Tag Archives: dogs

Royal Corgis

A week ago, the death of an elderly dog made headlines. A pet’s death is always momentous for his or her loved ones. But it’s usually not world news.  Willow, who died April 15th, was Queen Elizabeth’s pet, however, and her last link to Susan, matriarch of the Royal Corgis.

star-weekly-toronto-p-1-may-23-1953
Queen Elizabeth with her pet Corgi terrier Susan, at Balmoral Castle. Photo by Lida Sheridan

Willow is a 14th generation descendant of the Queen’s first Corgi, Hickathrift Pippa, known as Susan. Susan was born in 1944 and died in 1959. King George VI gave the two-month old pup to his daughter Elizabeth on her 18th birthday, 74 years ago.

Corgis in the York family

Susan wasn’t the first Corgi in the royal household. In 1933, the Queen’s father bought a pup from Corgi breeder Thelma Evans Gray. The pup’s name was Dookie (Rozavel Golden Eagle). Three years later, a female pup called Jane (Rozavel Lady Jane) joined the family.

Royals and Corgis 1940 Star Weekly May 30 1953 Unbeknownst to the then Duke of York, he and Thelma had discussed dogs before. When Thelma was 9, her dog was killed by a car – the Duke’s car. He wrote to Thelma’s parents, offering to buy her another dog. Thanks but no, they replied, Thelma’s grief was too great. Thelma, however, wrote to him that she would happily accept. He told her that they must abide by her parents’ wishes.

Thelma grew up and established Rozavel Kennels. When the Duke bought the Corgi pups from her in the 1930s, he didn’t make the connection to the child Thelma. And she never told him.

The Susan Lineage

Susan was the Queen’s first dog of her own. Susan had pups and they had pups. So through the decades, there were always Royal Corgis of Susan’s line. But several years ago, the Queen said no more. She didn’t want to leave any young dogs behind.

007 Buckingham Palace Newspix International people.comWillow, Monty and Holly were the last three Susan descendants. Monty died in September 2012, soon after the Corgis starred in the London Olympics “007” video with the Queen and Daniel Craig. Monty was named for Monty Roberts, the “Horse Whisperer” and friend and advisor of the Queen. Holly passed away in 2016.

The Queen’s Pembroke Welsh Corgis were of the best stock. She put the same care into their pedigree that she does for her horses. But they were her pets, her friends. Unlike her horses, the Queen has never entered her dogs in competition.

Windsor Loyal Subject welshcorgi-news.ch
Windsor Loyal Subject aka Edward, b 1971

Only one royal Corgi ever competed in dog shows. The Queen gave Windsor Loyal Subject, aka Edward, to Thelma Gray, along with permission to show him. He won twice at Crufts dog show in the 1970s.

The Queen still has her Dorgis. They started from an unsanctioned Princess Elizabeth with dogs Star Weekly March 1 1952dalliance between one of the Corgis and Princess Margaret’s Dachshund. She also has one elderly Corgi. The Queen took Whisper home after his owner died in 2017. Bill Fenwick, her retired gamekeeper, and his late wife Nancy looked after the Royal Corgis for many years.

So a Corgi is still with the Queen. But no Corgis of Susan, a lineage that has accompanied the Queen for longer than even Prince Philip.

Homeless Companions

From St. Thomas Dog Blog, Sept. 4, 2013. Reposted in honour of US Memorial Day and Harold Palmquist, a US veteran who is biking across the country with his dog to raise money for homeless vets and their pets.

homeless man and dog in phone booth RO_B_new_Bucharest_apartment-photo-Miehs-wikicommonsPlease God, I have never had to beg on the street and I’ve never been homeless.  I don’t know how I’d look after myself, let alone a dog or cat. But people do; they survive on the streets of even the coldest cities, and many do so with a pet.

I have had to carefully parcel out funds so that rent was paid and my cat and I had something to eat. A student promotion credit card was our lifesaver, if a month’s supply of money ran out before the days did. The cat and I ate some odd meals – whatever I could find in the limited food section of Woolworth’s. Grocery stores did not accept credit cards then. Fortunately for us, those times were not frequent.

