I expect that if I actually do get around to writing a “memoir” it will be largely about the people I’ve been connected with. Therefore, since many of the most important relationships I have had have been with animals I am going to take some time to think about them to make sure they all get at least a small recognition.
I shall proceed chronologically, beginning with Timmy, a Boston bull terrier, who was the first dog in my life, before I have any real memories at all. It must have been a good relationship, though, because I have almost never felt the slightest twinge of fear around animals – especially dogs and cats.
There was another dog experience in those early years which I’ll mention now, though I never really knew the dog and I have no personal memory of the event. My mother told me the story. It seems that one warm day in Binghamton, when I was around 3 or 4, the front door of the house was left open and I wandered out. By the time an adult noticed, I was well on my way. My mother said she took the sidewalk route towards the house of a friend of mine, and when she reached it, she noticed, across the street, a familiar small child. As she hurried across she saw me stop in front of a large German Shepherd to give him a big hug. Clearly, I considered any dog a friend!
By the time we moved from Binghamton to Arundel, another dog came with us, Timmy the second was a Springer Spaniel, golden brown and white. We arrived, I believe, around January of 1936 and moved in to a rented house next door to Miriam and Melvin Cooke. I do have a picture in my mind of Timbuctwo, as I liked to call him, but the only clear memory I have is “training” him on Miriam’s hill, demanding that he stay when told and hauling him back up to sit and try again when he insisted on following me down.
Around 1936, a few years after our arrival in Arundel we moved up the hill to the large house on the farm that stretches between the two towns, Arundel and Huberdeau. My uncle, Cyril Flanagan, my mother’s brother, had bought the farm and my parents had helped with the financing by buying the large house on the property. Some time after the extensive renovations had been completed and we had moved in, my father and my uncle were persuaded to go on a hunting expedition. They arrived home some days later with their booty, two small black pups! Friday was ours and Sambo moved in with my uncle and family.
My parents, who felt that the school in Arundel was not going to provide me with the education they figured I would need, had arranged with my mother’s brother to have me live with them in Westmount and to attend Trafalgar school. Sambo was their only dog for a while until Finnegan arrived, a gift from a patient, I believe. He was a large pup and not yet housetrained, so he was put into the playpen for the night. Although he was tall, he was slim and it took him no time to squeeze out between two slats. I volunteered to have him sleep with me, and he was happy to jump up on my single bed, lie down against the wall and regularly push me to balance precariously on the outer edge.
My uncle, Cyril Flanagan had his dentist office on Sherbrooke St., corner of Drummond Ave. 5th floor. On the first floor there was a pet shop, which I always visited on my trips to the dentist. One year, when I was probably in my early teens, I saw a puppy who I felt I had to have. I no longer remember how I did it, but I ended up with a black and white border collie-type whose formal name became Christopher Columbus, familiarly called Collie.
And then, a few years later, when my best friend, Nora, and I went visiting up the street to Helen Ayer’s house we saw a puppy being tortured by the children who lived next door. Shortly afterwards, when my father arrived in Westmount to bring me home for the summer, I told him about the puppy and asked him to drive me to the house. When we spoke to the lady of the house, she was quite relieved to be able to give us the puppy, and I cuddled him all the way home to Arundel. My mother was not pleased with either of us. She did not need a third dog in her life, especially since I was only there on the holidays and the occasional weekend. However, it didn’t take Rufus long to win her over, and when he disappeared several years later she was quite broken hearted.
Mariage and new family dogs: Thunder, a giant of a dog, travelled all the way out west with us, protected our one year old daughter, Carla, and then the new arrival, Keira, but had to be left behind with the Doukhabors on Prince Edward Island while we took the train back to Quebec.
With our new career in teaching we moved to Wakefield, some miles north of Ottawa, where we had a small black dog whose name I have forgotten, and then a German Shepherd who was wandering, lost, about town and whom we took home just before Christmas. We realized she was pregnant and put a kennel, whose roof could be lifted off, in our kitchen. On Christmas day she produced a littler of pups. The three children we had by then felt it was the best Christmas present we could have had!
Asta, Shana Irish setters . . . . . .
There were dogs over the next several years who have become rather vague in my memory, until the arrival of Thor, a large Newfie, German Shepherd, Huskie cross, who made a distinct impression on all of us: chewing up doors and crashing through a window, desperate to get outside if he was left alone in the house, catching and killing a rabbit, which he snuck into the house and dropped into a toilet.
We were all sad when Thor died and there was a gap when we were dogless, until Christopher and I went to a sale at the Tree Farm in Arundel, where there was a small pen with four puppies in it. I was not yet ready to get another dog, but the puppies were very cute, especially one. As Christopher was approaching me, I said to myself, “If he picks that orange one we’ll take her, but not if he picks one of the white ones. So, sure enough, Fauna entered our life and we had a new baby to look after.
What about the Irish Setters?