Category Archives: Animals

Prince Philip’s Horses

“If it doesn’t fart or eat hay, she isn’t interested.” That, it is said, is how Prince Philip described his daughter Princess Anne. But if the amount of time he spent with horses is anything to go by, the Prince also had a fondness for hay-eating, farting creatures.

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“The Royal Family in 1957. From left to right, Princess Anne on William, Prince Charles on Greensleeves, Her Majesty the Queen on Betsy, and the Duke of Edinburgh on Mele-Kush (photograph from Her Majesty’s album)”

He was a polo player and later carriage driver. From 1964 to 1986 he was President of the International Equestrian Federation (FEI), the longest-serving ever. He was succeeded by Princess Anne. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

A 1965 book The Queen Rides by Judith Campbell is about the royal horses and their riders. Here is part of the section on Prince Philip, with photographs from the book.

Prince Philip’s Polo Ponies

The Prince originally learned to ride when he was nine or ten years old, and the teaching was continued when he went to Gordonstoun by two well-known instructors, Mr. and Mrs. Saloschin. At school the boys not only rode, they were taught stable management and were expected to look after the ponies…

Prince Philip first began playing polo in Malta, when he was on active service in the Royal Navy. He has an excellent natural eye for a ball, and since he is also a lover of violent exercise, particularly of anything spiced with danger, it was almost inevitable that polo should become his first love in sport…

Philip-and-Global-p-38-Godfrey-Argent
“Prince Philip’s interest in his ponies is not confined to the polo field. He frequently visits them and discusses their well-being with Miss Donaghue. Here he is having a look at Global, a four-year-old, bred by the Queen”

Prince Philip’s Yard, where his polo ponies are kept, is small and compact. The tack and work rooms are at one end, the food stores at the other, and the ten loose-boxes face each other on opposite sides. The yard is paved in grey stone, easy to keep clean but disliked by some of the occupants, the thoroughbreds in particular, who mistrust its apparently slippery surface.

Miss Donaghue runs the yard with the help of three girl grooms, and Cain the Boxer. There is little she does not know of the care of polo ponies, and most of them are old friends…

All polo ponies have to be obedient and supple, quick on the turn, fast on the straight, and immediately responsive to neck-reining: that is, at once moving away from the rein pressed against the pony’s neck, an essential in animals that have to be ridden with one hand. English-trained ponies are given what is almost a form of elementary dressage schooling at first, and are taught to have their hocks well under them, the weight back…

The majority of the Prince’s blood ponies are bred by the Queen at Sandringham. Global, a four-year-old, is one of these, still playing very slow polo. He is a bit of an enigma and Prince Philip thinks he is the sort that could prove useless, or might be very good indeed. Only time will tell…

Bullseye

The Queen sometimes remarks rather despairingly that most of the horses she breeds seem to have lop-ears. There are certainly plenty of good-looking ones without this technical defect, but a pony called Bullseye, belonging to Prince Philip, does illustrate her words. By tradition lop-eared horses are supposed to be quiet and generous, but ears that flop sideways or forwards do tend to give their owners a clown-like, depressed appearance. In addition to his ears, Bullseye has rather ungainly, elongated conformation, and what can only be described as a somewhat loopy expression. In 1963 he was the despair of all, including the Prince, but in the next year Bullseye suddenly became an enthusiastic participant in the game. From obviously having regarded the whole affair as a ridiculous waste of time, he has suddenly decided that polo is fun. The Prince is very pleased with Bullseye, and that despite the fact that it was a fall with this pony that put his shoulder temporarily out of action in 1964. Bullseye slipped when travelling at speed, and his subsequent antics are described by his rider as akin to someone falling on ice – arms and legs splayed out in all directions, and skidding along on his stomach…

Lightning

Like some human beings, there are animals that seem to have everything in their favour – looks, breeding, potential brilliance – yet never quite reach the heights because of their temperament. The bright chestnut thoroughbred mare, Lightning, is one of these… Prince Philip speaks of her with affectionate exasperation as ‘The idiot woman!’ She does her best to bite him before mounting, and though she is very fast and should be a remarkable polo pony, she gets into a ‘tizzy’ and works herself up until she behaves like a ‘raving lunatic!’ in the company of other ponies. Even her tail cannot be bound up to keep it out of the way in the approved style, because she tears around swishing it madly, banging herself until it comes undone, or she goads herself into a worse frenzy. Whether, unlike the leopard, Lightning will ever change her spots and calm down sufficiently to fulfill her promise is a matter for the future.