Amazon link for A Street Cat Named Bob
Click to see on Amazon

For some people and their animals, it’s a more regular occurrence. Today, on CBC Radio’s The Current (sorry, story no longer available), the stories of some people perhaps marginalized by society but not by their companion animals. James Bowen, whose cat helped him out as a busker and now as an author. As he said, thanks to Bob the cat, he now pays income tax. A woman whose cat keeps her off crack. A woman in Edmonton who started a pet food bank, with donation bins in pet stores and a system for getting the food to those who need it. And a University of Colorado sociologist who has talked to homeless pet owners and written a book called My Dog Always Eats First.

Amazon link for My Dog Always Eats First: Homeless people and their animals
Click to see on Amazon

That book’s author, Dr. Leslie Irvine, talks about homelessness being a “master status” in our society. That means that it overrides all other statuses that a person holds. Those may be “ascribed” such as gender or ethnicity or “achieved” such as profession or educational level. Whether a holder of an advanced degree or a high school dropout, a person sleeping in a doorway is seen only as ‘homeless person’. And you’re not likely to even think to ask what else a panhandler is as you drop your change in his or her cup.

But there is another master status, I think, that people ascribe to themselves:  that of “pet owner”. As one, I will go over and talk to a “homeless person” if he or she is accompanied by pet. I see the animal and want to make contact with him or her, and therefore the person as well. This is not to suggest that homeless people should get pets in order to improve their chances on the street.

Accommodating people and their service or pet animals has caused real problems for many shelters trying to be inclusive. Dog fights, fleas, provision for people with allergies and abandonment of animals in the shelter are some that I remember from a radio documentary I heard a few years ago (sorry, can’t find a link).

Dog in animal shelter in Washington, Iowa, Nhandler WikicommonsBut for many of us, homeless and homed, our pets are solace and friendship, providing someone else for us to think about and care for. And every dog, cat or guinea pig living happily with their person on the street is one less unwanted animal needing rescue or dying from neglect.

Corrie Street 14 May 2017

David the Dog

All week I waited, worried. Where was David the dog? Finally, Friday, there he was trotting along with David the human.

david the dogI hope David the dog doesn’t just disappear with no explanation. He came with an explanation – and a big packet of cash. And aside from avoiding unexplained loose ends, David’s arrival brings up issues that should not be ignored.

A client of David’s, Mrs. Moss, died and, in her will, left her dog – named David as well – to him. She also left David £20,000. He was much happier about the cash than the dog. The two are inextricably connected. But I’m not sure David the human realizes that.

Mrs. Moss’s intention, I’m sure, was that the money would provide for the dog’s care and also be of help to his new carer. So a thank you and a way to ensure that David the dog is not a financial burden. But if she spelled that out in her will, it went right over David’s head. None of the Platts seem to have added two and two and realized that looking after David the dog is a trust agreed to by accepting the terms of the will – and the money.

Pets in wills

Last week, after the dog escaped, Gail asked if it would be such a bad thing if he got lost! It reminded me of what my lawyer had said to me about including provisions for a pet, and care-taking money, in a will. Make sure there’s a system for accounting, otherwise it’s ‘whoops, cat’s dead, thanks for the cash!’, he said. Mrs. Moss should have talked to him, I think.

two davids out for walkI don’t think that Coronation Street writers included the legacy of David the dog as an “issue story”, but it is. Pets are abandoned, taken to shelters or killed after their owners die (see my Pet Heirs). It happens even when people think they have made provision for their pets. That is what Mrs. Moss did, and I hope the Platts will not continue to be so cavalier in their attitude toward David the dog and his £20,000.

I think she cannot have known David or any of his family very well. Otherwise she would not have entrusted her beloved dog to him. But she did, and she rewarded him well for it. David has given the money away, but I hope he shows that he is aware of his continuing obligation to David the dog and to Mrs. Moss.

Cedric and Jamie

Cedric and meThis day, in 1997, I laid my cat and dog in their final resting place. Cedric, the cat, had cancer of the jaw.  Jamie, the dog, had arthritis so bad he could barely walk. Cedric had been with me for fifteen years and Jamie for ten. There was nothing more that could be done for them. I knew I couldn’t go through it twice so decided they’d go together. My vet – and friend – came to my house and did it quickly. I felt like it was Dr. Mengele walking in the door when he arrived with his little bag of needles. It wasn’t painless for me.

Afterwards, four of us carried them to their grave. The vet, me and two friends. Cedric was wrapped in a towel and Jamie was in his bed. Four of us cried, one gave a eulogy, then we filled in the grave.

