Archive for June, 2009

David Ward: Tiger

In September 1939, Mr. David Ward joined the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps at the age of 18. “We were the first Canadian Peacekeeping Force that was formed. That was the start of it all.”

It was right at the beginning that Dave and his buddies picked up a little terrier mix they called Tiger wandering around in Lansdown Park in Ottawa where soldiers were signing up for service. “They mobililized us pretty fast, just a quick medical to weed out the sick, the lame and the lazy. Pretty much everybody was signed on.” Those were the days, Dave said, when everybody had a nickname. The bald soldier answered to Curly, the British were called Limeys. “There were lots of ethnic jokes too.” Dave was named Froggy because his mother was French.

Tiger went with the boys to Camp Borden for basic training and then on to Debert, Nova Scotia which was the embarkation location before being shipped overseas. The camp was surrounded by bushland where the lumber camps were serviced by loggers and their horses. Tiget met his end when he was kicked by one of these horses while nipping at its hooves. The regiment was heart broken. Tiger was given a proper army funeral; David Ward was one of his pallbearers. Last Post was played. Through his untimely death, Tiger missed a trip to England on the Empress of Canada and ultimately landing in Normandy on D-Day where Dave, on ammunition detail, was one of the first batch that landed. Read the rest of this entry »

Larry Taverner: Champagne

Champagne, courtesy Larry Taverner

Champagne, courtesy Larry Taverner

Larry Taverner was an Airman First Class Armorer serving on a fighter squadron (242) formed of Canadians serving in the Royal Air Force. They made up part of the British Expeditionary Force in France in 1940.

“When the Germans started advancing on us, we received orders to pull up stakes from our camp near Lille and head for the French coast. We were several days getting to the coast but managed to keep our adoped dog, Champagne, concealed. She was like a very small Jack Russell Terrier and she travelled in the uniform shirts of several airmen, mine included.

Once on the coast we had a couple of days to wait for a small coastal freighter to take us back to England. We finally made it to Linconshire where we had plenty of re-organizing to do because we had lost a lot of our equipment. Champagne was glad we made it back to England too because she could finally get out from under cover and tear around. The sad part is that after a couple of weeks of freedom she lost an argument with a large truck. It was a sorrowful bunch of guys who made sure she had a decent burial. We sure missed our smallest recruit.”

Barbara Bradley: Tahoe

Barb checking Tahoe for African ticks

Barb checking Tahoe for African ticks

When I moved to Ghana in 1980 with my husband Tom and my son Mike, we left our house intact. A friend needed a place to live and agreed to stay in our Ottawa bungalow for the two years we would be posted overseas with CIDA, the Canadian International Development Agency. We benefited because we didn’t have to put our belongings into long-term storage, plus Rick already knew our cat, Rusty, and was looking forward to living with her. Rusty, on the other hand was seriously annoyed at being left behind. We departed, wondering what type of payback she would demand upon our return.

Accra, Ghana is a large coastal city in West Africa, approximately four degrees above the equator. Tropical heat and humidity combine with poor sanitation and a great deal of airborne diesel fumes, resulting in a city that in many ways is a less than pleasant living experience. Being a third-world country, Ghana has few of Canada’s urban amenities. Read the rest of this entry »

Kristina Kyser: Dante

Dante with Kristina and friend

Dante with Kristina and friend

In June 2004 a New Brunswick man, a member of M.E.N.S.A., but with a history of mental illness, drove to Toronto in a vehicle loaded with several guns including a twelve gage shotgun, a 9 millimeter semi-automatic, a bolt-action rifle with telescopic lens, a machete, and 6,296 rounds of ammunition. His intention, he freely told police later, was a random shooting spree. Police learned during questioning that one of the reasons Mr. Stanson had come to Toronto was because he needed medical attention for a heart condition and figured that if he were arrested he would receive an operation under the Ontario medical system. Read the rest of this entry »

Dave Morrow: Scrappy

Scrappy and David Morrow

Scrappy and David Morrow

The Dave Morrow and his first wife Jesse adopted Scrappy, a Boston Pug (half Pug, half Boston Terrier) at three weeks old. The couple bottle-fed the puppy on Carnation Good Start as he was the runt of the litter and his mother couldn’t or wouldn’t feed him.