Max Charge QH

There is another pony that should, all being well, join Prince Philip’s string in a few years’ time and whose début will be of particular interest. This is Max Charge, a two-year-old bright chestnut quarter horse, at present in Ireland receiving her first schooling as a future polo pony. She was presented to Prince Philip at the Royal Windsor Show by members of the Canadian Cutting Horse Association, who were touring the British Shows during the summer of 1964…

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“Max Charge, the young quarter horse presented to Prince Philip by members of the Canadian Cutting Horse Association”

She has the low head carriage, good shoulder and withers, short cannon bones, small feet, exceptionally powerful quarters and broad, ‘fork’ chest, that are typical of her breed. Like the majority of quarter horses she is also good tempered and intelligent, but is of the type that is seldom trained as a cutting horse, being a little less solid, and showing more of her thoroughbred blood. Had Max Charge not been destined for a royal polo pony, she would probably have been trained for taking part in the essentially American and Canadian competitions for reining or roping horses – for which the performance demanded is roughly equivalent to that of our top-class hacks…

No doubt when Max Charge does come to join Prince Philip’s Yard, the Prince of Wales will take as much interest in her progress as his father, wondering if, in the years to come, he may also possibly be able to play this quarter horse polo pony. [pp 38-45]

philip-plays-polo-p-44-Godfrey-Argent
“Prince Philip plays polo whenever he can spare the time”

In 1969 Prince Philip spoke of the impacts on the financially strapped Royal Family: “I shall have to give up polo fairly soon.” His example of cost-cutting caused outrage, but I think anyone who has a horse understands what he’s talking about.

The Queen Rides author Judith Campbell wanted to write about the Queen’s family horses, so she wrote to her. From The Australian Women’s Weekly, Aug. 4, 1965: “‘Looking back, I realize it was rather a daring thing to do,’ says Judith, ‘but I didn’t know then the Queen never gives interviews.’ The Queen took some time to think things over. Then she wrote, ‘I think it would be a good idea.'”

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Look online for copies or in used bookstores.

It’s a wonderful book for anyone interested in the royals or horses. Others of interest are The Duke of Edinburgh’s 30 Years On and Off the Box Seat about carriage driving, Lord Louis Mountbatten’s An Introduction to Polo (Amazon link below) published under the nom de plume Marco, and Ruth Oltmann’s Lizzie Rummel: Baroness of the Canadian Rockies (Amazon link in sidebar) where I learned a bit about the Saloschins and more about a remarkable German aristocrat who settled in Alberta.

The Royal Family posted on Facebook that, in his funeral procession Saturday April 17th, “The Duke of Edinburgh’s two fell ponies – Balmoral Nevis and Notlaw Storm – will pull a carriage designed by The Duke of Edinburgh eight years ago.”

General Jack and Warrior

Warrior was called “the horse the Germans couldn’t kill.” He was a war horse. The 15.2 hand Thoroughbred gelding was General Jack Seely’s charger. Gen. Seely was a British career soldier and MP. He was also the first commanding officer of the Canadian Cavalry Brigade.

Warrior and Seely painting by Munnings Canadian War MuseumThe Brigade was comprised of three cavalry units and an artillery battery. They were:

• Royal Canadian Dragoons
• Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians)
• 2nd King Edward’s Horse (The King’s Overseas Dominions Regiment)
• The Fort Garry Horse (replaced the British 2KEH in1916)
• Royal Canadian Horse Artillery

Lucky man, lucky horse

Seely himself was called “the luckiest man in the Army.” He and Warrior narrowly missed death many times over four years of battle. They both returned to their home in England.

Seely and Warrior arrived in France in August 1914. Warrior first saw shell fire the next month at Mons in September 1914. In December, Seely was made commander of the Canadian Cavalry Brigade. He and Warrior were at the 2nd Battle of Ypres in 1915, where the dismounted Brigade fought as infantry. They were at the Somme on July 1st 1916. In 1917 they were at Passchendaele and then Cambrai. In March 1918 Warrior and Seely led one of the last cavalry charges in modern warfare. It was the Battle of Moreuil Wood. The renowned horse artist Sir Alfred Munnings painted the scene.

Alfred_Munnings-Moreuil-Wood-wikicommons

War is over

In April 1918 General Seely inhaled poisonous gas. So his war was over. But Warrior’s was not. He stayed until the end. General R. W. Patterson took over command of the Canadian Cavalry Brigade, with Warrior as his mount. Finally, in December of 1918, Warrior returned to Seely’s home on the Isle of Wight.

Jack Seely continued his political career after the war. He did not forget, though, that many hundreds of thousands of British horses remained in Europe. He spoke to his friend and colleague Sir Winston Churchill. Churchill, a soldier who knew the value of these horses’ service, successfully repatriated about 60,000 of them.

