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Tag: ontario

Impotently roaming through Canada

We took the shortcut John Steinbeck couldn’t.

And it wasn’t because he didn’t have Mapquest. It was because he had a dog.

Steinbeck, once seeing Niagara Falls, had hoped to scoot west across southern Ontario, re-entering the U.S. at Michigan. But Canadian border officials told him that, while Charley was welcome in Canada, the author might have some problems getting his poodle back into the U.S.

Steinbeck lacked papers documenting that Charley was vaccinated against rabies, and — 1960 being pre-email, pre-fax — getting sent an instant copy wasn’t a possibility. His only choice, other than waiting on the U.S. mail, would have been to drive back into America and get Charley re-vaccinated.

So he opted to turn around. Even that proved problematic. While he never got through the gate to Canada, he got a good grilling once he was back at the entrance to the U.S., and, from the sound of it, got it bit frustrated with the U.S. officials. Steinbeck didn’t like government bureaucracies. “Government can make you feet so small and mean that it takes some doing to build back a sense of self-importance.”

Ace and I on the other hand would have no problem on either end. I had his paperwork, but wasn’t asked for it at any point.

We zipped right through Ontario, traveling less than four hours, and under 200 miles, as opposed to the seven hours and more than 400 miles it would have taken had we stayed in the U.S., veering south and north again.

The scenery, once we got outside of Niagara Falls, wasn’t much different than what Pennsylvania and Ohio would have offered — a lot of the same flat land and fast food franchises. The only real difference was the money and the metric system. I stopped for some 99-cent gas — even though I knew it was that much per liter. And even though it cost about the same to fill my tank, it still felt good to get something — ephemeral as it was — for under a dollar.

I popped inside the gas station to get some cigarettes, and asked when I didn’t see the standard racks of them behind the counter. The employee pulled open a big drawer — law requires them to be kept out of view — revealing numerous brands I’d never heard of in funny boxes. I asked her what was cheap.

She recommended “Next.” I paid in American, got change in Canadian. The pack’s government-required warning — one of several really hard-hitting ones — showed a burned cigarette, with all its ash hanging on, though in a very limp manner, and a written reminder that the cigarettes I intended to smoke could make me impotent.

That not being a big factor in my life right now, I lit one up. They were shorter than American cigarettes, which is how America would want it, but there are more to the pack.

I would have liked to spend a night in Ontario, smoking my Nexts, and the only reason I didn’t was fear of big roaming charges if I got on my phone or my computer.

Leave it to America to come up with roaming charges (I’m assuming we invented them). What’s next? Freedom fees. Wanderlust taxes? Curiosity tolls? America seems to like us to stay put and spend money, and if we go somewhere, have a destination and reach it, thruway style. Do what the GPS lady says. Don’t you dare stray from the path. Stay within the parameters of your network.

I’m sure there are good reasons for roaming fees, I just don’t like the name. The word “fees” should just not be attached to a concept as free and wide open as “roaming.”

I feel a song coming on:

Oh, give me a home, where the buffalo roam (fees may apply)

And the deer and the antelope text.

As a society, partly because of our increasing tendency to take directions from computers, we have grown less likely to be vacilando. It’s a Spanish word, from the verb vacilar. As Steinbeck notes in Travels With Charley: “If one is vacilando, he is going somewhere, but doesn’t greatly care whether or not he gets there.”

Steinbeck said there is no English equivalent for the Spanish word. I would argue “roaming” comes pretty close, though.

Vacilando as we’ve been on our journey, we didn’t wander much in Ontario, and managed to get to Sarnia and the U.S. entry gate just as the sun was going down. There was no search, there were no seizures, just a flash of the passport, a peek at the dog and a few polite questions about whether I’d purchased anything in Canada (“Just these funny little cigarettes,” I replied).

We stopped for the night right there — in Port Huron — and took off the next morning for the other side of Michigan and step two of our shortcut: a ferry ride across Lake Michigan.

We survived Niagara Falls

I almost lost Ace at Niagara Falls – and in the worst imaginable way.

