“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.
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 dark, 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.
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. The 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.
The Christmas season, for me, officially begins with the Santa Claus parade. But you have to start feeling festive a bit earlier if you’re going to be in the parade. The St. Thomas Dog Owners Association decided to enter a “float” of dogs in the 2010 St. Thomas Santa Claus Parade. Leo and Charlie were ready with bells on.
We had a member’s van for carrying dogs and people and borrowed a beautiful brand new 2011 Ram truck from Elgin Chrysler. We decorated both with lights and tinsel. My contribution to the decorating was figuring out how to tie a lighted reindeer to the rear view mirror of the Ram so he shone out from the windshield.
So, off to the parade mustering ground at the Timken’s parking lot. A horse trailer and tiny ponies standing beside it getting tacked up by small girls. Two larger ponies were waiting to be harnessed to a beautiful white open carriage. Nearby a pipe band warmed up. Leo leaped from the car. Party time!
After two years with Leo, it still amazes me how fully he has embraced human activities. He didn’t grow up from puppyhood around parades and sidewalks. A puppy mill ‘production’ dog, he knew nothing about interacting in human society. But he’s a fast learner, and he knows that noise, music and big concentrations of people means there’s likely to be dropped food on the ground!
Floats were massed four wide on First Ave. I had no idea where STDOA might be. So we walked up to Talbot, looking for dogs. The parade marshals, Steve Peters, Joe Preston and Heather Jackson-Chapman, told me where exactly STDOA was. How they knew in that sea of floats and bands is beyond me!
Music blaring, technical difficulties getting sorted out, elves putting on their outfits. It was glorious – like being in the back lot at the circus. STDOA people and dogs were just where the marshals had told me. The dogs were checking each other out – their antlers, Santa coats, elf hats, bells and lighted collars.
Then the floats started moving. As we rounded the corner at First and Talbot, kids were lined 6 or 8 rows deep. A big roar came from them, “dogs, dogs” as we came into sight. All the way along Talbot Street, it was the same. “Look at the dogs. Dogs, dogs!” We weren’t doing anything other than walking along the street.
I had a pocketful of smelly treats. I knew Leo would be vacuuming the street for candy and dropped food, so wanted to have something to keep his attention. It worked – he pranced around me trying to get his nose in my pocket and hands. He looked like he was dancing. He’d sit, give a paw, do all the tricks he could think of to make me give him a treat. So I made the most of it, and he looked like a performing poodle. He was performing all right, begging for food. He’d visit people along the parade route, in reality checking to see if they had any food he could scarf, but he’d waggle his tail and let them pet him.
Santa Claus and Santa Dogs
He and Charlie pranced and danced all the way to Elgin Street. They watched the people and listened to the oohs and aahs. I’m sure they thought all those people had come out just to see them. And, in a way, they had. They’d come to see dogs, people, ponies and vehicles in a magical situation. Everybody dressed up, everybody smiling. Everybody waiting to see Santa, of course. He’s the main event. But in a parade, every ‘act’ is a main event. This year, my first of ever being in a parade, I found out that’s true for participants as well as spectators.
Originally posted on my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Dec. 1, 2010, The 2015 St. Thomas parade was on Nov. 21st. If you’re near Sussex or Hampton NB, both towns’ parades are this Saturday, Dec. 5th.
The Fire Muster is this coming weekend – Labour Day Saturday and Sunday – in Pinafore Park, St. Thomas. A chance to see fire fighters, fire trucks old and new, classic cars, and dogs. There are always lots of dogs at the Fire Muster. On Sunday afternoon, there’s a dog show. It started as a Dalmatian show, and there are still special prizes for Best Dalmatian and Best Dalmatian ‘wannabe’. Dogs wear costumes, do tricks or just walk across the stage. The first time our late dog Jack entered, he won Best in Show. I don’t know who was proudest, us or him. Later, he happily rooted around in his prize hamper from Hartz.
From then on, every time we were at Pinafore, he wanted to walk across the bandshell stage. Strut across it, reliving his moment of glory. I’d sing “here she comes, Miss America”, and he’d look out over the cheering audience that only he could see. The year they tore the old bandshell down he was crestfallen. I took him to the new one at the back of the park, and he walked across it. But you could see it wasn’t the same for him.