Queen-Mary-with-Warrior-1934-warriorwarhorse.comGeneral Seely was made Baron Mottistone in 1933. Warrior was a respected celebrity. He attended remembrance events and greeted visiting dignitaries to the island, like Queen Mary. He won the 1922 Isle of Wight point-to-point, a race his sire had won 15 years earlier. Jack Seely wrote several memoirs, including My Horse Warrior. It was illustrated by Sir Alfred Munnings.

Gen Seely and Warrior warriorwarhorse.comSeely and Warrior lived at Mottistone Manor for the rest of their lives. Warrior died in 1941, at nearly 33. Lord Mottistone died age 77 in 1947.

Warrior was sired by Straybit, bred by Mr. E. Hobson. Straybit was by Burnaby out of Myrthe. Warrior’s dam was called Cinderella. Her registered name is not known, and so neither is her ancestry. Seely bought her in 1902 after watching her in military manoeuvres.

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Warrior pedigree from Pedigree Query – tap to enlarge

Jack – or John Edward Bernard Seely – was the son of Sir Charles Seely, 1st Baronet, and Emily Evans. Sir Charles too was an MP and son of an MP. Jack had seven children with his first wife Emily Crichton, and a son and stepson with second wife Evelyn Murray Nicholson. Military and political service, the Isle of Wight and horses are found throughout the careers of his descendants.

Tap for Amazon

Brough Scott, son of Seely’s daughter Irene, is a horse racing journalist and former jockey. He wrote a biography of his grandfather entitled Galloper Jack and reissued My Horse Warrior. In honour of the centenary of World War I, Warrior was awarded the Dickin Medal for animal bravery in 2014. On his website Warrior, Scott writes:

“His greatness was also in the simple, uplifting, heroism of having faced danger without flinching and never having let fear take the reins. That same heroism was shown by the hundreds of thousands of horses and mules that were not blessed with Warrior’s outrageous slice of fortune for survival.”

Canadian Triple Crown

Mighty Heart has a chance today to be the 13th Canadian Triple Crown winner. The three-year-old colt won the Queen’s Plate at Woodbine, the Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie, returning to Woodbine for the Breeders’ Stakes. (TSN 5-6 pm ET)

Mighty-Heart-Queens-Plate-CBC.ca
Mighty Heart at Queen’s Plate, cbc.ca

The Canadian Triple Crown is a test of a horse’s ability at different lengths and on different surfaces. The Queen’s Plate is 1¼ miles on a synthetic track, the Prince of Wales 1 3/16 miles on dirt and the Breeders’ Stakes 1½ miles on turf. So a horse has to be equally adept with all three surfaces and lengths. A test for champions.

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Queensway, 1st winner 1929

The three races have been run since 1929. But they didn’t formally become known as the Triple Crown until 1959. The five winners in those first 30 years, however, are included in the list of 12 Triple Crown champions. Their names, with sire and dam, are below.

12 in 91 years

  • 1932  Queensway (filly, Old Koenig / Chrysoberil
  • 1939  Archworth (Worthmore / Archipelago)
  • 1945  Uttermost (Soleil Du Midi / Uppermost)
  • 1955  Ace Marine (Ace Admiral / Mazarine)
  • 1956  Canadian Champ (Windfields / Bolesteo)
  • 1959  New Providence (Bull Page / Fair Colleen)
  • 1963  Canebora (Canadian Champ / Menebora)
  • 1989  With Approval (Caro / Passing Mood)
  • 1990  Izvestia (Icecapade / Shy Spirit)
  • 1991  Dance Smartly (filly, Danzig / Classy ‘N Smart)
  • 1993  Peteski (Affirmed / Vive)
  • 2003  Wando (Langfuhr / Kathie’s Colleen)

Northern Dancer’s great-greats

In 1964, Northern Dancer won the Queen’s Plate in July. That was a month after his run for the American Triple Crown. He won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, but alas, not the Belmont. Due to lameness he developed later that month, that was his last race. And the start of his stud career.

His great-great-granddaughter Wonder Gadot won the first two legs of the Canadian Triple Crown in 2018. She did not run in the Breeders’ Stakes, instead competing in New York’s Travers Stakes a week later.

This year, it’s another Northern Dancer descendant with a Triple Crown chance. Mighty Heart is his great-great-great-grandson through both his dam, Emma’s Bullseye, and his sire, Dramedy.

Mighty Heart has a lot of heart. He’ll need it. He’s only one of two in the expected field of 12 to compete in all three races. And Mighty Heart has only one eye. He lost his left eye when he was just two weeks old. A blinker with a protective covering keeps debris from flying into his eye socket.

