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The secret life of Melbourne pets

To celebrate the release of The Secret Life of Pets, we tracked down pets living and working in shops all over town, and interviewed them to learn their secrets...

Photograph: Aristo Risi
The Secret Life of Pets: the movie
Film

The Secret Life of Pets: the movie

Pet antics have dominated YouTube for years, so it was only a matter of time before a movie came along tapping into the human qualities we project upon our companion animals. The Secret Life of Pets is the latest film from Illumination Entertainment, the makers of the Despicable Me movies and Minions. Our hero is Max (voiced by Louis CK), a terrier whose world is shattered when his owner Katie (Ellie Kemper) brings home Duke (Eric Stonestreet) – a big, unruly mongrel. The new canine ‘brothers’ immediately clash, which soon sees them picked up by dog catchers, only to be rescued by Snowball (Kevin Hart) – a former magician’s bunny and the leader of a gang of abandoned animals obsessed with getting revenge on humans. The two rivals are forced to join forces to get back home safely. The idea for the movie came from Chris Meledandri, founder and CEO of Illumination Entertainment. “The inspiration was all of the pets my family and I have owned since I was a little kid,” Meledandri says. “We invested these pets with rich emotional lives. We’re highly curious about what they’re doing and thinking when we’re not around.”Despicable Me’s Chris Renaud took on directing duties and enjoyed putting himself into the mindset of a pampered pet. “Katie is the centre of Max’s universe,” he explains, “and he expects that’s how she feels as well, until she brings home this other dog.” “When you meet Duke you’re not sure if you’re going to like him or not because he comes off as a to

Dog-friendly pubs in Melbourne
Bars

Dog-friendly pubs in Melbourne

Dogs are our best friends after all, so why shouldn't we take them to the pub? Chill out over a pint and a parma with your human and furry mates at Melbourne's puppy-friendly watering holes. Don't have a dog? Keep warm and cosy at these pubs with fireplaces. Once Fido's gone back to his kennel, head out to the best late-night bars in town. 

Pet accessory boutiques
Things to do

Pet accessory boutiques

We believe in the philosophy of “treat yourself” – and that goes for pets as well as humans. Here are the best places to spoil your furry friend.

The best off-leash dog areas in Melbourne
Attractions

The best off-leash dog areas in Melbourne

You and your best friend can both run free at these off-leash dog parks and beaches in the city

Top five dog-friendly weekends from Melbourne
Travel

Top five dog-friendly weekends from Melbourne

Watching your canine pal's face fall as you pack your bag for a weekend away is an experience that no dog-lover enjoys. Thankfully, getting out of town for a few days doesn't have to mean separation from your pet – many parks, beaches and camping spots allow puppies. Here at Time Out, we're pretty obsessed with dogs, which is why we've also rounded up Melbourne's best dog-friendly cafés and pubs.

Dog-friendly hotels
Travel

Dog-friendly hotels

Leaving your dog behind can be the most dreaded part of any holiday, but not if they're having a holiday of their own

Dog-friendly cafés in Melbourne
Restaurants

Dog-friendly cafés in Melbourne

These cafés are likely to give your friendly pooch some water, a treat, and probably a handshake too

How to host a puppy party in Melbourne
Shopping

How to host a puppy party in Melbourne

If you watched Real Housewives of Melbourne you’ll know that holding a party for your pooch is so hot right now. Rest assured Time Out has you covered: From where to get pup-corn to finding the perfect puppy party planner, here’s our ultimate guide to hosting a four-legged fiesta in Melbourne. Tip #1: Look the part If you've never investigated the world of fur colouring, then you're in for a hilarious treat. Out in Mulgrave, the Divine Dog Grooming team uses semi-permanent colours that last up to ten washes. Imagine the possibilities: your poodle could have pink ears at her party, or your golden retriever could impress his buddies with a green mohawk8 Duncoon Ct, Mulgrave. 03 850 7345. Tip #2: Bring the treats How can you hold a puppy party without dog-friendly snacks? Thankfully, Dog House in Collingwood has it all worked out for you. Sweet-toothed pups will love the dog-friendly ice cream, while savoury fans can tuck into turkey, chicken, beef and roo muffins. There are plenty of treats for sale, so you could even make some lolly bags for four-legged guests. Some humans might call you ridiculous, but to dogs, you’ll be the best thing in the world. 195 Johnston St, Collingwood. 03 9417 4253. doghouseaustralia.com.au Tip #3: Leave it to the professions If you’re worried that your puppy party is going to turn into a particularly hectic version of a Hair y Maclary story then why not hire a function room? Diggiddy Doggy in South Melbourne has a dedicated space for puppy pa