Jamie12Apr97Next day, we made a perennial bed on the top of their grave. Tiger lilies for Cedric, a tortoiseshell, and orange and yellow dahlias for Jamie. The lilies were mottled in colour and sleek, like Cedric. The dahlias looked happy, like Jamie.

A foundling cat and a determined dog

Cedric came to me soon after my boyfriend dumped me. He hadn’t wanted a cat or dog. I had. So the first thing I did when I got my own place was put out the word that I was cat-hunting.

Friends had a very pregnant cat they had found in the woods. Their own cat terrorized her and they feared what would happen when the kittens were born. I took her. I feared she was going to give birth cedric mousepad photo d stewarton the drive home. But it was a week before the kittens came. I was much more nervous than she was, and she was pretty nervous. I had my landlady come help because she was a registered nurse.

Ceddie and I had a good life in many homes. Jamie joined us when he decided he preferred our house to his own. He lived nearby, at the end of a long country lane. A very social dog, he preferred life in the village.

Jamie was a self-sufficient dog. Didn’t have a lot of dog friends but a wide circle of people friends. He’d do his visiting rounds every few days. When he got older, if he was too tired to walk home, someone would drive him or phone me to come get him. He made friends with a couple neighbour dogs. They’d come visit him or he’d go to their place. He walked along beside you, but I don’t Jamie eating a chicken pot piethink anyone ever trained him. He’d run in the woods after rabbits. Never caught one, and never lost track of you.

Neither Cedric nor Jamie were ever my ‘fur-babies’. They were my friends and, especially Cedric, my advisors.

New pets move in

Less than a month after they died, a young stray tabby and white cat turned up at my house. I wasn’t ready for a new cat, but no one claimed her. Elsie moved in and is still with me. After a year, a German Shepherd pup needed a home. So Jack joined Elsie and me.

First posted on my St. Thomas Dog Blog on April 13, 2011. Now, twenty years later, Elsie and Jack are also gone.

The Miracle of Birth

A while ago, I met a man, his son and their two dogs.  I was making a fuss over the dogs, and the boy said “she’s going to have babies”.  The Kylie & Pups St. Louisdad confirmed it.  She was purebred, he said, as was the father of the pups.  So I figured daddy dog wasn’t their other dog, an unneutered male, but not the same breed.  Both dogs were about 2 years old, and after the puppies were born, the man said, they’d have both dogs neutered.  But they wanted her to have one litter of puppies – for her sake, for the kids to see.

“A Good Dog”

I didn’t say much about it, other than asking if they were breeders.  “Oh no, just she’s a good dog and we know people who’d like one of her pups.”  I agreed that neutering them was certainly a good idea.  They seemed like nice people.  They had got the female from a breeder they know who enters his dogs in field trials (she was a hound).  This guy wants to hunt with her.  She clearly was a beloved pet, both dogs were. Her people knew and appreciated her lineage even though they weren’t into dog showing or competitions.  Probably those pups will get good homes.

But what I wanted to say – scream even – was why?  why?  why? You’re not breeding her at the request of her breeder, so that her pups can add to the prestige of his kennel.  You’re not, fortunately, breeding her so you can make some extra money off selling them on Kijiji.  You are doing it so she has the experience of having puppies and so your children can watch the miracle of birth.  Nice, family-oriented ideals – but why?

Why, at age 2 with no breeding plans in his future, was the male not Penny & foster pupsalready neutered?  Why do people think it’s necessary for a dog’s fulfillment to have puppies?  And why is deliberately letting a dog (or cat) get pregnant the only way to let your children witness the giving of birth?

A dog adjusts very quickly to being neutered.  At least, it’s quick if he’s young.  When older, when used to being “Mr. Testosterone”, the adjustment can be harder.  Still, the adjustment he has to undergo is preferable to the fights he’ll get in, the roaming he’ll feel compelled to do, and the unwanted puppies he’ll create given half a chance if he is not neutered.  A female dog does not feel she’s missing out on something if she never has puppies.  There is no health benefit for her in having puppies.

Foster Pups

If it’s important to you that your children witness birth and the first weeks of animals’ lives, there are other ways of doing it.  There are always irresponsible people who let their dogs or cats get pregnant, then don’t want to be bothered with them.  Those pregnant animals end up in shelters or wandering the streets until they get picked up by the dog catcher.  In every city and town, there are animal pounds and rescue groups looking for foster homes for pregnant dogs and cats.

