Meet Canada’s Greatest Pets
We asked Canadians to tell us why their beloved beasts deserve to be counted among the country’s finest. Here are some of their stories.
The 2019 Winner of Canada’s Greatest Pet Contest: Hashtag
My schnauzer, Hashtag, saved my life—not once, but twice.
When he came into our home in the summer of 2017, my husband and I had been anticipating his arrival for months. At that time, I was also struggling with depression. Suddenly I had a bundle of energy that required my attention—one that needed puppy training, walks and affection. I had previously been overwhelmed by negative thoughts, but now I had a job to do, a sense of purpose. I couldn’t give up. Once I realized that, I began to feel better. I emerged from my depression 18 months later. There’s no question that Hashtag played a key role in my recovery.
Then, last December, I was fast asleep on the second floor of our house when a fire started in our living room downstairs and smoke began to fill the air. Hashtag stirred awake, calm yet alert, which woke me and allowed me to grasp the seriousness of our predicament.
Within moments, we were standing outside, and I was calling the fire department. The alarm system only went off 10 minutes later. There’s no telling what would have happened if Hashtag’s warning hadn’t given us a head start. I don’t have the words to describe how much I care for him. —Véronique Sauvé
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2019 Runner-up: Moops
Born partially deaf in 2016, Moops can only hear high-pitched sounds. Having a deaf dog requires vigilance—he can’t be outside unsupervised and is almost always on a leash, but that doesn’t slow him down. He comes camping with us, loves digging trenches in the snow and stealing beer, and is a regular spectator at my husband’s softball games. (Though he prefers football—he’s a Pittsburgh Steelers fan.) —Skahentiioah Laborgne-Jacobs
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2019 Runner-up: Mavis
At eight months old, Mavis was found in a shed, covered in motor oil. Her rescuers had a difficult time getting her out—she refused to leave the bodies of her three kittens, who had died. How could someone pour oil on them and abandon them? You’d think she’d be frightened of humans after that, but at the adoption centre, she nuzzled into my neck and began purring—loudly. Four years ago, my son, Jaden, and I had escaped a very abusive home and were finding our own path. So was Mavis. Now we give each other comfort and unconditional love. —Dana Fitzgerald
2019 Runner-up: Bouboule
After two days of hearing cries coming from the forest behind our house, I set out to find the source. That’s when I came across a little ball of white fur—howling at me from behind a raspberry bush. The vet I called told me that the kitten’s survival was unlikely, but I had to try. Every four hours for three weeks, I fed her formula. That was 10 years ago. Now she’s known as Bouboule, the dog-cat who follows me everywhere. —Odette Tremblay
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2019 Runner-up: Quincy
Quincy and I found each other almost 14 years ago at the SPCA in Kamloops, B.C. When I discovered that we shared the same birthday, I knew it was meant to be. I’m single and work as a primary-care paramedic, and Quincy is my rock. If I find myself getting stressed, just touching her warm, soft coat brings me peace. We used to participate in agility competitions, but these days we teach canine first aid together—she’s my demo dog. —Laurie McPhee
2019 Runner-up: Pinot
On my mother’s 80th birthday, we gave her a Yorkshire terrier—she’d always wanted a dog. Though Mom lives with me and my husband, Pinot provides her with companionship and a sense of security. He’s affectionate, sweet, patient and obedient. What more could an elderly person ask for? Pinot is an ideal dog. They go for walks together, allowing Mom to talk with people they meet along their path. And the conversation doesn’t end once they’re home—Pinot follows my mother around, and she chatters away at him. For the past decade, this special little pet has made a huge difference in all of our lives. We love him dearly—and can’t wait to celebrate Mom’s upcoming 90th birthday together. —Lise Languedoc
2019 Runner-up: Jackson
Jackson joined us—his two daddies, his forever home—in January 2016, when he was a month old. Since the day he arrived, he’s brought smiles to the faces of friends and family with his canine cuddles. A regular visitor at both my place of work and my partner’s, Jackson has a special talent for spreading cheer (especially on Mondays). In return, he loves belly rubs, cloth toys he can destroy and leisurely midday snoozes. —Timothy Chan
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2019 Runner-up: Psyren
In 2015, I was dealing with the death of my cat Phoenix, I’d lost my mom to brain cancer, and I was battling depression. My sealpoint Ragdoll, Psyren—a timid creature who had never jumped on my bed in the five years I’d had her—began sleeping next to me. And it’s been that way every night since. Animals keep you grounded. They can tell when you are hurting, and their instinct is to “fix you” the best way they know how (such as with lots of head-butts and cuddles). —Gillian Whitten
2019 Runner-up: Oliver
What Oliver Paul lacks in obedience he makes up for with his motivational skills. Each morning, we dance to his favourite song—James Brown’s “Get Up Offa That Thing.” After that, there are walks to be had and neighbours to talk to; there’s yard work to do and acorns to find; there’s my wallet to chew and then hide. He’ll do whatever it takes to keep me off the couch or from scrolling on my phone! —Megan McDowell
2019 Runner-up: Tyson
Thunder Bay, Ont.