After leaving Saugerties, we headed across New York state, stopping overnight in Syracuse,  mainly because Ace desperately needed a bath. I think even he – scratching a lot of late — agreed with that assessment. He jumped right into the Motel 6 bathtub, sat patiently as I used the ice bucket to soak him down, and smiled as I scrubbed him with an oatmeal-based flea and tick shampoo, rinsed him and toweled him off, using every flimsy white towel in the room

The next day, smelling better — him, at least – we continued to Buffalo,  where I got a break from motel charges and fast food by staying with an aunt and uncle in Amherst.

My father’s brother and his wife, while dog lovers, are not believers in the whole idea of them living in the house. Their children’s dogs, and even their own dog, were never permitted in the house. I respected that, and figured, with the temperatures still above freezing, one night as a real dog wouldn’t hurt Ace.

I laid his blanket near the door, and he had a spacious, well-manicured, fenced backyard at his disposal. He seemed to enjoy everything about being outside – except for the fact that the people were inside. He’d sit at the window and gaze in forlornly, especially when he sensed food was being served

Only twice during the night did I hear him whine – and in a way I’d never heard him whine before. Usually he will emit a two syllable sound, when he’s upset or impatient. Something like “ruh-ROOOO.” On this night, he came up with a four syllable one, something like “ruh-REEE-RAAA-rooo.”

The next morning, when I stepped outside, he was the most energetic and playful I’ve seen him since our trip began. I think a night in the fresh air, as opposed to a Motel 6 smoking room, did him good. The stop did me good, too. My aunt and uncle fed me well, and sent me with a sack lunch on my visit to Niagara Falls.

It was only a slight hassle entering Canada after crossing the Rainbow Bridge  (not be be confused with the mythical one where pets wait for their owners before going into heaven). I feared, with all I’m toting inside and atop my car, someone might feel the need to search it all; instead I just got a verbal grilling.

“What’s the purpose of your trip? What’s all that in your car? Are you carrying any firearms? Do you have any tobacco?”

My answers seemed to satisfy the Canadian agent – except for the one pertaining to the purpose of my trip. He spent a long time looking at the ohmidog! magnet sign on the side of my car.

“It’s a website about dogs,” I explained. “Right now, I’m traveling across the country with my dog, like John Steinbeck did, and writing about it.”

His face had a blank look.

“I don’t get it,” he said. “Do you sell stuff on your website?”

“Not really,” I answered.

“Do you breed dogs?”

“No.”

“How many dogs do you have in there?”

“In the car you mean? Just one.”

He handed me back my passport and signaled me through, and I followed the signs to Niagara Falls, which led me to an $18 parking space a short walk away from the falls.

Once there, as has happened at other scenic wonders, some of the tourists seemed more taken with Ace than the tourist attraction.

At least 20 people took his picture. Some asked to pose with him. One  volunteered to take a picture of the two of us together, with the falls in the background, as if we were honeymooners. And at least 30 asked the eternal question: “What kind of dog is that?”

Although the sun wasn’t in the right place, I tried to get some photos of Ace with the falls in the background. The edge of the falls, on the Canadian side, is blocked off by a railing. There’s a stone wall, about two feet high, with iron rails running above it. The stone wall was wide enough for Ace to get up on and sit, so I had him do so — right next to the sign that said “Danger.”

I had taken a few shots when a gaggle of tourists stopped, one of them with a little girl who just couldn’t stop squealing at Ace — squeals of delight, but squeals all the same. Ace isn’t a fan of the squeal. As I was holding on to his leash, putting my camera away, and answering questions about my dog, Ace – I think to distance himself from the squeals — jumped over the rail.

There was grass on the other side, about six feet of it, before the sheer drop. He walked toward the edge, to the point that I was leaning over the rail, holding his leash, trying to reel him back in. I pulled him back to the wall, and when I told him to jump back over he did.

Fortunately, no authorities saw the incident and I didn’t get the scolding I probably deserved. Then again, neither do all those people who seem to not give a second thought to holding their young children over the rail to give them a better view.

We moved along after that, weaving through all the tourists – and there were hordes of them, from all over the globe, some stopping me so they could take Ace’s photo, some asking to borrow him to pose with (Okay, but not near the rail), some wanting their children to meet him. One Japanese man, clearly wanting to ask about Ace but not a speaker of English, simply gave me a thumbs up.