His main competition is expected to come from his stablemate Belichick. They’ll be side by side in the starting gate. Both are trained by Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame trainer Josie Carroll. Good luck to all, and safe ride!

Later – Spoiler Alert:

Belichick ran the winning race. So Josie Carroll was the three race winning trainer, but she did so with her other horse. Congratulations to all, and thanks, Mighty Heart, for some exciting rides.

Twelve Canadian Triple Crown Heroes: True Test of a Champion

Man o’ War

Man o War winning_Belmont-12-Jun-1920-wikicommonsIn 1920, the most promising 3 year old horse in the United States did not run in the Kentucky Derby. Later in May, that horse – Man o’ War – won the Preakness Stakes. In June, the Belmont Stakes became a match race. All the other horses, except for Donnaconna, dropped out. Man o’ War won by 20 lengths in world record time.

sir-barton-plaque-belmont-twinspires.comBut we’ll never see Man o’ War’s black and yellow silks in the lineup of Triple Crown winners in the Belmont infield. His name is always there, though, in my mind. Right between 1919’s Sir Barton and 1930’s Gallant Fox. The odds were in Man o’ War’s favour had he run. In 1919 he had been named American Champion Two-Year-Old Colt.

Owner Samuel D. Riddle thought that the distance of 1 1/4 mile was too long for a three year old at the beginning of the season. It was too close in time to the Preakness, that year only ten days later. And Kentucky was a long way to travel from his home in New York. So aim for the Preakness, he decided.

Three races, not a crown

Man o War with_trainer_Joseph_Bryan_Martin-8-May-1918-Nursery-Stud-Lexington-wikicommonsAt that time, there was no reason to think you were missing the chance at a historic event. The Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes were just three dates on the racing calendar. It wasn’t until 1930 when Gallant Fox won all three that they became popularly known as the Triple Crown. Sir Barton, who won the three races in 1919, was posthumously honoured as the first Triple Crown winner in 1950.

Man o’ War ran 10 races as a two year old, with one loss. He ran 11 races in his 3 year old season. He won them all and set world records.

His most spectacular win was in September 1920. He won the Lawrence Realization Stakes at Belmont Park by 100 lengths. That’s a quarter of a mile in a long 1 5/8 mile race. Turf writer B. K. Beckwith said Man o’ War “was like a big red sheet of flame running before a prairie wind.”

The_Race_of_the_Age_1920_Exhibitors-Herald-detail-wikicommonsWhen the 1920 racing season ended, Man o’ War retired to stud. He would be required to carry a tremendous amount of weight If he raced the next year. Under handicapping rules, he had already carried much more weight in both his racing years than any of his competitors. With every win, the weight would increase. Mr. Riddle did not want to do that to him.

“The colt is not for sale”

In 1921, Texas oil- and horseman William Waggoner offered Riddle $500,000 for Man o’ War. That’s over $6.5 million in today’s dollars. Remember, Man o’ War was no longer racing and his record as a sire couldn’t yet be known. When that offer was refused, Mr. Waggoner increased it to $1 million, then offered a blank cheque. The one-sided auction ended when Mr. Riddle said “The colt is not for sale.”

war admiral triple_crown plaque belmont twinspires.comIn his fifteen years at stud, Man o’ War proved to be a great sire. His foals became champions or themselves produced champions. Look at the pedigree of any Thoroughbred. You will likely find Man o’ War. His son War Admiral, also owned by Sam Riddle, won the Triple Crown in 1937. His grandson Seabiscuit defeated War Admiral in the famous match race of 1938.

The late nineteen-teens were a bad time in the USA. A World War, a flu pandemic. Even horse racing was at a low. Many tracks were closed due to anti-gambling legislation. Man o’ War brought horse racing back to life in the US, and then he brought the whole country to life. Gave people something to cheer about. On his own and through his progeny, he was a maker of legends.

“The mostest horse”

He stayed a hero long after his races made news. He died on November 1, 1947. His well-attended funeral at Faraway Farms was broadcast nation-wide on radio. A bronze statue of him was placed on his grave in October 1948. It and his remains were moved to the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington in 1977. It still stands there, magnificently by itself, a moving memorial to maybe the greatest racehorse ever.

Man o War KY Horse Park-Dec-2007-photo-d-stewart“The death of Man o’ War marks the end of an era in American Thoroughbred breeding history…. Few will remember him as a foal, or a yearling, or even on the racetrack… But one thing they all remember – that he brought an exaltation into their hearts,” said breeder Ira Dryman in his eulogy to him. It had then been 27 years since Man o’ War had raced.

will harbut man o war findagrave-alex-hudsonHis groom Will Harbut said about him: “He’s got everything a horse ought to have, and he’s got it where a horse ought to have it. He’s the mostest horse.” Mr. Harbut died just one month before Man o’ War. They were together 17 years.

