April 09, 1999 Features & Images » Feature Story


A Whistler dog’s life A canine view of the resort world By Charles Barkowski Translated by S. Vogler Oh, I’ve got this itch that really needs scratching! Okay I know what you’re thinking — just some flea bite or a skin rash — as though a dog can’t appreciate a metaphor as well as the next species. That’s just my point. You people in this town are treating us like second class citizens — walking around like you think you own the place. Now I don’t want to sound like my friend Skipper, that old Husky-Shepherd cross who’s always reminiscing about the good ol’ days when you could sleep in the middle of the road — when the odd car that did come by would drive around you. No, I don’t want to live in the past like old Skipper, but let’s face it, some things are changing up here and it’s time for us dogs to be heard. My buddies elected me to tell the story — must have figured I had something between my ears other than just fur. Well I don’t know if that’s true, but I’m willing to give it a shot. You see, at one time there was an understanding between us dogs and you people. There was a mutual sense of respect. You understood our laissez faire approach to life, and we accepted your need for occasional work. But what’s happened to that balance? There’s so much rushing around now, a lot of my buddies don’t even get their daily walk, let alone a couple of hours of wrestling or throw-the-stick. We’re worried that "dogs’ best friend" is losing his ability to while away an afternoon; that you’ve lost your sense of perspective. Before I launch into some of the issues facing us canines in Whistler, I’d like to mention my old friend Bob the Dog. Bob tried to get some of these same points across back in 1996 when he ran for mayor of the resort. Despite his meagre budget, his campaign was well-publicized by Pique Newsmagazine. But Bob’s antics on the skateboard outside his Function Junction headquarters were construed by the voting public to be mere publicity stunts. Only a few perceptive souls saw that Bob’s steering of the skateboard with his two front paws was symbolic of our species steering toward the consciousness and decision-making processes of humans — a gesture which us dogs found blatantly obvious! Alas, politics is a limited medium, and the job of getting our story across now falls to me. As I was saying, there are a few topics on which my canine brethren would like to be heard. I’m going to lay them out in a nicely organized format that will be easy for you linear-thinking humans to understand. The Village The village is a bone of contention with us dogs. The lack of grass, or what you so fondly call "green space," is a severe design flaw, not only for us dogs but for you people. However, with our ever-positive outlook, we’ve come to accept it and to view a trip to the village as a chance to wear down our claws. The leash bylaw, on the other hand, is unacceptable. Sure, we’ve been known to brawl now and then, but nothing worse than I’ve seen outside some of your nightclubs at closing time. Then there is the indignity of the pooper scooper. We put up with it, but we’d much rather use the sewer system that’s already in place. All it would take is a slightly larger hole in the middle of those sewer grates throughout the village and "voila," as my French poodle friend likes to say, problem solved. But when all is said and done, we don’t mind letting you people believe you’re in charge by instituting all those silly rules. We know it makes you feel important, and it leaves us dogs to deal with the bigger issues. Things like how to most creatively spend a day; finding the right balance between sleep and play; insuring you have the freedom to run through the forest and think your own thoughts. These are the things that really matter, as everyone knows. What can I say? Some of you people are finally starting to consider the bigger questions. As for the others — patience my friends, patience. The Valley Trail This is the time of year when we start to take a lot of flack for crapping on the valley trail. The hair stands up on the back of my neck just thinking about it. Sure, we leave a little behind over the winter, but it all returns to the earth, completely biodegradable. I try to go on the side of the trail, and what do I find there? Cigarette butts, Bic lighters, candy wrappers and bottles — things that certainly won’t biodegrade in my lifetime. As for you cross country skiers: so you slide through a little now and then. It rubs off over the next 50 metres or so, and you can be pleased that you’ve done your part in returning it back to the earth more quickly. And while I’m on the topic of skiers, what’s with the Lost Lake trail system in the winter? Can a dog not enjoy the lake for six months of the year? I like to take my master up there for walks now and then, but they won’t allow it. If that’s not the most blatant form of specieism, I don’t know what is. Bears Could you please stop shooting our brothers the bears. Yes we like to bark at them and chase them up trees, but it’s not because we hate them or want them terminated. A) It keeps you humans alerted as to their whereabouts — since you can’t smell a skunk if it’s pushed up your nose, and B) It’s fun. We enjoy chasing them up trees. It’s a blast! Sure, it can turn ugly sometimes — like my friend Bruin who got a claw across the belly last summer; needed a whole spool of thread to sew him back up. I’ll admit it’s a dangerous past-time, but just look at what you people do for kicks. Jumping off cliffs with boards strapped to your feet! What’s up with that? Dogs With Sweaters When I see some of those visiting dogs prancing around the village, I thank my lucky stars that I live here. You know the ones I mean: they wear sweaters, have coifed hairdos and clipped nails. They stroll throughout the village on their retractable leashes yapping at everything that moves — they’re like cats with slightly larger brains. THESE ARE NOT DOGS! Do not, under any circumstances, expect us to act like them. Yeah, they listen to their owners and stay on their leashes, but most of them are still drugged from the airplane ride and traumatized from the drive up the highway. Take their sweaters off and they’ll freeze to death in seconds. I repeat: THESE ARE NOT DOGS! City Dog / Country Dog I don’t envy those dogs who come up here on weekends either. Every Friday night they hop into the family car, snout plastered against the window. If they’re lucky, their master will open the window for a minute or two so they can get a 120 kilometre-an-hour cold wind blasted straight up their nose. The rest of the time they’re left to try to gain their footing on the oh-so-precious upholstery or to just drool on the floor. What fun! Then their masters go skiing and hang out at après until dark while they’re locked in the condo. And who on earth would want to live in a condo? My master and I did a brief stint in one, so I know of what I speak when I tell you they’re the human equivalent of a kennel. ------------ When all is said and done, I have to say that life in Whistler as a dog is really pretty good. I get to run around in the mountains whenever I want. I have a good circle of friends and a vibrant social life. And with this new writing gig, I’ve even become something a spokesdog in the community. By the way, we don’t want you thinking us dogs are just hanging around doing nothing. We’ve instituted some inter-species programs by which we hope to educate you people. We have dogs up on the mountains, for example, teaching ski patrollers how to find lost and buried skiers. We also have dogs on the police force now. They’re finding drugs for the police so that they rarely ever run out. And it’s working — the cops are really chilling out up here. Before I sign off, I’ve got one last story to relate to you. My master took me down to the city recently. Now that’s a wild place! The smells, wow! Rich and varied. But the traffic. I don’t think my buddy Bingo, with his hubcap fixation, would last more than a few minutes down there. All those cars were really setting me on edge, but compared to my master I was doing fine. His eye balls were rattling around in their sockets and he was shaking like a dog fresh out of the lake. He wasn’t too pleased, either, when I chanced upon a hotdog vendor’s garbage can — what a find! Then, towards the end of the afternoon, I saw the funniest thing I’d seen in a long time. All the people started rushing out of their office buildings onto the street. They were dressed up all spiffy in suits and shiny shoes — and get this — they were all wearing leashes around their necks! It must be some kind of bylaw down there. At least the people in Whistler haven’t come to that yet.

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