It was a lot like our experience at the red rocks of Sedona, only multiplied. Then, too, Ace’s close call reminded me of that sad story we heard at Glen Canyon.

Back in the car, well away from the falls, I scolded myself again for letting my attention get diverted, and unwrapped the ham sandwiches my aunt had prepared.  I ate one of them. You can guess who got the other.

Sitting there in my $18 parking space, happy I hadn’t lost my dog to the roaring natural wonder, I gave silent thanks – that the only Rainbow Bridge either of us were crossing that day was the real one, and for the day I met him at Baltimore’s animal shelter.

After five years, the honeymoon continues.

Pit bull ban hasn’t slowed dog bites

Banning pit bulls has had no significant effect on slowing the number of dog bites in Ontario, Canada, according to a study by the Toronto Humane Society.

Results of a humane society survey of municipalities show no significant drop in dog bite cases since the provincial government passed breed specific legislation in 2005 — a law that required pit bulls to be muzzled in public and resulted in “countless” pit bulls and Staffordshire Terriers being destroyed.

In a statement Wednesday, the humane society called on the provincial government to amend the legislation and ” stop the punishment of innocent animals,” the Toronto Sun reports.

According to statistics, there was a 10 percent drop in dog bite cases in 2005, but after 2006 the number increased to the 2004 level.

The law was touted by the attorney general at the time as one that would “make our streets safer.”

Apparently, it has not, Humane Society spokesman Ian McConachie noted.

McConachie said outlawing specific dog breeds “targets the wrong source of the problem: “Dogs are not born violent,” but are “made that way by irresponsible owners who train them to be that way or neglect them …”

“If we want to reduce the number of dog bites we have to address the route cause of the problem, those irresponsible owners who do not appropriately care for their animals.” he said.

Pit bull ban upheld by Ontario court

Canadians are a bland and slow-witted people, prone to swilling beer, wearing plaid and playing ice hockey.

Eh?

Of course that’s not true, but then neither is this: Pit bulls are dangerous and unpredictable dogs that have the potential to attack without warning.

That’s what the Ontario Court of Appeal said Friday in a decision upholding the province’s ban on pit bulls, enacted in 2005. It prohibits the breeding, sale and ownership of pit bulls and requires they be muzzled when in public.

The Appeal Court ruled Friday that the ban on the breed does not violate any constitutional rights.

“The total ban on pit bulls is not ‘arbitrary’ or ‘grossly disproportionate’ in light of the evidence that pit bulls have a tendency to be unpredictable and that even apparently docile pit bulls may attack without warning or provocation,” the judges said in their decision Friday.

Then they all put on their tuques, went to an ice hockey game and drank Molsons. Not really. The point is, you’d think a high court in a country so sensitive to negative stereotyping would give a little more thought and study to an issue rather just relying on stereotypes — namely the bogus one that all pit bulls are prone to unprovoked violence.

Yes, there are violent pit bulls (generally the fault of their owner) — just as there are nasty poodles and slow-witted Canadians, but blanket indictments based on perception aren’t progress. They’re the opposite — a step backwards. They get us nowhere. 

Lawyer Clayton Ruby, who challenged the law, called it a “sad day” in Ontario. “Kind, loving, gentle dogs are being killed across this province for no reason,” he said in a statement, according to the Canadian Press.

“The provincial government should focus their efforts and resources on identifying truly dangerous dogs rather than apprehending and killing dogs that pose no threat at all,” he said.

Ruby said he is considering an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Jean-anne Moors of Banned Aid, a coalition fighting the ban, said the group was “very disappointed” with the ruling.

“I have three so-called pit bull-type dogs who are all legal under the law,” she said. “Everybody’s looking at me as if I’m some kind of criminal when I walk down the streets with my dogs. They have no history of aggression.”

Moors said the law sets a troubling precedent because it’s not just a pit bull issue.

“If a government … can make such an arbitrary decision that a dog is a bad and dangerous dog and seize it under certain circumstances and destroy it … that’s a matter of concern to anybody who has a dog – period.”

The farmer and one to three perfect days of arduous efforts to reduce the file size, size.