You can take the mother in and look after her, experience the miracle of birth and help her look after the newborns.  When they are old enough to leave their mother, the babies and mother will go into the foster/adoption system.  You can have the joy of nurturing a mother and her babies and you have a support system finding homes St. Thomas, Ontario, Aug 2010 pound sign no cats acceptedfor them.  You’ve got what you wanted for yourself or your kids. You’ve helped animals in need, and you haven’t contributed to the problem of too many pets and not enough homes.

Anyone willing to foster a pregnant animal for a couple of months can witness the miracle of birth.  Unfortunately, the supply of unwanted and/or unneutered pets so far seems inexhaustible, so finding a needy animal to foster isn’t likely to be a problem.

Contact a local shelter

If you can foster a pregnant dog or cat, contact All Breed Canine Rescue, St. Thomas Animal Control, Animal Aide or Pets/Friends 4 Life.  The miracle of birth will be just as miraculous and moving.

The dog and her 12 puppies in the top photo is Kylie.  An elderly feral dog, she was rescued by Stray Rescue of St. Louis in Missouri while pregnant for the umpteenth time.  The middle photo is of Penny who, after weaning her own puppies, nursed a litter of abandoned pups.  She, and they, were at Save a Mom Pregnant Dog Rescue in East Sparta, Ohio.  The third photo, in St. Thomas ON, speaks for itself.  What happens to the cats and dogs when there’s no room at the pound?

First posted on my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Sept. 14, 2010

Titanic: No greater love

Among the bodies found after Titanic sank was that of a woman, clinging to the body of a Great Dane. Ann Elizabeth Isham had a seat in a lifeboat but was told dogs on Titanic deck, including a Great Dane typeher dog was too big to come with her. So she jumped back on board the ship. They drowned together.

This is one of the stories told in a current exhibit about the people and dogs of Titanic at the Widener University Art Gallery in Chester PA. There were at least twelve dogs on board. Three survived. Small dogs, they were carried in bags or wrapped in blankets and, held on laps, they didn’t take extra space. Astonishingly, a Pomeranian was refused entry on the rescue ship Carpathia. That, after he and his mistress had survived the night on a lifeboat. Mrs. Martin Rothschild raised such a fuss that her little dog was allowed to board.

Dogs were 1st class passengers while cats were crew, on mousing detail. There is a story that one cat saved a man as well as herself and her kittens. She was on board from Belfast to Southampton where she disembarked, carrying her kittens off one by one. A man, debating whether to seek continued work on the ship’s journey, saw the cat leave and decided he too should stay ashore.

Happenstance, loyalty and sacrifice

The tale of the Titanic is filled with happenstance, loyalty and sacrifice. Ida Straus was in a lifeboat when she realized her octogenarian husband wasn’t allowed on. “Where he goes, I go” she said and stepped back on the ship. They died together.

Quigg Baxter rowingQuebec Shamrock hockey player Quigg Baxter was on board with his mother and sister and, without their knowledge, so was his girlfriend Berthe Mayné, a Belgian cabaret singer. He introduced Berthe to his mother and sister as he put her in the lifeboat with them. He drowned.  Berthe later returned to Belgium and told stories of her doomed Canadian beau but nobody in her family believed her. After her death, they found a small box filled with photos of Quigg and his love letters to her.

A Canadian businessman, Capt. Arthur Peuchen, survived but later wished he hadn’t. A yachtsman, he got on a lifeboat with women and children to safely row it away. Back in Toronto, he was scorned for having survived. He retreated to a logging camp and horse farm in Alberta, haunted by survivor guilt. He died in 1929, a double survivor I think; of Titanic, then of societal opprobrium.

Titanic 100 years later

painting by Willy Stower sinking of TitanicThe Titanic specials for the 100th anniversary taught me a lot about the ship and our folklore about her. The hubris believed to be shown by the claim that she was unsinkable: the Captain and ship designers never said that, only the media did. The image of frivolity we see in the band playing as the ship listed and sunk: those musicians willingly gave their lives, knowing the value of music to keep others calm and provide solace for those facing death. Engineers accepted death to stay below trying to save the ship, then just to delay the sinking to save as many other lives as possible. The Captain hadn’t run her at full speed. He knew the danger of icebergs. On his final voyage before retirement, he went down with his ship.

