Cindy, a brilliant border collie, came to us from my wife’s family farm.
Displaced by changing circumstance, her herding instincts, drive to please, boundless energy and loving personality made her a perfect companion.
But of course the day arrived much too soon when she had to leave us. Her passing opened a hole in my heart that has never been filled. A hole so wide and deep that I’m afraid to try filling with another dog for fear of having it open even wider.
My most recent documentary film project “Dog’s Best Friend” is an unabashed attempt to live vicariously through others who have given their hearts to a dog. Those who welcome the responsibility of caring for the animal companion whose life has been intertwined with ours for millennia.
Feeding, grooming, walking, training, snuggling and yes, picking up pooh all exchanged for pure fun, unconditional love, conversation, inspiration and a warm body to hold,.
In this 5-part series viewers explore life-changing stories of five families through the eyes of their dogs. They meet an aging Great Dane, an athletic German Shorthaired Pointer, a wire-haired rescue dog, two French Bulldogs and a Bullmastiff as they navigate their changing family lives. These dogs have formed extraordinary bonds with their human companions.
The series produced for Bell Media, launched on its Fibe TV1 community channel for Bell subscribers in November 2020.
A public premiere is scheduled for January 2021 – details to come. In the meantime, checkout these episode summaries.
If you’ve ever loved a dog you will love “Dog’s Best Friend”:
Episode 1 – Teagan
Great Dane Teagan comforted her family, Carolyn and Kevin, as they struggled to start a family. After 6 years with no success, a newborn suddenly arrives in their lives and changes everything. Watch as Hunter becomes the centre of family life, and Teagan enters her senior years.
Episode 2 – Ramsey
Ramsey, an athletic 3-year-old German Shorthaired Pointer, likes nothing better than diving, swimming, pulling or agility training. Fortunately his humans, Lindsy and Michael, are happy to run, swim and train right along side him. Ramsey fulfils Lindsy’s childhood dream of becoming an animal trainer, while offering Michael unquestioning companionship.
Episode 3 – Weechee
Weechee, a wiry-haired rescue dog, works alongside Josh in his psychotherapy practice, but Weechee’s most important work is at home where he’s best friend to Josh Jr. and Mike – adopted sons of Josh and husband Nick. Both boys are on the autism spectrum. Weechee supports them as they establish a new life.
Episode 4 – Roxy(and Maple)
Just a few weeks after French Bulldog Roxy arrived in her new home, 11-year-old Abby was diagnosed with a life-threatening form of leukaemia. Through months of treatment and recovery, Roxy shares her love and companionship with the whole family. With Abby in a promising remission, Roxy is joined by another Frenchie, Maple. Together, they bring new hope and joy.
Episode 5 – Buttercup
Bullmastiff Buttercup first arrived at Country Meadows at 8-weeks-old in the arms of retirement home manager Sal. Since then she has bonded with residents, bringing a sense of home and spreading her doggie joy as she makes her rounds of residents’ rooms and common areas.
Pandemic, COVID 19, novel corona virus, respirators, PPE, lockdown, self-isolation, hand washing protocol … everyday words now in spring 2020.
These days I reach out and grab hold of any moment of intimacy – no matter how small – because this pandemic has not changed the fact that our lives on earth are fully intertwined.
Staying at home rubs agains the grain. We want to bust out – spend time with friends on the patio; make a special dinner for our kids; get in the car and drive 10 hours to sleep in the guest room; hug our special people.
When my wife suggested I make a video about the daily pot-banging ritual on our street, I thought it would be a balm for my mind rubbed raw by the day-to-day, but it became much more. Each evening as I made my way to the front yard of a neighbour’s house to safely set up my gear, a new perspective was revealed. Each household drew from their life experiences to infuse the daily ritual with their unique meaning, the meaning passed from person to person and then united in the clanging. I felt a closeness to humanity I hadn’t experienced in weeks.
So, when we raise an arm to bang a pot with a wooden spoon, wave to an neighbour or blow kisses to the camera with our 3-year-old we tug on the threads connecting us – one to the other.