He entered the dog show every year, never won again, but always enjoyed it. As soon as he’d see dogs heading for the registration table and lining up, he wanted to join them. He liked going to Pinafore Park any time of the year, but he would get especially excited when he’d see the ladies on the boot toll at the gate. He knew it was Fire Muster time.
For several years, my husband and I worked at the souvenir t-shirt booth. Jack loved being there, meeting and greeting dogs and people. One year, though, he wasn’t really happy. We’d made him his own tshirt. He didn’t like walking around like a canine advertisement but, in his black “muscle shirt”, he brought a lot of attention to the booth.
The new dogs, Leo and Charlie, were at last year’s Fire Muster for the first time. They both entered the dog show. Didn’t win, but they didn’t care. They were happy with their participation gift treats.
First published Aug. 31, 2010 on my St. Thomas Dog Blog
Dallas was on the All Breed Canine Rescue website under “Mature Dogs.” I had been looking through rescue sites, hoping no dog would ‘speak’ to me. This gray-muzzled, sharp-faced, squat-bodied Shepherd-type did. It was way too soon.
Our German Shepherd Jack had just died. He’d been with me for 9½ years, rescued at 14 weeks from neglect. He was my friend and touchstone. No other dog could replace him or compete for my affection. But the house seemed so empty. The cats missed him. My husband said no new dog, he needed time to mourn. I missed Jack and the presence of a dog. I took ‘match yourself to a dog breed’ questionnaires. I checked ABCR’s site again – Dallas was still listed. My husband still couldn’t think of another dog in Jack’s place.
It was a cat who changed his mind. The “boss” cat, she ceased harassing the others and just lay in Jack’s favourite spots, staring vacantly. After a week of this, my husband said “maybe we should get a dog for that cat.” Dallas came for a visit. The cat ran up to her, delighted. Then realizing this dog wasn’t Jack, she hissed violently and stalked off.
When ABCR got Dallas from the pound, she was not spayed and had arthritic or injured hind legs. Most dramatically, she had no hair on her back. “Her skin was like raw hamburger,” I was told. Allergy treatment and special food had cleared up the hair loss. Still, no one really knew what was wrong with her. We were recovering financially from vet bills for Jack and our elderly cat Henry, and emotionally from months of caring for chronically ill animals and the loss of them. Was taking Dallas asking for more expense and sadness? Quite possibly. But she looked like home, like she belonged here.
After a few more visits, Dallas came to stay. She had enjoyed visiting, but expected her foster mom to be waiting to take her home. The day her foster family left without her, she clawed at the door howling inconsolably. I was in tears.
A few hours later, after a good long walk, Dallas looked around and seemed to decide that, if this was now home, she’d make the best of it. She glued herself to me and is very protective. She doesn’t trust men, but is realizing that the one in her new house isn’t a threat to her or me. The cats have warmed up to her. Her extended human family welcomed her. My sister seems resemblances to her late Shepherd/Husky. My mother sees our old Shepherd in her. I have taken her to Jack’s grave and to his favourite walking places. I tell her about him and she wrinkles her nose and listens.
She takes pills for hip dysplasia and allergies. A lump on her rear end was easily removed and was benign. Sometimes her legs are creaky, but she plays and chases balls. She’s not Jack, but she is Dallas, a dog who, like him, has adopted us for life. My sister said, “You needed her as much as she needed you.” It’s true.
(Part 2) Dallas died almost three months to the day after we got her. One morning in July she threw up. She seemed ok later, but didn’t want to chase her ball and really just put up with our walk for my sake. That evening, she was listless. Late at night, she was feverish and chilled. I should have called her vet. I didn’t. I took her in first time in the morning. I had to help her out of the car. They couldn’t see anything obviously wrong, so kept her in for observation and tests. She died in the night. No one knows why.
Her gift to us was to fill the void left by the deaths of Jack and Henry. I hadn’t known if I could open my heart fully again to another dog. But Dallas showed me I could. She reminded us of Jack and other dogs in our lives. But she was also her own dog, with her own ways of doing things and funny habits.
I was devastated at losing her. A friend said maybe she was a messenger whose purpose was to translate love of, and from, Jack to other dogs for us. Losing a dog is heart breaking, but the loneliness of no dog is worse. We’ll be adopting another, probably a Shepherd type, soon.
