Retropets

Canada’s History’s readers share their stories of pets from the past.

Posted June 28, 2021

We asked readers to send us their stories and photos of pets from the past. You responded with many fond memories, like the tale of Brandy the “Grabador Retriever,” and Patty the wandering dog.

Brandy the Labrador retriever

By Siobhan Grealis

Looking at the handful of pictures I have left of our beloved Labrador retriever, Brandy, I noticed all the places she travelled, because she was always included.  There she is, tucked between my sister and me at Black Creek Pioneer Village, Ontario.  (They allowed pets in 1970?) 

In another photo we’re just a bit older, and we’re being dropped off at camp for several weeks.  Dad said Brandy was inconsolable those weeks we were gone.  She would barely eat, which was almost unthinkable! We referred to her as the “Grabador Retriever” because she’d grab food right off our plates or out of our hands!  During those weeks, my father often found her curled up on my bed — a real no-no at the time — but he left her lying there, worried that her next move would involve trekking 115 kilometers from our home in Belleville, Ontario, and a swim across Rice Lake to find us! 

There’s also a snap of all of us together at Sandbanks Provincial Park in Prince Edward County, Ontario, on a perfect day in the summer of 1973.

I was seventeen when Brandy could no longer navigate the steps out to the yard. She was sixteen.  I was away from home when my sister called in tears to let me know it was time.  In January, 1982, my father and sister saw Brandy safely cross the Rainbow Bridge.  My sister shared with me that our father cried openly and deeply all the way home.

Mickey the beagle

By Robert Gillespie

My dad brought home the cutest little beagle puppy to us in May 1960. We named him Mickey. My mom quickly took over his feeding and training but the rest of us spoiled him terribly. He very quickly went from spending the night in the basement to sleeping in my bed. My dad would take him for a long walk every Sunday, and my sister and I would exercise him during the rest of the week. Afterwards he would curl up with me on the couch and we would watch TV together. He was the best little friend a guy could have.

Patty the spaniel

By Deirdre Balkwill

When I was six or seven my father gave me a five-dollar bill for my birthday. I didn’t know anything much about the value of money, except I did know that adults had paper money and kids had coins. What I also knew, and what was important, was that the lady around the corner was selling puppies. So, I went along and bought my dog Patty and brought her home.

When I think back on it, I wonder that my parents didn’t say anything at all when I spent the entire five dollars — a significant amount of money in 1945. I think they may have been shocked speechless. It all turned out well. Patty was a beautiful, golden-coloured spaniel with long, silky ears and a rather lazy disposition.

A year or so after my purchase, I watched Patty whelp a litter of wet puppies under my bed. My mother gave one of the puppies to the deaf lady next door, and the rest of the litter disappeared, except for one black puppy with white-patched forepaws. My mother called that puppy Boots, and we kept him.

Many years later the pharmacist in our town of Wallaceburg, Ontario, told me that the disappeared puppies had all died of distemper, a viral infection that was common in dogs before vaccines. My mother, who was a nurse, had persuaded him to sell her penicillin to treat her little black dog. (The penicillin prevented secondary bacterial infections, allowing the dog’s immune system to fight off the virus.)

My mother said Boots was an exceptionally smart dog. Unfortunately Boots had a vagrant personality which got him a bad name in the neighbourhood for rummaging and roaming.

Peggy the Farm Dog

By Kylie Nicolajsen

Growing up in St. Hubert, Saskatchewan, my grandpa John Jordens lived on a farm just a short walk from another farm that belonged to his cousins. The two families were very close. The oldest of nine siblings, John remembers forging a special bond with a farm dog named Peggy. Although Peggy officially belonged to John’s cousins, John and his siblings considered Peggy to be their dog as well, and spent many afternoons playing with her.

Tell us a timeless "tail"

Was there a lovable fur-ever friend in your past? An incorrigible canine or bunny bestie? Send us a photo and a short description of your retropet and you could see them published online!

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