Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Une Brigade Trottoir

Wow. I can't believe what I just read. I'm stunned. It's like I just transported over to reasonable world. The new governments in charge of the Plateau (where I live) and Ahuntsic are installing new snow-clearing plans that prioritize sidewalk clearing for pedestrians over road clearing for cars. They are going to stop snow-clearing during the weekends! It's incredible. Here's what Richard Bergeron said in response to the question "if there is a big storm on Saturday, what will the thousands of motorists who use Saint-Denis, Papineau or Park avenue do on Monday morning?"

«L'administration disait toujours, ces dernières années, que le déneigement était la priorité no 1. C'est une véritable hystérie, a dit Richard Bergeron. Cette hystérie du déneigement découle de la dépendance à l'automobile. L'esprit de notre initiative, c'est qu'on va marquer une pause par rapport à cette évolution. Est-il si urgent que ça de faire travailler des employés à taux double la fin de semaine pour que ça circule bien le lundi matin?»

"The previous administration was always saying these last years that snow-clearing was priority number one. It's a veritable hysteria," said Richard Bergeron. "This snow-clearing hysteria is a result of our dependance on the automobile. The spirit of our initiative is that we are going to make a break from this evolution [I think, I'm having trouble translating that sentence]. Is it so urgent that we have to pay workers double time in order that traffic flows well Monday morning?"

How awesome is that. A lot of the rhetoric behind is justified by trying to cut down costs. Helen Fotopolous the last borough mayor (and good riddance, she was a pro-development scumbag), incurred a $4 million debt mainly in snow-removal overtime. Budget constraints certainly help the new administration with these arguments, as there is going to be pressure against them for sure.

But the reality is that there are very few people who need to be driving in and out of the Plateau during the week. I know for a fact several people on my block who drive to and from work but live within Metro (and thus bike) range. I have absolutely no sympathy for them and I hope several snowed-over Monday mornings will convince them to think seriously about using more sustainable modes of transportation.

As for the sidewalks:
Le déneigement des trottoirs est la priorité de Richard Bergeron. «Il faut penser aux aînés. Les jambes cassées, ce n'est pas dans la rue qu'il y en a, c'est sur les trottoirs. On va donc demander une brigade trottoir pour le prochain budget de la Ville de Montréal, car pour la majorité des Montréalais, c'est l'état des trottoirs durant l'hiver qui les préoccupe, pas que la neige des rues ne soit pas chargée pendant deux jours.»

The clearing of the sidewalks is the priority for Richard Bergeron. "We must think of the elderly. People aren't breaking their legs in the roads, it's on the sidewalks. We are therefore going to ask for a sidewalk brigade for the next budget from the City of Montreal, because for the majority of Montrealers, it's the state of the sidewalks during the winter that concerns them, not the snow in the roads that may not be cleared for two days."

I can tell you right now that there is not going to be any need for a sidewalk brigade in front of our condo, but if the borough mayor needs some volunteers to help keep the rest of the sidewalk cleared and save some budget, I'm going to be in the front of that line.

Bravo Projet Montréal! This is exactly why I voted for you. I hope you can make it work.

Here is a link to the original article in the CyberPresse.

Montréal, we have a problem

They have just about finished the new U.S. wing of the Montreal airport. It looks nice and new and seems quite efficient. They even put a new restaurant in. I complained before about the absolute shit food in the airport and how they really need a restaurant that vaunts the cuisine and agriculture of the region.

So guess what is the new, fancy, "high-class" restaurant they have put in the new section? It's a ribs and bbq restaurant called Houston.

Houston? Really?

So fucking lame and typically, self-loathingly Canadian. This is the face you are presenting to American tourists coming to Montreal? A mediocre barbecue restaurant.