We are not only honouring the frontline and essential workers who risk there lives daily to keep us safe and care for the sick, but we are also remembering the importance of caring for each other.
If you like this video I urge you to seek out opportunities in your own community to connect safely and care for others. The story of our lives unfolds moment by moment. Each choice we make echoes around the world.
My mother loved animals and she loved looking after them.
When I was growing up we had cats, turtles, dogs and backyard-chickens. After my sibs and I left home, weekend visits included a tour of her menagerie: canaries, budgies, rabbits, and fish, but it was her dog that always gave her the most joy and companionship.
One of the hardest moments for her was when she had to give up her beloved Katie, a loving, well-mannered miniature poodle she had trained from puppyhood. A stroke and other health problem made it impossible for mom to care for Katie.
But my mom was lucky. Her brother willingly took Katie into his home where she was well cared for, but this came with a price. Her brother lived hours away and mom rarely got to see her longtime companion and I now believe suffered because of it.
While researching my most recent documentary project – “Dog’s Best Friend”, a 5-part series for BellMedia’s FIBE TV1 community channel – it became clear that pet ownership improves your physical and mental health. 41% of Canadian household include at least one dog; 37% include at least one cat.
Research shows living with a dog (or cat) lowers your stress, reduces your risk of depression and increases your physical and social activity.
I also came across Elder Dog Canada an organization that’s all about helping older people – like my mom and older dogs like Katie – maintain their relationship as long as possible..
Elder Dog Canada was founded by Dr. Adra Cole. Its values and programming draw heavily on Dr. Cole’s work with research partner Dr. Maura McIntyre.
Excerpts from its website explain:
“Our mission at ElderDog is to honour and preserve the human-animal bond through care, companionship, commemoration, and education.”
“Their research projects – including: Living and Dying with Dignity; Putting Care on the Map: Portraits of Care and Caregiving across Canada; and The Care Café: Understanding Caregiving and Alzheimer Disease across Canada – formed, in part, a foundation for Ardra’s thinking about the crucial importance of honouring the animal-human bond in the lives of aging people.”
I also discovered there are chapters – or “pawds” as the organization calls them – across the country; all run by volunteers. And the pawds closest to me in Kitchener-Waterloo, Guelph, Milton were holding a fall fashion show and fundraiser complete with doggie models at the Aberfoyle Community Centre.
I’m not one for dressing up dogs unless it’s for protection from the weather, but a whole event devoted to fashions for dogs, with the funds raised going to Elder Dog … how could I resist.
I packed up my gear and headed to Aberfoyle, a 30 minute drive from my house. The video above is what resulted. Please enjoy and consider supporting Elder Dog Canada.
I fidgeted through the whole talk, turning the message over and over in my mind. Dave was asking me to give him an “architour” of the homes on Manchester Road, Kitchener that were featured in my recently released documentary film “Finding John Lingwood” about one of Waterloo Region’s leading modernist architects.
“I’m a total MCM (mid-century modern) nut”, wrote Dave. So, being an MCM nut too, we arranged to spend a day touring John Lingwood sites and talking about Waterloo Region’s rich stock of modernist buildings.
Here’s Dave’s column:
The first time I found architect John E. Lingwood, I wasn’t looking for him.
It was a photograph of a striking church in Images of Progress 1946-1996: Modern Architecture in Waterloo Region, a small publication put out in 1996 by the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery. Sadly, I turned the page and moved on.
For filmmaker Dwight Storring, finding the Modernist was a slow burn. Landing a job at The Kitchener-Waterloo Record in 1980, the Bancroft-born photojournalist unwittingly stepped into one of Mr. Lingwood’s major works, the Record’s 1973 building – a commanding brick bunker with stepped piers and thin windows – designed for owner John E. Motz. Thirty-five years later, Mr. Storring would begin research into the life and diverse career of John Edwin Lingwood (1923-96) and, by the end of 2018, release Finding John Lingwood, a 55-minute documentary that takes viewers on a similarly textured and meandering journey.