(Part 3) A few months passed. We adopted Charlie, a little terrier mix, then Leo, a weird Standard Poodle puppy mill survivor. We didn’t so much adopt Leo as he adopted me. He later saw his way clear to adopt Jim too. They are absolutely nothing like Jack or Dallas or any dog that’s gone before them in our lives. I still “see” Jack and Dallas in the house and backyard. I tell Charlie and Leo about them. They don’t much care about my stories, but they love to run and play and snuggle. They’re both part of my heart now.
I started this story in July 2008 for an online dog story competition but didn’t submit it after having to add Part 2. It was posted on the St. Thomas Dog Blog Nov. 19, 2010.
– by Jim Stewart, originally published on the STDOA website
The WWII story of Sergeant Gander is one of courage, companionship, and sacrifice. Gander was posthumously awarded the Dickin Medal in 2000. Sgt. Gander, a Newfoundland dog, and other animals who served in Canada’s military are recognized on the Veterans Affairs Canada webpage. A grenade killed Sgt. Gander. He grabbed it and ran, taking it away from his men. It took his life when it exploded, but his action saved many.
The book Sergeant Gander: A Canadian Hero, by St. Thomas’ own Robyn Walker, is called “a fascinating account of the Royal Rifles of Canada’s canine mascot, and his devotion to duty during the Battle of Hong Kong in the Second World War.” Intended for children, it is very informative for anyone interested in Newfoundland dogs, Newfoundland or Canada’s role in WWII.
The Dickin Medal, at left, has been awarded to heroic animals by the UK’s People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) since 1914. It has an amazing history and the list of recipients includes dogs, pigeons, cats, and horses.
Judy, a British WWII dog (at right wearing her Dickin Medal), was the only dog to ever officially be listed as a Prisoner of War in a Japanese prison camp.
Damien Lewis wrote about her and her partner Frank Williams in Judy: A dog in a million. Here is the Amazon link. Mr. Williams and his wife and children settled in British Columbia in the 1950s. His family’s website tells about his life and Judy’s, and plans to make their story into a movie. (“A Tribute…”)
Flanders Fields’ Bonfire, WWI
Another faithful four legged friend who served in war was the horse Bonfire. Bonfire is shown here with John McCrae, born in Guelph, Ontario, who served as a field surgeon with the Canadian Army Medical Corps during World War I. The misery the two of them saw is hard to imagine. McCrae, who would become a Lieutenant Colonel, never returned to Canada, having passed away in 1918 from pneumonia and buried in France with full military honours. His flag-draped coffin was borne on a gun carriage and his mourners, who included Sir Arthur Currie and many of McCrae’s friends and staff, were preceded by Bonfire, with McCrae’s boots reversed in the stirrups. John McCrae wrote In Flanders Fields.
Eli and Colton Rusk, Afghanistan
“Fallen Marine’s parents adopt son’s bomb dog” read the headlines Feb. 2, 2011. In only the 2nd time that a US military dog has been adopted by the family of a handler killed in action, Eli’s leash was handed to Darrell Rusk, his wife and two sons who crouched down to hug and pet Eli, who lifted his paw. Because Eli was still considered operational, the adoption was approved with special permission of the Sec. of the Navy. Eli will join the other dogs on the Rusk ranch in Texas.
Eli was assigned to Rusk in May, 2010. On duty in Afghanistan, the two quickly grew inseparable. Military dogs are supposed to sleep in kennels when deployed, but Rusk broke the rules and let Eli curl up with him on his cot. He shared his meals with him. “What’s mine is his” wrote Rusk.
The day a sniper killed Colton Rusk, Eli was the first to reach his body. So loyal, he snapped at other Marines who rushed to his fallen handler. They had already found two roadside bombs that day, and had stopped when a vehicle had run over a third. Rusk was shot after the soldiers stopped to secure the area. Pfc. Colton Rusk was 20 years old.
One of them, in the photo on the left, is Balto. He was the lead husky in the dog team that ran the final leg of a run across Alaska to Nome in 1925. The teams were bringing serum to combat a diphtheria epidemic in the town.
The run made by these dogs and men is now commemorated in the annual Iditarod race.
Smoky – “Four pounds of courage”
Smoky was found by an American soldier in an abandoned foxhole in the New Guinea jungle in 1944. She was sold to Corporal Bill Wynne for two Australian pounds so her owner could return to his poker game. For the next two years Smoky traveled with Wynne, even on combat flights over the Pacific. Wynne was with the 26th Photo Recon Squadron and went everywhere, jungle and air, and was credited with being on twelve missions. Smoky was on all of them.
