Growing up in Grand Forks: by Milton Orris

What a difference dogs make when you're growing up.

I was given my first dog when I just arrived in Grand Forks. I was 11 and ecstatic to have Scoop, as we called him, in my life.

Being a newspaper family, Scoop was the right name—he was the best news for me that week—and for a long time. He was a mongrel, a very mixed breed; however that didn’t matter to him or me—he was so much fun and such good company.  He was small enough to share my small bed.

Then a sad event: as I was out biking with him along the road he saw something on the other side and ran across the road to get to it. As he ran across, a passing car hit him. I picked him up and he died in my arms a few minutes later.

I ran home and told Dad what had happened. “Did the car stop?” he asked.

“No” I replied, “but he knew he had hit Scoop as he slowed down then sped away.”.

My dad immediately phoned the police and about 30 minutes later they appeared at the door with the driver of the car whom they had caught at the Danville customs. The driver, embarrassed, apologized for hitting Scoop and for not stopping, then gave us $20 to buy a new dog. Once again, everyone—police as well—cared for everyone no matter how big or small the event was.

The along came Sir Shag of Cedarhill, a wonderful, very beautiful and very friendly, golden retriever.  He was just a puppy when he arrived from his breeder and so, as did Scoop, we shared my small single bed. That lasted for about six months when it became clear either he or I would need to sleep on the floor on a mat. I won!

Shag became well known in town. He would show up every day at the Gazette office just before noon for a ride home. After a few weeks of this, I become really curious what path he took from our home behind the GF School to the office. So one morning I waited until he left about 10 o’clock and from a distance behind, followed him.

His first stop was Mrs. Reynolds, who gave him some treats in a bowl and petted him and chatted with him until finally he left. Then he went about two blocks to another lady who lived near the Catholic Church who did the same thing: food, chat and friendly scratching. After a short visit off he went to the Haggen home (both the Haggens became NDP members of the provincial legislature over time)  More food, chatting and petting.

Then it was time to get to the office so down the busy street from the post office he walked, with many people saying good morning to him.

One day my mom phoned me at the Gazette and said I should come home, something seemed really wrong with Shag. Home I went quickly, found him lying in the front yard and clearly not well. I held him; he put his head in my lap and about 30 minutes later he died. After a while I took him into the back yard and began digging his grave under the apricot tree where he often lay—and was handling the situation well until little Jimmy Henniger, our next door neighbour, came over and asked, “What’s wrong with Shag?”

“He just died,” I replied and both of us burst into tears.

Finally there was Digby, a floppy-eared bassett, the most misbehaved of all the three. He was so difficult my parents finally sent him to a training school for dogs down in the Fraser Valley. It was a one-week course and at the end of it we got a phone call asking if they could keep him for one more week at no cost to us, as so far they hadn’t been able to complete his training. We agreed.

Another phone call a week later saying they were sending him home without his graduation certificate—“he was the most untrainable dog they had ever encountered.”

His favourite act to show his displeasure at being left along in the house was to walk into the bathroom by the kitchen, take hold of the end of the toilet paper role with his teeth and walk all the way—about 50 feet or more—to the front door.”  We went through a lot of toilet paper for a while until we put the holder up about six feet from the floor.

Finally when my four sons were growing up, I got two more dogs: a standard poodle, Brontus Orris, and later a Great Pyrenees, Dynas Orris!  hey got along well with our three cats, Either, Neither and Nor.  All named by the boys.

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