In my new novel I use the term “crackies” to describe those townie dogs of no discernable breed that were once a common feature of this place.

The word was strange to my editor in Toronto but we left it in judging the meaning was clear in context. Was a time when it was considered an affectation to acquire a Weimaraner or a Vizsla or a Poopadoodle or whatever happened to be the latest fashion in mutt.

Why put down good money for a pup when they were to be had for free from an unwanted litter delivered under some friend’s bed or for the price of the shots from the SPCA? This household has had two “rescues” that have made wonderful pets, truly loyal companions.

In derelict downtown in the days before oil you could let your dog out. They’d walk around on their own, neighbours knew them. If a dog had black fur it was known as “Blackie” regardless of what you might have christened it.

In our corner of the old town the wanderers used to congregate around that groc and conf on Bond that smelled of periodontal disease. When I lived on the Higher Levels our dog Dziga would go down to Jackman and Greene on his own and the owner would give him a slice of bologna. Times change, today there’s a surfeit of six figure cops, we’ve fallen in love with rules, dogs no longer roam the muttropolis.

The latest of our dogs was “Violet,” so named by my then eight year old daughter after a favorite character in the Lemony Snickett books she was reading. Heavenly Creatures claimed Violet was half Lab, half Bearded Collie.

I’d never heard of a “Bearded Collie” (as a puppy she sort of looked like a bat) and didn’t believe them until Violet did indeed grow a beard. We looked up the breed online. Beardeds were said to have “busy minds” which sounded great but proved to involve the necessity of occupying it.

Odiferous walks in the country satisfied her curiousity and she developed a special skill of collecting baseballs that been lost over the fence at St. Pats. Once we took a bunch of the kids swimming up to the Punchbowl and she was able to fulfil the drives of both her lines by herding children while swimming.
Violet recently got old quickly. She sprouted a variety of lumps and nodules. She started finding the stairs hard. She would go into the yard and drop down on a spot she had never before lain.
One afternoon last month, after a stroll on Middle Cove Beach where she was very much herself, she lay down on the ground straight after getting out of the backseat of the car on the return home. Within hours her back legs were failing, she began to have great trouble breathing and, most concerning, wouldn’t lift her head.

We took her to the Vet emergency in the evening and made the unavoidable decision to have her ethuninized.
While I was looking into her eyes, reminding her she was a good dog and stroking her head, she received a life-arresting injection and passed away. She brought us such immeasurable joy. Loves a crackie. We’re heartbroken here.