Students and teachers farewell beloved Panda the Poodle
PANDA the poodle was one very special dog - which was why hundreds of her greatest admirers came to say their final goodbyes at her funeral held in Bundamba yesterday.
The 20-year-old pup served as a mascot for Bundamba State Secondary College for 15 years and was officially enrolled as an honorary student by former Queensland premier Anna Bligh in 2000.
Her owner, ex-teacher and school volunteer Reg Tohia, said it was overwhelming to see hundreds of teachers, current and previous students and community members come to show support at his beloved pup's farewell.
"Panda walked with me to school every day, she'd walk around here like she owned the joint," he said.
"All the kids loved her, there's a tradition where the students who graduate had to pat Panda 50 times before they left.
"She sat with the kids from the special education unit and kids who weren't well behaved and just calmed them down, she went to assemblies and on school camps - she went everywhere with me."
Mr Tohia said Panda's secret to living an impressive 20 years was a combination of copious amounts of iced coffee, roast chicken and most importantly, love.
"She was an Ipswich icon," he said.
"She walked at the front of the Anzac parade with me every year, she marches in the Ipswich Festival and she's jumped on Paul Pisasale's desk a few times.
"Everyone knew her, it's unbelievable for the kids and the staff for organise this ceremony, I can't say thank you enough."
Mr Tohia rescued the Panda two decades ago and said he fell in love with the one-eyed black and white poodle as soon as they met.
"I started out as a teacher at the school in 1996 so a lot of the kids have known Panda since they started school," he said.
"When the kids found out she passed away I couldn't stop myself from crying, we are burying her ashes in the indigenous garden at the school with her favourite blanket so she'll always be here."
The ceremony was opened with an indigenous welcome dance, followed by a traditional Pacific Island hymn and a haka ka mate which was led by 78-year-old Reg.
Year 12 student Blake Lenehan said every student had their own memories of Panda.
"I'll never forget last Anzac Day during the minute of silence when all you could hear was her bells jingling," he laughed.
"It isn't the best feeling being here today, it's sad to say goodbye.
"Wherever Reg was, Panda was there, it's great to be able to get together and support him."
A permanent plaque will be placed at Panda's memorial site to forever remember the impact this tiny dog had on so many lives.