Archive for June, 2009

Sylvia Spring: Heady

There have been three wonderful dogs in life of documentary film maker Sylvia Spring. “The first, Boozer, a mutt, was our family dog. He was a clown and a great source of entertainment. Boozer was blamed for all family farts and got laughed at when he struggled with the sticky toffee we kept feeding him. He was a dog-dog in small town Ontario during the 1950s when dogs were allowed to wander around the neighbourhood off leash. Boozer had no training whatever and was a great garbage eater and beggar. He had us well trained. When he died of old age we all mourned him (but secretly sighed with relief).” Read the rest of this entry »

John (Hong Kong Johnny) Stroud: Gander

It was in defence of Hong Kong in 1941 that Canadian soldiers were first committed to battle during the Second World War.

Inadequately trained, improperly armed, and numerically overwhelmed, they fought with what they had the most of, courage. Sacrificed through political and military ignorance, they were forced to endure torture, forced labour of the cruelest kind, inadequate food, and shortage of medical supplies for more than three and a half years, leaving many of those that did survive captivity to suffer physical and emotional problems that lasted throughout their lives. Canadian history has perhaps not been kind or reflective of the true events that befell the Hong Kong regiments. It is fitting that their fight and sacrifice should be brought to significant prominence by the regiment’s mascot, Gander, who, sixty years after this dreadful time, was awarded the Dickin Medal, the “animals’ Victoria Cross’.

Gander and some of his soldiers

Gander and some of his soldiers

As tension in the Pacific grew, the vulnerability of the outpost of Hong Kong, then a British colony, became more and more apparent. It was recognized that in the event of a war with Japan, Hong Kong could be taken over and must be held as long as possible. This decision was reversed late in 1941 when it was argued that the situation in Asia had altered, that the defences in Malaya had been improved, and that Japan was showing a certain weakness in her attitude towards the United States and Great Britain. The reinforcement of Hong Kong would, it was believed, serve as a deterrent to hostile action by Japan, and would also have an important moral effect throughout the Far East by reassuring the Chinese of the intention to hold the colony. Accordingly, Canada was asked to provide one or two battalions for the purpose.

The battalions chosen to represent Canada in Hong Kong to deter a Japanese attack were the Royal Rifles of Canada and the Winnipeg Grenadiers. By mid-December, the garrison of Hong Kong was making a hopeless stand against an overwhelming Japanese invasion from the Chinese mainland. The survivors of the two regiments surrendered on Christmas Day. Read the rest of this entry »

Kathy Vance: Friday

Friday as a wee puppy with my sisters, early 1960s

Friday as a wee puppy with my sisters, early 1960s

“Mothers always take care of the puppies. No matter how much the children promise and plead, don’t ever get a puppy unless the mother is ready…”

Ever hear that one? This is what happened in our family in Ottawa in the 1960s.

Friday was supposed to be a small mixed breed puppy and we named him for the day of the week he arrived from the dog shelter. We had several mixed up names in my family: my Mom’s nickname was Mike, I was called George until I was twelve, and now our dog was named for a day in the week. We never quite figured out what he really was; he looked part Short Haired Pointer and maybe a mix of Lab and something else. That Friday he was no bigger than my big daddy’s hand. I was three years old and equally wee.

On weekdays it was just my Mom and the puppy and me at home as my older sisters were in school. At first my mother had to feed him with an eye dropper, but Friday grew and grew and grew until he became a really big dog. My Mother, who called her parenting style benign neglect, let all manner of chaos swirl around her and this included the dog. He followed her everywhere. No one in our neighbourhood thought a thing about it when the heard my Mom calling “Friday, come here!” from the front door. The memory draws a warm smile to my face even today.

Friday was a gentleman dog, very polite and kind to children. I would lie on the floor at the end of the day with my head on his chest lifting up and down with each breath he took. Read the rest of this entry »

Farley Mowat: Vino

“I can tell you about a dog called Vino, a totally inscrutable creature who drifted into our lines north of Ortona in the winter of 1943″

As Farley describes vividly in his book AND NO BIRDS SANG about his military service in WW11 and especially in the Italian campaign, the Battle of Ortona was fought between December 20-28, 1943. It was a small but extremely fierce battle between German paratroopers and assaulting Canadian forces from the 1st Canadian Infantry Division. Sometimes called ‘Little Stalingrad’ for the in-your-face level of sustained combat, the Battle of Ortona and “Bloody December” is a beacon for bravery in the annals of Canadian military history.