We don't do bbq here in Canada. It's an American tradition (and a damned good one) and we travel to places in America to get a chance to try some good BBQ. Americans who come here should be presented with quality choices of food that represent the culinary culture and terrain they are visiting. Au Pied de Cochon is probably a bit too high-end and rich for an airport, but a poutine stand would certainly be a hit and an excellent way to introduce tourists to food that is getting written about in the New Yorker. It's so typically Canadian that it takes Americans to come and write about things that we don't pay attention to because we are too busy sucking up to American culture. It's pathetic.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Emergency Animal Services in the Plateau

So I did a bit of research on the internet and calling a couple of very helpful veterinarian's offices on what services are available for wounded animals in Montreal and specifically near the Plateau.

There are two 24-hour hospitals in Montreal. The closest one is the Centre Vétérinaire DMV in LaChine, near the airport. They are roughly 13 kilometers from the Plateau, about a 20-25 minute drive assuming no traffic.

Their emergency phone number is (514) 6333-8888.

The other one is the Hôpital Vétérinaire Rive-Sud in Brossard, about 20 km away (a 30 minute drive, barring traffic).

Their phone number is (450) 656-3660.

Those are really your only options if something happens outside of normal veterinary hours.

There is also an animal ambulance service called K911 Transport. These guys come out of Verdun and charge upwards from $89 for coming out. Prices can go up depending on the type of service given. Note that many cabs may not allow you to put an injured animal in their car, so this service could be well worth the price if you are not a vehicle owner.

Their phone number is (514) 677-4357. You may have to leave a message, but they guarantee they'll call back within 5 minutes.

I'd like to thank the woman who answered the phone at the Chaton Santé Clinique Vétérinaire (an excellent cat-only vets that we use), who was very helpful in providing me with the info I needed.

I'd also like to thank Wayne at K911 Transport, who answered my emails promptly and fully. He gave some very helpful general advice for how to behave when coming upon a situation with an injured animal and its owners:

We all try to do what we can when an animal is injured, the fact that you were there and felt for the dog and its owners believe it or not is enough when you're a bystander. The owners have to grieve the process of losing their pet to mourning the loss and it's best not to approach as some people get really offensive having strangers hover over, even if it's just to say you're sorry for their loss .. they just need space. It's never easy and our job is not easy as well...


In an emergency situation its always best not to panic as your pet feels your energy thus adding to his injuries..even though it can be life threatening... easier said than done I know I been there myself.

Excellent advice all around.

I'm keeping those phone numbers in my wallet to have them handy.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A dog died on Clark street yesterday.

I watched a dog die yesterday. Very rough experience and it is still haunting me.

We were coming back from a beer with friends, when I noticed a group of people gathered on the northeastern corner of our block. I went over there and saw a medium-sized dog lying sideways on the ground, panting and clearly in great distress though with no obvious wounds. One young girl was leaning over it, stroking its head while another was on the phone. Several other people were crowding around.

It was very hard to piece together exactly what happened. The two girls were driving their car and they saw the dog get hit. It went under the car and rolled twice, dragged a ways and then got out and ran to the corner, where it collapsed. The girls followed it. There was some talk about a man in a hat who ran away. What was weird was that there was no owner. Several people were running around looking for this man in the hat. I suggested that they check the collar. Nobody knew who to call or really what to do. Is there an ambulance for dogs?

There was a number on the collar and the girl petting the dog phoned it. She was young, maybe not even 20, a Montreal anglo, probably second-generation. She had already expressed anger about the absence of the owner and was in a very emotional state. I love animals and can sympathize with the emotion pain to an animal can cause humans, but there are some people who start to lose rationality in such a situation and allow themselves to be overcome by emotion. This girl looked to be heading in that direction and my fears were confirmed when she started yelling at the person who answered the phone: "Your dog is here! Your dog is dying! Where were you! Who is taking care of your dog!" this sort of thing. I tried to gently persuade her to not make things worse and she half-swung at me with the phone, but it broke the spell and she hung up.

The owner showed up quite quickly, a young hipster anglo woman in barefeet and some kind of nightgown. She was already visibly distraught and burst into tears immediately upon seeing her dog. "Bougs! Bougs!" she cried and fell to her knees. At this time there was a lot of miscellaneous efforts going on, people trying to call the ambulance, the friend of the angry girl brought their car around to potentially take the dog to the hospital.