6 things you may not have known about Man o’ War is a great article in Equus.

The 146th Kentucky Derby, which should be today, is delayed for the first time since 1945. They’ll run for the roses September 5, 2020 instead. The Preakness and Belmont Stakes are postponed too, with no dates yet set. You can watch all the Triple Crown winners run the Derby in a computer simulation on NBC 3-6 pm ET on May 2nd.

Bosco’s New Year

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Jan. 31, 2011, about a dog named Bosco.

Bosco in Jan 2011, from ABCR websiteI was in Beaver Creek Animal Hospital about a week ago. A beautiful young black Lab was waiting to see the doctor. His tail swished every time anyone walked past him. He licked my hand when I patted him, then he licked my face when I got down to play with him. He was like any young healthy Lab – friendly, ready to play and very, very nice.

His woman said “he’s Bosco.” I said “what did you say?” She repeated his name, and I asked “THE Bosco?” “Well…” “Bosco from the St. Thomas Pound?” She said yes, that was him. I could not believe it.

Bosco in October 2010

I had only seen a picture of him before that – the one below. It was taken in October 2010 after he’d been found in the morning tied on the fence at the pound. He had some horrible skin problem, and he looked like a very old dog.

Bosco in Oct 2010The dog in front of me, a couple months later, had glossy thick hair and he was definitely young. The woman, his foster person,  said “oh yes, we couldn’t believe the change in him when he started getting better.” She said he’s extremely well behaved and appears to have had training. Under the scabs and rheumy eyes was a dog the vet estimated to be between 2 and 4 years old. How he ended up in the shape he was in, and left abandoned at the pound is still a mystery.

Her young kids came back to see what we were talking about. One draped herself around Bosco, and he thumped his tail. According to her mother, the girl had been afraid of dogs before. Bosco taught her not to be. He was in the vet clinic just for a check up before a prospective adopter met him. I don’t know if he’s been adopted or not. If you are interested in the nicest Lab I’ve seen in a long time, contact All Breed Canine Rescue.

Bosco, I hope, has spent these past nine years in a forever home. (Maybe in Minnesota, according to a 2012 comment below.) But ABCR still has lots of dogs looking for theirs. Also in 2010, Bosco and another abandoned dog named Bear were instrumental in improving St. Thomas City Council and Shelter policies and practices for animal care. So thank you, Bear and Bosco.

Jerry and Oscar

Two new horses, two new horse pedigrees to explore. Jerry was easy. He is registered with the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) as Mea Classico Duster. His full pedigree, therefore, is known and available.

jerry-and-oscar-sept-2019-photo-d-stewartOscar is a different story. He is a Thoroughbred-Quarter Horse cross, or an Appendix if registered. He entered shows under the name Playing to the Crowd. But is that name registered? His recent connections do not know. Nor do they know his parentage.

Jerry, 25 years old, was a career lesson horse at Butternut Stables in Hampton NB. Oscar is about 21. He’s moved around more and been a jack-of-all-trades – lessons, shows, general riding and best friend. They never lived together before, maybe never even met, but they’ve become BFFs.

Pedigree Chart for Jerry, Mea Classico Duster

jerry horse pedigree by d stewart 2019When a horse is registered with a breed association, his or her name is added to a lineage that goes back decades, even centuries. Full pedigrees are available from breed associations like the AQHA. Storied histories, maybe with famous names but also the unknowns like “Waggoner mare”. Like with all genealogies, you find full stories and mere fragments, the oddities and ordinaries. Genealogy charts map out elements of a family history, locating details in the big picture.

jerry-2019-detail horse pedigree by d stewart
Chart detail: top half for sire DJ Classico, lower for dam Mea Royal Duster (tap to enlarge)

Pedigrees are recorded so that breeding matches can be made with knowledge of a horse’s physical, genetic and performance background. That helps enhance desired traits and avoid genetically problematic ones.

It’s not just breeders who pay attention to pedigrees. Watch a handicapper at a horse race. You’ll hear about the lineage of the runners. A horse’s past performance is important in judging their odds of winning, but so is the performance and attributes of the horses in their lineage.

I got three generations of Jerry’s ancestry from his AQHA papers. Then I went to All Breed Pedigree for the rest. Jerry himself is not in its database but his sire and dam are.

Tracing horse pedigrees

Jerry-and-Oscar-Dec-2019-photo-d-stewartSearch for the horse’s registered name. If it doesn’t come up, search for the sire, dam or full sibling. Look at the information as closely as you do with online human genealogies. Horses with the same or similar names can be entered incorrectly. If a date or breed doesn’t make sense, check other sources.

