Track Royalty

Entrance to Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky DerbyThis coming Saturday, May 2nd, is the Run for the Roses, the first leg of the Triple Crown.  The 141st running of the Kentucky Derby. The young royals of mainly North American horses will be there. Both connections and horses dream of winning it and going on to win the other two jewels of American Thoroughbred racing.

No horse has done it since Affirmed in 1978. It’s the longest gap ever in Triple Crown history.  I didn’t see Secretariat’s spectacular runs in 1973, but I certainly knew about them. With three Triple Crown winners in the 1970s, I thought it was something that would happen like clockwork every few years. Little did I know.

looking up at twin spires from seating areaChurchill Downs, even without horses there, is magical.  In the tunnel and trackside, you almost see the horses and jockeys. Inside the viewing salons, you feel the money and the excitement. In the betting lounges, the tension and hope for the big win and desperation over the big loss surrounds you.

What’s wrong

There’s a lot wrong with the horse racing industry, just as there is with any sport business that involves animals. Too many horses are bred in order to find that elusive ‘superhorse’. What happens to the foals that don’t make it to the track, and those that do Thoroughbred great Ferdinand racingmake it, but aren’t good enough for the big time?  What happens to those that are good enough but, like any athlete, get past their prime?

The great Ferdinand, 1986 Kentucky Derby and 1987 Breeder’s Cup Classic winner and 1987 Eclipse Horse of the Year, was slaughtered in a Japanese meat-packing plant in 2002 after his career at stud was deemed over. He earned over $3.75 million.  His reward was to become steaks and dogfood.

What’s right

There’s also a lot right. Running faster than the wind is in the blood and bones of a Thoroughbred. Most racing people love horses. They ought to. It’s the horses who run the race and win the glory and the money. The jockey, trainer, groom and exercise rider help the horse, but they are support staff. A jockey can cause a horse to lose a race, but he can’t make a horse win. It’s the horse’s mind and heart that runs the race. And that’s all the people need to remember. Look after Cat at Barbaro memorial stone, Kentucky Horse Park 2007the horse and the horse will look after you. And remember, when that horse no longer wins the big purses, it was his or her effort that got you where you are.

That’s where owners, owner syndicates, trainers and jockeys can go wrong. They think it’s them – their handling, their business decisions – that are key. People who believe in their own centrality in horse racing should instead invest in NASCAR or motorcycle racing. The thrill of speed and winning is the same, and it is solely your care and handling that makes a car or motorcycle win or lose. It might be cherished by you, but it’s inanimate. It will not feel anything if you junk it at the end of its career. If you’ve done well in horse racing, thank the horses that did it for you by treating them right in retirement.

Thoroughbred Retirement

In 2005 NY racing groups began the Ferdinand Fee, a voluntary $2 per race charge with girl petting horse at Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Farm 2007proceeds going to Thoroughbred retirement farms. Old Friends Equine Retirement Farm near Lexington is the only one that takes stallions. Because of their often-difficult personalities, they can be hard to handle. Most rescue and retirement farms are not equipped for them. Mares and geldings stand a better chance than stallions of having a good post-race life. (Updated from my St. Thomas Dog Blog, May 5, 2011.)

Corrie Street Apr. 26/15

Anna Mantis

Is there a human disorder that mimics the mating behaviour of the praying mantis? If so, Anna mantis cuddles babymaybe Anna Windass has it. Every time a child comes into her life, her mate must go. First Eddie Windass when Faye arrived, now Owen when Faye’s baby is hardly home from the hospital.

I know these situations resulted from the actors’ decisions to leave the show, but poor Debbie Rush has reason to be developing a complex over her character driving away her men and then huddling protectively over her brood.

now-there-is-a-babyIt started Monday, when Anna had a fit about Owen encouraging Faye to say what she really wants about the baby. Anna will not allow Faye to even entertain the “wrong” decision, giving the baby up for adoption. At least she finally admitted that to Owen; that, in her mind, there is only one “right decision.”

