Tag Archives: St. Thomas Dog Blog

Pittie Myths

Muzzled Pittie wikicommonsI don’t often agree with Peter Worthington, but I did with what he wrote (March 14, 2012) about Pit Bulls and Ontario’s Breed Specific Legislation.  He calls BSL a “Ku Klux Klan law”, “akin to deciding guilt based on appearance, not behaviour.”  Like him, I applaud Cons. Randy Hillier, NDP Cheri DiNova and Lib. Kim Craitor for bringing forward a private members’ bill to rescind it.  No law should apply to a specific breed and dogs who look “substantially similar” to that breed.

Fashions of fear and image-making

A lot of dogs have been in fashion as “feared” dogs.  German Shepherds had their time.  Someone I know found his beautiful Shepherd poisoned, most likely by a neighbour who disliked “that German police dog”.  Then came Doberman Pinschers as the “feared” breed.  There is reason to be fearful of them and most dogs– if you’re not on the side of the fence you belong on, as I heard the owner of an auto wrecker business once say.

But I don’t remember Shepherds or Dobes being the fashion Pit Bulls on album cover Alexis & Fido The Pitbulls 2005accessory for young men that Rottweilers and Pitties became in the past two decades.  Now, it seems to me, Mastiffs and Cane Corsos have supplanted them.

These are all very powerful breeds used for herding and protecting.  They are intelligent and strong-willed.  You have to be their match in order for the relationship to work out well, and just wanting to be isn’t enough.  I would never have a Rottie or Pit Bull.  Dog trainers have told me that I don’t make myself the dog’s boss.  “You’re more a litter mate than alpha dog,” one said.

These powerful breeds of fashion can scare me.  But it’s not the dogs, it’s the owners.  I don’t mean huge, tattooed drug dealers or nasty pimps.  I mean teenagers who cannot have had much experience handling any dog except the family pet because they are just not old enough.  The caution the Westminster dog show announcer gives about some breeds, “not for first-time dog owners”?  Shep, who let you pull his ears when you were two, does not qualify you as an experienced dog owner.

Happy young Pit Bull sitting WikicommonsI also have concerns for these dogs of youthful fashion:  are they being fed right, exercised enough, socialized and trained properly?  You might well be concerned about the same things for their owners.  However, if either of them wig out, the owner won’t be sentenced to death but the dog will.

Myth-making and Pit Bulls

A well looked after, happy Pit Bull is a joy.  A neglected or abused, frightened or aggressive one is not.   Just like any other dog.  The reality is that there have been vicious attacks by Pit Bulls that have killed and seriously maimed people and animals.  But presuming therefore that Pit Bulls are all crazed killers is itself, well, crazy.

ca 1900 photo of child with Nanny dog Pit BullLovers of the breed have tried to counteract the “fighting dog” label by pointing out the breed’s protector instincts.  However, the “Nanny dog” image may be equally damaging to the poor Pittie. The photo at left has circulated the internet, and it’s lovely.  And maybe back then, the Pit Bull was your first choice of baby minder.  But there’s been a hundred years of selective breeding, good and bad, since then and that has an effect on all aspects of a creature.

Gross generalizations on either side are neither accurate nor fair to Pit Bulls.  They deserve to be treated like other dogs without bearing the burden of vilification or sainthood.  To paraphrase Tammy Wynette “after all, he’s just a dog.”  So stand by him and be proud of him for what he is, not the angel or ogre you want him to be.

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog Mar. 22, 2012. 4 comments below.

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.

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) 

Bear

“A sad Goodbye to Bear, the dog who you may remember that was abandoned at Dalewood, that became a ABCR rescue dog. Bear was Bear-2015-FBadopted by a young man who dearly cherished this sweet boy and lived the rest of his life well fed and very much loved until cancer took his breath from him today. RIP Bear.” Mar. 15/16 ABCR Facebook

St. Thomas people and pets have a lot to thank Bear for. He caused a pet food bank to be set up, and major policy and procedure changes to be made in Animal Control. Below is a post from my St. Thomas Dog Blog that tells his story and, after it, a bit of what happened next. My condolences to Bear’s family.

Dumped and Found (Oct. 2, 2010)

The Dalewood dog is found and at the City animal shelter. His name is Bear. His is a story more of sadness and desperation than thoughtless cruelty. It sounds like a desperate man took what he thought were his only options. For whatever reason, he had to be ‘dogless’ by the next morning (moving? an apartment? I don’t know). But he didn’t have the $50 for the pound surrender fee. So he fed Bear a good meal, and took him to Dalewood and left him. Then he called All Breed Canine Rescue and told them what he’d done. People went looking for Bear, and they found him.

I can’t be angry at this man anymore. I’m saddened and frustrated. I wish he’d phoned ABCR first. But maybe he feared he’d be refused (Bear) pound #233 Sept 29again unless he could pay. Maybe he figured desperate action would get him the result he wanted – a good home for his dog. It’s still Bear who paid the biggest price. He still wandered around alone, looking for his person, wondering how he’d lost him. Bear is a Lab/Shepherd cross. I don’t know much about Labs, but I do know Shepherds will not lose you easily. No matter what they’re doing, they will always do their best to also keep track of you.