Wynne credited Smoky with saving his life by warning him of incoming shells on a transport ship, calling her an “angel from a foxhole.” Smoky guided Wynne to duck the fire that hit the eight men standing next to them.
In down time, Smoky learned numerous tricks, which she performed for the entertainment of the other troops with Special Services and in hospitals from Australia to Korea. With Wynne, Smoky developed a repertoire beyond that of any dog of her day. In 1944 Yank Down Under magazine named Smoky the “Champion Mascot in the Southwest Pacific Area.” Smoky would later, after the war, perform in 42 live-television shows without repeating a trick.
From Bill Wynne’s website he tells us that, having had six lessons in obedience training in Cleveland in 1942, his experience when he obtained the four pound Yorkie in New Guinea was indeed limited. But soon Smoky was ‘playing dead’ and weaving between Bill’s legs as he walked along. She learned to walk on a drum and peddle a scooter made from an orange crate. And she was soon walking on a tight wire blindfolded.
Smoky’s tricks enabled her to become a hero in her own right. She helped when engineers built an airbase. They had to run a telegraph wire through 70 feet of pipe, which had shifted in spots. It was quite the moment when she emerged from the other end of the pipe with the string that had the wire attached. Her “trick” saved three days work and men being exposed on the runway in a very dangerous situation.
For most people, her ultimate trick was spelling her name out of letters by actual recognition, no matter how they were placed. Smoky and Bill performed for their buddies and at Army and Navy Hospitals. Many of her tricks are used today in agility trials. She and Bill were in show business for 10 years after the war doing the tricks Smoky learned overseas, all set to music. And Bill worked in Hollywood for a short time after the war, training and handling dogs in major studios.
According to Wikipedia, Animal Planet determined that Smoky was the first therapy dog of record. Her service in this arena began in July 1944 at the 233rd Station Hospital, in New Guinea, where she accompanied nurses to see the incoming battlefield casualties from the Biak Island invasion. Smoky was already a celebrity of sorts, as her photograph was in Yank Down Under magazine at the same time, which made it easy to get permission. Dr. Charles Mayo, of the famed Mayo Clinic, was the commanding officer who allowed Smoky to go on rounds. He also permitted her to sleep with Wynne in his hospital bed for five nights. Smoky’s work as a therapy dog continued for 12 years, during and after World War II.
After the war Wynne brought Smoky back to Cleveland to live with his family. In Cleveland, Wynne and Smoky were featured in a page one story with pictures, and Smoky soon become a national sensation. Over the next 10 years Smoky and Wynne traveled to Hollywood and all over the world to perform demonstrations of her remarkable skills. She appeared with Wynne on some of the earliest TV shows in the Cleveland area, including a show of their own called Castles in the Air on Cleveland’s WKYC Channel 3. They were especially popular as entertainers at the veterans’ hospitals. According to Wynne, “after the War, Smoky entertained millions during the late 40s and early 50s.”
In 1957, at age 14, Smoky passed away unexpectedly. Wynne and his family buried Smoky in a World War II .30 caliber ammo box. Nearly 50 years later, on Veterans Day, November 11, 2005, a bronze life-size statue of Smoky sitting in a GI helmet atop a two-ton granite base was unveiled (right with Mr. Wynne and Habie). The monument is dedicated to:
“Smoky, the Yorkie Doodle Dandy, and Dogs of All Wars”
Bill retired after 50 years of professional photography. After his experience in the 26th Photo Recon Squadron, he spent 7 years with the National Advisory Committee For Aeronautics (now NASA). He flew on research missions and worked on research programs that tested and developed equipment still used in modern aircraft today. Bill then worked as a photo journalist and photographer/writer with the Cleveland Plain Dealer for 31 years. He returned to NASA for four more years before retiring to write Yorkie Doodle Dandy, a memoir about his war experiences and Smoky.
United States War Dogs Association
War Dog adoption requests rose following the Bin Laden mission. Great interest is now on this topic. Are retired war dogs the new “hot” dog choice? There is also a website United States War Dogs Association that has a lot of research and information. You can turn the music off, too. There’s info on the modeling session and the finished scale model of the project they are working on. It is the U.S. War Dog Memorial to be located on the grounds of the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans Memorial in New Jersey.