I had taken my cat to a cat hospital last year and I still had their card, so I sprinted home and got it. I gave it to the girl on the phone. She called the number and said "They're closed!" and hung up. I called and heard the message, which when continued gave an emergency number. We called that and someone did answer. The phone was passed to the owner, who was on her knees, sobbing, barely coherent. She got on the phone "I don't know if he's breathing!" The dog's breathing was becoming less and less visible. "I am here and my dog is dying and nobody's doing anything!" she screamed out. I think everybody was a little taken aback. There were still a lot of questions floating around, like why was the dog out and why was the owner at home in her bare feet? She had said something about "her roommate Neil" and the dog running out the stairs, but it wasn't very clear. Everybody really was trying to help, but people didn't really know what to do and there wasn't much to do anyways.

I'm not telling it all in the exact order and there were a lot of little interactions that went on, making the situation very dynamic. At some point, I realized that the dog had died. That'll be the fourth animal I've seen die (not counting cows when I worked on a ranch) and you can just tell. I was the one who told her that he was gone and I put the blanket over his head. A larger crowd had gathered and she was clearly distraught by their presence, so I asked everyone to leave, which they did. I went back up there a half-an-hour later and she was still there with a circle of friends, sitting around the body. There was a guy, probably her boyfriend, draped across the dog, hugging it. Brutal to see.

I'm guessing the dog died about 20 minutes after it was hit. I just finished getting my basic first aid certificate (for humans) but I really know very little about these sorts of things. My suspicion is that the dog had serious internal injuries and probably was done for from the beginning. I wonder if there is something about having fur and skin that makes them less susceptible to external injuries, thus him looking so intact and unwounded after being rolled under a fast-moving vehicle several times? But I do wonder if an ambulance had come if his life would have been saved. It's weird to me how bad the services are for animal emergencies in our area. The few times I've had a really sick animal always seem to happen on the weekend when every veterinarian is closed. Should there not be a 24-hour animal hospital in or around the Plateau? The only one I know of is way the hell out by the airport.

I am going to give myself the mission of finding out the closest animal hospitals that are open during off-hours in case a similar situation arrives. Perhaps getting the dog into a car (which the two girls who were comforting him had offered) and rushing it to the hospital may have saved his life. There is, also, the factor of cost and reviving the dog may have easily run into thousands of dollars.

The episode left me quite upset and put a bit of a damper on the rest of the evening, which was supposed to have been homemade leek and potato soup and then a trip to see Red Heroine at Ex-Centris. I had no appetite, but the movie was entertaining and interesting, though it was hard not to reflect on what had just happened.

I had a few vague thoughts while processing this whole thing.

First, love and responsibility are two different things. I think sometimes we assume that the former comes automatically with the latter. Love comes easily and is its own perpetual motion machine. Responsibility requires constand work and input.

I think people should be more exposed to death at a young age. Exposure to it can cause such powerful reactions, especially if the first time you see it, it's someone you dearly love. I think for this poor young woman it was unfathomable what was happening. She kept screaming "Nobody's doing anything!" in a very accusatory way. You got the sense that she was very used to things happening in a way that she expected and that there have always been people around her who were "doing something". I would bet a fair amount of money she wasn't brought up on a farm.

Animals always seem to die with such grace. That poor dog, I can only imagine how much pain it was going through, but when it went, it's breath just sort of faded out. When you see that, it makes you feel that life is just so ephemeral, like a silent whisper that just slipped out of the dog's mouth and was gone forever. The dog looked dignified in death.

I just went over the anti-H1N1 policies in our office with the staff and a lot of people brought up the incredible amount of hype this flu is receiving. Someone pointed out how many more people die because of cars and someone else said, "if they put this much effort into dealing with the problems cars caused, I'd welcome it." Amen to that.

Rest in peace, Bougs.