Olly the five year-old silky terrier cross is playful, excitable, and fighting for a cause.
She is one of those little dogs with a happy face, fluffy tail, and an attitude that makes your heart melt.
Being a rather sociable pup, Olly enjoys meeting new people, going for long walks along The Strand, and being the centre of attention.
Olly is all too happy to be sniffing around people’s feet as her partner in protest, Heather Laurie, offers brochures and collects signatures on petitions concerning their latest causes.
“I have found that most people do care about the issues raised, and that the signs provide stimulus to connect and talk about the issues,” she says.
The idea began last October, when Heather found that she and Olly passed almost 1000 people in a single afternoon whilst walking the Strand.
In the past 12 months, Olly has supported a range of topics like: ‘Save the Reef,’ ‘Stop Live Export,’ ‘Respect Refugees Too,’ ‘No Uranium Mining,’ and ‘Enrol to Vote.’
“There was no planning or deep strategy behind [Olly: The Activist Dog] – it was something that I just did as a spur of the moment idea, to take the issues to the people and it has just developed over time.
“I used to take Olly for a walk everyday anyway so taking her for a walk wearing a sign is not much different or any more effort. It just adds another dimension to the walk, and we get to meet and interact with lots of people.”
The expectations for Olly: The Activist Dog were nothing extraordinary but as soon as Olly went on her first walk with a sign, Heather was astonished by the peoples response.
“It’s only something small. I didn’t know what the reaction would be but on that first day, within the first three minutes I realized I was on to something.”
“Olly presents an interesting and creative angle to communicate environmental and social messages.”
“I don’t have any schedule or planning, just take each day as it comes. Olly has over 30 signs now so I choose which sign she will wear based on the current issues or political/social tone of the day.”
“I now receive a lot of requests from different groups and people for support and where possible I we do support issues or causes as they arise,” Heather says.
With Olly reaching almost over 19,000 social media users with collective posts on Facebook and Twitter, The Activist Dog’s messages reach a broad audience with every status.
Photos on Facebook are one of the most effective ways of spreading messages throughout the social media world and Olly is proving to be more than a gimmick.
“The reason Olly is so successful is that she presents an easy to grasp message – three or four words, a simple sign, a cute dog, a petition to sign or a brochure to take, and with this combination it is non-threatening and appealing to people,” Heather says.
Breann Patmore, a student at James Cook University, has seen Olly in action around the campus on more than one occasion.
“Olly is a cute dog whose owner is trying to bring social awareness to the community via Olly: The Activist Dog – it’s an amazing way of getting involved,” Miss Patmore says.
August 2013 saw Olly participating in the 24-hour hunger strike organized for the launch of the ‘Over Our Dead Bodies’ campaign by Generation Alpha.
Over Our Dead Bodies raises awareness and encourage a movement against the development of one of the largest coal-mining complexes in the world.
“We promoted [the launch] through Generation Alpha online, which reaches about eight thousand Australians and activists who are online.
“We had a few hundred people, who committed to doing the strike for 24-48 hours and [Olly] was one of them.”
“We were very much encouraging people to join in personally, along with the people who were doing it publicly. To talk about it and tweet about it, passing it through Facebook and letting people know why and just engaging more people and highlighting the importance of the issue.
Olly is most effective when greeting people in person, the social media presence of the Protesting Pup is growing constantly.
Heather says that although Olly is a free spirit, she is certainly not affiliated with any issue or cause any more seriously than any other dog.
“Olly is a dog, and while she enjoys the attention she attracts when out campaigning, she has no vested interest in the signs or the issues,” Heather says.
The activist focus of Olly: The Activist Dog is certainly popular with many people across the Townsville region, including people interested in the causes that Olly supports.
“Olly is the perfect way to make people aware of different topics,” Rachelle says.
“Everybody loves dogs, and therefore will look at a cute dog in the street. If that dog has a message, all those people who looked to see the cute dog would also see the message.
Olly will continue her advocate activities across Townsville with her simple signage and enthusiastic attitude.
“Often less is more and communication comes in all different forms,” Heather says.
Olly will be attending the ‘Reclaim the Night’ march this Friday the 25th of October at the Strand Park.