Unfortunate timing of events coupled with miscommunication led to the disaster. The errors were not having Titanic ship in a bottleenough lifeboats and not enough practice at loading those they had. But, faced with disaster, people did the best they could. I hope Titanic is protected effectively now and left as the burial ground she is. Let her remain a testament to the power of the sea and the sacrifice of so many.

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog Apr. 19, 2012 (2 comments below) 

Farm Dog

Being a farm dog is the diplomatic posting of the canine career spectrum. They have to be friend, greeter and protector. They have to be independent but know their place, both geographically and in the social hierarchy. It’s a tough job.

farm dog doing stable roundsThey are not fenced in. They have free rein over their property but must stay within its boundaries. No chasing squirrels across the road just for fun. No chasing other farm animals – cats, chickens, cattle or horses (unless specifically told to round up livestock). Farm dogs learn how to manoeuvre safely around large animals, and be gentle with small ones.

They must protect farm animals, people and property from all predators, four- and two-legged. They must be able to read people and other animals, who is friend and who is foe. A good deep bark and growl is an asset. But they cannot be too intimidating. They are ambassadors for their farm.

When a farm relies on visitors, the farm dog is part of the public face of the business. At a horse boarding stable, for example, a lot of people are coming and going all through the day. First-time visitors drop in to to ask about boarding or lessons. Horse owners, riding students, veterinarians, farriers, other horse people are there on a regular basis. The dog must assess the person quickly, and make the suitable greeting.

Often visitors bring their own dogs with them. The resident dog must be accepting of these other dogs on his or her turf. The visiting dogs may or may not be farm dogs themselves, so they may know how to act in a barn and with another farm dog, or not. Either way, the resident farm dog must be tolerant and gracious.

Stable dogs must know when to stay out of the picture – like when people are there for serious riding or training or horse business. They must also know when it’s time to be the centre of attention – like farm dog portraitwhen kids want to hug them, dress them up or play games with them. They need to be quietly friendly (read non-threatening) with people who fear dogs. In those cases, they are not only ambassadors for their farm but also their species and, sometimes, for their breeds. I overheard someone say about a farm dog, “I was scared of German Shepherds, but then I met her.”

It takes a special dog to be a successful farm dog, and they live in memory for generations of their family and their friends.

Heaven

When my dog Jack died, I believed in heaven. After his burial, my mother-in-law gave me a card with a little story in it. It’s about a Heaven - Doug with Jack in Outer Battery, St. John's 1998man and his dog walking along the afterlife road looking for heaven’s gates. At the beautiful golden and pearl gates with a sign saying Heaven, they’re told “sorry, no dogs allowed.” They continue walking. At a rickety gate in front of a small farm, a sign also says Heaven. The man asks if his dog can come in and is told “Of course he can.” So in they went.

It made me feel better to think of Jack in that heaven, met at the gate by my dog Jamie and cat Cedric who died before he came to me.  I knew they would recognize him as one of the family.  Doug, the German Shepherd who had ‘mothered’ him when he was a pup, would be there too.

They would take him to Heaven’s Porch, where my dad would be George Anger and Jamie dog 1991sitting with his brother and brothers-in-law.  Dad would pat his side and say, “well hello Jack, so you’ve come to join us.”  Dad’s brother would say “so you’re the sonovabitch she named after me, are you?”  Jamie would run around in front of the porch, barking and tail wagging, legs dancing.  No trace of the arthritis that had crippled him up.

That’s what I pictured the night Jack died, thanks to that story in a sympathy card.  It comforted me.

No sin means no heaven or hell

I had read the story aloud to Jack’s mourners and, of course, I cried. My mother looked askance, and said “dogs don’t have souls.” I put the card away. That was a debate I wasn’t taking on right then. Neither was my mother-in-law. Like my mother, she was a church-going woman of strong faith. But a different church.

Mom’s thesis, I knew, is that animals cannot sin and do not have immortal souls. They are innocent beings, so do not have consequences in the afterlife. Heaven and hell do not apply to them.

It has famously been said that there are no atheists in a foxhole.  Of course there aren’t!  Why, when you are in danger or great despair, would you not cling to anything that gave you hope or solace?  Part of that solace is that you can make it anything you want or need.