Whether you get the information online or from a breed association, you still might want to put that information in your own style of pedigree chart. Making your own lets you design it as you wish. Include or exclude elements and make it visually manageable. You want a snapshot – something that gives the overall picture at a glance. So it’s a balancing act between the amount of information and the clarity of it. I designed mine to fit 7 generations back on an 11 x 17 inch sheet of paper. That’s a standard size at copy stores and is large enough to show details.

Tracing an unregistered horse

oscar-dec-2019-photo-d-stewartOscar’s pedigree requires more detective work. I don’t know his parentage or if he has a registered name, As a Quarter Horse-Thoroughbred cross, his ancestors could be in the Thoroughbred, Appendix or Quarter Horse registries. But, for sure, some would be registered with the AQHA.

His show name, Playing to the Crowd, gives the only clue. I looked on All Breed Pedigree for names that include Crowd in the years possible for Oscar to be their offspring. A sire in the Quarter Horse database is named Draws A Crowd. Lots of progeny and several have Crowd in their name, including a daughter named Play the Crowd. I also found a Thoroughbred mare named Draws a Crowd. She has some foals but none with names similar to hers.

I think that the QH Draws a Crowd could well be Oscar’s daddy. But I need more information, from people who knew Oscar when he was young or from the internet. Then I could do his pedigree chart as well.oscar-and-jerry-oct-2019-photo-d-stewart

Roxie Spencer

Roxie Spencer FB Linda Spencer 2019Without Roxie, the city of St. Thomas likely wouldn’t have a dog park. At least not in 2010 when the first one was built. Because, a couple of years earlier, Joe and Linda Spencer wouldn’t have been looking for somewhere their young dog Roxie could run and play with other dogs. They wouldn’t have found a spot in town where lots of people and dogs came every day.

So they wouldn’t have met Luanne Demers, who also came with her dogs. Standing around while dogs played, a lot of us talked about how nice it would be to have a fenced area where we could legally let our dogs run. Lots of people had tried over the years to get a dog park. But no one got very far.

Joe and Luanne, though, had steely determination in their eyes when they talked about it. This time we’ll get it, I remember them both saying. And they did.

There now are two dog parks in St. Thomas, the first Lions Club Dog Park in the west end of downtown and a second at Dan Patterson’s Conservation Area on Highbury Ave north. Plans are being finalized for a third in the south end of town.

Foster mom

Joe and Linda also met Lois Jackson, an animal welfare advocate in St. Thomas. She is a founder of All Breed Canine Rescue (ABCR) that takes in dogs and places them in foster homes while seeking permanent adopters. We could do that, Joe and Linda thought. So they began fostering dogs. Roxie, until then an only dog, loved having canine company.

four Spencer dogs in St ThomasSome fosters were short term, some longer term. One, Forte, became a permanent member of the household. He and Roxie took it upon themselves to look after the other ones and teach them proper manners. Especially puppies! For over a decade, many litters of puppies have come to the Spencer home. Roxie was their foster mom. She loved her job.

Sadly, Roxie passed away a few days ago. She was nearly 12 years old. She will be missed by her canine, feline and human family and friends.

Linda Spencer wrote Roxie’s obituary:

Roxie Spencer, October 2007-September 19, 2019

With great sadness we have lost our best friend. Roxie was only 3 weeks old when we found her in the gully by our house. Not knowing what to do we went to our local vet, and mentioned we would like to foster more dogs. Lois from ABCR was there to guide us.

Roxie with foster pup RileyThere embarked a 12 year long foster home that Roxie was proud to help out with. With over 100 fosters passing through the door, she was a mother, a sister, a friend, a teacher, a companion, a leader, and that one dog that could set anyone straight.

We remember the good times, the car rides, the ones she helped, the raccoons and skunks she kept away – we wouldn’t change a thing. You could be sure to get a smile, wagging tail, a big sloppy tongue kiss and you were never to forget – a belly to rub as you came through the door!

She became the expert at training all the dogs to be good citizens, and not afraid to put the run on them if they dared test her. So many good times, good friends, and the perfect companion.

She will be dearly missed by her family. We ask you, in her memory, to share a local rescue’s post looking for fosters or ask about fostering, and enjoy a car ride with your pup. She loved that!

Missouri Puppy Mills

Last week, the US Humane Society released its 7th annual list of the 100 worst puppy mills in the USA. For the 7th year, Missouri took first place.  From April 17 2011, here’s what I wrote in the St. Thomas Dog Blog about state legislators overturning Proposition B. It was a law providing regulatory standards for one of the biggest industries in Missouri – dog breeding.

