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Let me tell you about my friend Ooch Dog.
I met Oochdog about 8 years ago, when he was as big as his head. That’s when I met his siblings too. 3 of them actually: Huan, Majika and Opel.
They were in a basement, by a wood stove. The crate was 2 pieces of plywood leaned up against one another in the basement corner. There was a bit of bedding for them. They were all very cute, very small, very playful.
I had just hitchhiked my way up from Toronto, where I had spent the month squeegee- ing and squatting at Queen and Bathurst above a Tim Hortons. I was in “between lives” you could say:
The summer before I was an apprentice to Alexis Burnett, and it was during a night’s stay at a friends that I got introduced to the Idea of doing a work trade, sometimes called WOOFF ing.
Woof Woof – Anyway And that’s how I met Ooch
Can I just say, my job was to walk the four pups in the Forest behind the house everyday. I don’t know when, I think it was in the following spring, while I was helping collect sapwater from the maples, that I recognized Oochdog liked to hang out with me. He followed me from tree to tree, no leash needed- unlike the others- eventually he figured out he could just do his own thing, so long as he stayed close to me- Unlike… The Others..
Ooches mom is called Onyx a malamute cross, who was born here and his father is NiKO a purebred “throwaway” siberian, living here too.
They both live off the house’s property, a few kilometres away with the rest of the family at a Kennel called Sugar Dogs Adventure Co. Last time I heard there was about 25 of them, most of them on chains, but there’s a couple dogs in pens. All the dogs here are closely related, aunties uncles, mothers, granpahs. And actually, unfortunately odd relationships.
Oochdog, bred with his grandma, accidently while he was less than a year old- On my watch- and some puppies came out of it. I forget how many to start but there are two still living there. Manitou and Roscoe. Roscoe really looks like his Dad.
Anyway, Oochdog’s family comes from a line of sled dogs. And that’s what Ooch was “bred for”. It was an amazing winter of getting to know the dogs in such a different way that I have ever experienced. They pulled us on sleds, but we- as the “mushers”- also helped. Because you are part of a team.
I was there with oochdog the first time he ever pulled a sled! I was on it- driving.
Ooch ran 2 winters with Sugar Dogs Adventure Co and his family, and then- when he was gift to me- Ooch then started running with me, on my team, While I worked at Chocpaw Expeditions.
Ooch might have been bred to run, but he doesn’t pull. He knows his left and right great, he can co lead if he behaves, but he doesnt pull. Which makes me laugh as I write this. Sometimes, one extra dog really makes the difference, and sometimes, Ooch- I could have used a bit more will power on your behalf. Hahah
He and I have many many stories of our years as dog sled guides in the Nippising, but I don’t talk about it often anymore.
We shared some great times in the Nippising too, in the summers. Exploring the woods together there. We are both curious, playful and love being outside. We both like to track, he uses his nose and ears I think but I use my eyes. We make a good team
I’ve learned allot being best friends with Oochdog.
He was also my roommate when I lived in my trailer. No electricity or running water. It was great. Because I was in the woods when I stepped outside. And the walls were so thin… I tried to stay a winter here, but I failed. I wasn’t able to take care of myself. I was struggling with big shifts in my life. Honestly I was deeply Struggling with suicidal Idiation, A daily fight to stop my mind from allowing my body to take its own life. If Ooch hadn;t been there, patiently waiting for me, I might not be here today.
Can I just say- As someone who was always in the woods, and understood teachings coming from the animals, birds and the plants… It was new- but it was important to my healing That I got to speak to my mental / medical health team about my experiences.
I was fortunate to have an Anishinabe man, as a counselor at CMHA in Sundridge- during the times of transition , he was the one who told me this was normal. No one else around me understood or saw the world like this. And everything else about me was trauma.
It was the day after new years, that I asked my friend if i could live with them, and they said yes, and that day- I moved to vanier ottawa.
I think the Creator brought me here. I needed this time, I needed to be here, by coincidence of love, I ended up back in the city where I was born. I hated being in the city, but ooch didn’t mind, and now I don’t mind either.
We are a walk away from the Wabano Community Centre. That’s where you might have met Ooch if you know us. Before Covid, Ooch and I spent all our time here. Getting to know people in the community as friends, as we learned together and healed together thanks to the amazing facility, the people who work here, and the people who are participants..
Oochdog stayed the same during this whole time. We are doing better now. Still loves me unconditionally. Having lived with me for so long, Oochdog has adapted to my Mental Health behaviors, and has learned ways to help me stay present.
He loves plush toys, He loves ripping them apart like they were wild animals. But he doesnt rip apart animals, he chases squirrels but hes so fumbly, Ill be surprised if he ever gets one. He loves the smell of bears, and he loves the smell of moose poop deep under the snow. We both love to be off leash, but the city doesn’t like it. We adapt.
It’s also for the best- oochdog is big and fluffy and cute and cuddly. He gets big burst of playfulness and a big burst of sleepiness- Like me-, but he also has an aggressive side, you wouldn’t believe it unless you seen it. We are similar like that haha. They do say dogs are like their humans companions
Ooch is a member of the Wabano Community- he is a 4 legged community support worker- unofficially of course. Ooch has friendships of his own. . He loves to sit in on hand drum circles, and has a couple songs he always joins us with. He is always welcomed at Wabano.
Sometimes he and I have to sit outside of the circle because of Elder/ Dog/ Ceremony teachings.. Not all the time though- it depends on the teachings.
Granpah Roger reminds me, Oochdog is part of Creation. I know Ooch is a gift from the Creator.
Anyway- so it was very scary to have to bring ooch to the hospital, but I would do anything for him- Like he did for me. He is on 2 weeks of no fun- and so we are quarantining together to go visit my mom (ooches Granmah), who is disabled after a stroke she endured 3 years ago or so. She is immuno compromised. She misses my presence. I like getting to know her and hearing stories of our family.
Oochdogs family is still living at Sugar Dogs Adventure Co, and I haven’t visited or talked with the owner in a while. It’s complicated. And it’s also too much for me. You can find information online about Ooch dogs’ family and their current living conditions
I was recently approached, saying that I have been misrepresenting myself. I believe that may have been in my choice of words.
Let me take this moment to say that I am 11th Generation French Canadian, I am 2 spirit, I come from the white part of the circle. Many of us have ancestral ties with the indigenous people of turtle island. It takes research, but if we look into our history we will see and understand exactly what I mean. I understand what it means to be a human being living on colonized/westernized land. And I acknowledge my white privilege that has helped me get to where I am today. But I have NOT forgotten about all the Canada’s I have Known. I am not Settled. I am an accomplice to indigenous rights, but in no shape or form do I have permission to speak on behalf of indigenous people on Turtle Island.
I am sorry for misrepresenting myself- it has been an ongoing journey to find out how I fit as part of the circle. What words to use, and how they feel when they are spoken.
As “Virtuous Musher” I am a whistleblower for dogs in the Canadian Tourism Industry. I speak for and advocate for the 4 legged domesticated working canine and their lives in the colonized/westernized world through personal, lived and researched experience.
Also Ooch Says Hi.
To Donate https://www.gofundme.com/f/OochDog
Merci, Thank you, Kitchi Migwech