Shelter Fails

There has to be a better way of dealing with unwanted and stray animals without making the animals pay the price of abandonment. People are discussing ways of reorganizing the management and operation of the City shelter. The idea, in essence, is to involve the city’s animal rescue groups in the administration of the pound along with the City. What’s needed is a focus on education and actions to reduce the number of animals needing the services of the pound and finding homes instead of euthanasia or refusal to accept animals.

This type of thing is being talked about in City shelters across the country. Calgary has a very good model which has been very successful. I wrote in an earlier post (Giving Shelter) about the manager of the St. John’s Animal Control Shelter who had created a pound environment very different from the usual cages of dogs and cats left essentially alone. Change must be made in our Animal Shelter. It is doable and it’s urgent. With job losses, the number of animals needing the help of the pound and rescue groups will increase. That is on top of the normal levels of strayed and abandoned pets.

Changes Bear made

In early October 2010 a committee was struck to assess and improve operations of the St. Thomas Animal Shelter. Shelter employees, City staff and rescue group members have worked to better reunite lost pets with Charity-Cat-TNRtheir people, started a spay/neuter programme, and held micro-chipping clinics.

After thinking about pets like Bear dumped maybe only because of lack of money, we in the STDOA decided to try to make a change. We started a pet food bank. With the Caring Cupboard, the local human food bank, and other businesses in town, pet food was collected and distributed to those in need. In the first 10 weeks, over 1,000 pounds of kibble went through our hands. The programme is still going, and tons of kibble, canned food, litter, leashes and dog beds have been collected and distributed in St. Thomas and Aylmer in those six years. I think it’s helped a lot of people keep their pets during times of financial difficulty. And it’s all thanks to Bear.

Westminster Dogs

2012-02-14 hunter walker observer“Crategate” exploded in Mitt Romney’s campaign for the US Republican leadership, just as his Irish Setter Seamus’ bowels did when he was strapped in a crate on the roof of the family car for a 12-hour ride.  This story finally hit the media this week [Feb. 2012*].  Protestors used the publicity around the Westminster Dog Show held this week in New York City to garner attention for what Romney did to his dog.

And the winner of Westminster has caused great excitement in the once-yearly media attention paid to dog shows.  But another Westminster story got buried by the other two.

Pedigree shelter dog adWestminster dropped Pedigree as a sponsor.  Why?  Because they didn’t like the ads that Pedigree runs during the broadcast.  They were “too sad”, they said, showing shelter dogs in cages.  The wrong image of doggyness, evidently, to display while the Olympic athletes of dogdom showed their stuff.

How weird is this?  Usually in advertising, it’s the sponsors who pull out because they don’t like what the ‘sponsees’ are doing.  Westminster must be a very expensive event to put on.   Pedigree presumably has the big money needed in that it has been a major sponsor of Westminster for the past 24 years.

I’ve been impressed that Pedigree holds a shelter fundraising drive during Westminster and that their ads show the other side of the dog world – dogs that are lucky to get any food no matter what quality, that don’t have someone worrying about tartar buildup on their teeth.  I’ve thought their Westminster shelter dogs ads are a good antidote, the yin and yang of “man’s best friend”.

Komondor in ring at WestminsterIt’s fun watching beautiful show dogs.  I ooh and aah, then look at my own.  I have a purebred who probably was born in a show kennel.  A Standard Poodle, he became a puppy mill breeding dog.  That’s behind him now and I hope he’s forgotten it.  I look at the Poodles in the ring, with their leonine hair.  “You could look like that” I tell him, in his short serviceable clip.  He could, but I’m not willing to put the time and effort into it.  I worry about ensuring he’s well fed, his coat mat-free and his body exercised.

When watching Westminster, I’ve got a purebred reality check beside me.  If I didn’t have him?  Maybe I’d think, wow, I’d like a dog just like the one on tv.  Go out, spend a fortune on a puppy, not have the interest or time to put into showing (which is a full-time job, not a dabbling hobby), and the dog becomes too much work and – that’s how dogs end up in shelters and pounds.  Not all of course, but enough.

What I’d like to see in Pedigree’s ads at Westminster are the purebred Poodles, Mastiffs and Cocker Spaniels that are in pounds and breed-specific rescues.  The mongrels in the ads make no explicit connection to dog shows or breeders.  If that connection was made, Roscoe hound cross in Pedigree adWestminster might have a valid reason to object.  But would it be grounds to fire a sponsor?

Dog breeders, of all people, ought to know about the neglect and abuse of dogs and ought to be outraged about it.  Dogs are their vocation and avocation.  What’s wrong with Pedigree reminding us that there are dogs desperately in need?  The Westminster Dog Show and the AKC ought to be doing that themselves.