Then, within the same argument, she told Owen that was it, she wanted him to leave, that cannot-believe-you-mean-thatshe had too much to worry about what with the baby and all to also worry about him. Out the door he went.

He stayed at Kevin’s, then hung around hoping to change Anna’s mind. Izzy advised him to go to Portugal for a visit and let Anna think, maybe even miss him. He decided to do that. Then, after Anna firmly told him again that there was no chance for them, he decided to accept a job in Aberdeen.

All his fault

anna-feeds-babyThen, somehow, the whole separation became his fault. When Faye was upset that Owen and Anna might split up, Anna told him that he had to tell her that they were separating and he was leaving. He had to do the breaking of Faye’s heart, as if it all were his idea.

Anna is exhausted from pretty much single-handedly looking after the baby, although everyone (except Faye) has offered to help. She i-love-you owen says as he leavesis worried about Faye. Anna has no money and now two children dependent on her. And she kicks out the man she says she loves and who doesn’t want to leave her.

The only difference between this story and that of Eddie’s departure is that Eddie did not want them to keep Faye. He put a ‘me or her’ choice to Anna, and Anna chose Faye. Other than that, it’s déjà vu all over again.

Apples to Apples

TV writer David Shore was on CBC Radio’s q (formerly Q) today. He was introduced as battle creek cbs by David Shorecreator of House and Battle Creek, writer on Due South and originally from London Ont.

He described Battle Creek as premised on male friendship. Then they discussed male friends or frenemies in House. House? Wilson’s friendship with House was a big part of the show, but not vital to it. Not like the relationship between the lead characters in Battle Creek.

Battle Creek is a ‘fish out of water’ buddy cop show about a quirky partnership between a morally upright FBI agent and a cynical Battle Creek, Michigan cop. Due South was a ‘fish out of water’ buddy cop show about a quirky partnership between a morally upright Mountie and a cynical Chicago cop. I waited for that comparison. Didn’t happen.

Due South revisited

Amazon link for Due South
Click for Amazon link

Watching the first episode of Battle Creek, I thought, wow, this is Due South twenty years later with two Americans. I like the show, just as I liked Due South.

A CTV series, Due South was a cult hit in the US for CBS. Stereotypes of the Canadian worldview versus American was the appeal but also a drawback to going beyond “cult” to “mainstream”. Battle Creek, with colliding American worldviews, will not have that problem.

Eric Peterson and Street Legal

Listening today, hoping the discussion would move to the shows about which male friendship would be really applicable, I thought of a Street-LegalQ interview with Canadian actor Eric Peterson. The host introduced him as a star of CTV’s Corner Gas, the musical Billy Bishop Goes to War and CBC’s 1980s Street Legal. He talked eloquently about the importance of exploring Canadian culture in Canadian entertainment. Corner Gas and the story of Canadian WWI pilot Billy Bishop were the examples. Why not Street Legal?

LA Law dvd Amazon link
Click for Amazon link

Canadian-made, -set and -aired, Street Legal started just months after NBC’s LA Law. Both centred on law firms – big deals, backstabbing, sex and intrigue. LA Law‘s was big and
glitzy, Street Legal‘s was Toronto storefront office scale. Canadian, eh? I waited to hear what Mr. Peterson would say about Canadian and American takes on the same dramatic premise. Didn’t happen.

Both q and Q’s interviews led straight to Street Legal and Due South: apples to apples comparisons. If q/Q have no staff familiar with old Canadian television shows, please contact me. I’ll be your “old codger” if you can’t find one in the CBC building.

Corrie Street Apr. 19/15

Baby Love

Faye, on Tuesday, tells her mother: “I just wanted him to like me.” Heartbreaking. No wanted-him-to-like-mematter how far back in memory it now is, I bet every woman watching remembered this.

