Lower Fort Garry Goes to the Dogs

Photo Courtesy of Parks Canada
Just North of Winnipeg, Manitoba, on Highway 9, there is a little slice of land where it is always the summer of 1851 and, on the second Sunday of June, dogs take centre stage.
This past June 13th, there were more than just the historical interpreters who were bright of eye and bushy of tail as the gates opened at Lower Fort Garry, a National Historic Site run by Parks Canada. Outside the beautiful limestone walls of this old Hudson Bay Company (HBC) Fort, a number of eager visitors and their dogs were waiting patiently for the “Big Stone Fort’s Second Annual Dog Day” to get underway.

Lower Fort Garry’s Dog Day celebrates the importance of dogs in the pre-fur trade and fur trade era of North America. Kim Larcombe, Acting Volunteer Coordinator, explained to me why the Fort decided to organize a day focused on dogs in the fur trade:
“There are many reasons why we decided to celebrate dogs here at Lower Fort Garry. First and foremost, dogs have long been an important part of this country’s culture. Used for centuries for transportation, hunting, protection and companionship by European and Aboriginal people alike, their history is an integral part of Canada’s history and we felt that it should be showcased. Second, as a dog-owner I can vouch to the fact that there are not too many truly dog-friendly destinations. The fort is very popular with local people who bring their dogs here for walks, so extending this opportunity to a wider audience seemed natural.”
Dogs have always been welcome on site at Lower Fort Garry, but on Dog Day our four-footed friends are give a rare chance to step inside most of the buildings with their owners. Dogs are also given the opportunity to step back in time and try various activities that their ancestors may have done. In the company of historically costumed interpreters, dogs can pull an Aboriginal travois, a sort of A-framed carry-all; they can pull a miniature Red River Ox-cart; or even wear a tuppy, a traditional dog blanket.
During the day there are also a number of other activities and events. Owners can enter their dogs into various competitions held throughout the day, such as a fashion show judged by the Governor’s Wife, a talent show judged by the Governor himself, or a look-a-like contest. There is also an all day K9 trade show and presentations from the Diamond Disc Dogs showcasing tricks, a mushing demo, as well as agility and Frisbee freestyle routines.
If that were not enough, visitors can wander over to the Northwest bastion and step into the Fort’s bake house (where the HBC made hardtack for the Company’s tripmen) and get a special treat just for their dog!
Larcombe, who helped facilitate the first Dog Day at the Fort in 2009, told me that, “Dog Day has had a resounding positive response from the staff, volunteers and the public,” but wanted to also let people know that, “while Dog Day at Lower Fort Garry is specially dedicated to canines, the site always welcomes well behaved animals.”
If ever you find yourself in Winnipeg, Manitoba on the second Sunday of June, jump into your car, or a York Boat, with your furry friend and head North to the Big Stone Fort for a day that is sure to please you, your family and your dog.
By Kevin Mogk

Happy Canada Day!

By Urban Bent Studio
July 1st is upon us and with it fireworks, red and white fashions, barbecues and flags galore! How do you celebrate the nation’s birthday with your pet? Write to us and share your best Canada Day stories! We’d love to know!

Women and Puppies First!

It’s the middle of summer – warmth, sunshine, and free time. What better way to spend it than at a cottage with your best canine friend? The water’s clear and warm, just begging you to jump in. Ol’ Spot, however, wants absolutely nothing to do with any of it.
Contrary to popular belief, and the deceptively named “doggy paddle,” not all pooches know how to swim! While a dog like a Labrador loves to be in the lake, many other dogs simply don’t have the size, strength or body fat to easily stay afloat. Don’t go and cancel your cottage getaway just yet, though! Just like for humans who’ve got some trouble swimming, there’s a solution for water-averse doggies: canine life jackets.

First off, here’s a refresher on the physics at play. Things float when they displace a greater volume of water (by weight) than they themselves weigh. So, something that weighs two pounds needs to displace two pounds of water in order to float. Two pounds of rock, being rather small, can’t push that much water, so it would sink like… well, a rock. Two pounds of beach ball, however, is much larger and can push enough water to float. Body fat is relatively light, compared to how much space it takes up. A plump pooch would have a much easier time floating than a very thindog, like a greyhound.
Floating is just half the battle – a dog needs to have a good paddle too. In order to push against the water, a dog has to have a large surface area on his feet. Some, like the Lab, have webbed paws which provide excellent water pushing power. Smaller dogs, and those without webs, have a much harder go at it. Imagine the difference between swimming with your fingers together and paddling with an open hand. Dogs with tiny feet have an even worse time – imagine swimming using only closed fists!
Now, just because your four-legged chum lacks the volume and foot-webbing needed for easy swimming doesn’t mean that he has to stay on shore and watch, forlorn, as you frolic in the water. Dog life jackets, ranging in price from $20 to $60 depending on size, are an easy and affordable way for your cute canine compatriot to enjoy the full cottage experience without worry.
Available in bright safety colours for visibility or designer patterns for style, these life jackets are specially made and fitted for dogs to provide a snug, buoyant fit. Most styles also have a sturdy handle on the back to help you pull your pup out of the water if need be. Outward Hound, RuffWear and Kyjen are three popular pet life preserver brands, but there are many others out there. Once they’re in their jacket, any dog from an Afghan hound to a Yorkshire terrier can swim with confidence and ease, and without constant supervision.
No one really thinks of dogs having a hard time swimming. The image of the happily paddling Golden Retriever is so engrained in the collective conscious that the idea of a pup struggling in the water isn’t even on our radar. A trip to the cottage is no fun for your pooch if they’re confined to dry land while all the excitement is happening in the water. Fortunately for our furry friends, these specialized life jackets let even the poorest four-legged swimmer enjoy the full cottage experience. So suit that doggie up and hit the road; the summer won’t enjoy itself!
By Alexander Bentley

June 2010 Pet of the Month!

