The Truly Canadian Dog

Reilly reading the French dictionary

When my wife and I decide to travel, and we need someone to take care of Reilly, our “go-to” couple is Lola and Claude. Both are dog people and they both love Reilly.


There’s one problem: Reilly leaves as a well mannered pooch with an Irish name whose ancestors hail from the highlands of Scotland and returns as the puppy of a French pastry chef. I am not even out the door and Claude is already calling Reilly by the name, Pierre. In other words, little Reilly is subject to intense indoctrination (I call it Frenchification) while he stays with Claude. Fortunately Lola tries to keep her husband from taking things too far. I probably have to credit her for keeping Claude from adorning our dog in a beret and giving him mime lessons.


It’s hard for me to object too much. Reilly is very comfortable with Lola and Claude and I feel comfortable leaving him with them. Certainly my preference would be that Claude avoid giving French lessons to my puppy (he’s done this, I have pictures to prove it), but I have to guess that Reilly is better for the experience. After all, as a Canadian, it is quite patriotic for me to support the bi-cultural education of my dog. Let me explain.


Once the Europeans began staking their claims in the New World, Canada became ripe for the picking. The French got their settlements going first with the likes of Samuel de Champlain sailing up the St. Lawrence River and establishing communities in Quebec in what came to be known as New France. This took place in the early 1600s. Meanwhile, just a little after the French moved in, the British began making headway in Newfoundland, the Maritimes, and the Thirteen Colonies. A number of conflicts pitting the two European rivals against each other back home spilled over into Canada with one of the more pivotal battles in the Seven Years’ War taking place on Abraham Martin’s farm just outside the city walls of Quebec. The British came out on top in the so-called Battle of the Plains of Abraham (I suppose they didn’t want to call it “That Battle on Abraham Martin’s Stretch of Farmland”) with the settlers of New France left to sort things out with their British conquerors. The British faced one significant problem: from the time of the first settlements to the Seven Years’ War, the French had sent a lot of settlers to New France – too many for the British to bring under their control. In the interests of regional stability and peace, they needed to establish a spirit of compromise and cooperation with the people of New France. This spirit has been the hallmark of French-English relations since the Battle of the Plains of Abraham back in 1759. In fact, Canada is probably know internationally for being a nation that goes out of its way to find common ground in order to avoid violent and often unnecessary confrontations.


In no way am I implying that the French and the English have always gotten along. After all, Quebec has come perilously close to separating from Canada on two occasions in the modern era thanks in large part to the arrogance of the English majority. However, the effort to cooperate, born out of necessity back in 1759, and pursued sometimes reluctantly ever since, has been a defining feature of Canada’s political and cultural identity.


Which brings me back to Claude, Lola and Reilly. Sure my dog has to endure Claude’s French lessons and the French cooking shows Lola watches on The Food Channel. He also has to learn to answer by the name of Pierre (no wonder he comes back to me so confused). However, wouldn’t it be un-Canadian of me to demand that my friends refrain from sharing a bit of French culture with Reilly? Shouldn’t I, in the Canadian spirit of compromise and cooperation, accept the fact that Reilly may be richer for the experience? In a sense, I believe my dog’s visits to Lola and Claude’s chateau (that’s a fancy name for the bungalow they live in) make him a truly Canadian dog. As a patriot, I must remain silent and embrace the opportunity my dog has been afforded.


That said: I refuse to call him Pierre.


Take a look at the picture from my

Westie calendar the weekend after I posted this entry.

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