A brief thaw

I didn’t even need gloves out walking the Newfs this morning, a big change from last week’s cold. The ice has mostly melted out at the yacht club. I shot this brief video…

I didn’t see the snowy owls (again) but I talked to some enthusiasts. I say if you’re carrying around a lens as long as my arm on your camera, you qualify as an enthusiast.

Seen the owls?
Not today yet, saw them yesterday.
Saw the pair just up here yesterday morning.
They were out on the ice yesterday. A bit hard to see out there.
Just the ones on the docks out here.
There was one up in a tree the other day.



Monarch Butterflies, Sam Smith Park

Visitors to Sam Smith Park here in Toronto are being treated to a great show of monarch butterflies right now. We took a walk with the dogs a short while ago and saw butterflies anywere there were flowers.

DSC06988DSC06991DSC06981DSC06963DSC06993By the way, Sam Smith Park is currently being studied by the city for designation as an environmentally sensitive area. I’m not sure all this designation implies yet, and so I don’t have any opinion on it. I’m all for keeping lots of natural areas in the park, but I also appreciate the park is used for many things from playing sports to watching birds. There’s a yacht club in the midst of it and schools. There’s a balance in there somewhere. Is this designation the right thing in the long run?  There will be some public meetings in November, where we can find out more.

Morning trip to Jack Darling Park

At a certain point in his development, young George simply considered anything that moved to be an object of his doggy lust. This was a good indication it was time for his neuter surgery, which we had done in early August.

Yesterday we took the Newfs to the local dog park in Sam Smith Park to see how he would do with other dogs now.  He interacted very well with all the dogs there, so we’ve reinstated his dog-park privileges.

Our local leash free park is what you might call a minimalist park. The City did the least they possibly could do and still call it a leash-free park. In fact it started out without even a fence – just a sign. As dog parks go, this one is pretty sad. It has a fence now and a couple benches, but that’s it. There is no variety of terrain. In wet weather it gets very mucky. There is no lighting and although it is a stone’s throw from a water filtration plant, there is no water available. The location is part of a north-south wind-corridor between the water filtration plant and Humber College. In the winter, the north winds have nothing to block them on their way to freeze brave dog walkers.

For these reasons, the Sam Smith dog park gets fewer users than most. A lot of visitors to the broader park area have complained about dog-owners letting their pets run loose in the rest of the park, rather than in the dog park.  There are even new signs up in the park encouraging dog-owners to leash their pets and I’ve heard the City has sent by-law enforcement people out to Sam Smith recently to fine the miscreant pet-owners. Although I don’t expect it will ever happen, I’d like to see the dog park in Sam Smith relocated to the area on the east side of what is known as “the spit”, which forms the harbour for the yacht club. I think a better area for the dogs in a more suitable area of the park would attract a lot more dog lovers.

When we want to run our dogs, we like to take them west to Mississauga, to Jack Darling Park. Like the park at Sam Smith, this one is on the property of a filtration plant.

IMG_2178However, the dog area is fully integrated on the filtration plant grounds. There is a great variety of terrain, loads of space, fields, sandy areas, treed areas, brush and hills. There is even drinking water available.IMG_2175

The sandy area is where many dogs go to play. They like goofing about in the sand, chasing and wrestling. IMG_2184Other areas are more isolated if you want to run your dogs away from the crowd. IMG_2179I’m very impressed by what I can only call inspired design at Jack Darling Park. Somebody along the way thought it was a good idea to imagine up a dog park that was more than a patch of muck and grass with a fence around it – and they did it up right.

IMG_2186We like to do a circuit or two of the park, checking out all the different terrain, stopping for some playtime in the sand pit.

The dogs just love to go to Jack Darling. They get a car ride – they love car rides – and they get to goof around in an area with lots of variety and plenty of other dogs to play with.

I’m hoping the candidates for City Council in the upcoming Municipal race read this. Here’s my challenge – make a great leash-free area in Sam Smith Park.  Who’s up for this challenge? I’m not interested in hearing why this can’t be done, but if you can imagine it, and you think you can pull it off, I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments of this blog.

Meanwhile, we’ll continue to drive out to Mississauga when we want a top-rate dog-park experience.

Rescue in Lake Ontario

We were just out with the dogs for our nightly walk. Around the corner and down the street on Lake Prominade, there were two ambulances parked. Someone coming from one of the properties on Lake Prom told us there was a sail boat that had run aground. There were a lot of sailboats out in the lake tonight. Wednesdays are apparently race evenings so quite a few boats were involved in racing. When we were out earlier with the dogs, around 7:00 PM we watched a sailboat come into the Yacht Club harbour in Sam Smith Park. It seemed to have a little trouble making the turn into the harbour and run the short stretch to shelter – but it did make it in OK.

