From our windows in the old brickyard manager’s house here at Jim Hadgkiss Park, we at the Maple Ridge Museum and Archives see an endless and repeating parade of people walking and playing with their dogs.
There are people who come with their tiny energetic puppies, their fiercely devoted companions always walking at pace, and their old buddies complete with ramps to get out of the car.
The mutual love and respect between people and their dogs is a constant companion in our little park and makes us ponder the history of people and their pets in our town.
Historically, dogs are such an obvious companion to humans that it is hard to believe a life without them. For at least 10,000 years, we have been each other’s hunting companions, security, friends, and, for many of us, family.
We often get or come across photos in our archives collection that have dogs, cats, rabbits, ponies, and all sorts of pets. They are often unnamed and simply add character to the photo.
One such image is of a group of Maple Ridge men posing with what is described on the picture as a taxidermied cat. The story behind this odd photo and why these men are posing with a taxidermied cat is unknown and will probably always be so.
Despite the challenges of tracking animals in the historical record, we do know about some local and well-loved pets of our past.
Haney House was home to many pets over its century as a family home. We see in the picture here that dogs and cats alike found a loving home in the Haney household.
Dogs were their constant companions, including English setters “Meter” and “Tuffy,” and a beagle named “King.”
The Haney and Hawley families had many beloved cats, as well, our database being littered with Haney cat pictures. Most are of Mary Hawley-Isaac holding different cats in her arms as a child, young woman, adult, and senior, the pictures telling a beautiful story of a lifetime full of the love of pets.
The Haneys, however, were far from the only pet lovers in town.
Norm Pelkey of Ruskin was just nine years old when he started delivering groceries for his family store in Ruskin, accompanied by his two dogs and his rather small pony pulling his cart. His pony and two dogs were dear to him and, despite his young age, he was allowed to keep his small menagerie of pets if he could take care of them himself, which he happily did.
To feed them out of his own pocket, he worked making deliveries and used the money he made to feed the dogs and pony. For him, it was a labour of love, and I’m sure for many of us we recognize the devotion and commitment to our furry companions.
Shea Henry is curator at Maple Ridge Museum and Archives.