I’m going to tell you about my grandfather’s dogs.

In doing so, you’re going to learn something, perhaps a great deal, about my granddad.

A visit from ‘the old man’ was imminent. Timelines were uncertain. Duration of visit was uncertain. Purpose of visit was uncertain.  My grandfather wasn’t like my friends’ grandfathers. He had a pony tail. He wore Harris tweed blazers, chino shirts and trousers, and, unfailingly, a tartan woolen tie. Like Sherlock Holmes, he wore a deerstalker’s hat. And did I mention he had a pony tail? 

One fine day a car would pull into the driveway. The ‘old man’ had arrived. The car I remember best was a green Chevrolet El Camino, something he referred to as an ‘elegant sedan pick-up’.  A man would slowly transition from the car to the pavement.  He was followed by, if not one, then three scruffy dogs. As they tumbled out of the car, he’d bark at them:




Yes, the names were always interesting.

“Watch out!  That one bites”, he’d say, pointing at one of his grandkids.

He’d admonish the dogs to be careful: “Watch out! That one bites”, he’d say, pointing at one of his grandkids. They were never the same dogs. One of us might ask about a previous trio, “What happened to Gaspar, Melchior and Balthazar?”

He’d just wave his hand, mumbling ‘Gone, gone, gone’.

Photo by Jane Macdougall

We’d crowd around him while he’d make his assessments and pronouncements.

“Look at you! You’ll be taller than your dad come Christmas.” Look at you! You need a goddamned haircut.” He’d mutter all that with a sly, small smile on his face. Wordlessly, he’d reach into his pocket and press into your hand the smallest abalone shell you’d ever seen.  Or maybe it was a knot from a tree that weathering had conspired into an exquisite wooden dove.

His crew sat, patiently, at a distance. The dogs hung on his every word. They were, each one,  what is referred to as a ‘one man dog’. They seemed to require no society beyond whomever fit on the front seat of that El Camino. The rest of the world was superfluous.

The dogs themselves looked like they had been assembled from leftover components at a Build-A-Bear kiddy workshop. They were the muttiest of mutts, the results of the oddest of pairings. There was never a Labrador that wasn’t a Labrador/Chihauhau/Ridgeback cross. He’d encounter someone on his provincial peregrinations for whom a lack of supervision had resulted in an unfortunate excess of canines. “I’ll take two” he’d offer. He’d assign them particular qualities and then settle on suitable names. For example, Seneca, the German Shepherd/Border Collie-Boxer cross, was a thinker. The Maltese/Shih Tzu/Pug mix, Marilyn, was a diva.

“Love me, love my dog[s]”, was his contention.

“Love me, love my dog(s),” was his contention when it came to hospitality. He was here to stay and where would he and his cadre be housed? 

My mother would silently seethe in the way that hostesses do.

“Oh, I see you brought your kennel!” 

He’d offer as some sort of concession that they’d been bathed at Christmas.  

It was now summer.

Photo by Jane Macdougall

I can’t recall what the arrangements were on these visits. I believe on one occasion, my grandfather was told that he and his menagerie could go and stay with his son, my uncle.  

“Oh, I see you brought your kennel!”

Pets can present a huge blindspot. I love dogs, but when a friend stands on the doormat alongside their four legged friend, I’m alway dismayed. I’m not thrilled by the housework that any dog represents but I’ll take that on for family members’ dogs … but, truth be told, some small part of me is politely seething.

This week’s question for readers:


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Submissions to last week’s question:

What are your encounters with the famous, or infamous?  Did you sail or fumble?

Getting on an elevator in the Vancouver Hotel years ago, I found myself the only other person standing beside Peter Ustinov. Having loved his acting for years, I was suddenly at a loss for words. I looked down at the floor in awkward silence until he finally said, in that great  booming voice, “They’re 12 triple E”. The doors opened, and he was gone. At Habitat ’76, I was on my way to another event, when a small elderly man tapped me on the shoulder. I turned to find it was none other than world-famous scientist Buckminster Fuller. With visions of geodesic domes in my head, and before I had a chance to speak, he said “Could you tell me where the washrooms are?

