Yorkie Doodle Update

After I wrote a review of Yorkie Doodle Dandy (St. Thomas Dog Blog, April 2012), I got a lovely email from author Bill Wynne. 

 Yorkie Doodle author Bill Wynne with Yorkie in Cleveland parkThank you so much for the wonderful review of my memoir about my dog Smoky… I’m working a on a second book because YDD has been popular and resulted in many diverse things happening. Among them, some readers asking for another book. It will be “Angel in a Foxhole:  Yorkie Smoky and Her Friends.”

Below is what is happening currently with our 69 year old hero:

A British TV company will record an interview in Cleveland Ohio, for “SUPER TINY PETS” broadcast, at the Smoky Memorial to be aired in the U.K. May 9, 2012

Smoky will have a memorial in Brisbane Australia within the next month or two. There are six memorials for her in the U.S.A. The following is part of the program that will be printed for a Smoky memorial dedication in Brisbane Australia.

Smoky-with-wounded-soldiersThrough the encouragement of Nigel Allsopp, one of Australia’s foremost animal advocates and dog experts, Smoky is to be honored by the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital on an original site where she medically served at a U.S. Military Hospital in 1944.  I am so proud that she is to be remembered here, the land of our close WWII Ally and in the city of her birth. Unwittingly we began the animal therapy movement which has proven its benefits for many of the maladies brought on during war and peace throughout the world. Smoky led the way, performing her special magic. Helping cure those in need in the unique way that therapy dogs are so innocently capable of doing. “Smoky is the First Therapy Dog of Record” (from Animal Planet, research)

Smoky Too beside pile of Smoky books
Click for larger view

My sincere thanks to the Board and Staff of Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital for establishing this memorial. To the Australian Army Forces who participated in the ceremony honoring ” WWII’s smallest soldier,” thank you…

See attached photo for many publications inspired by YDD. This photo was taken last Sept [with Smoky Too]. There are 11 publications out since.

Sincerely, Bill Wynne

Thank you, Mr. Wynne, for keeping the memory of this little dog – soldier, therapist and entertainer – alive. What makes Smoky so remarkable is that she was truly a Renaissance Dog – she did it all. By honouring her, we remember and honour them all.   Military dogs, guide dogs, therapy dogs, search dogs, sled dogs – all working and service dogs, as well as those who simply excel at being our best friends. (From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, June 7/12)

 

Corrie Street Mar. 29/15

Portugal

if-you-do-not-tell-josephRoy was the most useful person in the leaving-for-Portugal saga. As usual. When the taxi was due to pick up Katy and Joseph, Ches was making chips in the doner shop. Roy came in, café pinny still on, and asked if he weren’t going to see them off. When Ches said he couldn’t face it, Roy said emphatically that he must, that he’d regret it forever if he did not.
coming-upOut the door Ches went, asking Roy to mind the shop. The impatient customer awaiting his chips was not happy about the turn of events. But Roy is used to dealing with snappish customers. “Coming up.” So Ches had the chance to tell his son he loves him.

The rest of Katy and Joseph’s family? Owen and Izzy finally came around to wishing Katy well. That was after telling her that taking Joseph away would do him irreparable damage. What about his family, his home, how-much-do-i-love-youhis homeland? He needs dad, grandparents, aunts and cousins just a door or two away. Never mind the advantages for him that Katy rhymed off – sea and sun, a new language, a house and granny already in place, a chance for his mother to build a career. Doesn’t matter. And Katy? Doesn’t matter. She must put Joseph first and foremost. And what’s best for Joseph is Weatherfield.

not-sure-myselfAfter playing the Joseph card as long as possible, Izzy and Owen turned to their plight. But what would they do without her there everyday all day? How could she do this to them? Only Anna kept out of it. And, aside from Chesney, Anna has the only good reason for not wanting Katy to go. The plus of vacations in Portugal, for her, is offset by the presence of Owen’s ex-wife.

Sinead joins in the fun of running other people’s lives. She decides that Joseph cannot go, waving-as-taxi-leavesand that Ches agreed to it only because she is a burden. So she makes poor Kirk take her home from the hospital. At the house, she decides to stand up in order to reach the biscuits. She falls and goes back to hospital in an ambulance. Her progress is set back considerably and the stress on Ches is increased considerably.

waving-goodbye Katy leaving for PortugalAll this to keep a young woman from going to Portugal in search of a better future and a chance to get to know her estranged mother. It isn’t like she and Joseph are off to cross Antarctica by themselves.

