Tough guy has a heart of gold

The Scali sisters — Khloe, 5, Eva, 7, and Stella, 7 — love Max the explorer. Photo by Megan Fisher

Max is an 18-month-old German Shepherd. Orchardists Dom and Vanessa Scali say Max is the protector of their family, despite his naughty tendencies. The family has 37ha at Shepparton East and 25ha at Orrvale where they grow apples and pears. They refer to Max as a social butterfly. While he is employed as the Scali family guard dog, Max tends to run amok on the orchard and has quickly nestled into the hearts of the Scali family. Their daughters — Stella, 7, Eva, 7, and Khloe, 5 — have him eating out of the palms of their hands, literally.

When did you get Max?

Vanessa: We got Max about 18 months ago now, he was naughty for a good year before we sent him to puppy school and it’s only now that he’s starting to calm down. I’ve always loved German Shepherds, we had them when I was growing up.

Max is a ball of energy. Photo by Megan Fisher

What’s his role on the farm?

Dom: He’s our guard dog, really, but he likes to think of himself as orchard supervisor. He thinks he’s helping me on the farm by following me around, but all he does is try and bite the tyres of the motorbike and tractors. He’s social during the day, but once it hits nightfall, he is ready to protect us against anyone that comes on the property.

Why did you name him Max?

Vanessa: Me and the girls named him Max. I’ve always loved the name and had the name picked out when I was pregnant and thought we were having a boy. We didn’t piece it together until recently, but Mr Swainston, the previous owner of the farm and who the road is named after, is called Max. So, it’s also like a tribute to him.

Dom: If he was a girl he would have been called Dora the Explorer because that’s all he likes to do, explore.

Eva, Stella and Khloe Scali adore their dog Max. Photo by Megan Fisher

How is he with the girls?

Vanessa: He absolutely loves them. He will follow them around for hours. He was supposed to be a real farm dog, you know? A scary dog. But he turns so soft when he’s around them. He looked for Khloe, our youngest, the day she decided to go hide in the orchard and we couldn’t find her. That was scary but we had him by our side. We love him.

What sort of property do you have?

Dom: We have 90 acres here and 60 at Orrvale. We grow Gala, Granny Smith, Golden Delicious and Pink Lady apples and Packham, Beurre Bosc and Josephine pears.

Max is both protector and playmate at the Scali orchard. Photo by Megan Fisher

What are some of Max’s funny traits?

Dom: Remember how clumsy he used to be, Vanessa? He used to get out under the fence when he was a pup. He’s like Houdini, he will get out under the fence and knows when it’s locked or not.

Vanessa: He knows everyone on the road. He’s a social butterfly. Regularly, we will drive home, and he’s tied up under the neighbour’s tree and we will get a phone call to come get him. Everyone knows him. He loves the fruit pickers, and they love him too.

Words: Lauren Formica

Pictures: Megan Fisher

Off on an adventure with Max. Photo by Megan Fisher