You can picture your enemy burning in hellfire, screaming and clawing at the walls of the pit.  You can even picture it before he dies, and enjoy the anticipation.  If you reconciled yourself with him by the time of his death, perhaps you’d see him being welcomed into the arms of Jesus.  Jack at Man o' War's grave, Kentucky Horse Park, Lexington KYEven if his sins hadn’t changed, you can see what you want his afterlife to be, and believe it to be reality.  You can maybe see yourself going beyond the white light to “a better place”.  If you picture yourself in the pit of hellfire, you might find yourself looking for a way to avoid that place.

Heaven needs Hell

The afterlife, being something we can’t know about, is pretty much whatever you believe it to be.  Different faiths have different pictures of it, some more detailed than others.  In the fundamentalist Christian belief system in which I was raised, one of the truths is that animals have no souls and therefore are incapable of sin.  Their death is final with no afterlife, either good or bad.  Heaven cannot be an option if Hell is not also a possibility.  If my dog Jack cannot go to hell, he also cannot go to heaven. Thinking of him in heaven is misinterpretation or blasphemy.  It’s nothing personal toward the dog; it’s just the “reality” of the world we don’t yet know.

I don’t like thinking about a heaven without dogs. So I’d rather stick with my fuzzy and situational spirituality and comfort myself with the Jack beside Kettle Creek, St. Thomas winterpicture of Jack on the Porch of Heaven with my other animals and my dad and Uncle Jack and other family and friends.  That gives me comfort.  If I were in a foxhole, I’d be praying non-stop to God to keep me alive or at least ensure that I go to the Heaven where I can sit on the porch with Jack.

James Herriot wrote a lovely story about dogs’ afterlife. “Prince and the Card Above the Bed” is in a small, beautifully illustrated volume entitled James Herriot’s Favorite Dog Stories, New York:  St. Martin’s Press 1996.

If you haven’t seen this, Church Wars is a concise little debate on the question of dogs’ souls.

This was first posted July 31, 2010 in Stories on my St. Thomas Dog Blog. This Saturday, Jan. 30th, marks the eighth anniversary of Jack’s death.

Watch Dog

watch dog Bing with Dad at Esso station grand openingBing was a small German Shepherd or Alsatian as Mom called her.  She was a watch dog. My dad got her from another service station when he opened his.  She was very good at her job – the perfect Walmart greeter during the day and to those who had legitimate business, a holy horror of snapping teeth and bristled fur at night or to those without good reason to be on the property.

Bing-in-WindowWhen Dad sold the business, Bing came home with us.  She quickly adapted to house living, but she kept her principal loyalty to Dad.  Mom was second on her list and we kids, well, she liked us all right but didn’t pay much attention to us.

One summer evening my parents were out and only my older sister and I were home.  My sister was talking on the phone and I had nothing to do.  So I decided to teach Bing to walk on a leash.  Well, Bing had never been on a leash in her life and had no intention of starting now!  But, out in the driveway, she humoured me or figured the bits of hotdog I was using as bait were worth her putting up with my foolishness. Dusk started to fall.  I noticed a car pull up and stop in front of the house.  I didn’t recognize it, so went on with the “training”.  Bing noticed it too, and kept one eye on the car and the other on the hotdogs.

After quite a while, the driver opened the car door and started to get out.  A rumble started deep in Bing’s throat.  She took off, ripping the leash out of my hands.  She flew towards the car, roaring.  The man jumped back in, jammed the car in gear and took off, door still open.  I stood in the driveway crying and screaming for Bing to come back, which she did, of course, as soon as she realized she couldn’t catch the car.

My sister came out to see what the noise was about.  When my parents got home, we told Bing at homethem.  My dad’s face went ashen, lips white.  He asked for a description of the car.  It was light blue – that’s all I knew.  My sister had seen it through the window and knew a bit more, it was a sedan and I think she knew the make.  Turns out, the police had put out a notice that there was a man trying to abduct little girls in our area.  The car they had seen him in fit the description of the one in front of our house.

I don’t know what would have happened to me, a little girl playing in her own driveway, if there hadn’t been a dog there too.  Bing had been alert to his presence the whole time, but had been willing to give him the benefit of the doubt until he opened the car door.  I have no doubt he was the child molester.  She did not react that way to strangers simply stopping to ask directions.  Bing saved me that night – perhaps my life, certainly at least my innocence.  She got extra pats that night from my dad, I remember. Bing may have retired, but she was still a watch dog.

