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).
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.
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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