The War Dogs Association website has lots of information and personal stories such as the one pictured here – Who Let the Dogs Out? – about the Vietnam era. It also has a War Dog Heroes page, and info on books about dogs in war.
One book it mentions, Always Faithful, is about Marine dogs of WWII. The story is told by retired Marine Corps captain and veterinarian, Bill Putney, who “writes a moving and heartrending account of his days as commander of the 3rd Marine War Dog Platoon, in which some 72 dogs and their handlers were his responsibility.”
Belgian Malinois or German Shepherd?
The Navy Seal team that took down Osama Bin Laden included one dog. Like other members of the Seal team, the identity is kept secret, including the breed at this point. The Seals have long favoured Newfoundland dogs. But a smaller breed, including one trained to sniff out explosives or booby trapped, may have been used, especially if the dog was strapped to the trainer and dropped from a helicopter into a desert compound.
Interesting coverage of the speculation surrounding which breed and other info is on Global Animal, which includes some other sources too. PS: The claim by one source that some trained military dogs have titanium teeth at a cost of $2000 each has not been verified, but that hasn’t stopped the story from spreading.
‘Vapor Wake’ trained dogs being used in NYC
In a new twist on combating terrorism, dogs specially trained to detect a ‘vapor wake’ left by explosives are starting to be used in the New York City subway system. Shown above is Rachel during a trial run at Grand Central Station. According to the article, it costs $20,000 to to breed and train these animals. Normal bomb-sniffing dogs are trained to find explosives that are stationary. Dogs like Rachel are trained to detect a moving scent.
The Dogs of War
Here’s something you don’t see in the Sears or Eaton’s catalogue: Dog Gear from K9 Storm Inc., a Canadian company that was awarded an $86,000 contract by U.S. Naval Special Warfare Group. The dog pictured above is wearing a K9 Storm Aerial Insertion Vest which is part of their catalogue (photo below).
The photos above are from a photo essay at foreignpolicy.com. Great info with the pics too.
And as with any war action, there are wounds and casualties. The Holland Working Dog (MWD) Veterinary Hospital is established to handle the special cases that arise from military action. The hospital was named in memory of Lt. Col. Daniel Holland, killed in Iraq in 2006, the first Army veterinarian to be killed in action since the Vietnam War. The dog shown above is Taker, who is thankfully getting nothing more serious than a root canal (photo from Foreign Policy). And below – a bit of history for you from a 1935 Popular Science article.
Remembrance Day in St. Thomas, 2011
Remembrance Day ceremonies took place at the Boy Soldier Memorial in front of the St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital in St. Thomas. Despite the cold wind, there was a good turnout of people who paid their quiet respects to those who have made our society possible.
Five years ago today at 2:15 pm ET, my beautiful German Shepherd Jack died. We had his vet euthanize him before his body did it by itself. It was getting pretty close; I don’t think he would have survived another night. He had a number of physical ailments; we don’t know exactly what all was wrong internally but I suspect a fast-growing cancer was involved. He was only 9 3/4 years old. He had been my best friend, counselor and “baby-dog” for 9 1/2 of those years.
He came to me as a puppy needing a home with love and freedom. He had been tied outside and neglected, fed irregularly and poorly. At about 4 months, his back legs were so weak he couldn’t climb a step. He didn’t know how to play or run around. That broke my heart.
He learned to play – quickly! There were quirks in his personality that remained for life. A dog trainer told me that the first three months of a pup’s life are very important for socialization. That is when they learn from their mother and littermates how to play properly and they learn how to interact with humans. I don’t know how long Jack was with his mother, but I do know his first couple of months on his own were literally spent on his own.
I had not wanted a dog at that time, but couldn’t find a good home for him. So he stayed with me, and I am so thankful. He taught me so much and was my constant companion.
Mouse batteries dead in my usual computer, and not a new battery in the house. But luckily I have pets in costumes pics on my laptop. As if there aren’t always ‘stupid pet pics’ on any computer of mine! So in case you need some inspiration to dress up your dog, cat, kid or self on this eve of All Saints’ Day, here you go.
Three dogs and one cat, for your viewing pleasure, present:
Pets in Costumes
And at the end of the day you can only hope you get enough treats and not too many tricks.