For Faye, the gamble didn’t pay off. The boy didn’t want to know her afterward, and that was even without knowing she got pregnant. And now she’s got a permanent souvenir, a baby girl.

police-ask-faye-about-father of babyIn light of the rest of the week, Faye’s plan for giving birth starts to make sense. Do it secretly and leave the baby at the hospital. Don’t involve anyone else. Of course it would not work as smoothly as imagined, as she learned. But the flap and fuss she dreaded and wanted to avoid is happening. Police, social workers and families.

“Send her back”

faye-and-annaFaye found out her mother is not going to “send her back,” as the poor child had feared. Anna, Owen, Tim and everyone rallied around her. The baby will have a loving and supportive family. They all took that as a given.

But they didn’t ask Faye if that’s what she wanted. Maybe in the same way that they totally did not see Faye’s pregnancy weight gain, they are not seeing her lack of bonding, even enthusiasm, for her infant. Anna reminds her that the baby is hers and she will be the one responsible for her care. But it sounds much the same as maternal reminders to faye-cries-on-annatake care of your good clothes or those expensive shoes you wanted so badly. No one is looking at Faye, or asking her what she wants.

Faye eventually tells Sophie, and Sophie passes on a hint to Owen. And that’s where we end on Friday: Owen pointedly makes space for Faye to say what she wants to her family and the social worker. Faye takes the opportunity finally. She wants to give the baby up.

anna-holds-fayeShe might do so or not. But you know, whatever the decision, Owen will be the object of Anna’s wrath for even allowing the possibility to be raised. Anna seems to have already decided the future of the baby and Faye, all in the name of love.

Raining Puppies

Four years ago, I wrote about emails I received about a litter of puppies, and a swamped rescue group. I doubt the situation has changed much. I just checked Kijiji – still lots of pups for sale for high prices.

oliver, rescued puppy“Jesus, it is raining puppies! Here’s  pictures of the 10 puppies All Breed Canine Rescue got.  Three of the litter went to another rescue group. ABCR is just about going crazy. They already had the pair of Shelties and 2 other dogs (one with severe runs) just pulled out of the pound and at the vet’s.

When the hell are these ‘breeders’ going to figure it out? The economy in this area sucks! There is no money to buy all the puppies backyard breeders are producing. It just drives me insane to think about all the little guys we don’t know about that end up ‘out behind the barn.’ Every time we get one shut down another pops up.

New ‘Pet Store’

Kijiji should be banned from advertising puppies for sale. It has become the new ‘pet store’ for selling puppy mill dogs.

I have to think – at least we saved these guys! But we need to find forever homes for them, as quickly as we can. The quicker we can get these puppies adopted the better, Puppy, rescued by ABCR Feb 7 2011then ABCR can use the adoption money to pay most of the vet bill that will be run up with the medical treatment that they need. This addition will make 16 to 18 new puppies in ABCR’s system.”

Another email:

“There was 13 puppies in this litter. The farmer was going to ‘dispose’ of them if we did not take them. When they were picked up they were all in a horse stall that was covered with feces. They had no food or water. They all need medical attention – neutering, deworming, flea treatment and all vaccinations. So if you can possibly help out with any sort of donation it would be greatly appreciated!”

The pups were being ‘disposed of’ because they hadn’t sold. They probably were Sophie, one of 13 rescued puppy mill pupsadvertised for a few hundred dollars, probably without any shots. Without takers, the farmer/backyard breeder isn’t going to keep them. So they die, and when he figures the market has picked up again, there will be more puppies for sale. If they don’t sell either – well, bullets are cheap.

Kijiji is a wonderful resource for puppy millers. It needs to stop. When pet stores, for the most part, stopped selling puppies (other than providing space for shelter animals), it dried up the major market for commercial puppy millers. Kijiji has filled that gap. It’s time to stop.

