Appeared in the North Shore News – April 27, 2012
Serious things are occurring all around us. Forget them. Today this space celebrates wonderful, sometimes slightly eccentric, West Vancouverites.
Speaking of forgetfulness, remember the Sedin twins? Professional athletes, playing for what’s-its-name? They are cream-puff sissies compared to a world-beating West Van athlete whose name is not on everybody’s lips.
She – yes, a female – walked into the West Vancouver Aquatic Centre last week proudly showing off 12 medals which she’d just won in Finland. Nothing new. She holds 17 track-and-field world records and 650-odd gold medals. You may not live to collect, but if you find a sucker, bet that Henrik and Daniel Sedin won’t come within a 5.8foot long jump (that’s her best) of Olga Kotelko’s experts baffling athleticism if they reach her age – 93.
Everything about this five foot-nothing retired teacher stretches credulity. In early days she did yoga and such. Ran. Started slow-pitch softball at 70 and retired at 75. Didn’t even begin track and field, and the road to all those world records in her age category, until 77.
Olga’s body has been carefully studied – muscle cells, neurons, all that – at the Montreal Neurological Institute, associated with the famed Wilder Penfield. “She is one of the world’s great athletes,” gasped the New York Times, and if you can’t trust the paper that boasts “All the news that’s fit to print,” whom can you trust?
The Times pictured Olga throwing the shot-put. Her record is 16.1 feet. I couldn’t throw my empty gin bottles that far.
. . .
Jane Thornthwaite is Liberal MLA for North Vancouver-Seymour, but I warmly make her an honourary West Vancouverite for her concern for animals.
This week Thornthwaite introduced her private member’s bill, Standards of Care for Breeders of Companion Animals, aimed at shutting down puppy and kitty mills while protecting legitimate breeders and pet owners.
Such a good cause, yet the government’s coincident Bill 24, arising from last year’s slaughter of some 50 sled dogs (the man who allegedly carried out the slayings was charged recently, but should culpability stop there?) has run into opposition from the B.C. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
The BCSPCA protests that the bill’s provisions will burden it with $300,000 annually in new costs. West Van citizens David Burn and Pat Hindley have mounted opposition too.
Thornthwaite’s bill is separate from Bill 24, but concerning the latter bill she’s heard “from many animal lovers and animal welfare groups requesting the government instigate an independent appeal process in order to alleviate concerns about the SPCA being viewed as enforcer, judge, and jury on animal seizures and dispositions.”
Even compassion for animals isn’t immune from controversy.
. . .
I think L.C. can safely be assumed to back Thornthwaite’s bill. She showed up on WV’s great Ambleside Beach dog walk proudly bearing – what was it, a babe in swaddling clothes?
Nope, the tiniest of puppies, more adorable than any dog but mine (and yours), which she’d “rescued” by purchasing it from one of those how-much-is-that-doggy-in-the-window stores. That’s heart.
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There’s been a flood of dog stories along the beach walk recently.
I count this a first. I was resting my bones on a park bench when a dog approached, jumped up, and before even being welcomed stood on my lap, studying the world. All with utter nonchalance, not craving a pat or a scratch.
It may not qualify for the Guinness Book of Records, but I’ve never encountered such a canine. His owner, though, assured me that he often cosies up to strangers like that.
She also told a story that, with variants, you hear often among dog people. A woman she knew had a small dog that needed extensive medical help. Like, $16,000 worth.
The owner paid. And the dog died.
Regrets? No, the owner declared, she’d have mortgaged her house to save that dog.
Love like that.
. . .
Dog people open up more than other people. About their dogs. About themselves.
Another owner fell into conversation with me. In no way was she weird, fanatical, saying anything unusual. Until she remarked that dogs are angels.
Not angelic. Not metaphorical angels. Not figure-of-speech angels. Angels. You know. Sent from heaven. That kind. The real McCoy, as we used to say.
The novelist Robertson Davies once wrote that people can believe in something that they don’t believe in 24 hours a day.
I believed her.
. . .
A couple came along the dog walk with one of those brown-and-black, coarsehaired, hound-y type dogs. You know the breed: The Standard Mutt.
The woman explained it was a rescue dog. It took five years to socialize him. Had to be kept muzzled. During that time, she added, it had bitten someone only once.
“A brigadier-general,” she smiled.
Guess there wasn’t a lawyer or journalist handy.
© Trevor Lautens, 2012