Valerie Gibson

About 20 years ago, I was at a board of directors meeting in Boston and we were invited by Chris Kennedy to have an informal meeting at his mother’s home at Hyannisport. As the limo pulled up to the famous compound, Ethel Kennedy ran across the lawn in bare feet. “Hi!”, she said, “I’m Chris’s mom. He’s not here yet, but we’ll all go out in the boat and meet him later at the house.” It became clear that there were more candidates for sailing, including several Kennedys, than was a comfortable fit for the small boat. Three of us declined to go on the boat and Ethel said, “No problem, go back to the house and you can go for a swim instead. If you don’t have swimsuits, take some of mine from the powder room.” We didn’t take the swimsuits, but we enjoyed the powder room’s wallpaper – all black & white out-take photos from the various Kennedy weddings. Although they were a famous family, Ethel’s house was like any grandmother’s, full of posted thank-yous from grandchildren, family memorabilia and many framed photos. The difference was that, having never met the owner of the house, we knew the people in EVERY photo!

Carol Jones

At a reception in the early 80s, I found myself shaking hands with Prince Charles, now King Charles. He asked me about my profession to which I replied I was an elementary French teacher. He pondered for a few seconds and ruefully said that his French was not very good and then added “What one really needs is a French mistress”. As a woman in my 20s I was visibly shocked. Many years later I realized that mistress was the British term for a school teacher. 

Patricia Gray

My husband and I also had several memorable encounters with Ted Danson and his wife Mary Steenburgen in a New York hotel.  Serendipitously, we ran into them on the elevator going for breakfast, leaving for Central Park walks and out for dinner.  We chatted every time like neighbours over the fence. As a former Hotel Catering Director, I was clutching my latest “Gourmet” magazine when heading back on the elevator.  Robin Williams stepped on with me, noted my magazine cover, and without skipping a beat launched into a speedy, hilarious riff on potential food features typical of the iconic food magazine in the 90’s.“Are you planning a Beach House Barbecue… or perhaps Cocktails in the Library, or the ubiquitous Tailgate Picnic?”  It was classic Robin Williams and after laughing along with him I returned dizzily and euphorically back to my desk.

Gerry Sayers

Any Asian would know Hong Kong superstar Leslie Cheung. In his early thirties he had a short retirement and settled in Vancouver. We got to know him and spent time with him doing everything under the sun for a few years, including singing and taking trips with him. Then he un-retired after a few years and left Canada to continue his legendary career in music and movies. 

Edward K.W. Chan

Many years ago now – but always remembered! While working for a wealthy LA family part of my job was to ski with their young son in Vail! Yes – fun times! While disembarking from the chairlift who was right there but John Travolta!! Someone I’ve always admired! We chatted and he explained how this was his first time skiing as, being a dancer, it was forbidden. He was just so friendly and personable. Only problem was my charge was not at all impressed and wanted to get skiing! What could I do but say good-bye to John and zoom off!!

Leslie McCall

“Hawaii 50” was filming in Waikiki and I ran into Jack Lord outside my hotel. I heard he could be stand-offish but I summoned up my courage and asked if I could take a picture. Just then a woman approached wanting a picture too and he agreed. I used her camera to take a picture of the two of them and then I handed her my camera. She said she didn’t know how to use it so Jack took the camera and patiently showed her how. All this was done with a smile and cordiality, so much for stand-offishness!

WJ Murray

In 1964 I visited the glamorous Savoy Hotel, London, as a temporary secretary for Zsa Zsa Gabor. I walked past husband and daughter and into her boudoir where she was painting her nails.

“Answer ze phone!” she was shouting, and, when I did, “Vot do they say?”

“Your riding boots are ready, Miss Gabor” I told her.