For those feeling the full power of Hurricane Sandy and whatever else is happening with weather patterns right now, we are all thinking of you.
Words for both Schmeichel and Lloyd at the end of Monday’s episodes: sleep tight big fella. Thank you, Carmel Morgan, for two perfect episodes. Sad and perfect.
The death of Schmeichel was beautifully done. Ches talking to him while waiting for the vet, telling him how frightened he was, how much he needed his help through the next stage of his life, telling him he loved him. And earlier, Kirk speaking up for Schmeichel’s right to not suffer, saying “I don’t know all the words for the body parts in Latin or owt, but I know a dog who’s had enough when I see one… If he could talk, he’d say Ches dude, no more operations, thanks but no thanks.”
Gary being there for Ches, listening to him talk about Schmeichel – “not an average Great Dane, the Greatest Dane ever”. Gary helping Ches take Schmeichel home from the vet clinic, not questioning or chiding, just helping, and nodding an apology to the vet. Even Katie came through in the crunch. She came back home and just once reminded him of his responsibilities, lack of money etc. Then she shut up and was as supportive as it seems she could be.
Only two things I would have changed. No one, including the vet, mentioned Schmeichel’s age in regard to the wisdom of any operation. Eight is old for a Great Dane. That alone would be cause for concern with surgery or anaethesia. Other than that, the vet’s advice was spot on. Also, I wish Kirk had been there when poor Schmeichel was euthanized. He meant more to Schmeichel and vice versa than Katie. But maybe her presence was meant to show the moving on of Ches’s life with her and not with Schmeichel and Kirk.
The actual death scene was beautifully and sensitively done. At the final shot of Ches’s face, as Schmeichel’s laboured breathing ceased, part of my mind (the part that wasn’t crying) thought where are they going to go now? Commercial break? Can’t go to a noisy or silly scene. Can’t go to a tense dramatic scene either. Got to give time for Schmeichel’s demise to sink in.
Cut to Lloyd
Going to Lloyd, morose in his living room with Steve and a few cans for company, was perfect. Lloyd was emotionally and physically drained, from losing Cheryl and defending her to Karl. Earlier in the cab office, Karl had tried to cheer Lloyd up by saying “a free-loading pole dancer with a kid in tow – you’re well shot of her, man.” I’m with Karl on this, but it wasn’t the time for Lloyd to hear it. And he needed to release his frustration, so he attacked Karl then fired him. Steve separated them and sent Lloyd home.
Steve went around (at Tracy’s suggestion) with some beer to keep him company. Lloyd talked about anything other than Cheryl. He says he overheard Katie say she liked the name James for a boy – James Brown, and she didn’t even know who the child would share a name with. Lloyd said “my cousin married a woman named Cat Stevens.” Steve asks “Did she change her name?” “Why, because Cat Stevens did?” “No, because she got married.” “Dunno but she’ll always be Cat Stevens to me. Then again, so will Cat Stevens.”
After Schmeichel’s death scene, when we go back to Lloyd and Steve, Steve suggests they hit some bars. Lloyd’s up for it. I hope they have a good time and Lloyd sleeps well. He deserves it. And Schmeichel, rest in peace. Sleep tight. You are the Greatest Dane.
There were a lot of great scenes this week. The birthday party from hell with Rosie’s press coverage and Sophie and Sian’s hidden engagement rings. Paul telling Eileen about his wife’s illness and the toll it takes. Sally sniping during the prayer at John Stape’s funeral. Lloyd learning the truth about Cheryl and Chris. Powerful scenes in a lot of good storylines. But the story for me was Schmeichel.
My heart started breaking early in the week, when Ches said Schmeichel wasn’t feeling well. At that time, Ches was too busy with Fiz to fully attend to his dog. That, I think, has come back to haunt him. Kirk took Schmeichel to the vet. Ches sees the dog bed out back, and no dog. The vet kept him in overnight, Kirk explains, looks like liver disease, maybe cancer.
Playing grown-up isn’t as easy as Katie and Ches had thought. Bills are overdue, including rent, an eviction notice is served. Katie is getting big as a house and, naturally, is concerned for the well-being and future of her unborn baby. They might end up with another child as well, if the wheels of justice don’t soon clear Fiz of the murder conviction. Katie and Ches are only 16 and 17.