Yorkie Doodle Dandy

Click to buy on Amazon

I don’t know much about WWII, and even less about the American campaign in the South Pacific. I learned a lot, and felt it, reading about a Yorkshire Terrier. William Wynne’s book about his dog Smoky takes you to the war with him. He explains it so clearly, the geography of battle, the military sorties and the day-to-day existence of the soldiers.

Military history was not his purpose in writing Yorkie Doodle Dandy: A memoir. It is about a dog he acquired in New Guinea while stationed there as an aerial photographer. One part of the story of how Smoky came to be with Bill really struck me. Another soldier found the tiny dog alongside a road, trying to get out of a foxhole. He didn’t like dogs, but he couldn’t leave this little scrap of a being to fend for herself. He brought her back to camp even though he wasn’t even remotely tempted to keep her. That, in an environment where death, killing and suffering are part of everyday life, is the act of a truly good man.

26th photo recon squadron logoWhen Smoky came to Bill soon after, he did basic obedience training with her for her own safety. Then, out of boredom and seeing how quickly she learned and enjoyed it, he began teaching her tricks. She became a star performer, providing entertainment for his mates and putting on shows for troops and in hospitals for wounded soldiers. While not an official war dog, she performed military duty, becoming a mascot of his squadron and given the honourary rank of corporal. She logged many hours of flight time, in reconnaissance and combat missions. Yorkshire Terrier Smoky in her specially made war coatHer most important military action was pulling telephone wire 60 feet through a drainage pipe. It took her minutes to do what would have taken men days.

Back in the USA

He brought her back to the States where she became a celebrity both as a war dog and performer. With Bill’s wife Margie, they spent time in Hollywood in the movie dog training business. He tells us about kennels and trainers known to all of us who love watching dogs in movies. They returned to Ohio when Bill was offered an aerial photography job in NACA (National Advisory Memorial to Smoky and war dogs in Cleveland 2005Committee on Aeronautics), later NASA. But performing was in Bill and Smoky’s blood. They entertained in circuses, hospital wards, stage shows and on their own live television show. She also was the first therapy dog on record due to her work with wounded soldiers and later in US hospitals.

Yorkshire Terriers were not common in the US at that time and, with her, Bill became involved in dog shows and the Yorkshire Terrier Club of America. Smoky lived to a good old age, happy and pampered and forever the star, also forever the war hero. There are monuments to her for her war work and her irrepressible spirit of fun.

The greatest tribute to her is this wonderful memoir about her life by a man Bill Wynne accepting PDSA bravery award for Smokywho deeply loved her. It also is a tribute to the soldiers who loved and protected their official and unofficial war dogs. He tells of the extraordinary measures they took to make sure their animals were part of ‘bringing the boys home.’ He didn’t intend the book as such, but it’s also a testament to him – a good man and a great veteran. Thank you, Mr. Wynne, for sharing your war and your dog with us.

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, April 26, 2012

 

Dog On It: Review

Dog on It is the first in a mystery series by Spencer Quinn, aka Peter Abrahams.  The protagonists are Chet (dog) and Bernie (human).  Set in the US Southwest, the story is told by Chet.  He is a K-9 police school flunk-out and Bernie barely scrapes by as a private detective. They work as an investigation team, but neither of them has a superior or supernatural method of communication with the other.

Amazon for Dog On It by Spencer Quinn
Click to buy on Amazon

Chet understands human language, verbal and body, better than Bernie realizes.  But Chet can’t always convey what he knows to him.  Unlike Randolph, say, in the Bull Moose Dog Run series, he can’t read and doesn’t know how to use human language to communicate.  He does dog type communication – barking, wagging tail, bristling neck hair, growling.  Bernie can misinterpret these signals as Chet wanting a toy or Chet just barking for no good reason.  And Chet sometimes misses the significance of something in the human realm so doesn’t indicate its importance to Bernie.  I found myself thinking, “come on Chet, that’s important – bark!  Tell Bernie!”  And Chet would just think, “hmm, that kinda reminds me of something” and go back to licking himself.

The plot centres on a missing girl, so there are not a lot of doggy elements in the story itself.  You meet a neighbour dog and his situation makes you think.  And there’s a trip to an animal pound – also a lot to think about.

The jacket blurb says you don’t have to be a dog lover to enjoy the story. Being a dog lover, I really liked the insights into dog behaviour from a dog point of view. You get to know the people and dogs through Chet’s eyes. If you aren’t interested in dogs, I don’t know what it would be like reading a story from a dog’s perspective.

