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Niagara-on-the-Lake
Monday, January 30, 2023
Ross’s Ramblings: Are the people or their pets the top dog in NOTL?
NOTL dogs really get the treatment, says columnist Ross Robinson. DREAMSTUDIO AI IMAGE

Thank goodness for pet dogs or many locals would get no real exercise outdoors in the fresh air – especially in the winter, when dog owners take their pets out two or three times daily for exercise.

Surely, our dogs are spoiled compared to just one generation past. Not that long ago, pet apparel was not a huge business.

Coats, caps and even booties are fashion statements now, even in our comparatively mild climate. I love to see such indulgent treatment of our pets, but it wasn’t always that way.

Back when men were men, and dogs were dogs, I lived in Kirkland Lake and Winnipeg.   Our wee short-haired fox terrier Rocky would accompany me every day on my paper route, even when the temperature was minus-40 F or less.

Bring on the Canadian prairie weather and wind, we had our Winnipeg Free Press customers waiting for their news. And every second Saturday, I had to collect $1.40 per week, at each door.

Hey, I was clearing about six bucks a week. More than enough for a movie and some bad habits.

I was dressed up to suit the weather, but somehow naked Rocky never got cold and never whined about the weather. He seemed to be happy being out and about with me. Or with my sister Pat, who also had a paper route.

I had my own route when I was seven, about 45 papers. Heavy papers, with lots of ads, and the Saturday edition with Gregory Clark.

Add a hot chocolate, and life was good. Later, there was “Hockey Night in Canada” with Foster Hewitt and Murray Westgate and Rocket Richard.

We in Niagara-on-the-Lake seem pretty normal compared to the folks at the annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on Long Island.

It’s the second-longest continuously held sporting event in the U.S. – number 147 last year. Every year I watch some of it as the owners and dogs give new meaning to the term “Top Dog.”

Weird, but to each his own, eh? The good Lord makes chocolate and vanilla, and many other flavours. The owners and dogs fast walk, they prance and they trot.

The dogs are perfectly groomed and trained. Jumping, rolling, heeling, they compete for Best of Breed ribbons and Masters Obedience braggin’ rights.

Let me ramble back to the canine scene in NOTL. Each winter, canine sartorial standards seem to elevate another level.

Burberry patterns, thermal fabrics, Gore-Tex, booties with grips, where will it end? Or will it end? Soon, dogs will devise a way to carry an umbrella.

And dog names. Not too long ago, just one generation, dogs were called Rocky, Ruff, Fido, Bowser and Rinty Tin Tin. Now, they wag their tails to Sadie, Cassie, Charlie, Fitz, Leo and Caelen.

But owning a pet is a commitment and can be pricey, eh?

To that end, let’s open up our minds and think about the sharing economy. RideShare, AirBnB, timeshares on Hilton Head Island and at ski resorts around the world.  Just go on the proper app, and the world is yours. Book an Uber, it’s that easy.

Why not “DogShare”? A convenient app for our smartphones.

If I want some companionship on a walk around our pretty town, I can just use DogShare. I could quickly find a dog whose owner wants someone to spell them for an hour. Easy peasy, a win-win, and an exercised and happy mutt.

How many times have friends of mine had to miss breakfast at Silk’s after Wallbanger hockey on Sunday morning because they have to get home to walk their dog? Why be totally constrained by Rocky’s schedule?

My tennis pal Sharon often needs to cut a thrilling set short to get home to her dog?  Sonny and Cher sang about their faithful hound.

I will admit I sometimes feel excluded when I see dog owners stopping frequently for chats with their peers (not pee-ers).

Or, when I see members of the local West Highland white terrier club enjoying their monthly rally in Memorial Park. Dogs racing around, owners chatting, breathing in the fresh air.

Let’s find a way to share the fun and good times.

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