(From St. Thomas Dog Blog 9 Feb 2011)


Corrie Street Apr. 12/15

Cordon Blech

Sally Webster on Friday. Dramatic moments happened, and events crucial to story arcs. Above it all, Sally shone.

very-cordon-bleuAt the Bistro, thinking about steak tartare. To Tim’s opinion that raw steak “sounds minging “, Sally says “it’s very Cordon Blue – or is it Bleu?” “Cordon Blech is more like it” says Tim, so drawing the Sally Glare of Cognoscente Disapproval.

very-happy-to-stayTurns out Tim hadn’t invited her there for dinner, just a drink. Maybe a stop at the chippy on their way back to the Rovers for another, cheaper, drink. Before leaving, they see Carla with a client. Carla firmly and repeatedly rebuffs Sally’s chitchat and offers of assistance . Tim finally manages to drag her away.

Sal’s night out – at the Rovers

Anna and Owen are at the Rovers. Owen unwillingly, he’d like to take advantage of their empty flat (nudge wink). Anna will drink anything or do anything to avoid going to their empty flat, even sit with Sally. standards-at-freshcoThey’re celebrating, Anna says, Owen has a job, Sally says “Oh, it’s about time!”

Sally on grocery shopping at Freshco’s: “As for ‘do you need a bag?'” Tim inserts his answer to such a silly question, “I know, how are you going to get your shopping home, on your head?” Sally looks at him as if he were a slug: “I’ve always got my bags with me, my bags for life. I’m very green.” I have carried my own shopping bags for years, but I considered stopping. I don’t want to be Sally!

i-just-have-to-take-stockShe moved on to the reasons shop staff are inept and/or rude: bad parenting. Whereas she has two brilliant girls who are a tribute to her parenting skills and the value of an education at a good school. Anna asked sardonically what was that Oak Hill educated daughter doing, “modelling, isn’t it?” “Lingerie,” Sally muttered.

the-sign-of-good-parenting-is-itAnna finally had enough. Better to return to the empty flat with amorous Owen than strangle Sally. As they headed home, the big event was revealed to them. A frantic Craig, asking for them to come with him. Faye was having her baby.

A teenage hidden pregnancy, the return of Platt daughter and granddaughter – big plot developments. Sally demonstrating belief in her own social superiority? Not new, but so beautifully done.

except-in-her-caseThe creation of situations for Sally’s pearls of wisdom was somewhat contrived. Leaving the Rovers for the Bistro meant seeing Carla, and also disappointment in her expectation of a fancy night out. Then back to the Rovers so she could sit with people she doesn’t like. Still, seeing full-on Sally was worth it.

Barn Cats

Frank Moore, a farmer north of Belmont who my parents knew, always had lots of barn cats. He said one year, years before, there had been an explosion of cats – so many that 3 barn cats on stepsall the farms were overrun. So that year he, like the other farmers, got rid of many of them. “Then the next couple years, it just seemed like there weren’t any cats. Some died, some just disappeared, kittens didn’t live. Mice and rats were everywhere, and you couldn’t find a good mouser in the whole county. I never got rid of another cat after that. They come here, they’re all welcome.”

A good life in a good barn

His barn and house cats were well-treated. They drank milk straight from the cow, all lined up in a semi-circle, waiting, at milking time. He’d shoot milk out toward them, and they’d lap it up then lick off their faces.

Being a barn cat, in a good barn, is a pretty good life. You can chase all the mice you want. You’ve got cozy places to sleep. There’s always something to do. Barn cats have to learn to navigate around animals much larger than themselves. Some don’t, so there are always some losses. Most horses like cats and take care stepping around them. Cats sometimes will sleep right in a stall beside a horse or cow.

It used to be that few barn cats were neutered. With a high attrition rate, due to large hooves and farm machinery, the farmer wanted to be sure he always had enough mousers.  barn cats looking at henBut many farmers now get their barn cats fixed. There are generally cats available if you need more. Usually more than enough. So each farm does not have to be a “cat factory,” producing its own supply of cats.

The bane of most farmers are people who dump off their unwanted pets at their gates, assuming they’ll be taken in by the nice farmer. Then the “nice farmer” has to pay for the spaying and neutering of these additions or look for other homes for them.