Chet and Bernie both can figure things out and are clever, but not overly so.  I don’t know what goes through a dog’s mind, but Chet’s thoughts seem pretty believable.  He comes across as a regular smart and galumphing type dog. So does Bernie. The book is a good who-dun-it, aside from the pleasure of reading something from a likeable dog’s point of view.

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, June 28/11

Corrie Street Mar. 22/15

Wedding Bells-up

gail-arrivesIf I were Gail, I think the bell would have gone off when Michael had a major hissy fit in the registry office. Yes, he had cause to be angry. She was so late that they missed their wedding appointment. But he went way over the top. How do you go back to happy-happy after that? She had an escape hatch handed to her on a platter. Being Gail, however, she didn’t take it.

Gail and Michael are likeable people – Michael asks where-the-hell-have-you-beenseparately. Together, their cooing and billing makes them the sort of couple that I want to stay as far away from as is possible. We know Gail’s history with men. Her romantic life is a trainwreck.

Michael seems nice enough. But wouldn’t most people seriously consider the thought process that what-were-you-doingwent into his decision to turn to burglary? Gail excuses it as understandable desperation on his part and it’s become their ‘story of how we met’. Michael excuses anything dubious that he does or says with ‘how can I believe she really loves me? I broke into her house, and I have a dodgy ticker.’ That’s the cue for Gail to start cooing about how wonderful he is.

The day after their wedding fiasco, uncomfortable coziness at the breakfast table, eating know-anything-any-moretoast and reading the paper. Michael questions his luck in having a cardiac test that day, Friday the 13th. A joke, he tells an upset Gail, to cheer you up. Yeah, that should do it. Then a knock at the door. “Another long-lost husband you haven’t told me about?”, Michael asks. Another joke! Funny! A new string on his passive-aggressive bow.

You’d think by now Gail would have bat-like detection abilities for anything even gail-and-real-gavinslightly off about a man’s personality or background. Evidently not. But there’s still time. Now you’ve seen Michael when things don’t go his way and you’re embroiled in the nasty story of his son, run Gail!

The Tao of Horses

“If you knew a horse, you could depend on him and if he was going to do something bad, you could depend on him to do that too. I always understood horses better than I did people.“

This opinion on the staightforwardness of horses is from retired US Captain Thomas Stewart. His story is in The Tao Of Horses: Exploring how horses guide us on our spiritual path by Elizabeth Kaye McCall. At the end of WWII, Capt. Stewart and Dr. Horse stories Lipizzaner 2002 London ONRudolph Lessing, a German army captain and veterinarian, got 200 Lipizzaner stallions and broodmares out of Czechoslovakia before it was given to Russia in the Allied division of territory.

The Lipizzaner story is in the chapter entitled ‘Peace – The unequivocal ambassador’. This book has many such horse stories – individual people and horse breeds that are particular noteworthy in the equestrian world. It’s a small book and it covers a lot of ground. Each chapter focuses on a few people and the breed of horse with which they work. You get the story of the breed, including individual horses, people and their philosophical musings on what horses and their particular branch of equestrian activity gives them mentally and physically. The author adds her own thoughts in short sections at the end of each chapter. She includes a physical or mental exercise as well as travel tips and internet search suggestions.

I stay well clear of any book with ‘Tao’ in its title, too New Age self-helpish for me. But when I found a copy in a thrift store – why not? I’m very glad I bought it.

Horse Stories

Before I read it, I did not know the singer Wayne Newton is a well-respected breeder of Arabian horses. I did not know that the drummer of the 1970s band Three Dog Night, Michael McMeel, was inspired by the movie City Slickers to set up an equestrian programme for Los Angeles “at risk” kids. The book tells the horse stories of people you have heard of. It also tells about those you probably don’t know of but are happy to learn about.

Tao of Horses
Click for Amazon link

This book is what its title says, a look at the way of horses.  It discusses them and their relationship with humans in all ways – practical, emotional and psychological. You get an easy to understand overview of breeds and equestrian arts. As well, there’s a lot to think about in terms of how horses and humans connect at the heart. Ms. McCall shows the art of dressage, for example, and also explains some technical points of it. You also read about a family who have spent their whole lives in pursuit of this dance between human and horse. You are moved to think about that expression of balance and fluidity in terms of your own life, with and without a horse to share it.

It is a self-help book but it doesn’t outline steps to fix your life. It gives you something better. Food for thought about yourself and your emotional interior and about creatures – human and equine – outside yourself. It also teaches you about horses and equestrian disciplines from reining to racing. A lovely book, and well worth its full price for horse- and non-horse people alike.

