The guardian dogs

A knockabout chook farmer named Swampy and a loyal dog named Oddball from Victoria are about to be immortalized in film for their unusual heroics.

10 years ago a fairy penguin colony on Middle Island, Warnambool, was under siege by hungry foxes.

In the past Middle Island and it’s penguins had been protected from predators by one thing… it’s a long swim.

There were just four birds left when Allen Marsh AKA 'Swampy' came up with an idea that was laughed out of council.

"I don't think people were watching and over the years the foxes they can smell what's going," Swampy told Denham Hitchcock.

"They would be standing on the coast beside it salivating"

"When the tides were really low in the autumn that's when the foxes decided that they could paddle across to the island. It was only one fox visit away from being wiped out "

Allen 'Swampy' Marsh

Oddball is an Italian sheepdog, called a maremma, who had been trained to diligently protect his chicken farm and he believed Oddball could do the same for the penguins.

"The maremmas have a innate sense of territory it's part of what a wolf is about a wolf will fight to the death to protect its territory," Swampy said.

"They don't care whether there's chooks penguins or field mice here this is their territory."

After 18 months of debating the idea with council, he finally got his chance to prove them wrong. And he did just that.

Today the Middle Island penguin population is back up to at least 150, and growing.

New maremmas were taken to the island as pups to learn the ropes and stay there up to six months of the year, including breeding season to protect the baby fairy penguins.

"The dog has a presence and it announces through its scent messages and it's barking that I'm here and this is my territory."

It is a heartwarming story with all the elements of a good movie and, inevitably, it has become one.

'Oddball' the movie is going to be released this year starring Shane Jacobson as Swampy

"About a month before they said Shane is going to play you and I thought yeah 'Kenny' yeah that's the sort of character I am," Swampy said.

"Let the toilet guy come and be the chicken man."

Shane and Swampy say they are 'so similar it's scary'.

"It does sound like a fairy tale heck they're fairy penguins it's got the word fairy in it and it's a tale god it is a fairy tale this is real," Shane Jacobson told Denham.

The original oddball, and soon to be movie star, is now enjoying retirement at the respectable age of 14.

"That's a fair achievement, that's 98 in human terms."

Find out more about the Middle Island Maremmas:
Warrnambool Council
Flagstaff Hill: Donate to train the Maremmas
Do the tour: Visit Middle Island and meet the Maremmas