“Vino attached himself to one of the platoons and they fed and looked after him; he responded by being a very good soldier’s dog. Then somebody noticed that he wore a peculiar collar. They took it off and discovered when they split it open that it contaned a very detailed but tiny map of the German artillery postions on the opposite side of the river where we were positioned.

Our own artillery was called in and did a considerable amount of damage to the German guns opposite us. Nobody ever leared how this information came to be in Vino’s collar but it was assumed it was placed there by one of the battalion partisans and that Vino was then sent across the lines to take it to us. Whatever the background of the story, there is no doubt that he served us very well and as a result he was treated as a hero within the Company for the rest of this life. Unfortunately, it was short. The truck he was riding in went over a landmine about a month later and everybody in it, including Vino, was killed. So there’s your story, as far as it goes.”

Ray Perry: Sgt. Mike

Mike, Camp BordenMr. Ray Perry of St. Catherines, Ontario, a veteran member of the Algonquin Regiment of Canada, (motto: we lead, others follow) wrote to me about Mike, their regimental mascot.

“During WW11, the Algonquin Regiment was used mainly as shock troops to lead the advance in breaking the force of enemy resistance. Whle the Regiment was training for its overseas mission at Camp Border, Port Aurther, Shilo, and in Newfoundland, the soldiers were accompagnied by their mascot, Mike.

Mike was an enormous St. Bernard. Originally purchased by the men of ‘A’ Company in Huntsville, Ontario, as their mascot, Mike quickly graduated to a senior role and became Sargeant Michael Cassidy. He became a mainstay in the regiment’s parades in Canada.

The Algonquin Regiment, with Sgt. Mike and a complement of 4,500 troops, left Halifax Harbour on the Empress of Scotland in June, 1943. On arriving in Liverpool, the regiment proceeded to Heathfield and was made part of the 10th Infantry Brigade of the 4th Canadian (Armoured) Division. Mike was so completely identified with the unity that his loss was felt very keenly when he died suddenly after only two weeks out of the British quarantine kennels in January 1944. The cause of death was diagnosed as pneumonia, likely complicated by the rather damp surroundings.”

The Algonquin Regiment went on to take part in the fighting throughout Belgium, Holland, and Germany and fought bravely in the Normandy Invasion in France in July 1944.

W. Arnfield: Salty

Salty on board minesweeperThis is the story of Salty, a white Maltese Terrier. His place of birth was Saskatchewan. He became our ship’s mascot in December, 1943. He arrived in the pocket of Lt. MacDonald.

Our ship, H.M.C.S. Blairmore, a Bangor class minesweeper, was being refitted in Cornerbrook, Newfoundland, at the time. To cut a long story short, he was with us when we arrived in England, February, 1944.

We lost Salty when he jumped off the stern. At this time, three battleships had moved into position to shell the coast, and I believe the concussions from the 16 inch guns were too much for Salty.

We could not make any efforts to save him as we had our sweeping gear in play. Also at this time, hundreds of troops were heading for shore in landing crafts. The date was June 6, 1944, and he was our only casualty of D-Day. We all hoped that maybe he was rescued by a landing craft, which we doubted very much, or that he made it ashore and found a nice French Poodle.”

R.J. Keddie: Whitey

Whitey, courtesy of The Fort Garry Horse Museum and Archives

Whitey, courtesy of The Fort Garry Horse Museum and Archives

Whitey on dury

Whitey on duty


Mr. R. J. Keddie of Kingston, Ontario, served with the Fort Garry Horse and Tank Regiment from Winnipeg, Manitoba from Sept. 1939 to Sept. 1945. The Fort Garry Horse and Tank regiment was to become part of the 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade which was given a role as vanguard in the invasion of Normandy.

“Whitey was the regimental mascot who joined us in the Winnipeg Robinson Building on one cold October night in 1939. He appeared on the doorstep, was invited in to warm up, and stayed. Whitey became a Fort Garry Horse member with his own regimental number: H 26001/2”.

The regiment trained for duty in that building and also briefly in camp Shilo. In 1941 the regiment sailed for England where they continued an armoured role. After accompanying us everywhere in Canada, Whitey was smuggled into England in a box while under anaesthetic.

Mr. Keddie remembers: “He served with us throughout all our time in England , both at work or at play and the Collie was always there. He used to lead the regiment to church. They’d bring him in, and he would lie down in the aisle right by the front pew, and would stay there the whole time. If you couldn’t see him you wouldn’t know he was there. And when the service was over he would get up and lead them out again.”