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Nov. 10, 2011

 

Corrie Street Mar. 15/15

Reading Romance

Anna Karenina is one of the best romance novels ever written. Yes, it is long. But the certainly-very-substantial Tolstoy romance novelonly explanation I can think of for the size of the tome Ken gave Audrey is that it’s a large print edition.

If the writers pursue this, I hope we see Audrey getting gripped by the story. Maybe she’ll even call in sick so she can stay home and read it. It is a story about love, loss, societal expectations and family dynamics. All these things are familiar to Audrey from her own life and, presumably, from reading other novels.

i-give-to-youFun is being poked at Ken in this. His tendency to always want to ‘improve’ people. In this instance, seeing Audrey with a romance novel in her hand brings it about.

Emily seems to be the only person aside from Ken who has heard of Anna Karenina. She too thinks that reading it is an entirely reasonable, indeed enjoyable, thing to do. And nobody the-first-chapterpays much mind to Emily or her opinions. Maria thinks the whole idea is entirely mad and a huge joke. That is no big surprise.

But Audrey shares Maria’s opinion and her dismissal of “the classics.” Perhaps Ken might have better introduced the book in terms comparable to ‘Tender Hearts Run Free,’ the romance Audrey was reading. The core of Anna Karenina is a love affair between two people drawn inexorably to each other, just as in all Harlequins. And then it’s a whole lot more.

With the dysfunctional mess that is Audrey’s family, I am surprised that the opening first-sentenceline of the novel did not grab her attention: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Even if she, like most people, wants to think the best of her offspring, she cannot and does not deny their problems and turmoil. That first line, you’d think, would give her a clue that there might be something of interest to her in there.

The writers may be making a joke about Ken’s pretentiousness, but to me it’s Audrey what-am-i-going-to-dowho is being made to look foolish. And that is unfair to Audrey. Had Ken handed the novel to Maria, ok, both of them would look the fool (pearls before swine). Audrey is an intelligent woman who might play the ditz but isn’t one. So I’m not sure what the point of this small plot line actually is. It couldn’t really be the cheap shot at literature and education that it looks like.

‘Trifles’ of Creature Comfort

A 1916 play Trifles was written by American journalist Susan Glaspell. It is a murder mystery based on a real event in Iowa at the turn of the century. A man is found Girl with a canary, 1765 painting by Jean-Baptiste Greuzestrangled. The sheriff and a neighbour man search the house and outbuildings, can’t find anything. Their wives are there too. They are friends of the widow, who is also prime suspect. The women look around the areas that the men consider unimportant – the kitchen and sitting room where only women’s  ‘trifles’ are kept.

In the widow’s sewing basket, they find a dead canary wrapped in a scrap of silk inside a fancy small box. Its neck had been wrung, strangled. Knowing the late husband had been a hard man who ruled his wife with an iron fist, they figure out what happened. They keep it to themselves.

The play is described as being about domestic violence and the subjugation of women. The clue is the dead canary. It is seen as symbolic of the husband killing his wife’s joy in singing, something she’d hoped for as a career or hobby when a young woman.

But an essays-for-sale site showed a paper that I think strikes an essential point about the canary. The little bird was her pet, her small bit of warmth in a cold household. In strangling the bird, her husband took away her friend and her comfort.

Pets and domestic violence

I learned about Trifles while searching for information on domestic violence after listening to a CBC Radio Living Out Loud documentary in May 2011. It was about AnimEscale (AnimEscape in English), a shelter run by a Quebec woman Nicole Messier. A former victim of spousal abuse, she and her new husband turned their home into a shelter for the animal victims of domestic violence. Sadly, Ms. Messier passed away in 2013. What she did should be emulated by women’s shelters everywhere.

Nicole Messier said she had stayed in her abusive situation longer than she would have if it had been just herself. She wouldn’t leave her dog and cat, and she couldn’t take them to the women’s shelter. She learned she wasn’t the only woman doing that. Seventy percent of women, she said, will not leave their abusive households if they can’t take their animals with them.

Domestic Violence PETA posterMs. Messier worked with local women’s shelters to provide refuge for the pets. Women and children stayed in the women’s shelter, pets stayed in Nicole’s home. Dogs, cats, hamsters, birds, rabbits, goldfish – they were all welcome. For large animals like horses, she had farms who would board them.

While in the shelters, the humans and animals spent time together regularly. Violence too often is passed on to children, so she would be there to see how the animals acted towards the kids and vice versa. Animals can become afraid of or aggressive toward people they associate with abuse – usually men – so Ms. Messier’s husband worked with the pets to show them that not all men need be feared.