She glared: “I am used to very polite people!  Please leave!” So I did. Afterwards she screamed at the agency that I had tried to seduce her husband and “Please don’t send anyone under the age of fifty!! “

 Linda Shulman 

I was in a lineup to pay my tab at the Kluane Restaurant near Squamish. Gordon Pinsent let me go ahead of him in the lineup. He was very pleasant. Also in 1975, I went to a George Harrison concert at the Pacific Coliseum. After, I was walking in a  group and realized I was walking next to George Harrison. He jumped up onto a waiting RV. I was too much in awe to say anything..

Brendan Coyle

Not bragging or anything, but I’ve rubbed elbows with Matt Damon…literally.  My friend and I had just done the Grouse Grind and while waiting in line for the ride back down, he whispered “Hey, isn’t that Matt Damon”?  Indeed it was!   So as we all piled into the tram, I somehow found myself standing directly next to him.  We both reached up to hold on to one of the overhead straps and my plan unfolded.  As the tram descended it was clear most people recognized him.  Casual glances, hushed whispers, but being well behaved Canadians, no one said a word to him!  I, however, made sure that from the bounce of each tower we went over that I would “bump” into him slightly so that I could say that I had rubbed elbows with Mr Damon! 

Ed Welters

In the 70’s my parents were staying at the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa where my father was attending a conference. They were in the elevator heading up to their room when the doors opened and resident photographer Yousuf Karsh stepped in. He smiled at my mother as the doors closed (she was holding a large bottle of liquor that she had just won as a door prize) and said with an impish smile, “Madame, isn’t it a little early in the day?” My straight-laced, teetotaling mother blushed and attempted to stammer out an explanation, but the doors opened on his floor and he smiled and bid them a pleasant stay.

Glen Taylor

During the touring company musical “Hair” at the Queen E Theatre, at the end of the show the entire cast sings and dances to “Let the Sunshine In”. To my surprise, the lead male actor picked me to  join in the finale. I think he picked me as I had a large afro, was wearing a bright orange jumpsuit, and a full-length white lace vest.  My second encounter was at a Chubby Checkers concert in Toronto. Chubby was into his third song and pointed to me to come on stage and twist with him. I went back to my seat and when he did his final song, he got me back on stage to “Twist the Night Away”.

Alice Samworth

During the 1970’s, my parents and I lived in Hong Kong. We attended many cocktail parties. At one party, my father found himself talking with Tony Randall (of The Odd Couple fame). My dad called my mom over to introduce him. Mom said, “Oh you’ve been to our home many times”. He had, but on the ‘small screen’. Later that evening, my mom realized her mistake. It’s been many years since my mom left us. I’d like to think that she would laugh about it now. My dad and I still chuckle when we reminisce.

Peter Kettler

For 23 years I was an Arts & Sports publicist in Toronto working with many celebrities – some lovely, others difficult or just plain quirky. Here are a few that I’ll always remember:

  • Actor Peter O’Toole doing interviews in his underwear in his dressing room. When I suggested he might want to put his pants on he said “Girly, get me a cup of tea.”
  • I like to wear hats and when I was arranging interviews for the late Aretha Franklin performing at a casino in Ontario we chatted about fashion and she complimented me on my hat which I was ready to give her. She asked me for a golf cart and after her performance I saw her whizzing by me in fluffy bedroom slippers on the way to the casino. She was not wearing my hat. I really liked that hat.
  • Tennis great, Martina Navratilova, asked me to do her laundry. I diplomatically declined reminding her of laundry services at the hotel she was staying in.
  • Talk about missing the boat! I interviewed David Foster years ago on his yacht in Malibu. He had given me the choice of doing the interview in the studio or on the yacht. I chose the yacht thinking how exciting that would be. The next day he said, “Oh, you should have come to the studio. Prince and Michael Jackson were there.” 

Laura Goldstein

At a reception in the early 80s I found myself shaking hands with Prince Charles, now King Charles. He asked me about my profession to which I replied I was an elementary French teacher. He pondered for a few seconds then ruefully said that his French was not very good. He then added, “What one really needs is a French mistress”. As a woman in my 20s, I was visibly shocked. Many years later I realized that mistress was the British term for a school teacher. 