Ches reluctantly accepts Owen’s offer of a loan for the rent. He even asks if Owen would also loan the money for Schmeichel’s biopsy. No, Owen says, not for a dog. Be a man, son, you’ve got a baby coming. Owen is right, of course, but he doesn’t realize what Schmeichel means to Ches. He, Katie and Anna, the other principles in this story, did not know the lonely little boy who was saved by that dog. They know he loves Schmeichel, but I don’t think they can know the depths of reliance he has on him.
At the vet clinic, Kirk said to Schmeichel “Daddy’s here” but that doesn’t fully describe the relationship between Ches and Schmeichel. Since Ches was a child, Schmeichel has been his dependent but also his friend and support.
Ches’s mother has come and gone, the man he loved as a father – Les Battersby – has come and gone. Even Fiz has left him, now due to circumstances outside her control but earlier too, when she put John Stape ahead of Ches. Only Schmeichel and Kirk have been steadfast for Ches throughout all his growing up years.
I hoped that Kirk could get through to Ches, that euthanasia for Schmeichel is the best option. Kirk knows that, but can’t get the words out right, and he believes Ches will make the right decision.
Ches needs someone older and wiser to tell him he’s not doing Schmeichel any favours and sometimes death is kinder for all. Owen, even if he understood all that Schmeichel means to Ches, can’t do it.
Ches has a chip on his shoulder toward Owen. He feels he has to prove himself to Katie’s dad, prove that he’s just as much as man as Owen is. Well, Ches, you’re not. You’re a kid and you’re facing one of the hardest things in life – the decision to kill your best friend. It never gets easier, you just learn that sometimes it’s the only thing to do and that keeping your beloved animal alive is something you’re doing for yourself, not your pet.
Pawlooza last Saturday in London Ont was great. So many people and dogs! Other than a bit of a walk-around, I hardly saw anything of it other than our St. Thomas Dog Owners booth in Rescue Row. But the world comes by one’s booth, I found.
We didn’t take Leo and Charlie. Charlie likes a party, but gets bored and cranky quickly. Leo gets very enthusiastic at parties! While I felt a bit ‘odd man out’ without dogs, I found our booth provided a haven for dogs who wanted a little quiet time.
Next to us was the Chinese Crested rescue. They had several of these dogs with hairless bodies and long plumes on head and tail. I overheard them telling stories of their dogs to people flipping through photo albums. Horrific stories. One dog was left in the house, locked in, after the people moved away. Fortunately, someone suspected that she was in there, and she was saved.
Why, I thought, would someone leave a dog like that? Any dog, but one of these? These aren’t dogs you see notices tacked up for, saying “free puppies.” You have to go to a lot of trouble and expense to get one. So why would you then just walk away?
A magnificent black Standard Poodle across the aisle. A St. John Ambulance therapy dog now, he’d been taken from what sounds like an unbalanced hoarder. The man who rescued him had been looking for a Giant Schnauzer. He’d had them for years, but this time he wound up with a giant Poodle.
He said Giant Schnauzers end up in rescue care because people get them as puppies and then are surprised at how big they get, how much care their coats take and don’t want to be bothered. But how can that happen? Doesn’t the “Giant” in their name give you the tip off that this is going to be a big dog? They also are expensive pups. He said it’s easy to pay $4000 for one. You would lay out money like that and not realize that it’s going to be a big dog and that rough beautiful coat requires a lot of brushing and clipping?
Touring Rescue Row
I passed by Friendly Giants Rescue on my one tour. A St. Bernard was lolling around, hoping for a home I guess. Sure, there are legitimate, even heartbreaking, stories of why someone has to give up their dog. But so many of them?
Do people get them as status symbols? Be the first on your block to have a hairless dog. Then you realize there is upkeep and expense particular to that breed and it’s too much bother? Or you saw the movie Beethoven and thought how much fun it would be having a St. Bernard living with you? And you forgot you’re already cramped in your tiny apartment?
I am so glad the rescue people are around, both for specific breeds and just for regular old dogs. Without them, I don’t know what would happen to these poor creatures. A woman at Boston Terrier Rescue told me a lady had made an 8-hour drive to Pawlooza, just to look for a dog at their booth. I hope she found one.
Newfoundland Mi'kmaq, family history, Coronation Street, etc.