The boat that ran aground must have lost control in the waves and high winds out there tonight. When we got to the park, we could see it stuck out there, not far from shore, listing dangerously. The person we talked to told us the crew is safe. She said paramedics went out into the lake in dry suits and rescued everyone on board. If that’s true, let’s applaud our paramedics for a fantastic job. From the park, we could see the boat clearly because another boat, perhaps a police boat, was shining a high powered light on on it. It looked like there was a line between the two crafts and we could see somebody aboard the sailboat. It appeared they were trying to free up the sailboat from the rocks. At the same time the rescue boat had to be really careful not to get too close and run aground itself.

From what we know, everyone is safe, and hopefully nobody gets hurt trying to save the boat.


A long-eared owl was photographed in Sam Smith Park the other day. Check it out at Friends of Sam Smith Park. For those not from these parts, we have two major parks near Long Branch where I live. As you go east, Colonel Sam Smith Park (also the home of Humber College) marks the end of Long Branch and the beginning of New Toronto, at least for those of us who insist on maintaining that old school identity. To the west, Marie Curtis Park marks the end of Long Branch and the beginning of Mississauga (or Lake View if we’re going to stick to the old school names)

Sam Smith Park is a great place. Sometimes when we go walking through the park, or along the lake, we can hardly believe we’re fortunate enough to live a short walk from there.


Yesterday between 6:00 and 6:30 pm, I was with the dogs in the dog park at the filtration plant, next to Sam Smith Park. I was talking to the owner of another Newfoundland who comes to the park when we noticed this helicopter getting lower and lower over the yacht club down by the water. It hovered for a minute and then landed. From where we were it was difficult to see exactly where it landed but it must have been either in the yacht club where the boats are wintered or in the field just to the east of that. We figured it was there on a rescue as it was one of the ORNGE helicopters. Shortly after, we heard sirens and then watched an ambulance followed in a few minutes by a fire truck and then a police car and then another fire truck. It turns out it landed because there was a problem with the helicopter and not to make a rescue. Fortunately everyone was safe.

This Afternoon

The crisp clear afternoon has coaxed a lot of people in the neighbourhood outdoors. The toboggan hill at the filtration plant has hardly been in use this season for lack of snow, but enough came down the other day to create a marginal base. Marginal or not, there are several kids on the hill sliding on toboggans, sleds, and assorted chunks of plastic and cardboard. It’s great to hear the sounds of kids having a great time on the hill.

From the toboggan hill, you can see skaters on the figure 8 skate park across the field and across the road, in Sam Smith Park proper. I don’t know whose idea the skate park was, but it has turned out to be a very popular attraction to the park and to the Long Branch/New Toronto communities. I hear of people coming from across the city to skate there.

This winter, many of the regulars at the dog park on the filtration plant lands have turned to the new dog park at Marie Curtis Park for a better experience. The Marie Curtis dog park is on higher land and has a deep sand surface. Even after a rain, it is not muddy. Today the weather is perfect for the dog park at the R.L. Clark Filtration plant. That is, the ground is frozen and covered with a layer of snow – and it isn’t windy. As a result, there were a dozen dogs in there playing when I took Memphis and Ellie Mae out for some play and exercise. In the next day or two it’s expected to warm up and any thaw will turn the dog park into a muck-pit. Unfortunately, no plan was made to mitigate the muck when the dog park was conceived, even though the sogginess of the field was well known to all in the community.



We were at the dog park beside the filtration plant tonight and heard about another coyote sighting in Sam Smith Park, this one in the parking lot across from the dog park. Another was spotted recently at the skate park and another by the beach east of the yacht club.

I’m all for live and let live, but I confess to being a bit nervous.

…days fly away

What a pleasant weekend for November! Still, I know winter is very close at hand because they have been hauling the boats out of the water down at the yacht club. Last week I could see the top of the crane beyond the hill and the boats filling up the yard. The clocks have moved back but this morning, it was still dark when I took the dogs out. And with the time change, it’s going to be dark for the evening walk as well. Time to keep a little flashlight in my pocket or clipped to my cap.

Neighbours walking their dogs told us tonight a coyote was active over in Sam Smith Park. We walked through there with Memphis and Ellie Mae but didn’t see the coyote. Memphis picked us some scents she was very interested in but who knows, that could be anything. Another neighbour saw a coyote a couple weeks ago on the filtration plant land. Back in the summer, I saw one trotting along the sidewalk on Lake Prominade. It turned up 25th and by the time I got to the corner, had disappeared. The coyotes are around, but they seem to mind their own business.

With the generally cooler weather, our Newfoundlands have been more active. We see this with Ellie Mae in particular. A couple days ago, she was running around chasing and barking at other dogs in the dog park. Those readers who know Ellie, know that she likes to go out to the park, but normally lies down and simply watches the action, content to wait for people to come over to give her a pat. She was so unusually active, someone was heard to say, “Look at that…is that Ellie Mae?”