Missouri Puppy Mills – Business as usual? (2011)

Proposition B, setting rules for animal care by commercial dog breeders, last week was repealed by the Republican majority Missouri state government. Despite being voted into legislation in the last election, it now will be kept in place only if the Governor vetoes the state legislature action. (Also see my 2016 Prop B)

puppy mill terrier mother and pupsBreeding puppies for sale doesn’t have to be a cruel business. Many breeders breed dogs responsibly. They don’t breed females in every heat. Nor do they keep dogs in wire-bottomed stacked cages. They assess their breeding stock and use pedigrees to avoid congenital problems. They don’t flood the puppy market just because a movie created demand for a particular type of dog.

There’s nothing wrong with making a living from dogs, whether it’s in training, dog clothes manufacture or breeding. What’s wrong is not treating those animals – your capital investment – properly. What’s wrong is breeding without ensuring to the best of your ability that physical and temperamental problems are not passed on.

Responsible breeders should be able to do their business without harassment. If the animals are treated properly, as living, breathing sentient creatures, regulations about space, exercise, food and water shouldn’t be a burden for them. If providing decent housing and care is a burden, then there’s something wrong with the people’s business operation and ethos.

Several other states were watching to see what happened in Missouri, puppy mill capital of the US. If the repeal of Prop B occurs, you can bet your last puppy that they will be reluctant to introduce legislation designed to improve the lives of breeding dogs.

Also in Canada

cage with rat terrier pups for sale, OntarioCanada has puppy mills too. We have people in the breeding business who do not want government controls. We also have people trying to stop large- and small-scale puppy mills. Our governments are watching Missouri as well.

But there’s more than one way to skin a cat, so to speak. If government won’t regulate dog breeding and puppy mills, we can. Puppy mill operators won’t make money if people stop buying from them. That’s why most pet stores have stopped selling puppies – they come from backyard breeders or puppy mills. If no one buys them, the pet store is stuck with them. Not a position the store wants to be in.

However, letting rescue groups use that cage space to showcase available pets is a good corporate citizen act. It also has other benefits for the pet store. Animals are still there – a big drawing card to bring people in. Adopted pets will need food and supplies  – available right there on the shelves. And the animals go back to the rescue group if they’re not adopted. Win-win-win.

puppies for sale adpuppies for sale adWithout pet stores, online venues like Kijiji and  Craigslist have become the place to sell your “pure-bred” litter of Lab-Husky-onlymomknows pups. Please don’t buy them. Switch Kevin Costner’s Field of Dreams mantra around: if you don’t buy them, they won’t breed them.

Puppy pics

Yes, the puppies above are adorable. I hope they don’t end up unwanted in a pound.  Both pictures are from Kijiji ads. The one on the left is a “lab/sheppard/collie/husky mix”. Those pups are selling for $200 and $250. On the right are “Boxer/Mastiff” pups selling for $400. Not cheap. Maybe these puppies are the result of one-off ‘accidents’. But if the mothers were spayed there would be no ‘accidents’. The picture at the top is from a Canadian Wheaten Terrier breeder site. They give advice about good and bad breeders (pdf p 11). The middle picture I took myself nearby in SW Ontario. I can see this cage, with rat terriers and many other breeds of pups, every week.

Kennel Club Show

The 143rd Westminster Dog Show is on television today through Tuesday. So from Jan. 13, 2011 here is my St. Thomas Dog Blog post about that year’s Elgin County Kennel Club Show in London, Ontario.

The Elgin Co. Kennel Club dog show is fun.  A chance to see so many Judge assessing dog, kennel club dog show London 2010different kinds of beautiful dogs, and a chance to learn something about each breed as you watch them go through their paces.  Watch long enough and you’ll start to see what the judge is looking for and why particular dogs are chosen in their category.

Showing dogs is a complex affair with a long history.  There’s a lot to learn in order to have any idea why one dog is chosen over another.  But watching the judge at work gives you some clues handler and dog in ring, London 2010after awhile.  You’ll also see how serious it is, when you watch the concentration of the judge and the handlers (some dogs take it seriously, some don’t). Equally intense is the preparation in the grooming area – hours spent getting dogs ready for the ring then, for some breeds, almost as long brushing them back to their everyday hair.

The breeders and handlers don’t have a lot of time at the show to tell you about their dogs.  But if they did, they’d be able to tell you each dog’s pedigree back for generations and the characteristics that mark the dog as one of that lineage and as a show dog.

