Now where did I put my Chihuahua?

You don’t have to be here for long to know Canadians love their dogs. With plenty of walking trails and lakeside recreation areas, it’s doggy paradise.

Big dogs are everywhere, from your standard Labradors and Alsatians to giant shaggy Bernese Mountain and Newfoundland dogs (indigenous to the island of Newfoundland, Newfs are big and loyal. Weighing around 150lb, with webbed paws and a natural propensity for water rescue they’re credited countless times in history for saving the lives of sailors and fishermen).

Courtesy of Celt Photography

This is as you would expect in a country full of rugged outdoorsmen and pick-up trucks, where they wear plaid flannel shirts and hunt bear and moose. What came as a surprise to my fresh-off-the-plane eyes was the number of burly guys out walking breeds of dogs categorised by the British Kennel Club as “Toy”.

I’ve seen Pomeranians, Pekingese, Chihuahuas and Yorkies all being walked by their big, butch minders, who seem oblivious to the mirth-inducing quality of such a tableau. Is it shockingly old-fashioned of me to think “Surely, they are doing this as a favour to their wives/girlfriends”? Perhaps it’s my perverse British sense of humour, or the fact that, back home, a man would rather have his balls cut off with rusty scissors than suffer the ignominy of walking this type of animal. I’ve only witnessed it a handful of times, and always it’s, a) under cover of darkness or in an isolated spot, and, b) carried out with very visible exasperation and reluctance, accompanied by either a gruff “What the f**K are you lookin’ at?”, or a desultory “the things we do for our wives, eh!” just so there’s no confusion surrounding the question of masculinity.

Here, it is a completely different story. I’ve seen Canadian men treat these little animals with obvious affection, as a loved member of the family rather than a female whim to be borne with stoicism and barely disguised irritation. Must be pretty comfortable in their sexuality I reckon.

Urban coyote

Just as they are in Britain, cats are popular here too, although the methods for keeping them differ. Back home, most cats come and go as they please and despite complaints about defecating in someone else’s garden, underwear theft or ninja hits on bird tables, there’s a general acceptance that our fickle feline friends are a law unto themselves. Here cats are largely kept indoors for their own safety, and in municipal areas, there may be bylaws prohibiting domestic cats roaming unsupervised. Canadians are shocking drivers at the best of times (sorry, but it has to be said; if driving on snow and ice were Olympic sports they would win purely on their willingness to attempt the suicidal at great speed) and are often distracted by the smell from a Tim Hortons or their cell-phone ringing, add to that the poor visibility offered by the large vehicles they drive, and the roads are not a good place for a cat to be hanging out.

Another reason for the enforced house arrest of your average moggie is the presence of coyotes (or if you live in Kitimat B.C., wolverines). As human development spreads further into their habitat the coyotes are forced into the encroaching human environment in their search for food. It’s common to see them hanging around at dusk or early morning much the same as foxes back home. They trot along the sleeping streets of the sub-divisions at dawn, looking for household waste to rifle through or an unsuspecting cat or dog to grab. (Ahem… see what I mean about the small dogs??) Check out this link for more info on the coyote problem.


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By Aisha Ashraf

An autistic Irish immigrant in a cross-cultural marriage, Aisha Ashraf is the archetypal outlander, writing to root herself through place and perspective. Published in The Rumpus, The Maine Review, River Teeth, HuffPost and elsewhere, her work explores the legacy of trauma, the nature of being an outsider and the narrow confines of belonging. She currently lives in Canada.


  1. The longer I live abroad and the more I read and interact with people, it never ceases to amaze me how two cultures can have entirely different approaches or perspectives on the same activity. The US probably falls closer to the UK on the subject of guys/small dogs; I’m guessing in Canada they simply do not link the two issues. At all. Kind of cool, if you think about it.

    1. Hi Linda, I agree, it is kind of cool. Not sure if it’s because we’re behind the times here, or ahead of them in terms of tolerance and attitude. Either way, it’s makes for a very liberated feel

  2. Ooo, it’s fun to get my dose of all-things Canadian on this blog. Things like Timmy Hortons (how I miss Timbits and Chilli in bread) and coyotes bring it all back. Oh Canada, how I miss thee! Your blog is going great guns now. Feel free to message me over any tips or tricks you’ve learned along the way. For example, i like all your ‘share’ buttons – have you found one for Google+ yet? Am also enjoying the many images from Canuckland. I’d like to see a bowl of poutine being ravaged by a starved French-Canadian soon please? πŸ™‚

      1. Haha! Hi Russell, great to hear from you, glad you’re enjoying the Canadiana, let’s hope I can keep you enthralled. Now I’m over my homesickness, I’m feeling more and more what a great place Canada is. As I haven’t been to Oz I can’t compare but it must have been tough to leave. Loving Chapmans ice-cream (aaawww you MUST miss that!) and hopefully off to “Tronno” for the Buskerfest this weekend. With the share buttons, there’s a Google +1 button next to the Twitter one, is that what you mean? The “reply to a comment” thing is a WP feature, you won’t find it on Blogger, pretty cool though, eh! Right, down to business, a strange request you have, I won’t enquire as to it’s origins as this isn’t one of those “mature” blogs, suffice to say I have a friend from Quebec and will be approaching her about consuming poutine in front of the lens very soon! πŸ˜‰

  3. Must be a prob with my PC at work then (which is very old and has an even older version of IE on it) – it doesn’t show your +1 button. I will explore further this weekend from home. Oh, Chapmans… it’s all coming back to me. And you gotta love Tronno πŸ™‚ I DON’T miss the chocolate though – that rancid Hershey’s gack. Aussie chocolate is also not the greatest but more on a par with the Brit stuff so I can handle it more than the sicky stuff in the great white north. I can get my fix of Maple Syrup in the local Woolies here (Woolies is Australia’s #1 supermarket even though the UK equivalent went bust). Your homesickness will probably come and go, ebb and flow. Well, mine did for the first few years. Now it comes less often and usually when I’ve recently visited and am then getting back on the 27 hour return flight to Oz! Then I pine for what I’m leaving behind but it soon passes. What else?… Oh… I miss Earls and Milestones and White Spot (which I think is a BC thing). Enough from me… Chat again soon!

    1. Who would have thought!!! Woolies alive and well and supplying Aussies with pick’n’mix and cheap school uniform! Oh, and you’re right about the chocolate – rubbish stuff. I get anyone coming over to bring me the BIGGEST slab of Dairymilk possible, and tea – all that Red Rose Orange Pekoe stuff just don’t taste right. It’s gotta be British Tetley (the Canadian version is different) Assam or Earl Grey (I’m not high maintenance, I swear!)
      I know Milestones but haven’t come across an Earl’s yet. Thanks for the comments, keep ’em coming πŸ™‚

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