Mr. Storring is clearly a romantic. In the film’s voiceover, he states: “I’d come from small-town newspapers where broom closets doubled as darkrooms and journalists sat shoulder-to-shoulder with advertising sales staff. Over the next 25 years, I would come to know every square foot of that building: the echo of the stair-wells; the clunk of the freight elevator; the communal clatter of keyboards; and the rumble of the presses.”
The Fairway Road building has since been demolished, but Mr. Storring pays tribute via interviews with former president Paul Motz, who explains that the building’s materials, millwork and furniture were all locally sourced. “You had everything in town, there was simply no need to go out…even our boilers were made in Galt,” he says. Former publisher Wayne MacDonald calls the building “iconic.” Slow camera pans of period photographs accompanied by a sweeping, electronic soundtrack by Nick Storring certainly reinforce that status (and the fact that almost 15 minutes have gone by), so that, when the camera lands on the grassy field where the building once stood, the loss is palpable.
I’m sitting in Mr. Storring’s car looking at this same field, but it’s covered under a thick blanket of February snow. “Such a wonderful place to work,” he says, quietly, and then explains that the other building on this site, the Fairway Press building (which came first in 1967), also by Mr. Lingwood, was disassembled and moved to 101 Randall Dr. in Waterloo.
But I’m not here to discuss what’s gone; in operation for 36 years, the Lingwood office completed more than 700 projects, most in Waterloo Region, and, like in the film’s remaining 40 minutes, I’ve come to see what’s left.
John Lingwood grew up in Guelph. After attending Second World War flight training in Winnipeg (and just missing out on active duty), he attended the University of Manitoba to study architecture. In 1955, Mr. Lingwood, then 32, moved his family (three children then; one more would come later) from Detroit, where he’d been working as a draughtsman, to Kitchener to start his own practice. With the city baby-booming as much as the rest of Southern Ontario, the handsome architect found work easily, especially in the form of schools, churches and government buildings.
“He was operating in kind of a golden time,” Mr. Storring confirms as he points out the car window to a trim little building at the corner of Weber Street West and Ontario Street North that was built, originally, for a dentist. “He was a glamourous character and his wife was beautiful, and they entertained like crazy.”
In fact, his charm worked early: Two years after his arrival, he’d hook up with home builder Harold Freure, who’d been busying himself with tracts of standard postwar bungalows, to do something different on a 20-home patch of land on Manchester Road at River Road East. “They were ahead of their time; they weren’t easy to sell but we did sell them,” Mr. Freure explains in the film. “They were different on the exterior, different windows … they had the long, narrow brick, which John liked, we brought in a lot of that brick from the States … but he was always looking for different materials.
Passing through an unusual Frank-Lloyd-Wright-in-Japan style of gate, my hand reaches to trace the long bricks of the Manchester Road home Mr. Lingwood designed for himself at No. 414. While the Lingwood family no longer owns the place, current owners Jan and Basia Mytnik are rare birds in that they relish the original details, including Mr. Lingwood’s odd light panel sculpture just inside the front door, and the dark brown ceramic tile with “hieroglyphics” in the home’s great room (added 10 years later).
“She never wanted a new house,” Kamil Mytnik says of his mother. He explains that, before they bought the Lingwood home in 2001, they’d lived in a custom home where she’d been able to choose everything. “But new houses, they don’t have a soul, a character, so when she saw this place…”
As we’re leaving, the Mytniks say they’d like to build a carport someday, but only if it “looks like it has always been there.”
(In the film, the Mytniks are able to show Mr. Lingwood’s youngest daughter, Lisa Overton, her childhood home and tell her how much they cherish it.)
Earlier that day, Mr. Storring and I visited what former University of Waterloo architecture dean Eric Haldenby calls “one of the most extraordinary pieces of Modern architecture … in the country,” Carmel New Church (and school), which opened in 1962. While it’s the same church I saw years ago in that little publication, gazing upon the origami-like roof with my own eyes takes my breath away.