Pedigrees and breed standards

dogs lined up for judgeYou won’t see mongrels there and you won’t see “designer” dogs, even if it’s a cross-breed that’s working toward CKC acceptance as a breed.  That official acceptance takes a long time, many generations and satisfaction of many breeding and conformation criteria.  So the people who sold you a “purebred” Maltipoo won’t be there.

Actually, you won’t see any dogs there other than those in the show.  It’s not a place to take Fifi to let her visit with her own kind.  These dogs are working and must stay focused on the prize.  You may see breeders who have kennels full of dogs.  You may see breeders who have only one show dog, the one with them.  You’ll see dogs taken in the ring by professional handlers while the owners stand nervously at the side watching.  You’ll see dogs handled by their owner/breeder; that’s a separate class within the judging.  You’ll see owners and breeders doing grooming and some exhibitors who have grooming assistants.  You’ll see it all, and hear a lot of barking from excited people and dogs.

dogs in ringThe room is ringed with stalls of grooming equipment, dog bed makers, collars and leashes, dog food.  Retailers come from all over to set up shop for a couple days.  So take a notebook and your wallet, but not your dog, and enjoy the show.  Maybe you’ll see a dog that later in the year will be at Westminster and you can say “I saw her when…”

See Best In Show for more on the 2011 Elgin County Kennel Club dog show and on Westminster Dog Show at Westminster Dogs.

Sled Dogs

It was sled dogs that kept the Inuit alive by giving them the mobility to hunt across vast expanses of the Arctic. It was sled dogs that kept stranded hunters alive by sharing with them the warmth of their bodies and fur. Sometimes, an individual sled dog gave his or her life to provide meat for starving hunters.

sled dogs The_book_of_dogs_1919_L-A-Fuertes-Natl-Geog-Soc-wikicommonsSled dogs kept the Inuit culture alive during the early to middle years of the 20th century when government and churches were trying to settle them in villages. With their dogs, Inuit could continue their nomadic lifestyle, hunting far away from mission posts and government-decreed settlements. Without their dogs, and before snowmobiles, they couldn’t.

So sled dogs paid the price for those colonization policies too. According to testimony to a 2010 Commission of Inquiry, the RCMP, on government orders, “culled” thousands of dogs between the 1950s and 1980s. Have dog, will travel – don’t have dog, won’t.

Anyone living in the north before the 1940s had most contact with the southern world thanks to sled dogs and their mushers. The mail came by dog team, supplies came by dog team. Without Huskies, the north would have been pretty uninhabitable for any people, especially non-indigenous people.RCMP sled dogs 1957-Natl-Archives-Cda-wikicommons

Honouring Balto and all sled dogs

Dog teams prevented an outbreak of diphtheria in Nome, Alaska in 1925. A disease almost eradicated in the south got a toehold with Inuit children who had no immunity to it. Teams of dogs ran in relay Balto's statue in NYC Central Parkto get a supply of vaccination serum to Nome. The annual Iditarod race over that same harsh terrain commemorates their life-saving run. The dog who led the final team, bringing the serum into the town of Nome, was Balto. He is immortalized in a statue in New York City’s Central Park. Balto represents the hundreds of dogs, and their men, who risked themselves in order to save children. (See my Dogs in War for more on Balto and other working dogs.)

Now, we have the chance to honour another hundred sled dogs who gave their lives for us. They were sacrificed to commerce and the 2010 Winter Olympics in Whistler, British Columbia. The B.C. government has created a Task Force to investigate the April 2010 killing of dogs working for a dog sled tour company. The Winter Olympics meant a lot of visitors to Whistler looking for things to do. So they needed a lot of dogs. After the tourists departed, they didn’t need so many.

The only pension plan for many working animals, whether sled dogs or race horses, is a bullet in the head. I hope this inquiry looks at the conditions of working animals and their retirement and that it demands improvements in both. But I hope it does not penalize people who truly love the animals with whom they work. I believe that the man at the centre of the investigation found himself between the hard place of his dogs and the rock of commercial tourism. I hope he will not be another casualty of this horrible event. And I hope these dogs are remembered as the ones whose deaths changed our view of working animals from “means of production” to valued “workers”.

“Endurance, Fidelity, Intelligence”

These words – endurance, fidelity, intelligence – are inscribed on Balto’s statue. They apply to him, the other Nome serum run dogs, all sled dogs, all dogs. We should be so lucky as to have the same said about us.

YQ_Start_Whitehorse_2005-Magnol-wikicommons-cropFrom my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Feb. 6, 2011, in honour of the dogs and mushers running the 1,000 mile Yukon Quest right now. You can follow their progress with the site’s “Live Race Tracking” link. I’m cheering for Rémy Leduc and his dogs from Glenwood, New Brunswick.