These remarkable people kept families protected and intact. Leaving an abusive situation is good for women and children, but how can you leave your pets? If you do so, what are you telling your kids about responsibility? And, in the absence of the wife and kids, probably the abuser is going to turn his attention to the animal if he hasn’t already. Unless their animals also find shelter, women might not leave to protect themselves. Nicole helped fill that huge gap in domestic violence prevention measures.

This was published on my St. Thomas Dog Blog July 15, 2011. I emailed Nicole and received a lovely reply with more information about her “mission”. It is under my name in ‘Comments’, July 19, 2011. Mission AnimEscale is on Facebook.

 

Corrie Street Mar. 8/15

Snapshots

A woman walks into the Rovers with Kevin. If you had never watched an episode and just snapshots framed behind kev and jennyturned on the tv at that moment, I think you would know that her presence was significant. The two stop just inside the doorway.

Between them is a photo montage. It’s been hanging there all along, visible but not really noted. In this shot, though, you can’t miss it. Snapshots cut out and arranged in a frame. The people we can see in it are from the McDonald publican era. Steve, Liz, Michelle, Sean. The people of the Rovers, of the neighbourhood. History and community, and their value to this place, celebrated permanently on its walls.

steve at bar serves jenny and kevBy the camera angle, and the tentative look on the face of the newcomer, you know she has a place in this history, an uncertain place. Jenny Bradley has returned to the street where she spent part of her adolescence twenty-odd years ago. She is nervous of seeing familiar faces, but wants to reconnect with them and her past. Most of all, she is nervous of seeing Rita, her former foster mother whose trust she badly abused.

norris-rita-emily-mary-walk-inSoon another group comes through the Rovers’ door. Rita, Emily, Norris and Mary, milling about the entrance. The picture remains visible behind them. Like Jenny and Kevin, they do not notice it. Maybe that’s because they’re likely in it. They’ve been a continual part of Rovers’ history for a long time.

Only Norris takes a look into the room to see who is there. What he sees he doesn’t like. jenny-says-happy-birthday-to-ritaSo he turns his attention back to Rita. She wants to catch up on everything, having just returned home from a trip. She figures she knows who is in the bar and will greet everyone once she gets settled in. He tells her there’s a bit of news he hadn’t yet told her, and turns toward the room.

Rita and the others look toward the bar and see rita-looks-at-jennythe newcomer. Shock visible on their faces, and especially Rita’s. Anger, sadness, regret and fondness all conveyed in her look: a wagonload of history. And still the camera keeps the photographs in its view.

If, like me, you didn’t watch when Jenny Bradley was on the show, there’s a recap of her story at Bluenose Corrie Blogger.

Iditarod Murder: Review

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, June 13/11.  The 2015 Iditarod starts Sat. March 7th.

Amazon link for Iditarod murder novel by Sue Henry
Click image or text for Amazon

A 1991 mystery novel by Sue HenryMurder on the Iditarod Trail is good.  Several murders: at first I thought she just wanted to use all the ways she’d thought of for murder in a dogteam race.  But actually all the murders are necessary for the plot line.  They’re inventive and the murder mystery part of the book is good – right to the end.

But what’s just as good is you, the reader, are going along with the teams every hard mile of the race.  You get put inside it, why and how people and their dogs do this sometimes year after year.  You also get some of the history and geography of Alaska – of the race itself, the gold-rush, the land and the peoples both aboriginal and white settlers.

She takes on political controversies that have been part of the Itidarod for the past few decades.  Many male racers opposed women entering the competition and Henry discusses this through the plot line and a female musher who is a main character.*  She also discusses the animal welfare activists who have sought to shut down the race.  She photo of sled dog in snow by Magnus-Manskeaddresses the issue of the dogs’ health and safety throughout as background of the actual running and the protestors as possible murder suspects.

Henry has lived in Alaska for many years and clearly is a proponent and admirer of the Iditarod – the mushers and dogs, as well as the terrain and the history.  There’s nothing ‘preachy’ in her inclusion of the politics of the race; it’s presented as a natural part of her story.

This book is the first in what became a series of novels featuring the two main characters in it.  I look forward to reading the rest of her books.  They’ll be the closest I ever come to running the Iditarod myself.

* The statements made by men in the book about why women shouldn’t be running made me think of a 1980s tongue-in-cheek state ‘slogan’ I came across:  “Alaska, where women win the Iditarod and men mush Poodles”.  During that decade, women won several times and teams of Standard Poodles ran it respectably.