Three words instantly come to mind when describing this lovely little lady, cute, cute and cute! Nine months old and living in the charming town of Sarnia, ON, this inquisitive Shi-Tzu/Lhasa Apso mix has no problem batting her lashes, whipping out her best ‘puppy dog eyes’ expression and posing for the camera.
Described by her proud parents, Mike and Beth Compton, as a bundle of comic relief, Zoey is known for her loving personality and eagerness to please. “She doesn’t have a mean bone in her body,” says Beth. “She is just a sweetheart through and through.”

Full of life and affection, Zoey leaves little paw-prints of joy on the world. Whether she has to be on her best behaviour for photos with Santa or is romping around with her sister, Izzy, this is one little fluff-ball who captures hearts wherever she goes.
Congratulations Miss Zoey for being selected June 2010’s Pet of the Month!
The Zohan, Zozo Beans, Zozey, Chomps, ZoMyster and Zoeykins
I go nuts over my bone (really nuts!)
I can’t choose between my flamingo and beaver (pink and Canadian, what’s not to love?)
Whenever I get a treat, I love to hide it away in a blanket or stuff it in the couch and then hunt for it later! What fun!
Okay, so this one time I was at my grandparents house visiting and …well…nature called. So I went out through the patio doors, then saw my friend Smudge inside ready to play! I got so excited that I ran straight head first into the glass door (*blush*). I had to sit down, shake my head, then try to figure out why everyone was laughing so much.
Baths and going to the grooming salon. No time for makeovers, I’ve got too much running around to do!
If you would like to nominate your pet friend for next month’s “Pet of the Month Contest,” please email submissions to info@pawsh-magazine.com.

An Eco Friendly Sweater

By Neeto da Silva
As I was running around in the rain the other day, connecting hoses to sub-pumps in an attempt to prevent our basement from flooding, I was struck by an idea. I wondered how wonderful it would be to grow a fine fur coat like my dog. With such a fine fur coat, I could stay warm in the rain and simply shake the water off once I was back inside. Unfortunately, genetics are not so kind. I have to strip down to my skivvies in the kitchen and then dance in front of the stove to warm up.
Later the next morning, once the rain had stopped and we had stemmed the flow of water, I finally had an opportunity to put down the shop-vac and get some sleep. I dragged myself as far as the living room couch where I fell in an exhausted heap, grabbing the dog’s blanket from the floor to keep me warm.
When I at last woke to the smell of bacon and pancakes, I crawled off the couch and found myself (perhaps not surprisingly) cover from head to toe in dog hair. Hearing my dismay, my Mum came into the living room and handed me a cup of tea and a lint brush. A half hour later, I was seated at the kitchen table, eating pancakes with one hand and staring at the collection of dog fur in my other.
It wasn’t long before my mind turned back to my desire for a fur covering. I knew you can spin sheep’s wool into yarn, but can you spin dog fur? Before I went and sheared my poor dog to make myself a sweater, I figured it best to one; learn how to spin, and two; find out if it is possible spin other fibres beyond the traditional sheep, llama and alpaca.
By Neeto da Silva
As luck would have it, I have a friend who knows how to spin wool. After a quick call and a promise of an appearance in my article, I was soon seated beside Ashley Kowalchuk, local “spinster” as she jokingly calls herself.
She took great pains to explain to me the various pieces of a spinning wheel, and the process of taking wool from the back of a sheep to the yarn in a finely knit sweater. Not only did I learn how to spin wool, but that you can spin flax. Flax, however, requires a slightly different spinning wheel, a larger one that has a spindle with great big spikes to grab the flax (by the by, it’s on a flax spindle that Sleeping Beauty pricked herself in case you were wondering).
As I watched Ashley work effortlessly at the spinning wheel, keeping her foot in rhythm and feeding carded wool into the spindle, I asked the question pressing at the back of my mind: is it possible to spin dog fur? She took a second before admitting that she had heard of people spinning dog fur before, but couldn’t say for certain if it could be done. She went on to explain that sheep’s wool is barbed and grabs at itself, which is what makes it so great for spinning into yarn. Dog fur, on the other hand, isn’t barbed and probably wouldn’t be the easiest to spin. She did concede that you could probably make a blend of sheep and dog fur, and then spin that with fairly good results.
With my ego still bruised from my last run in at the library, I decided it was best to do a little more research from the safety of home. So away I clicked, the findings very much supportive of the statement, “Yes, you can spin dog fur!” The trick is in having fur that is longer than two inches, otherwise it has to be blended with wool or another similar fibre. It’s also important to note that dog fur is non-elastic, unlike wool, and garments should be measured as though you are using a cotton thread or yarn. Like other yarns, dog yarn can be plied to give you a thicker thread. Plying takes two strands of yarn and winds them together.
Some of the best results for dog yarn come from dogs with a nice undercoat. When grooming your dog, simply keep the shedding furs from the brush. Separate the undercoat from the coarser guard hairs. Wash and clean the undercoat, card, spin, then knit! Soon you’ll have your very own humane and eco-friendly fur knit sweater! Or, if you’re like me and enjoy a little irony, you could sheer your dog and then knit them a sweater to keep them warm! Providing you can handle a pair of knitting needles, of course.
 By Kevin Mogk