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In Toronto, Horses Have a Palace

October 29, 2015

Toronto can seem like a heartless, traffic-clogged glass maze on some days, but a stone’s throw from downtown, on the Exhibition Ground, one finds this gem of Art Deco architecture:

The Horse Palace

A designated heritage building, The Horse Palace was designed and built just in time for the 1931 Canadian National Exhibition and remains virtually unchanged since that summer. Inside, two levels of stall — yes, with a horse-friendly ramp to get off the ground floor — surround an exercise ring. You know you are in the right place, because it says “Horses” above every door:

The building houses a riding school and the Mounted Unit of the Toronto Police Service.


Looking for another Game to Play with your Dog? Look no further!

October 26, 2015

Dock Dogs held an event in Toronto not too long ago, putting on intro classes and a competition for dogs and their handlers. There was a pool, a ramp, a dock, some balls, and good weather — all ingredients of a great day out with a dog. Since absolutely everyone trying their luck that day was a complete amateur, having tried the game for the first time that same morning, it should come as no surprise that the winners were the teams with best obedience. Dogs who could sit or lie down and stay until the ball was tossed had better focus, and thus better run and leap into the water. Another reason to work on those stays? Absolutely. The community entertainment value? Priceless.


Sometimes, all you catch is the tail:


The Beagles are Coming! The Beagles are Coming!..

October 24, 2015

In the exciting world of genetic engineering, we read a report last week of an experiment that produced a very special beagle in China. Researchers reported a break-through: using CRISPR techniques to modify genomes in beagle embryos, they produced the first genetically-modified dog. His name is Hercules (he’s the bigger one on the left). If you don’t yet understand how CRISPR works, I won’t try to explain it.

Hercules carries a mutation that naturally occurs only in whippets: a deactivation of the gene that limits muscle growth. The protein that regulates muscle growth is called myostatin. As you can see in the picture, Hercules looks like a very large beagle, but he does not look monstrous — this is because he doesn’t lack myostatin completely, due to the vagaries and imperfections of the gene editing that happened. (I’ll let you google “bully whippets” on your own).

Does this mean we can get ready for “designer” dogs? Well, this dog started out as one out of 65 embryos that were altered. This is not a bad success rate for a pioneering experiment, but far from being replicated by the beagle breeder near you. Additionally, since this is a proof-of-concept experiment, researchers limited their efforts to edits in a single gene which happens to produce visible results. Most traits are not regulated by a single gene, although several genetic diseases that dogs share with humans do result from a single-gene mutation (such as Parkinson’s and muscular dystrophy). Experiments in single-gene editing can thus yield valuable insights into the mechanisms of these maladies — and, in the future, potential treatments for them.

Dogs of Toronto: Ferry-approved, Mural-worthy

October 18, 2015

Toronto dogs are the ultimate city dogs: calm on crowded streets, capable in handling public transportation, such as the ferry that takes locals — and their dogs, and their bicycles — to the islands in the harbor.

IMG-20140928-00036 Toronto-20140928-00051 Toronto-20140928-00052 Toronto-20140928-00050

The view of the skyline from across the lake:


A bull-terrier got his own mural:


The Spiders

May 5, 2015

The spiders are comfortable hereIMG_20150504_202720
on the east face of the building
in the lambent glow of CBC’s riddled logo next door

anchored in the joint of brushed steel
the height doesn’t bother them
the wind
seventeen floors above the street
fawns over them
feeds small flies into their web
an occasional disoriented wasp
it is a life

the other day I saw a hawk
alight on the cornice of an office tower
so distant that if I hadn’t caught the instant
of his wings folding
feet outstretched in anticipation of landing
I would’ve mistaken his small
chiseled shape for an accoutrement
a concrete outgrowth
a stalagmite

so do we inhabit
this city’s crevices
its aeries
and wedge ourselves in
a toehold
a storefront
adapt quickly
invent identities
paint signs
The Barking Squirrel
Raven’s Knickers
Blooming Fools
The Lucky Moose
a bestiary

Another VSP

December 20, 2014

outside Hamilton
the sun breaks out

off the backs of a flock on the wing
white silver bodies–rips in the ashy rainstorm

we are compelled to look
to recognize
whistling swans

VSPs to Honor VSEs

December 1, 2014

In case you don’t know this, VSEs are “very small equines”, a technical designation for miniature horses. I thought I would honor the VSEs, who are, more often than not, hard-working, cooperative animals, with a new series of VSPs: very small poems. Poems that are also hard-working, cooperative, occasionally eager to please, but, you know… small.

Here’s one for today:

is what’s happening when you take another sip of the Chardonnay
while attempting to express an opinion
on the proper weight of an adult
male Ridgeback