As assistant pastor Nathan Cole showed us around, I thought about how, as Mr. Lingwood articulated his own ideas about architecture and nature, he was also fulfilling the Swedenborgian church’s mandate as to the geometries and materials he was allowed to employ. The result, however, was a stunning success that’s been largely preserved; fittingly, Mr. Storring gives the subject almost 10 minutes of screen-time.
We wrap our tour with a drive-by of a Brutalist, former courthouse at 200 Frederick St., and a “polarizing” Postmodern 1991 bank at 381 King St. W. This variety of architectural styles, Mr. Storring says, made the Lingwood office interesting. To underline this, the film closes on John Lingwood’s final project, a massive, sprawling, columned Texas mansion for his daughter, Wendy Gray.
Cue the credits … and consider John Lingwood found.
Upcoming screenings of Finding John Lingwood: The Original Princess Cinema, 6 Princess St. W., Waterloo, March 17 @ 3:30 p.m. and March 19 @ 7:00 p.m. It will also be part of the Architecture + Design Film Festival Winnipeg this May.
It’s perched on the very edge of the city, at 2219 Ottawa St., S. Kitchener at the intersection with Trussler Road. Based on information found in the Lingwood office project list it was commissioned by successful industrialist and owner of Morval-Durafoam Ltd., Keith Shantz in 1967.
Mr. Shantz married Winifred McLaren (nee Fitch) in 1973 – a second marriage for both. They were renowned for their support of the arts as founding supporters of Waterloo’s Clay and Glass Gallery, establishment of the Winifred Shantz Award for Ceramics,
the Keith and Winifred Shantz International Research Scholarship and other important contributions.
The home showcases some of John Lingwood’s favourite materials – field stone and wood. Also in the work, we see his commitment to complementing the terrain. This respect for the physical attributes of the building lot also shows up in the twenty Manchester Road houses that will be featured in the film (due out later this year). All the homes in this group have terraced lots. The houses are carved into the hillside with tall front windows that look out on a wooded conservation area.
Terrain also figures deeply in the Lingwood family cottage on Burnt Island in Georgian Bay – in the selection of the building site and the positioning of the cottage deep in the forest, where chunks of the Canadian Shield actually poke into the interior of the building. In the film, we make a return visit to the cottage with one of John’s daughters, after a 20 year absence.
In the Shantz house we see the influence of the great American modernist architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. The modest entrance is tucked into the back west corner of the house where you anticipate entering the expansive interior, speaks directly to Wright’s thoughts on compression and expansion.
The Wrightian influence is also present in Lingwood’s 1960 commission – the Carmel New Church on Chapel Hill Dr., Kitchener – another site featured in the film. However, he bring’s his own vision of materials and meaning to this design resulting in a building that show’s John Lingwood at the pinnacle of his architectural mastery and positions Wright’s ideas as sub-text.
The Shantz house and surrounding property were purchased by Stephen Moxey in 2012 after Winifred’s death the same year. Mr. Moxey applied for, and got, a permit from the Region of Waterloo to clear the trees from the lot in 2016. Links to news stories from the Waterloo Region Record below show how the work progressed.
The house now sits on the cleared lot – a little forlorn and worse for wear.
I stopped by recently to let the owner know about “Finding John Lingwood“. I left my contact information with the hope someone would contact me and let me know what plans there are for the house.
Of course demolition is a potential fate for this 50-year-old piece of Waterloo Region’s modernist architecture. It’s not possible to preserve every building from the mid-century nor does every building warrant preservation. However, this house appears to be a significant building in John Lingwood’s body of work and is also deeply connected to the business and cultural life of the community through its former owners.
Anyone who – in their adolescent years – wanted to paint their bedroom walls black knows that putting your mark on a space makes it your own.
Former president of the Kitchener-Waterloo Record, Paul Motz, had much more to play with when in 1970 his father assigned him to managing the interior details of the new Record building at 225 Fairway Road South.
One of his jobs was selecting the carpet for the space – not measured square yards, but measured in acres.
Although this clip didn’t make it into “Finding John Lingwood”, Paul’s detailed account of the processalways fascinates me. Watch it below.