As I was sitting in the shade out at Gimpy Hippy Estates during the Instant Death (very hot) summer of 1979, Winlaw, B.C., trying to keep my cool, with my left half of my body in plaster (from a ski injury at Lake Louise), a strange dog ambled over to me. 

He initially looked to be a Newfoundland Labrador, but shorter hair, large build and a patch of white on his chest. He was very friendly and we quickly bonded.

Buddy told me that this pooch had quite a history in the Slocan Valley. Some wild man rolled into the area 10 years prior on a motorcycle with a puppy in the sidecar. Wild man rolled out of town without puppy and a couple adopted him and called him North. They were involved with movies and Hollywood. Whilst they were in Los Angeles, pooch kinda lived his own life. Buddy said he had the reputation of being quite the ladies man, in that anyone who had a female dog, hated North. Plus, he had an encounter with a cougar, on Cougar’s Bluff, which left him with some injuries. That didn’t deter him whenever I said we were going for a “walk up The Bluff”. He wanted a rematch, it was certain.

I checked around to find that no one would lay claim to this eclectic critter. So, I adopted him. And changed his name to Nort. He and I had great routine in that I would call him “Nort” or “Norton” like Jackie Gleason would, and he would look at me just like Art Carney would, with his adoring face. I would take him out to my forestry gigs, where we would camp for a week or two in the mountains of B.C. Some of my employees would argue that a dog would attract a grizzly, but I preferred the early warning system of a dog versus that of an approaching Ursus horribilus.

In the evening, at my home, a lot of friends were initially scared by Nort thinking he was a bear. Friends from Montreal still recall the bear I had as a pet when they visited as children. In a few short couple of years, Nort deteriorated. He used to enjoy being outside; then he wanted to be inside, beside the wood stove. I could tell he had arthritis, and then his eyes started to cloud over.

By this time, he would sleep a lot. He had the amazing ability to do so on his back with his legs sticking straight up. I’ve never seen that in an animal. That was alive, that is.

I came home one day to find his butt sticking out of my living room window. I went inside and he looked like Winnie the Pooh, stuck in the tree going after the honey. He was only trying to get inside to the warmth. Poor Nort had the most apologetic face and his eyes were quite clouded over. I manoeuvred him through the window, with great difficulty. We hugged and commiserated.

The Hollywood folks came back to The Valley, just as I was about to embark on my three-year world tour on bicycle. I handed Nort back to them with much regret.

They wrote me a year later about hosting a large party for which they had been making all sorts of food for the gala. The big day came and they ran into town to get last minute things. Upon their return they found the fridge door open and Nort gorging on all their preparations.

He could no longer even walk up stairs or see where he was going. They put him down. They sent me a very touching letter to let me know why, knowing my love for Nort.

What a character!

Will Perry (Canada)

You can read more of Will's work on the links below:

Hug your cat day

Sir Richard, the tree climbing dog

Zeke the fearless mouser

One Cat is Company

"One cat is company.
Two cats are a conspiracy. 
Three cats is an attempted takeover.
Four or more cats is a complete coup!"

Shona Steele (Australia)

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