Brothers in bacon By Kate Sears

Before we begin, can we please just take a second to bask in the soulful eyes of these two beautiful boys. They’re a pair of cheeky, bacon-loving old english sheepdogs who get up to mischief just like any other siblings — they’re technically brothers, just from separate litters. These two fluffballs are as loyal as you’ll find, and with such an amazing temperament it’s easy to see why they’ve become the mascots of Panda Blairgowrie cafe.

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Panda, below left, is three and scored his name because as a puppy he had a very prominent black spot near his eye, almost like a panda. After an unfortunate illness as a little puppy, his elbow dysplasia resulted in him waddling like a panda. His brother Bentley is four. With his wise and ‘old soul’ eyes, you could almost imagine him with a gentleman’s hat and a distinguished English accent.

They even have their own private chef . . . or so they think. Owners Nicole and Jim Johnston opened their café and named it Panda Blairgowrie because their Panda eats everything, even with his sensitive stomach. Panda Blairgowrie regularly has these two studs visiting, and when they do the head chef makes special dog burgers with extra bacon for their weekly cheat meal.  Ordinarily, their dog bowls get filled in the morning, and their meals can sit there all day until the men are ready for a feed. Who wishes they had that self-control?

Don’t fret, though. Nicole promises they don’t play favourites, and Bentley will get his day too. Watch this space for a rumoured Mr Bentley venture set to even out the sibling rivalry. Nicole boasts that Bentley is a very smart furry friend because he just wants to please his parents. “Bentley is loyal, obedient and truly amazing with kids,” she said.

Panda is obedient too, unless there is food, then he just forgets everything he’s ever learnt. He was beyond spoilt for his first Christmas, yet it won’t be happening again after he destroyed his presents within three minutes of receiving them. He must have used some Kung Fu Panda-style moves for that one! Now this big softie is on a strict regimen of only rope-based toys because they are indestructible . . . so far.


From a young age, Nicole and Jim’s fluffy giants were taught to be gentle, whether it’s playing with friends or taking a treat from your hand. They’re groomed once every three weeks, get a few big trims in the warmer months, and are brushed regularly because they don’t moult. Of course, their favourite activity is a walk around Blairgowrie back beach. You’ll also find these beach boys off the lead on an oval rounding up other dogs as if they’re sheep, which their four-legged friends find puzzling to say the least.

The brothers are like chalk and cheese — “Mmmmn, cheese!” says Panda. “When I was going through IVF my hormones were everywhere, and when I’d cry Panda would run and hide in the bushes,” Nicole said. “Yet Bentley would always jump on me to see what was wrong. Even now, if I fake cry they still carry on the same way. It’s a great party trick!”

The 30kg or so teddy bears sleep on the couple’s bed, and they wouldn’t have it any other way.


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