*From my St. Thomas Dog Blog Feb. 17th, 2012, when it seemed that the US Republican leadership campaign was as strange as it could ever possibly get. Bwahahaha!

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.

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, a church-going woman of strong faith. But a different church.

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.

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.  Therefore, my dog Jack cannot be in heaven, and such thinking 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

Home for the Holidays

Don’t give a dog as a Christmas present.  At least not as a spur of the moment gift.  But if you are planning to get a dog anyway, why not?  If you are aware that your “present” is alive and, with luck, will live many years, you will give an enormous gift to the dog as well.  A home – permanent and loving.

Home for the Holidays "No one came, now I'm gone" dog

Adopt

The St. Thomas Animal Shelter gives you a $75 spay/neuter rebate when you adopt an eligible pet.  Wherever you live, if you can give a dog or cat a home, please do.

Adopting from a rescue group or pound rather than a pet store or off Kijiji or Craig’s List means you also are not supporting puppy mills or backyard breeders. Support “No-Kill” shelters, but adopt from any shelter or pound.  Don’t let more pets be killed just because they couldn’t get adopted in 3 or 7 days.

Donate

If you can’t have a pet, give to an animal shelter or rescue group.  Money is always welcome, or ask what is needed.  They always have a wish list of goods they need most.

Sponsor/Volunteer

If you’d like a connection with a specific dog but can’t have one, sponsor a shelter dog.  You give a monthly donation in the name of that dog and you’re welcome to spend time with “your” dog.  If your shelter doesn’t have such a programme, you can do it unofficially.  Shelters generally always welcome volunteers who will play with dogs, walk them and clean kennels.  That’s a way you can spend time with your special dog and help all of them.

Foster

If you could have a dog but can’t commit for the long term, consider fostering. You’ll have to give him or her up when a permanent home is found, but you’ll have the fun of canine companionship until then.  It’s work too.  You have to properly socialize the dog, but you’ll learn as much as the dog does.  If you’re a post-secondary student and wish you could have a Puppy (or Kitty) Room at home, talk to an animal shelter near you. Some are happy to have students foster dogs and cats.

Transport

If you like driving, volunteer with a group such as Open Arms Pound Rescue.  They need people to drive animals to new homes or to shelters where there’s a better chance of finding homes.  If you’re a pilot and love excuses to go flying, check out Pilots N Paws (US or Canada) or talk to your buddies about setting up something similar in conjunction with a rescue group or shelter.

Everything above also applies to cats, horses and other domestic animals.  There are rescue groups for all of them across the country.  Give an animal somewhere a very happy holiday season.  It will make you happy too.

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Dec. 10, 2012, minus information on adoption events specific to that time. (Below and right are Amazon links to some Christmas dog stories that look guaranteed to make you cry happy tears.)

 

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.

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.

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. 

 

Santa Dogs

Santa Claus parade Poodle waiting to startThe 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 Charlie in truck, looking at the crowdsdecorated 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!

Leo and STDOA van in Santa Claus parade lineupAfter 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!

Parade 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!

Santa's Elves in parade line upMusic 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 dogs in Santa Claus parade on Talbot Streetdoing 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 Reindeer-Dobe-photo-Dorothy-Stewartthought 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.

 

Dog Hallowe’en

This Saturday is Howl-O-Een at the STDOA Kettle Creek Dog Park. Party at the park from 2 to 4 pm. Treats, prizes and no charge to come. But donations for the pet food bank would be greatly
Hallowe'en walkathon Leo 2010appreciated. To put you in the mood to find a costume for Fido, here are photos from the 2010 STDOA-ABCR fund-raising dog Hallowe’en walkathon, Paws in the Park.

Dog Hallowe’en Walkathon 2010 pics

Hallowe'en Charlie 2010Charlie and Leo got new outfits in honour of the event. They liked them. Well, Leo liked his. Charlie? You can judge for yourself.

It was a sunny, windy, bone-chilling day. Dogs had their hats and boas blow off. Still, they pranced and played and asked for treats. A nice day. And money raised for ABCR to keep rescuing dogs and for STDOA to keep the dog parks operating.

Dog Hallowe'en ABCR walkathon 2010

Halloween-Paws-in-the-Park-1 photo Jim Stewart

Hallowe'en walkathon 2010

Halloween-Paws-in-the-Park8 photo Jim Stewart

Hallowe'en walkathon 2010

halloween-paws-in-the-park-12 photo Jim Stewart

Hallowe'en walkathon 2010

Halloween-Paws-in-the-Park-2 photo Jim Stewart

Afterwards, we went to show off the new  costumes at my mother’s nursing home. The dogs are always welcome visitors. They sashayed
Hallowe'en walkathon 2010around and greeted everyone. Then Leo sat posing, as the dog of mystery perhaps. Charlie decided that he’d had enough. It was time for Elvis to leave the building.

Elvis-has-left-the-building2