Pet Park in Peril



Only chicken wire and wood separate the canines from the under-nines

In what is set to be the battle of the ages, dog owners along Toronto’s Beaches boardwalk are up in arms over an invasion that has them frightened for the safety of their four-legged family members.

A new disease-bearing tick?

Someone leaving poisoned treats?

Marauding coyotes looking for a snack?

Nothing so mundane.

Instead, pet parents are angry that the dog park at the foot of Lee Avenue has been invaded by terrors of the bipedal kind as parents throughout the area have literally unleashed their children within the wood beam and chicken wire compound.

“It’s just not fair,” cries local Peke-a-poo owner Jolene Carpenter. “They have a wooden fortress and wading pool right there in Kew Gardens, and full playgrounds at either end of the boardwalk.”

“How would they like it if we turned their sandboxes into litter boxes?” adds Henry Ratsburg, collie-enthusiast and former cat owner.

As though proving their point, the fence bordering the dog park resembles a sand-covered drive-in as strollers of all sizes, colours and designs sit parked along the fence. Meanwhile, their parental owners relax at the nearby ice cream bar and coffee shop, chatting with other parents while their children run amok beyond the gates.

“I really don’t understand the fuss,” chimes Cyndy Jacobson, mother of two. “My kids need a safe place to run around, and this is the only designated off-leash section of the beach.”


Docile when leashed but muscles braced for freedom

Ironically, the dog park, which is actually comprised of an open sandy section and a larger shrub-laden section, was established by the City of Toronto several years ago after many parents in the area complained about dogs littering their waterfront fun.

“It was a total mess out there,” remembers long-time Beaches resident Jackson Brink. “At best, people would just bury the dog droppings in the sand, but it doesn’t take long on a hot summer’s day to realize you’ve parked your beach towel on a fermenting pile left by a mastiff or Great Dane.”

Play time

Frolicking in the sand or burying the evidence?

The park’s transition from canine to kiddie has been a slow but inexorable one that started with delayed summer temperatures last year and parents’ worries about letting their children play in the frigid surf. One by one, as stressed parents discovered the relative calm of the dog park, they began to release their children into its confines.

“The first few actually showed up with both kids and dogs in tow, but they didn’t fool us,” says Carpenter. “Within minutes, you’d see them skulk out of the park with their dogs, the kids nowhere to be found.”

Several residents have demanded the City step in, if only to deal with the potential health and safety risks.

“They bite; they scratch; they’re full of germs. I just don’t feel that my babies are safe in there,” complains Ratsburg, anxiously stroking the fur of his tri-colour collies.

Rebel lake

Ratsburg and friend in better days

Nobody from the City of Toronto was willing to go on the record, but one unnamed source suggests there is little the City can do given the way current bylaws are written.

“All we can do is caution people to make sure their little ones have all their shots and don’t get trampled,” the source suggests. “Residents with children might want to do the same.”

Nudes and Nature

Debbie Boostrom

If ever there was a campaign for “Milk, it does the body good”

A thousand years ago, when I was a much younger man, I found myself in possession of an issue of Playboy, where I discovered a lovely young woman named Debbie Boostrom.

I was smitten (let’s agree to leave it at that).

I remember sharing my discovery of Ms. Boostrom with some school friends at a hockey rink (where all good Canadian things happen). And at some point, as we admired her physique, I found myself saying aloud:

“Man, can you imagine what she looks like in a bathing suit!”

That my friends chose to remain my friends is a testament to their patience…or possibly to their respective inabilities to make friends.

In any event, I too joined them in shock at the idea that it would be good to alter such loveliness…and especially cover it.

Well, a thousand years later, I find myself in similar shock, but less with nudes than with nature.

Recently, on the way to a hockey game (see what I mean), I took an amazing photograph of a sparrow in a thorn bush.


Given my fascination with nature, my initial inclination is to focus in on the bird, but in this case, I decided to keep the image relatively wide, the bird blending in beautifully with its surroundings.

I was smitten (let’s agree to leave it at that).

As I was discussing the photo with a friend earlier today, I commented that the photo would make a great painting. If I put a wash over it, it might look like something wildlife artist Robert Bateman would paint.


Just assumed Bateman was born on a foggy day


Yet again, I want to take something I smit (that’s a word, right?) for its natural beauty and alter it…even cover it. Such delicate detail and I want to blur the lines.

Maybe this is some deep-seated desire to mar the things I love to spare myself the pain of inevitable rejection…although Ms. Boostrom has reportedly passed on and there must be 439 other sparrows in that ruddy bush.

Perhaps I am a closeted Puritan who believes there is evil in anything that brings pleasure. Nah, my love of hockey and bacon, and my Jabba the Hutt-like lair (and body structure) suggest otherwise.

Or maybe I’ve stumbled onto a hybrid art form.

Yes, you too can Batemanize your family portraits!

I don’t know…maybe I’m just weird. I should go to the rink and think about this some more.

To wash or not to wash?