Meet some of Melbournes most famous pets

Willow
Things to do

Willow

House bunny Willow is a cheeky Cashmere Lop rabbit who lives with her adoring owner Jodie Kuriata in the Basin in Melbourne’s east. With a reputation for being a bit of a diva, seven-year-old Willow is the undisputed queen of the household. Tell us a bit about yourself, Willow. I like to do what I want, when I want, and I don’t really like it when someone tries to stop me from doing the things I love. So essentially, it’s all about you? Well yes. But I have a brother too. His name is Henry. He has wings and makes loud noises. I do not love Henry. What do you like to do in your spare time? I love playing in my tunnels and hiding in cardboard boxes. I like chewing Jodie’s cushions and shoes (she really shouldn’t leave them lying around). I also love sleeping. I like getting up into Jodie’s bed, but it’s so far up in the air–my little bunny legs won’t carry me that far. Luckily Jodie bought me some special stairs so I can get up and down easily. What’s your favourite thing to eat? Well, everybody knows that breakfast is the most important meal of the day so I love nothing more than getting stuck into a bowl of kale, spinach, and fresh herbs like dill and parsley. When it comes to snacks I can’t get enough of pears, bananas and apples. You get snacks too? Oh yes, I get a treat before bed and a treat when I wake up too. I won’t get out of bed for anything less than a slice of pear.

George
Things to do

George

George is a three-year-old miniature dachshund who lives in Reservoir with his long suffering yet still adoring owner, Dom Morgan. With a cheeky streak and an ego the size of Texas, George likes everyone to know he’s in the room, even if it means falling asleep on people’s feet so they can’t move. George, we hear you love your food? Oh yeah, when I get hungry I don’t want to bother anyone, so I just find my own food. I love getting into the bin – there’s so much good stuff in there! I also know where my dry food is kept. For some reason Dom keeps the dry food up high. That doesn’t make sense to me, because I am so low to the ground. Why would he do that? Anyway, one time I worked out a way to get up there and drag the dry food packet down. Boy, did I have a big feed that day! You seem to get up to a lot of mischief... My owner says that what I lack in legs, I make up for in personality. I am pretty curious and sometimes when I get bored I make special artworks by tearing up tissues, shoes and whatever else I can find around the house. Dom always uses his iPhone to capture the artwork I’ve created just for him, so he must like my work. You seem pretty confident for a little guy? I sure am. I do have fears though. I really don’t like swimming. The waves are so big that my little legs can’t outrun them. Every wave is like a tsunami to me. So no more beach trips please!

Douglas
Things to do

Douglas

Douglas is a young Lagotto Romagnolo (or to put it simply a brown, white and curly bundle of energy) whose mum happens to be much-loved comedian Hannah Gadsby. Earlier this year, Douglas got a glimpse of fame when he appeared on Hannah’s poster for her show at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. But really, he’s more the down-to-earth type. Douglas, can you describe your relationship with Hannah? Oh, I love Hannah! I’m happiest when she’s around. Even if she’s just popped out for a few minutes, when she comes home I can’t help my tail from wagging and my voice from quivering a little bit. Every night, I bring her a sock as a present, and then she lets me sleep at the end of her bed. You must miss her when she goes on tour... I do, but when Hannah goes away I get to visit my sister Frieda, who lives in Ballarat with Hannah’s best friend. We have the best time together. One time we dug up the garden together and Hannah called me a hoodlum. Frieda put me up to it though, I swear! Do you have any special skills? Sure do! I have a very sensitive sense of smell, so Hannah taught me to sniff out truffles. I’m very proud of myself, although one day I found some truffle that happened to be inside nearly half a kilo of dark chocolate – and chocolate makes me sick. Hannah got worried about me and took me to the vet. They made me throw up, but I was smiling the entire time, which made Hannah laugh a lot!