The Peterborough long-haul trucker had been on the road for 330 days a year, for 38 years, married for 25. Dave loved all of it, the fresh air, the long stretches of highway, the views of rolling hillsides from his cab window. “After being away so often for so long, my wife and I were getting ready to start enjoying life together. The kids were grown up, and we didn’t have to work so hard anymore. We were starting to organize what we wanted to do. It gets lonely on the road and I’d just started bringing Scrappy along for company on my Canada/U.S. runs.”

But on Jesse’s 47th birthday, which ironically was also Scrappy’s first birthday, she suddenly suffered a fatal heart attack.

“I was in Austin, Texas with a load when I got the news. What a phone call to get. I flew home right away. The Company paid for my plane ticket, but I found out at the airport that the airline had a policy whereby they wouldn’t let a dog aboard that hadn’t been to a vet within seven days. Scrappy hadn’t been to the vet so I had to leave him behind. Another shock. This fellow who worked at the airport was kind enough to keep him for me so I could get on the plane. When I got to Cleveland I phoned the guy and he told me that Scrappy wouldn’t eat so he phoned a lady he knew who owns a kennel. She kept him in her home with her until one of our E.G. Gray company drivers could fly down to pick up my truck and Scrappy.”

Dave was born in Havelock, Ontario and grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, and Nova Scotia. He started hauling tractors and hay wagons at the age of eight. By the time he was 14, he was driving a tractor trailer and by the time he was 16 he was driving trucks. Now in his late 50s, Dave’s been all over North America with Texas and Tennessee being his favourite destinations. “I like the southern flavour and sense of history. As for Scrappy, any place where he can run and play on the grass is great by him. The dog is not fond of California though; sharp little burrs called Devil’s Claw seem to stick to his paws.” Read the rest of this entry »

Helen Georgia Vance: Morrell

A small black American Cocker Spaniel sat motionless in the middle of four lanes of traffic on a May night at 11:30 P.M. It was cold and rainy, and I barely noticed her sitting on a double white line in front of Ottawa’s Museum of Nature.

After dropping my friend off, I returned and found her still sitting in the same place. I got out of my car, stopped traffic, and coaxed her into the lobby of a nearby apartment building where she was very eager for me to pick her up. We waited, Morrell sitting and shaking on my tummy, for a half hour for somebody to come by looking for a lost dog. Nobody came. I took her home and she had to experience the horror of a room which moved (an elevator), not to mention its floor-length mirror. She thought there was another dog in the mirror and went at it, full speed, nose first. For the first two weeks she had nightmares each time she slept. In time they receded. That was how she used up her first life. Read the rest of this entry »

Rada Ristich: Snickers

Rada and Snickers

Rada and Snickers

Snickers is part Australian Shepherd, part American Coon Hound.  She likes to walk.

She presides over Peter Paul’s, a busy storefront flower shop on the Danforth in Toronto, owned and operated by Rada Ristich. Things happen to Snickers. Read the rest of this entry »

Leslie Garayt: Flakers

Courtesy Able Seaman Leslie Garayt

Courtesy Able Seaman Leslie Garayt

Flakers: Overboard in the Atlantic

Able Seaman Leslie Garayt joined the Royal Canadian Navy in 1941 in Montreal and served until 1945. He took to life aboard ship right away and throughout his long naval career turned down all shore jobs, preferring the life at sea.

“At the beginning of 1944 we escorted an American destroyer across the Atlantic. It was being given away to the Royal Navy in England. From there I was transferred to the HMCS Loch Morlich which was a frigate and I served the rest of the war on board her, escorting, submarine hunting, and things like that. Our group was called the hunter-killer group. Our job was to patrol the Atlantic, the English Channel and the Irish Sea, submarine hunting.”

“The very first frigate I served on was built in northern England in Loch Morlich. One of the men lived across from the shipyard and his wife gave us a small pup. When a seaman lies down we used to say he was going flakers, so we called the dog Flakers because he was young and needed a lot of sleep. We took him out to sea, but unfortunately this is a short story. One day we just couldn’t find him.

We looked and looked for him, but he was nowhere to be found. Some of the men were superstitious about having a dog aboard. I can’t imagine anyone throwing him into the sea, but from one day to the next he was gone. So we had to figure that Flakers was a dog overboard.”