Tyson was kidnapped in Calgary in 2010, when I was eight months pregnant. He was my best buddy—he’d been by my side through severe depression and the sudden death of my first child. After failing to get him back, I moved to Thunder Bay to start over with my daughter. Five years later, I heard from a vet out west—Tyson had been found. He’d been in a puppy mill all that time. He’s 12 now, and it still seems surreal that we get to spend the rest of his days together. —Justine Holmlund
The 2018 Winner of Canada’s Greatest Pet Contest: Hero
While recovering from a rare circulatory disorder that made it difficult for me to walk even 10 minutes at a time, I decided to foster a dog. I’d never cared for a pup before, so I asked a local rescue to avoid matching me with a big, aggressive or very energetic animal.
A few days later, Hero—a scruffy, 22-kilogram street dog from the Cayman Islands—arrived at my door. He tried to attack everyone and anything that made him feel vulnerable. I was terrified by Hero’s unpredictability and thought many times about returning him to the rescue—but whenever I did, he would let me in a little, as if to say, “Give me just a bit more time.”
Eventually, Hero’s trust in me grew and we learned to overcome our fears together. During my illness, I never could have imagined I’d be walking three hours a day, and his aggression is now almost entirely under control.
It took two years before Hero started coming to me for affection. But all of the training and tears were worth it. There is nobody in my world as cherished as my dog—he really is my Hero. —Nikki Saltz
2018 Runner-up: Mr. Clover
We adopted Mr. Clover, my daughter’s lopeared rabbit, over a year ago. When Dylan, 9, leaves the house or something out of the ordinary happens, Mr. Clover whimpers for her. If she’s sick, he stays by her. He’s litter-trained and free to roam around, but his favourite spots are in Dylan’s dollhouse and in our bed, bundled up and cozy. —Lindsay Mudge
2018 Runner-up: Buddy
Don’t be fooled by the sombre eyes—our Buddy is full of joy. He’s the life of the party and is eager to meet every person and animal that crosses his path. After the loss of our border collie mix, Buddy showed us we could love another pet. Gifted at bringing people together, he’s a great companion to our children and widely revered as the pug mayor of our neighbourhood. —Lisa Ayuso
2018 Runner-up: Mia
She may be small, but Mia—our six-year-old longhaired Chihuahua—has had a huge impact on our family. Since my father was diagnosed with ALS last year, she has refused to leave his side. They are a duo, heading out on daily adventures in his power chair. Without Mia, Dad would be much worse off. On the bad days, she makes it her mission to put a smile on our faces. —Meghan Vandenbussche
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2018 Runner-up: Pepper
I brought Pepper home from the Humane Society in March, after the death of my wife, Karyn, as a gift for our 12-year-old. Kara fell in love instantly. The two seem to be soulmates—they are both very shy and never want to leave the house. I think Pepper is helping Kara work through the loss of her mother, and for that I am very grateful. —Andrew Walters
2018 Runner-up: Archie
That silky fur, those stubby legs, those big eyes—I could stare at Archie for hours! Adorable, affectionate and silly, he follows me around like a shadow and waits for me by the door. His snuggles are the best, bar none. He’ll wrap his body around you like a scarf, or curl up under the duvet with his head next to yours on the pillow. —S.J. Topp
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2018 Runner-up: Sammy
Five winters ago, my dog Sammy and I were walking on Lake Muskoka and everything was covered in snow. We were 15 metres out when Sammy started digging frantically. He pressed his face against the ice, then jumped up suddenly and began dragging me to shore. I later found out that the lake had opened up less than 100 metres from were we had been standing. Sammy saved me. —William Grixti
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2018 Runner-up: Fox
My life with Fox is filled with outdoor adventures and indoor cuddling. An avid rock- and ice-climber, he also loves to join me on canoeing, kayaking and hiking excursions. He can even scramble up some trees! He sticks close to my heels in the daytime and noses his way under my covers at night. He’s the best friend I never knew I needed. —Ania Szado
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2018 Runner-up: Beau
After the death of my previous cat, who had been with us for 18 years, my husband adopted Beau to cheer me up. At our first meeting, Beau snuggled right up to me. In addition to being such a sweetie, he’s very social: he often accompanies me—on a leash—to visit my mother at her nursing home. Everyone there adores him and fusses over him. He’s a real ray of sunshine! —Martine Dallaire
2018 Runner-up: Mao
In 2012, on a whim, I stopped into a pet store. When I spotted Mao and his beautiful turquoise eyes, I knew we were destined for each other. During my battle with cancer, Mao was a great comfort—he never left my side. He’s since been diagnosed with stage 4 chronic kidney disease and now it’s my turn to take care of him. He’s truly extraordinary. —Michèle Montpetit
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2018 Runner-up: Nemo
(Editors’ note: Audrey didn’t meet the age requirement for the contest, but we were so charmed by her submission that we had to share it.)
Nemo was my fish. When he looked at me, I could see that he loved me, and I felt like the luckiest person in the world. One day, Nemo stopped eating. He had gone blind. We were very sad. When he died, I bought a plant and buried him with some special rocks. I don’t care if I win the contest—I just wanted to write about how much I love my fish. —Audrey Nicholson, age 7
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