Patricia Gray

When I was a young girl, I was a huge fan of Pat Boone (not Elvis).  My friend and I desperately wanted to meet him and went to L.A. to do just that.  Called his office and told our story to his secretary and she said to call back the next day.  The next day she arranged for us to meet him at his office. We were so nervous but he immediately put us at ease.  To our delight he invited us to join him and his wife for lunch.  What a thrill for two young girls.  He was so nice, so kind and so handsome.  Many years later, my favourite singer is Celine Dion.  I decided to enter a contest, the winner getting front row seats at her Las Vegas show and meeting her backstage before the show.  I WON.   We met her backstage and found her to be very sweet and so very nice to us.  After her amazing show, she walked up to us and presented me with a rose.   Am happy to think that my two very favourites turned out to be as wonderful as I always thought them to be.

Linda Gurney

On a trip through Oregon circa 2007 I played a round of golf as a single at Eastmoreland GC in Portland. When I reached the 10th tee, the Pro Shop manager approached, asking if “William” could join me. I turned to see William Hurt extending his hand to meet me. We played the back nine and had a great time. I didn’t mention his profession or my admiration for his work until after the round. We just played and chatted about golf, and everyday things. A very nice, decent man, pleasant to be around. Sadly, he died last year at 71 years, another victim of prostate cancer.

Greg Poole

Many years ago I went to convent school in the UK at the same time as Marianne Faithful. The first time I heard her singing was as the Angel in the story of “Hansel and Gretel”. She was quite beautiful with long blonde hair and sang like an angel. It was not a surprise that she became famous after her hit, “As Tears Go By”. Her life changed when she met Mick Jagger and the resulting circumstances when that relationship finished. Fast forward to the early 90’s I took friends to the Commodore and perhaps to meet the superstar Marianne afterwards. Imagine my horror when she came out dressed on black leather masculine clothing and sang with a hoarse voice the raunchiest songs I had ever heard. All from her latest recording “Broken English”. We did go backstage, but she was sick and very surprised that a St. Joseph’s Convent school friend would visit her in Vancouver after 30 years. What did we talk about? Schooldays! Oh yes – she signed my old “Tears” LP.

Janet Dysart

When I was 22, I was invited to stay with an artist and his family while travelling through California.  They lived near Carmel on the 17 mile drive. One morning the artist’s wife asked if I wanted to go “to aerobics” with her …. Ummm, sure. Jane Fonda was the instructor.  At the time this seemed completely normal to me but looking back some 39 years later, not so much! 

Deborah Jean  

I was 23 doing the obligatory backpacking-through-Europe summer trip in 1974. One hot afternoon I was alone in the empty Casa de Campo, the major park of Madrid, standing on the sidewalk looking about for something interesting, the nearby cathedral having been boarded up by the government and thus unavailable for visiting.  Three black limos pulled up, abruptly stopping right in front of me. Men in dark suits and sunglasses got out, grabbed me by my shoulders and pushed me back to make room for President Franco to walk past, silently and making no acknowledgement of me.  He was (perhaps not surprisingly) quite short.

Mike Cook

In the fall of 1973, I was a 19 year old postie working in the cavernous Postal Station A next door to Toronto’s Union Station.  In early December, the Christmas extra help showed up. Our crew received a big, jolly fellow. “Hi, I’m Al Candy ” he said.  Within ten minutes we realized he was the funniest person any of us had ever met. For three or four weeks he had us rolling on the floor with his jokes, mimicry and dance moves. The supervisors didn’t like him for no one did any work when he was performing. Both of us quit the PO that Xmas and we lost touch. It was only in 1978 or so that another ex-postie pointed out, “This new guy on SNL (John Candy) looks a lot like our old pal Al Candy”. It took a few more years for it to sink in that my funny friend was one of the greatest comedians of all time. 

Frank Sullivan

I was a Vancouver bus driver from 1969 to 2010. One quiet evening in the 1970s a British man boarded the Brill trolleybus I was driving from Stanley Park. He sat in the front seat and he told me he was staying at the Bayshore Inn while doing recording work. He stayed on for a full round trip for two hours and we chatted about everything under the sun except rock music. When he alighted, he said: “I can tell you my name if you want.” I said, “I enjoyed our talk so much, I don’t think that is necessary.” He replied: “Thanks. That means a lot to me.” And to this day I do not know who he was.