Poppy, Nonna, Nacho, Wednesday, Velma & Daphne
Things to do

Poppy, Nonna, Nacho, Wednesday, Velma & Daphne

These six ladies all live with their owner Avalon Westcott in Aspendale in Melbourne’s south. While Avalon is hard at work at the Grand Illusion Tattoo Studio in Malvern, this flock get up to all sorts of adventures. With strong personalities, these ladies really do rule the roost What do you guys like to eat? Nonna: In winter we love a hot breakfast so Avalon is kind enough to warm up some oats or rice for us. I know this sounds weird, but we also eat our own eggs. I know some people think this is gross but our eggs are a quality product and who better to eat them than us, the ones who did the hard work laying them? True. So you feel the cold? Poppy: We sure do. That’s why Avalon lets us sleep inside sometimes. If it’s cold, she makes us a bed out of a laundry basket and we get to sleep inside near the fire (but not too close lest we become charcoal chickens). She also has some special knitted outfits for us. They keep us warm during Melbourne’s brutal winters. You get to eat warm breakfasts and wear clothes; what other human things do you get to do? Wednesday: I’m special because I get haircuts. I’m a black Silkie, which means I look different to the rest. Sometimes my ’fro gets a bit out of control, so Avalon gives it a trim so I can see a little better. I think the others are secretly jealous of my look. Who wouldn’t be? Wednesday: I know. I’m pretty fabulous.

Duke
Things to do

Duke

As the current catboss of St Kilda’s Astor Theatre, Duke oversees the day-to-day operations of the famous cinema alongside general manager Zak Hepburn. Duke’s fan page on Facebook is followed by thousands of theatre-goers keen on catching a glimpse of the famous feline in action. How old are you and how long have you called the Astor Theatre home? I’m three years old and I’ve been helping run the Astor since last year. What are your duties at the Astor? Quality control is my thing. I like getting up into the projection room to ensure everything is working to my liking. As a bit of a renaissance man, I also like to play music by walking up and down the keys of our Hammond Regent Organ. I also help Zak out by greeting guests and organising special events. You sound like one busy kitty. What types of events do you help out at? Oh, film festivals and things like that. I even got to walk on the red carpet one time! Because the Astor is a historic theatre, I like to inject some old school Hollywood into my look, so I often wear a dapper tie for special events. Men just don’t dress up like they used to in the old days. It’s a shame. What do you think of digital projection? Are you kidding? Next question. What’s your favourite movie genre? I love Westerns. I’m actually named after John Wayne because I’ve got a real manly swagger like his. Women dig it. One time Megan Gale gave me a cuddle. That was a really cool day for Duke. You’re referring to yourself in the third perso

Betty
Things to do

Betty

Carlton North’s Babar Hair salon wouldn’t be the same without Betty. As the pet of salon owner and hairstylist Chris Guglielmi, Betty brings a little sunshine to the lives of clients and staff with her adorable antics and laissez-faire cattitude What are your favourite things to do? I love sitting in the front window of the salon – it’s the perfect vantage point to watch all the action on Nicholson Street. My mum has also been kind enough to install lots of cool things for me to rest on. There’s a vintage record player, kitsch couch and retro arcade game–all perfect for catnapping. Some customers think they are there for them, but really they are for me. We hear you’re famous in Japan? Oh yes, I’m big in Japan. If I went there, I wouldn’t be able to walk down the street without being snapped by the paparazzi – they can be such vultures! After being featured on a Japanese television show, I’ve become so damn popular. The series features the most fabulous felines on earth and of course they knew they couldn’t complete the series without profiling me! So last year they spent a day in at the salon filming me working. Working? It’s a common misconception that I lie around all day sleeping. I keep clients company, providing light entertainment and a custom lap- warming service during winter. It’s a big role and quite frankly most other cats I know wouldn’t be up for it.

Abigail and Memphis
Things to do

Abigail and Memphis

Abigail and Memphis live with their owner, Johl Hargreaves, in Coburg. Living in a custom-made multilevel snake penthouse complete with fake leaves, vines, sticks and logs, the pythons have distinctly different personalities. What are you favourite things to do? Abigail I like hiding, especially under the couch. I also like a good scratch under the chin. People often think that dogs and cats are the only creatures that like a scratch, but I have needs too! I also like hanging out with Johl while he cooks. It’s good to just hang on his shoulders while he wanders around the house. Do you ever leave the house? Abigail Sometimes Johl takes me for a wander out to the petrol station or to the park. I kinda like it but sometimes other people get scared of me. They don’t know that I’m a sweet, shy girl. They shouldn’t be afraid of me, but that’s just what happens when you’re a snake. People just freak right out. I blame the Bible for demonising my kind. It’s either that or those terrible Anaconda and Snakes on a Plane movies. What’s something that many people might not know about you? Memphis I am pretty clumsy. It’s embarrassing to admit, but because I’m just a baby, I haven’t quite got the hang of being a snake yet, so sometimes I do silly things like fall off my log. Johl laughs at me when I do this, but I don’t take it to heart because I know he loves me.

