s was the St Kilda football club, hence the
naming their latest puppy Kosi after a St Kilda footballer – we always
knew Rob would be in a really good mood if the Saints won, and perhaps
not so much if they didn’t.
As well as being passionate about their dogs, Tash was also passionate
about animal welfare, the environment and of course her pride and joy,
Jorja and Lexi. Tash just blossomed with motherhood, she filled the
role perfectly and her girls completed her family and her life. Just
when it all seemed to be coming together so nicely for them it was all
taken away – so unfair.
On a visit to Rob & Tash’s home for dinner with friends Juzzy and Mel
just a week before that awful day, Tash was proudly showing us Rob’s
handiwork in plastering their study, and the new kennel he was
building. For a bloke who seemed all thumbs when we first met him, Rob
had come along way as a handyman and both of them were understandably
very house proud. Sadly, it would be the love of their home and the
false confidence they had been given regarding defending it that was to
On the morning of the 7th of February, Tash phoned to warn
that the fires were close to us - such was her considerate nature
towards others she was more concerned about the threat to us than them
at that time.
Only later in the day when the winds changed and the sky turned into a
glowing black cloud over Kinglake did we realize the horror of what was
happening, but by then it was too late. We now know that the flames had
raced up the heavily treed slopes that led from St Andrews, Humevale and
Strathewen to engulf Kinglake with such a ferocity and speed that people
had little or no warning. The fire plan that Rob had carefully put into
place would have futile against it - they and so many others simply
stood no chance.
With the last words we heard from Tash “Fire, going!” we hoped and
prayed that they were evacuating to safety, but after a seemingly
endless Sunday of silence we all came to the sickening realization of
our worst fears – they and their dogs had not made it out of their home.
We know Rob would have done everything he possibly could have to save
his family, and that Tash would not have wanted to leave his side. Rob
& Tash had been together since meeting at Safeway in Warrnambool when
Tash was 14 and Rob 17, so it seems fitting that they left this life
together – their family remain united for eternity.
The camp fires
are now strangely
subdued, the sledding trails are that much quieter, and our lives
are emptier without them there sharing it with us.
Farewell good friends - reunited now with Kody, Kosi, and Rob’s
beloved Indi over the rainbow bridge.
Sandy Koch for Malamutes 4 Adoption - not to be reproduced without