Angus McIntyre

While acting as an extra on the movie Frankie and Alice back around 2010 I had a fascinating meeting with Halle Berry and her two year old daughter,  Nahla. Halle was being filmed in the ballroom at Hotel Vancouver while I was mimicking a trumpet play at a large wedding reception. Because I occasionally would make strange noises from the trumpet her daughter became so curious that Halle came over to meet me. From that point on Halle and child would seek me out during each break in the filming. What  did we talk about?  Canada and how wonderful it was. This sure was a memorable meetup for me. I felt like we had known each other for years.

Paul Avery

In 1955 I was a penniless student from Hong Kong trying to attend university in Canada. I went for financial help to Archbishop Yu Bing, who had exiled from China to New York due to the Communist Revolution in China. Being age 17, I was not sure when I met the Archbishop if I should knee down before him. Instead I simply shook his hand. First he explained that being in exile he no longer possessed the funds he used to have.  Nevertheless, after asking me a series of questions, he wrote a chequefor US$100, which was a considerable amount of money in those days.

Roxy Paul Sun

During the 1970’s, my parents and I lived in Hong Kong. We attended many cocktail parties. At one party, my father found himself talking with Tony Randall (of The Odd Couple fame). My dad called my mom over to introduce him. Mom said, “Oh you’ve been to our home many times”. He had, but on the ‘small screen’. Later that evening, my mom realized her mistake. It’s been many years since my mom left us. I’d like to think that she would laugh about it now. My dad and I still chuckle when we reminisce.

Peter Kettler

Tom Selleck was filming the movie Runaway in North Delta in 1984 and I was privileged to view the filming.  We were allowed pictures after filming, but my camera was misbehaving so I needed to wait a bit for the green light to appear.  So after that bit, Tom looked over at me and said, “Is your green light on now?”  I said yes and got a great picture of the two of us – to treasure forever, right?  Not only did I get the picture, but I could say we had a small conversation.

Donna Irvine

I met Michael Jordan when his team, the Chicago Bulls, played our team, the Vancouver Grizzlies in Vancouver on November 30, 1995. I went to the Chicago Bulls team practice, representing my magazine, Vancouver Health And Fitness Magazine. During practice, Michael Jordan was heavily guarded by teammate Scottie Pippen. There was no way Michael Jordan could get a shot away.  Michael Jordan was about 20 feet in front of me, his back to me.  Of course, Michael Jordan got his shot, using his patented “fadeaway” shot.  And of course the shot went in the basket. I whispered to myself, “Nice shot”.  There’s no way he could have heard me but he did hear me because he turned around and said, “Thank-you”.  When the practice was over, reporters got a chance to ask questions.  Michael Jordan looked at me, so I was the first to ask questions.  Michael Jordan answered the Three  questions that I had written down. I felt like I fumbled but I was definitely sailing that day!

Dan Seto

In 1981, playwright Tennessee Williams presided over a Vancouver Playhouse production of his play, “The Notebook of Trigorin.” At the time, my husband was interim general manager at the Playhouse. One evening Mr Williams telephoned our home. “This is Tennessee Williams to speak with Ken,” he said in his slow, southern drawl. Here was my hero of high school English Lit, a lion of American Theatre, and I was on the phone with him! All I could say was, “Gak”, and handed the call over.  

Lesley Neufeld

When I was working with Pan Am in Barbados I had the good fortune of meeting Paul McCartney. After the flight from NY arrived, the captain asked me to pull him and his family aside to ensure their privacy, and assist them with their immigration and customs clearances. I was very happy to expedite him, his (then) wife Linda and their two kids through and send them off to their hotel, for which they were very thankful. I also met (astronaut) John Glenn and Rose Kennedy on other occasions, when they made separate trips to the island. 

Stephen Taylor

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