Scout
Things to do

Scout

When Scout the Yorkshire Terrier was a puppy, she was about the same size as the hand of her owner, singer-songwriter Emma Louise. Two and a half years later, Scout is a little bit bigger and a little bit bolder. Do you spend much time outside, Scout? No way – I’m much more of an indoor girl. But that doesn’t mean I don’t like adventures! Emma and I live in Northcote and we love going to cafés together. When she flies up to Sydney, I get to travel in the pet transport area underneath. I’ll let you in on a secret: that’s where the real first class is. So you’re into the finer things in life? I love a bit of luxury, but really I’m a tomboy at heart. Other Yorkshire Terriers have long hair and wear bows, but I like my hair short. If it’s cold I rock a down coat – none of that frilly business! That said, Emma did buy me a bumblebee outfit, which I’m quite partial to. You’re a bit of a hit on Instagram, we hear. The camera loves me, what can I say? Emma likes taking my photo, and I like being there for her when she needs a friend, or gets stuck for inspiration. We’re a good team. You can catch Emma Louise performing her second album Supercry (out now) at the Workers Club in Geelong on Friday October 7 and the Corner Hotel in Richmond on Saturday October 8

Freddy
Things to do

Freddy

Freddy is a three-year-old Netherland Dwarf rabbit who lives with his owner Zoe Feigen in the suburb of Mulgrave. As a long-time rabbit owner and veterinarian at Melbourne Rabbit Clinic, Zoe understands the quirks of Freddy’s breed and knows how to stay on his right side Freddy, I hear you’re not a fan of other bunnies? Nope. I just like to do my own thing. Frankly, it should be all about me 100 percent of the time. Luckily, Zoe is totally on board with this idea and doesn’t bring other rabbits into the house. Other bunnies just kill my vibe. Don’t even get me started on those lop-eared bunnies – such show ponies! What else don’t you like? I don’t like bedsheets that aren’t flat. I’m not a fan of knitted fabric and I can’t stand cuffs of pants and collars of shirts. Oh and I really hate it when paper is left on tables or other flat surfaces. I am not fond of Asian greens – I much prefer kale, celery and bamboo. You seem to be a very particular about what you like and don’t like. Oh yes. I’m known for being a bit of a feisty bunny. I tend to bite first and ask questions later. But really I’m just misunderstood. Deep down, I’m just as affectionate as other bunnies. I lick the back of Zoe’s neck all the time! Do you have ‘small bunny syndrome’? How dare you! This inter view is over.

Talk to the animals
Things to do

Talk to the animals

We spoke to Dr Jo Righetti, a consultant animal behaviourist for Purina, to get a beginners’ animal phrasebook; Cat 101 Cat language is nowhere near as complex as dog. Cats just put it all out there, right away. Or, as Dr Righetti puts it: “if a cat doesn’t want to meet you, you will know about it.” Aside from running away, some other common cat phrases include: Rubbing up against you “I call this flirting,” says Dr Righetti. It means the cat is looking for some love and attention. Tail Whipping Unlike with dogs, where tail wagging could mean one of many things, with a cat there are only two options. Either kitty is hunting (and is therefore looking to pounce) or it’s afraid (and is therefore looking to pounce). But, not all tail movements mean ‘stay away’. “[Cats] have a lovely little tail greeting, where the tail is right up in the air and sort of in the shape of a question mark,” and this means they want to say hello. Meowing This means the cat wants something from you: “A lot of cats will try to talk to you. They do a little chirpy meow if they want you to come over, or they want to be fed. It’s called a solicitation meow or a solicitation purr.” Dog 101 You might think you can speak dog, but there are some quirks to puppy-talk that might surprise you. Here’s what Mr Peanutbutter is trying to tell you with his actions. Wagging tail This isn’t actually dog-speak for ‘happy’. A wagging tail really means ‘I’m having a lot of feelings right now.’ Often, those feel