According to local lore, the Scotland Island Dog Race started as a friendly rivalry between two ferry captains. But the 45th annual race this Christmas
Eve will be a rivalry for the ages: dog versus cat.
Gus, an 11-month-old Tonkinese cat, is planning to join about 70 dogs in the 2019 event, swimming the 550-metre stretch between Scotland Island and Church
Point Wharf on Sydney’s northern beaches for the prize of dog food and a beer.
The cat's out of the bag about Gus's participation in the dog race.CREDIT:ALEC SMART
Gus's owner, so-called political "preference whisperer" Glenn Druery, says Gus is "just like a dog". Gus joins Mr Druery on jogs and swims, and enjoys
mountain biking and kayaking.
"I put the kayak in off the dock, he jumps in the kayak and away we go," he said.
Mr Druery plans to swim in the event with Gus, staying away from the main group of dogs. All pet entrants are accompanied by their human companions,
with boats and kayaks available for breaks along the way. Gus will be no different.
Despite Gus's affinity to water, the inaugural feline entrant has become controversial.
Race organiser and Scotland Island resident Scott Taylor, concerned about safety, says Gus's participation is "not happening".
"I own two cats myself and the last place I’d want my cat to be is anywhere near that dog race," Mr Taylor said.
But Mr Druery is defending Gus's participation with dogged, albeit tongue-in-cheek, devotion.
"This is about equal rights for pets all over Australia, and hopefully internationally. I am prepared to go as far as necessary. If I could put Gus
on the electoral roll …" said Druery, comically pausing, "Hang on, now that’s an idea ..."
Mr Druery won the race previously with his dog, Bob, in 2014. Bob passed away in 2016, but Mr Druery has saved the prize beer from Bob's win, which
he plans to open on Tuesday to "celebrate Bob’s victory and the victory of Gus in the cat category".
The event's Facebook administrator, Alec Smart, says people are "flabbergasted" that a cat can swim. Despite some opposition to his participation,
Gus has secured his place in the featured swimmers pamphlet, among some of the best dogs.
At least 500 spectators are expected to attend when festivities begin at 5pm. Organisers have asked spectators to bring a donation for the bushfire appeal.