St. Thomas Barn Cats project

The City of St. Thomas has started seeking farm homes for some cats at the Animal Control Centre. The idea is to neuter suitable cats and adopt them out as barn cats. It’s an innovative way to decrease the number in the pound without euthanasia and, especially for semi-feral cats, provide a well-matched home.

Some cats prefer a life more or less on their own; they don’t want to be housecats kept indoors. They want to mouse and explore. It’s always saddened me, seeing those ones in shelters. Looking out a window if they can get to one, or sitting sullen in the back of a cage. You know they would rather be outside living life according to their own rules. And that’s what barn cats do.

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Jan. 27/11


Lotto Red Chamber

Senate of Canada wikicommons Montrealais 2007Is the Senate a place for ‘sober second thought’ or what, in 1985, then-reporter Mike Duffy called “a task-less thanks” for political party helpers? Senator Mike Duffy is on trial for fraud, breach of trust and bribery. Investigations continue into other senators’ expense claims.

Some senators, it seems, take advantage of an already very comfortable job. How to effectively restructure the red chamber has long been discussed, to no avail. Here’s my idea.

Why not appoint senators by lottery? Not with tickets to buy, but open to all citizens of voting age. Similar to jury duty, anyone can be vietnam-lottery-nhd.weebly.comcalled. But instead of mailing out foreboding looking letters, jazz it up a bit. Make it a happier version of the US draft lottery in the Vietnam War. If your number is called, report to the Red Chamber. Your social insurance number, that is.

Lottery Senate!

Let Lottery Canada run it since it has the wherewithal in place for national draws. Televise it, with disco balls, lots of neon and the ball hopper of bingo halls. If aired on CBC, it would do wonders for the state broadcaster’s ratings. They will need a future whenever Philippine_Idol_Stage-wikicommonsDragons’ Den finally (please God) slinks off to wherever old dragons go. Although it probably couldn’t be replayed as often as DD is, maybe George Strombolopolous could host retrospective specials. We don’t see enough of Strombo anymore!

Limits on perks and liability

How would a lottery senate work? Term of office would be two years maximum and those chosen would be required to move to Ottawa for their term of office. As is the case now, accommodation would be covered as a Senate expense. They would receive the same annual salary as present Senators do, but it would cease after their term ended. They would not be eligible for pensions or continued benefits as present Senators are after a mere six years of service.

Trailer-Park-Boys-TO-Star-Rick-EglintonYou might end up with a Senate full of Trailer Parks Boys. However, odds are  that there would also be great senators who everyone would wish could continue forever. They could not, but neither could the waste-of-space fools.

Probably some good legislation would get passed each term. Probably palms would be greased and nests feathered as well. But everyone would have an equal shot at both those outcomes instead of a select few chosen by a political party leader. the present system, the chosen few hog the trough for a long time. The up side is that senators with integrity are also there for a long time. I don’t think a Senate comprised of randomly selected hoi polloi could be any more hit and miss. And the advantage is, no matter how much you or I or the idiot down the street messes up, we would be gone quickly and painlessly – and cheaply.

Corrie Street Apr. 5/15

Teen Moms

anna-asks-faye-to-talkWednesday, Anna tried to have a heart-to-heart with Faye. How are you really, what’s bothering you, what’s going on? Faye said nothing other than everything’s fine. How could she say otherwise? She feels she cannot add to her mother’s burdens, cannot disappoint. She would do both if she told her mother the truth. She’s pregnant. And just turned 13.

When her pregnancy story began to be revealed, I thought oh no, the show’s been there, done that. Sarah Louise, barely in her teens, trying to hide a pregnancy. Then I realized that was 15 years ago. The kids for whom this storyline might be relevant were not even born then. That’s the thing with long running shows. Plotlines, particularly those about perennial issues, need to be recycled for each new generation of viewers.

anna-says-katy-made-a-rash-decisionAnna, in trying to get Faye to open up about her teenage angst, took Faye’s mention of Katy as an entrée into talking about choices and repercussions. Katy, Anna said, “made a rash decision having a baby so young”. She has to consider what’s best for the child in all her wishes and decisions. The move to Portugal may be a dovetailing of the two. “She’s got a chance to get her life back on track. Not many girls in her situation get that opportunity.”

