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Hitch-hiking hound takes a leading role.

The heart-warming tale of a friendly, flatulent and hitch-hiking dog has seen major mining firms branch out into new territory, as they support an Australian film about the legendary 'Red Dog'.

Companies such as Rio Tinto and Woodside Petroleum have backed the low-budget movie which depicts Western Australia's resource-rich Pilbara region in the 1970s when the mining industry was taking off there.

The result was that the makers of the film 'Red Dog', which stars American Josh Lucas, were given rare access to mine sites close to the coastal town of Dampier and were able to follow the mining of iron ore from pit to port.

Producer Nelson Woss said: "We've gone right into their operations and filmed it. Yesterday we were on a Chinese ore carrier, filming the ore being put on the carrier."

'Red Dog' is based on the life of a russett-coloured kelpie (Australian sheep dog) who became a key figure in Dampier as the community grew up around the expanding mining industry.

The entrance to the town now boasts a large statue of the dog, a monument which inspired the writer Louis De Bernieres to pen a half-fictional account of the animal's life on which the movie is based.

Woss said the stories he has been told about Red Dog during the weeks the crew has been filming in the hot and sparsely populated Pilbara have supported the animal's legendary stature in the region.

"He interacted with everybody," he said. "Whenever there was an event or a community get-together, whether it was something official or a local barbecue at the beach, the dog had an uncanny ability to turn up... And, as a result, he was basically a member of the town."

Woss said the dog, owned by no one but cared for by all, provided company to many of those stranded in the remote area by their work whether they were carrying out the hardest manual work or middle-managers sitting in the air-conditioned site office. He also interacted with local Aborigines.

"The dog went everywhere, he hitch-hiked on trucks, he was on trains, he apparently was on a boat. The workers just adored him so they would take him along wherever they went," Woss added.

"He had a unique ability to hitch-hike. He could tell who his friends were from the sound of their cars," Woss said, adding that the dog would wait in the middle of the road until the car stopped and picked him up.

The dog travelled intensively in the Pilbara, an area where towns can be hundreds of kilometres apart.

Woss said locals had told him the story of Red Dog being taken by a holidaying miner to Perth, and then escaping from the man and hitch-hiking the 1,500km back to Dampier.

The canine was also known for its flatulence. "I think what happened was everybody fed him," Woss said. "As a result, I think at times he had digestion issues."

Dampier was shattered when Red Dog died, at an old age, in November 1979 because he had been a big part of the town, Woss went on to add.

The film, which wraps up its Pilbara shoot this week, is due for release in early 2011.

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Publication:7 Days (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Jun 14, 2010
Words:550
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