Dog’s life not ruff for Dixie

Landlord doesn’t mind pets in building. Very few complaints from neighbours.

by David Hayes, The Toronto Star, June 17, 2006

Yip yip yip yip yip yip. Who’s that at the door? A visitor at 10 o’clock on a Tuesday night? Oh, I see, it’s that tall writer with the shaved head who lives in number five, the one who writes a renter’s column in the Toronto Star. I know because I tore that page to shreds one day when I couldn’t find my rawhide.

Let me introduce myself. I’m Dixie, a 2-year-old Parson Russell terrier, born and bred in Aylmer. (My brother, Farley, lives with Martha and Stephen in the apartment right upstairs.) Okay, I’ll say it myself, I have a rather feisty personality.

Someone once called me a dynamo and I took that as a compliment. Let me show you. I’ll just tear around the apartment once or twice. Pay attention when I slide into the living room with my claws skittering on the hardwood floor. See, I don’t crash into the wall like a dumb beagle would.

Okay, the writer’s sitting down now, so I’ll just leap on to the back of the sofa and lick the guy’s head. Mmmm, salty, and such a vast expanse compared to the palm of the average person’s hand. Oh, right, Laura’s shooing me away just because he’s writing things down and she’s not changing her mind no matter how loud I bark.

Laura Wildeman is my owner. She operates Pulp, the card and gift shop on the Danforth where I hang out most days. One of her regular customers, Bill, once described me as a “young Ingrid Bergman.” I hope I’m not being immodest if I say that’s a fair comparison, if Ingrid had had a white coat with brown markings, dark, almond-shaped eyes, V-shaped ears that fold forward and a docked tail. Laura calls me a diva, which I think is more or less the same thing, and Ken Lake, her boyfriend, agrees. Ken’s a contractor and a commercial pilot, although I can’t say I’m dying to go up in an airplane. I’d rather burrow underground chasing a fox, if you must know.

I think I’ll just chew on my plastic ball and listen to them for a bit. Laura’s telling the writer about when we first moved into this apartment, about a year ago. There was no problem with that.

The landlord doesn’t mind pets in the building and even if she did, even if she wrote a “no-pets” clause into a rental agreement, it would not be enforceable. Back in 2003, before I was born, I understand that a certain Toronto landlord tried to charge an extra monthly rent for dogs. That was unenforceable, too, and if I ever meet that landlord, I think I’ll pee on his shoe.

According to the Tenant Protection Act, landlords can only start an eviction process if a pet has threatened someone or is a dangerous species, if it’s causing undue damage to the property, or if other tenants are being disturbed. Do you know the story about the tenants who complained that their upstairs neighbour was tap-dancing day and night? It turned out to be the hooves of the fellow’s pet goat. Even if that doesn’t officially contravene the Tenant Protection Act, the city’s animal control bylaw prohibits urban dwellers from owning livestock and a number of species of mammals, birds and reptiles.

Incidentally, that bylaw isn’t overly restrictive. It permits full-grown lizards of up to two metres and mature snakes up to three metres. Although look at my picture, people. Why would you want a lizard or a snake when you could have a Parson Russell terrier?

Oh-oh, Laura’s telling the writer about the disturbances so I think I’ll drop my rawhide on the living-room floor to distract her. She’s giving me the eye and saying, “What was that?” in her stern tone, because dropping the rawhide on the hardwood is one of the things that disturbs the downstairs neighbours.

There’s apparently no stopping her, though, and the writer is scribbling like mad. At least the incidents she’s telling him about weren’t as bad as the time in our previous apartment when Laura and Ken went out one night. I slipped out of my locked crate — it’s easy, really, but I’m not giving away my secrets — and was exploring the bathroom when I knocked over a clothes hamper that banged the door shut. I was locked in the dark and, being a mere puppy at the time, barked pretty much non-stop for several hours.

Okay, okay, you want to know what Laura’s telling the writer. She’s saying that the first time the downstairs neighbours complained was shortly after we moved in. Ken’s parents were visiting, which means playtime with their cocker spaniel, Jack. I guess we were carrying on pretty good because the poor neighbour, who was sick that day, politely asked if something could be done. Jack and I were put on a short leash and the party was pretty much over.

A little later, the downstairs neighbours complained that I would cry in my crate, which Laura had set up in the living room. (Wipe that smirk off your face; Ingrid Bergman would do the same if someone locked her in a crate.) So Laura moved it to the bedroom.

That worked out well because the downstairs unit is a junior one-bedroom that’s only under the back half of our apartment. The rest of our apartment is above storage lockers.

Laura and Ken are happy with me most of the time, because my breed is highly intelligent so I actually obey most of these many limitations on my naturally exuberant nature. But there’s a quid pro quo. Laura knows that I expect my favourite treat, red licorice, from time to time, just to keep the peace.