For many, though, living in an expat bubble is common enough. And while some support charitable causes and others volunteer with local charities, few attempt to start something that will live beyond them when they leave.

I had a coffee recently with Australian-born Robyn Flemming. We met in person several years ago when her nomadic life brought her to Budapest, and we've been aware of each other virtually since then.

Among her many passions, which include photography, travel, running and writing, Flemming is a Dog Lover. Those capitals are deliberate. Currently dogless, she's embarking on a new venture in Budapest that will give lots of dogs the chance to meet other dogs, and lots of dogless doglovers the chance to meet them, too. It's her way of giving back: "I'm incredibly grateful to Budapest for opening its arms to me."

Years ago, in Australia, Flemming had a dog-loving friend visit on holiday from Canada. To entertain her visitor, she invited all her dog-owning friends to bring their dogs to a breakfast. They met at a local dog-friendly café and had a blast. The Dogs' Breakfast Group was born. "Naming something is very powerful. It gives it energy," she said.

Robyn Flemming isn't a woman who does things by halves. She'd contacted local businesses to sponsor doggie bags for the dogs involved and generated enough buzz to get the attention of the local press. They made the papers. At that first Dogs' Breakfast, 13 dogs showed up with their owners in tow. After a few months of regular meetups, the numbers grew. The group moved to a leash-free park with BBQ facilities. Everyone brought sausages to cook for the dogs. The clue is in the name – the dogs' breakfast – it's all about the dogs. Like humans, dogs make friends. And like children, it's important for puppies to learn to socialise with other dogs, too.

The concept took off. Flemming put together a regular newsletter, The Border Tail. It featured dog biographies written by owners in their dog's voice. There were profiles of local veterinarians. Devo the Wonderdog had a movie review column, and the Style Hound gave fashion tips in a column called "Fur, Fangs and Fashion".

Flemming organised an art exhibition called The Dog Show and asked local artists to contribute dog-themed pieces. It caught local, state and national attention with coverage from press, radio and television. Riding the Calendar Girls phenomenon, she initiated a photoshoot of some of the group members (including the city mayor) with their dogs. A photo titled The Hunting Lodge (The Dogs Breakfast Group), shot by Jules Boag, was shortlisted for the Australian National Photographic Portrait Prize in 2007. The group had reach.


Mary Murphy is a freelance writer and public speaker who thinks, travels and likes her cemeteries. Read more at www.unpackingmybottomdrawer.com | www.anyexcusetotravel.com | www.dyingtogetin.com


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