Many dogs have watched over me, guarded and protected meBing on home watch.  In childhood and teenage years, my dogs always helped me solve my problems or at least comforted me so that I could cope with them.  I guess I never had problems so big that a dog couldn’t deal with them.  For that I’m thankful. I’m thankful too for those dogs who shared their brave, big hearts with me.

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, July 4, 2010

Visits to the Grandparents

Ruby age 15 in 1939 carrying guitar on Pine Street“Minnie and Charlie’s daughter must be visiting.  I saw that strange girl of hers, and the dog’s gone.”  Now, over forty years later, that’s what I imagine people on Pine Street said when I went with my parents to my grandparents’ house.

As soon as I’d said hello to grandma and grandpa, I’d be out the door and heading down toward the woods at the end of the street.  Along the way, from three doors past their house, I’d start collecting dogs. I didn’t steal them or let them out of fenced yards.  No one had fenced yards then and dogs just laid around their front steps or in the yard.  If they saw me, they’d come out to the sidewalk and come along with me.  If I didn’t see one where I knew it lived, I might call “here doggiedoggie” or call its name if I knew it.

Walking with dogs

On a good day, I’d have seven or eight dogs with me by the time I reached the end of the two block street.  At the end was a ravine, wooded with a trail going through it to the railroad tracks and also running parallel to the tracks along the creek.  The dogs and I would walk through the woods on the creek path, staying away from the tracks and never going further than a couple blocks either direction from Pine Street.

I don’t remember what we did for the hours we spent there.  I threw sticks for them maybe.  When it was almost grandparents Charles and Minnie Burwell 1962dark, we’d walk back up Pine Street or sometimes Pearl Street. The dogs would all turn in to their respective homes.  I’d get back to Grandma’s by myself just in time for supper.  If we were staying overnight, next day I’d be back down the street collecting the dogs and we’d do the same thing.  Before we left, I’d make a hurried trip down Pine Street to collect the dogs for a quick goodbye to them all on the street.  They seemed to know I was leaving and just went back to their doorsteps.

I think there were other kids sometimes along with us too, but I can’t remember any of them clearly.  Some of the dogs I knew by name, Bingo and Rex and Lady. I must have talked to some kids to know that.  I don’t think I would have talked to any adults. And I don’t recall any adults asking why I was taking their dog.

A collie

I remember the dogs.  A beautiful collie that lived in a two-storey frame house on the corner of the lane that ran between Pine and Pearl.  A bulldog, some little shaggy haired mutts, a couple big Shepherd crosses.  They all got along, there was never a fight among them.  None of them ever ran off from our pack.  They never chased cats sitting hunched up or standing backs arched in driveways further down the road.  They never came back to my grandparents’ house with me, and they never came on their own to visit me there.  I don’t know if, when I wasn’t there, they rounded themselves up and went for walks in the ravine.  I don’t think I wondered about that at the time; all I knew is that they were there for me when I came to visit.

I loved going to my grandparents.  I liked seeing them, being in their house, looking in cupboards at treasures I’d seen before and finding new ones.  But I especially loved my time with the dogs.

Pine Street woods aren’t there anymore

Now, when I go back and drive past my grandparents’ house, I want to park the car and walk down the street looking for dogs to walk with.  grandparents' house on Pine Street TillsonburgThe houses on Pine Street look pretty unchanged from the 1960s.  But the woods aren’t there anymore.  The ravine is there, but the creek is gone.  It’s been diverted, I guess, and the bed paved over.  A new subdivision is on the other side, in what used to be the woods between the creek and the railroad tracks.  Even if I found dogs sitting on doorsteps or laying in the yard, there’d be nowhere woodsy to walk with them.

So I stop in front of the house on the lane.  It’s still got pale yellow siding with the same windows and front cement step.  I say “hello Lassie” to the dog I see in my mind.  Then I drive a few streets east, turn left and stop at the recreation field.  There’s a ball diamond there and a soccer field.  At the back of it, there’s woods with a trail going through to the railroad tracks.  I get my dog out of the car and we walk through the woods.

I didn’t know then, when I was eight or ten, that this would be a constant in my life:  walking with dogs and remembering dogs.  Like the kids that were part of Pine Street, many people have been in my life over the years. But it’s the dogs that stand out most vividly.

Originally posted in Stories on my St. Thomas Dog Blog on July 4, 2010. The photographs of my mother, grandparents and their house are from my mother’s photo albums.