Whitey lived with ‘B’Squadron, and at morning parade time, when the Sgt. Major shouted his orders to “fall in”, Whitey would literally herd the men into their various troop formations, all the while barking and rounding up the slow movers. He knew to be quiet when the Sgt. Major was about to give forth with subsequent orders, but would then give more barking, just to punctuate the situation.

Ted Brumwell, also of “B” Squadron, recalls: “He would attach himself to a Trooper as his master for a couple of weeks, then move on to another troop.”

Whitey was polite to any Fort Garry soldier but liked no others. Ever a democrat, he didn’t pay much attention to officers.

Shortly before D-Day this fine animal was accidentally hit by a truck while he was on duty. Whitey was buried with proper military ceremony at a spot code-named ‘Shangri-La’ near Fawley on Southapton Water, United.Kingdom in May 1944. He was much missed by his squadron and remembered for sixty years.

Adrian L. Whiteman: Perth the Spaniel and Gus the Goose

Perth the Spaniel and Gus the Goose

Perth the Spaniel and Gus the Goose

Adrian Whiteman of Keremose, British Columbia, was a Seaman Gunner during the Second World War. His job was to scrub the deck and fire the guns aboard the escort ship, The Lanark. This was a British ship that showed the convoys where to go and keep them protected from submarines.

“The ship the Lanark was named after Lanark County in Ontario where the town of Perth is located. The town adopted the ship because there was an English Royal Navy Ship called Perth. The town sent us a black Cocker Spaniel as our mascot and of course we named him Perth. The sick bay attendant (nurse) was his official keeper. The dog lived with him in the sick bay. But he also really enjoyed it up on deck with Gus who was a goose.

Gus the goose was was purchased off the coast of Ireland for two packages of cigarettes. We were going to eat him, but he was just a bag of bones. He was nice and tame so we decided to keep him. We hid him in the vegetable locker on the after deck. When he was discovered during morning inspection by the ship’s Captain, Zimmerman and I went to the ship’s office and put in a request to keep him as a mascot along with Perth. The Captain granted our request and named us his official sweepers. If you know geese you’ll know what that entailed. Up on the deck where he spent much of his time with the Perth and the crew, it was easy, we just grabbed a hose and washed it overboard; we had no shortage of help. Read the rest of this entry »

Russ Kelly: Flika

Russ Kelly and his wife with Flika, mid 1940s

Russ Kelly and his wife with Flika, mid 1940s

Russ Kelly, at age 89: “I was a Lithographer all my working days. Camera, stripping, plate making, sales and production…I didn’t retire until I was 70 years young. Today I still play Bass Fiddle in the Mississauga Swing Band.”

During the war in 1943 while Russ was serving overseas as a radar instructor and flight testing over the Atlantic, the Kelly family back home obtained Flika, a pure bred black and white Cocker Spaniel. “As our family increased over the years, Flika could be found sitting under or near the baby buggy out on the front lawn. When the kids were growing up we could always tell whose house they were at, because the dog would be waiting out on the lawn of that house.” Read the rest of this entry »

Nitro: Badge #9755

Honouring the fallen Nitro, photo courtesy Lyle Stafford

Honouring the fallen Nitro, photo courtesy Lyle Stafford

This story is amalgamated from research and newspaper articles following the death of K9 officer Nitro.

Thank you to Howard Chow of the Vancouver Police Department.

The Vancouver Police Dog Squad is well known internationally and is considered one of the finest dog squads to be found anywhere. It uses German Shepherds exclusively. Its training methods, refined through its 40 year history, are similar to the classic Schutzhund style training, but the Vancouver Dog Squad’s productivity in criminal apprehension work and urban tracking skills exceeds the character of Schutzhund training practices which are not practical for the unpredictable nature of urban apprehension work.

The Vancouver Police Squad was the first Police Department in Canada to train dogs as a component of its Emergency Response Team. Nitro was one of only a few dogs who made it to work with this team. Smaller in stature than the typical male Shepherd, he was one of the top producers in the unit. He developed a reputation as a very tenacious dog.
Nitro was a beloved member of the Rutter family which he had joined as a puppy and had grown up with Constable Howard Rutter’s two children, Meghan and Matthew. He became an official K9 in June 1999 and became a popular member of the Vancouver Police Dog Squad. The mahogany-brown eyed German Shepherd was the first police dog who was named through the unit’s “name the puppy” contest. Read the rest of this entry »