Little does Anna know that Faye is dealing with exactly that situation. Only unlike Katy, Faye didn’t deliberately get pregnant. She is still so young, with no sign of a boyfriend or even interest in boys, that her being pregnant is not a possibility that would even cross Anna’s mind. So Faye is stumbling toward the birth of a baby. Despite the best help of Craig and the internet, she has made no realistic decisions or plans. She’s just trying to get through it with no idea of what comes next.

bethany ad for teen momsThe return of Sarah Louise’s daughter at the same time is a brilliant juxtaposition. Bethany Platt is a great advertisement for not having a child when you are still very young. Imagine being in your late 20s, only twice as old as your child is at present, and being responsible for the daily care and well-being of someone like her!

Australia honours Smoky

Smoky in helmetAustralia honours Smoky with medalOn July 20, 2012 in Brisbane Australia, Smoky the war dog was awarded posthumously the Australian Defence Force Tracker and War Dog Association medal for military service.

design of ADFTWDA service medalAt the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, US Consul General Niels Marquardt accepted the medal on behalf of Bill Wynne, Smoky’s person.

The ADFTWDA Secretary, a tracker team veteran of Vietnam, read a poem in remembrance of all Military Working Dogs. Written by Connie Chronister, “I Wait By The Gate” is a tribute especially to those dogs who were left behind.

I Wait By The Gate

In a strange land I was sent, not knowing my fate;
In a pen I was put and I sat by the gate.
I watched and I wondered what do I do now?
Then I looked up and saw you, as you walked up with a smile.
We trained and we worked and I showed you my best;
You rewarded me and petted me and I did the rest.

Through trails and paths and roads we did go;
And I was to smell, for traps that would blow.
Many times I stopped you from ending your life;
From an enemy trap wire that was set to end your life.
Never have I thought that we would ever part;
Because of the love that we had in our hearts.
Oh, I was proud to walk by your side;
With all of your friends and being your guide.

Then one day you put me back into my pen;
You smiled, you petted me, you said, “Goodbye my friend.”
You looked back one more time,
and I saw the tear in your eye;
And I knew it was the last, and was your way of saying goodbye.
German shepherd Prince sits at Washington DC Vietnam MemorialMy life, it so changed when you went back home;
And I stayed behind to a fate still unknown.

It’s been over 30 years since I’ve seen your face;
But I never forgot you, my friend and my mate.
So please don’t worry, I’m waiting by Heaven’s gate;
For my best friend, my brother, but mainly my mate.

War Dog

The tracker dogs who served with the Australian armed forces in Vietnam were not brought back to Australia. They were Caesar, Janus, Juno, Mercian, Mila, Trojan, Cassius, Julian, Justin, Marcus and Tiber. According to an Australian government site, it was because of American military reports of their dogs dying from a disease believed to be transmitted by ticks.

Smoky_statue-Brisbane-12Dec12An accidental soldier, Smoky’s wartime action saved lives and time and, in peacetime, she entertained thousands on stage and television. She also worked her magic in hospital and nursing home visits. Those visits showed the value of a dog in recovery and well-being, both physical and psychological, and led to official recognition of therapy dogs.

I hope that Smoky and all the dogs remembered in granite statues and in soldiers’ minds mean that no Military Working Dog will ever again be ‘the soldier left behind’.

Plaque-12Dec12-Smoky war dog 1st PTSS dog Brisbane HospitalThanks to Mr. Wynne for sending me a video of the medal presentation, it was truly lovely.

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Aug. 10/12. On Dec. 12, 2012, a statue was unveiled at the Brisbane Hospital in honour of Smoky (photos right and above). The other side of the base reads “Dedicated to all war animals. They also served. Lest we forget.” The story is at Monument Australia with photos by ADFTWDA historian Nigel Allsopp.