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Trials & Tribulation of Living in Northern Ontario
by Shirley Bell - Bellcrest Boxers Perm. Reg.

We usually have the first snows of the winter on our Thanksgiving weekend, which is the second weekend in October. The lakes, of which we have many, freeze over to a depth of some four feet and the snow can reach up to the rooftops of the houses. With a little bit of luck, the snow is gone by the end of April. This makes for an extremely long hard winter.

The Northern Ontario Boxers are a tough bunch. They grow thicker coats to compensate for the extreme temperatures. When temperatures reach the extreme lows of -40 degrees C. It becomes necessary to stay right at the door when putting dogs outside. If dogs are left out for more than five minutes at these temperatures frostbite of ears and feet can occur quickly. It is so easy to put them out and then get busy doing something, so I stand at the door and wait. They learn to co-operate by being very, very fast!! Now, because they cannot stay out for any length of time, this also affects the amount of exercise that they get, thereby affecting overall condition. It is possible to take them out for a run on the milder days, when the temperature at noon is about -15 - -20 degrees....but they must keep moving!

So, along about the first of March we must start brushing dogs daily to help get rid of the excess coat. Especially the Boxers destined to be shown at the American Boxer Club National Specialty in early May, where all are in top condition. Not only is it necessary to get coats into show condition, it is also necessary to get muscle tone in shape and exercise must be gradually built up again after the relative inactivity of the winter months.

Come April and May we are bombarded with black flies in the daytime and mosquitoes at night. The black flies eat pieces out of the dogs, which again makes it impossible to leave dogs outside for any length of time, or work with them outdoors for more than a few minutes at a time as the black flies also love human blood too!

As well as having the elements, temperature, bugs etc. To contend with, we also have distance and attitude to take into account .

Let's discuss distance. We are at least four hours drive from most shows, and a major airport. This cannot only mean more costly time and travel, but much more stress on out Boxers ...and of course on their owner/breeders too. Often, even if a dog that was the perfect dog to breed to a certain bitch lived here in the North, that breeding would never take place, because the cost of flights between Toronto and most Northern airports are amongst the most expensive of any anywhere in Canada. Many of us live in less populated areas and therefore things that most people take for granted are not available to us.

The nearest University of Veterinarian Medicine is a five and a half hour drive each way. So all testing of our Boxers for hereditary defects, hips, thyroid, eyes and hearts etc. Is a costly and time consuming process, needing at least one nights stay in a hotel while away.

Now, let's discuss attitude. For some unknown reason, people in the North think and feel that "if you want something good then you must go South to get it, It could not possibly be found in Northern Ontario." This applies to most anything - doctors, furniture, clothes and purebred dogs or all breeds. Well, I would like to state that this is emphatically not true, especially in Boxers. We in the North are very proud of our Boxers. We have some of the top breeding in the world and feel that our Boxers are second to none!!

We are aware that some people think that a Canadian Championship is easy to come by. This is not necessarily so. Those Boxers that finish quickly in Canada ca, and often do, finish easily in the U.S. An American Championship is a nice title to add to our dogs, but because of the extra expense and travel caused by where we live, it is not always feasible.

We in Canada also have the option of showing and finishing natural eared Boxers. This is a definite plus. We Northerners must drive to Toronto and back (minimum four hours down and four hours back) in a day with our pups to have them cropped. Sometimes because of weather conditions and timing, it is not possible to crop the up an coming young hopeful. So, at least we can show here, and win.

By now, you are probably saying, so if it is so hard to show and breed Boxers in the North, then why do it? Why? Because we love the breed and want to do well by them. We live here because we must, family obligations, work, etc. Between dog shows it is a wonderful place to live. We do not have to lock our doors or our cars. Our children and grandchildren do not have as many temptations as those in large city centers.

In short, we love our Boxers, we love the North, and we do the best that we can. I guess, for me, at least, the pleasures and rewards far outweigh the trials and tribulations of Northern living.

Reprinted with permission of author, from Boxer Review Magazine - Oct. 1995

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