Muskoka has a growing population of retired folks who have sold their Toronto home for a cool million and then move into a condo up here worth a mere quarter of a million.  

As I drive around, spreading my wealth to keep the various small businesses afloat, I observe more of them.  And I am embarrassed for them - having to take out some wee furry critter with an ugly face.  “Please don’t let me stoop to this level when I get to that age!”

These little hairy rats should not even be allowed by taxonomic laws to be part of the genus of Canis.  When I think of Canis, I think of Canis lupus, that most regal species of the wolf.  We have several paintings of wolves in our home.  Canis also includes all of the well-known breeds of shepherds, retrievers, collies, etc.  Large, big dogs.

Me, I much prefer a mutt.  A Heinz 57.  They usually have the best characteristics of the pure breeds, along with more personality and little to none of the physical detriments of a purebred, hence fewer vet bills.  Although, mutts do have a tendency to interact with porcupines and skunks with expensive and painful consequences.

Since we lost our beloved curmudgeon mutt, Toby, this past February, every once in a while I would ask Cathy if she’s ready to get a puppy for Holly to help raise and train and would get the usual answer of “No, too soon.” 

Tuesday, October 2, I mentioned that I was trying to get in touch with friends that live in Mansfield to get a report on the fall colours to take Cathy for a tour of the Hockley Valley.  She asked me, with a sly face, “How far is that from Brampton?”  My eyes narrowed to my gunslinger squint as my instincts went on red alert, “About half an hour.  Why?”  “Oh, there are some Jack Russell puppies there”.

Oommpphh, as I slowly sat down, like being punched in the stomach.  “Okay, spill it!”  “Well, I’ve been thinking that Russell’s crossed with poodles are hypoallergenic and they don’t shed hair so we could eventually allow him in the house”  “AARRGGH, they’re little dogs!!!  And incredibly hyper!!!  And I’ve never had a little dog!!!  And I’ve never paid for a dog!!!   You’re just going to have to give me some time to wrap my head around this new direction.  Please”.  The very next day she came home with IT.

She had driven to North Bay to see some eight week old puppies sired by a Jack Russell and the mother was a black toy poodle.  Cathy had chosen one all black with white on his four paws and a white patch on his chest.  As she handed him to me, he immediately commenced licking my face.  “NO, NO, NO!!!  Don’t do that or I’ll fall in love with you” was what I was thinking.  Last ditch effort, “Does he come with a seven day money-back guarantee?”

An hour later, Cathy dashed off to do her school bus run leaving me with the runt.  Well, in a mere few hours, he impressed me with his affection, intelligence, memory, running (he could beat Usain Bolt!).  And stubborn?!?!  More than a muskox.

By the time she got home, I informed her of his name.  Well, heck, I gotta have some say in this matter.  I was thinking of Fritz but I prefer a simple one syllable name, with hard consonants, as it is easier for dogs to learn.  Soooo, I chose “Jack”.  Okay, stop your groaning out there!  Within an hour, he knew his name as he responded when I called him.  Usually.

Speaking of big dogs, Holly (a shepherd, lab and chow cross) has slowly gotten more used to him and is enjoying his company.  Once he toned down his bounciness, as in a jack-in-the-box, which further proved my apt name for him.  Holly likes to taunt him with bones and breakfast bikkies.  By the third day, he had figured out an inclined rock, on our walking path, that provides a whopping 5” (127 mm, which sounds big in metric) rise.  He drops gears into full pursuit mode going done the hill and launches off the rock onto Holly’s haunches.  If he grows any bigger, I’m certain he’ll land on her back.  He finally crossed her line in bugging her and she had him on his back pinned in seconds with a scary growl.  "1, 2, 3 You're OUT!"  It scared him for a few hours to respect her.  Cathy and I have caught both Holly and Jack lying side by side on Holly’s bed but they are not at all accommodating to allow us to grab a camera to capture the moment.

As to discipline, I find myself often in the Tom Hank’s role in the movie Turner and Hooch.  “This is not your bed!”  “This is not your food dish!”  “This is not your shoe!”  But Jack is a quick learner.

Other than some evidences of ADD, in a split second he can go from trotting merrily along our path to gnawing on a fallen branch. From scampering up a moss-covered rock to pose, regally, as if he expects to appear on the front cover of Canadian Canine magazine, to spying a colourful leaf to be paraded around a few moments, like it’s the latest fall fashion. From finding a scent on the floor that warrants furious digging to China to, “Hey, what’s Holly doing?  I better catch up to her!”  and, ZING, he’s off like The Flash.  A little black blur and you don’t even see his feet touch the ground.  Then he looks back down the trail at us and says, “Come on, slow pokes!”  Cathy and I look at each other and laugh.  Mr. Dawdler telling us to hurry up.  Very entertaining!

At night, we put him on a leash as Cathy is concerned about the local marten snatching him.  He does a great impression of Gollum, when Sam put the Elf rope around his neck.  Jack will frequently stop and look up at me with those pleading eyes, “It hurts us, Precious!  Puhleeeeze take it off!”  Sheesh, what an actor.

A week after bringing home her “grandson”, Cathy took Jack to the vet for his first round of shots.  He weighed in at a whopping four pounds, three ounces.  I could only laugh.  Plus, he’s a gangly 14 inches long, including a cute little stubby tail that is almost always wagging.

I recently picked up an electric leaf blower that boasts 160 mph.  Well, Jack happened to bounce in front of it and he landed on the next property over.  Luckily, on a big pile of leaves.

I was commissioned with the job to get Jack a bed on sale at Canadian Tire.  I forgot to take in one of our plethora of reusable grocery bags so, as I’m walking, quickly, back to my car, I’m glancing, furtively, in all directions, hoping that no one knows me to avoid,  “Hey, Will, cute bed for your gerbil!”

Yesterday, Cathy went on a spree to get stuff for Jack.  Special biscuits, kibble, collar and a space suit.  It looks like titanium, shiny yellow with silver reflective stripes at dashing angles.  Strapped in he looked like a side kick for a super hero.  “Let’s fly off now, Jack, and save the world from n’er do wells!”

Yes, Jack is a character.  Ummm, like a big dog.  Oh crap!  I’m not even retired or white haired and I’m taking a four pound dog for a walk on a leash.  In the forest, not the road, so no one sees me.  You noticed that I now refer to him as a "dog".  In the big leagues.

Will Perry, Canada



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