I have learned the importance of networking with people here in Smiths Falls. In a large city, you can truly just keep to yourself, which you can in some way in the countryside as well mind you. But those who claim they don’t need people can be swayed otherwise here in beautiful Smiths Falls. I’ll share with you a little story about how I learned this the HARD way in the hopes that you won’t repeat my foolishness.


There was a neighbour of mine who kept feeding outdoor cats, allowing them to enter their home and leave at will, and do their thing, meaning hundreds of kittens. No vaccines. No neutering. Just hoarding. It got to me when I saw how many of them ended up sick, or even run over crossing the street, not to mention transmitting diseases. I was guilty of being judgmental for sure. Plus, I disapproved of how the neighbour’s two huge guard dogs were being kept in solitary confinement in an outdoor kennel with almost no walks. Clearly I overlooked the background circumstances, the life traumas  of my neighbours, the struggles they faced in  their elderly age and how they had to relocate these dogs into a self made pound away from guarding the sheep they had stopped raising, thus eliminating the trained life meaning of these creatures, now being kept alive out of kindness.


I tried hiding my  former negative stinking thinking feelings about all of this but one day just tore into the neighbour and let out all my self centred  feelings about how irresponsible they were evading vaccinating and/or neutering the cats. For that little tirade, the  neighbours called the police.They made an impression on me that perhaps I had better keep my thoughts to myself. Up here, the force is a force to be taken seriously.


Then a scary event. I was walking my dogs when suddenly, out of nowhere, these guard dogs of my neighbour came at me full tilt. They had dug a hole in their compound and escaped. I was terrified beyond belief. This time I called the police. They told me to call the dog catcher and he agreed to settle the matter (which I would later learn would amount to catching these creatures and putting them down).


The story took another strange turn. One day, about a week or so after my trauma with the neighbour’s dogs, while taking a rare nap, two other neighbours started banging on my door frantically. “MISTER OVERBURY !!!. Your cow has escaped. He’s headed for the highway.” Talk about taking a heart attack . I ran outside, in my underwear, cursing every step of the way, terrified of what I might find. I had no idea how to get my cow,  James Naismith,  back into his paddock, all three thousand pounds of him at that.


I was in need of help. My cow was practically doing summersaults in the grass on the other side of the fence. What to do? Indeed.  And, as you might have guessed, that same neighbour I had butted heads with came to my rescue by securing my cow back into his fenced area and adding additional barbed wire to secure my weak fence.


Talk about how quick one can eat crow and be humbled. Why, I just slunk my head down and slowly walked over to my neighbour and expressed how much I appreciated it. I also withdrew my charges against my perceived attack by the dogs.


And the neighbour’s thought? “Stephen, you never know when things can take a turn around these parts and you just can’t consult with the Yellow Pages. Nor do you dial 911. It pays to be on good terms with your neighbours.”


When I learned by chance the other week that the neighbour was being institutionalized into a seniors home, I inquired about the colony of cats and the dogs who lived there. I really did not have the  time to do this or the real estate to house them. But given this history, I felt it was the right thing to do.


It took me about a week to home out those two Great Pyrenees guard dogs considering the realization that they were not social animals,  but today,  they were sent to their new home, a farm with cattle in need of two such specially trained dogs. I felt ashamed as I carefully witnessed  these majestic dogs walking  calmly  into a new truck without  any fuss realizing that they weren’t so vicious after all, just misunderstood.Sure, they had scared me with their menacing growl when they had dug under their fence, but were just instinctively reacting to hearing my dogs barking near their turf.


And yesterday three of the kittens in my possession were spoken for. The other rescued cats my neighbour had been feeding will hopefully be adopted out as well. The numbers are decreasing. The workload I have taken on has made me reflect on the meaning of life itself and as such, it is not a workload.


I have learned that here in Smiths Falls many of my former preconceived notions about other people were often misguided. Some people I would encounter who were on various sorts of disability government assisted social services were people I have come to admire and see in a new light, a new appreciation on the fragility of human existence. Here, in Smiths Falls I learned to be less judgemental and to appreciate the value of  human bonding rather than just bonding with animals. So you see, you CAN teach an old dog new tricks. Imagine that!


May this magical awakening also fall on you here, in the cradle of civilization, in  sunny Smiths Falls.