Has Ginny Macdonald gone crazy?!”

Left to right: Leo and Ringo, or “these two turds”, as one family member calls them.

That’s what many friends, and even some family, thought when Ginny Macdonald came home with not just one, but two frisky puppies.

Ginny and her husband, Grant, are in their mid to late sixties and have three adult sons – Danny, Kevin and Sean. Acquiring anything new, let alone two puppies requiring toilet and other training, was not something many couples in their age category were signing up for. 

But sign up they did, with gumption! Grant and Ginny, along with their youngest son, Sean, drove down to Penticton and returned with the purebred dogs last July, before many friends even knew they’d left.

“You got two?!” I recall her son Danny exclaiming when he heard the news at work. It would not be the last he heard of the pups, who quickly took centre stage in the Macdonald’s lives. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

Ginny is not a rash person, but she knew exactly the breed she was after; a King Charles Cavalier spaniel. This breed is sociable, playful, patient and fearless – originally bred to be ratters in European castles. With encouragement from son Kevin, she seized the opportunity when a litter became available.

She did surprise even herself however, when, upon arriving to view the litter, she and Grant decided on two pups, rather than just one. There was just something about the dogs, the well-kept Cantebury Kennels, and the kind breeders – one of which shared the same name as Ginny’s late sister – Bernice. Sometimes you just gotta trust your gut, even to the surprise of your friends and family.

It was July 9th when they started the drive home with the two blemin coloured (white with red patches) yet-unnamed puppies. Knowing the pups were headed to the ‘Klondike’, and having to submit names by a certain date, the breeders registered them as Yukon Gold and Yukon Silver.

The Macdonalds considered those titles, but ultimately decided on Leo and Ringo. Or, simply, ‘the boys’ as Ginny affectionately refers to them – not to be confused with her three sons, who all walk or visit the dogs often.

“Leo is more of a mama’s boy” said Ginny “he just wants to go outside and play. He loves to play. Ringo is more docile but he gets into everything. He’s mischievous.” Ginny laughed “ He once got into a bag of turmeric and rolled in it, turning his white patches to yellow…Such is our daily life with the pups!”

I asked Ginny about training and she explained that “these dogs are quite smart and the breed is easily motivated by food…they learn very quickly.”

Leo and Ringo were not her first foray into the breed, which Ginny had discovered quite by accident, some seven years earlier. On that fateful day, her neighbour’s purebred puppy got out, ran across the yard and jumped right into her arms! It was the first time Ginny had met a Cavalier spaniel and she instantly fell in love. In fact, she thought it was the cutest dog she’d ever seen. 

The Macdonalds promptly found a breeder and soon purchased their own Cavalier spaniel, Remy – named for Rémy Martin. “He was my best friend,” Ginny enthused. She was heartbroken when he died suddenly just a few days shy of what would have been his 7th birthday – May 7, 2019.

Observing the comings and goings of their neighbourhood

It was just two months after Remy’s death that Ginny and Grant had Leo and Ringo in hand! “I wouldn’t do it again, next time. But I’m glad we did!” Ginny reflected, some 10 months after bringing them home. “It was an emotional filling of a void I think. Who would think we could go so gaga over a dog?!”

“Leo and Ringo don’t really replace Remy but they went a long way…It was a good way to assuage the pain.” Ginny noted that “Remy was kind of my dog but Leo and Ringo are communal dogs – everyone’s been involved. They are true family dogs.” 

It is a well-researched fact that pets boost the emotional wellbeing of their owners – seniors in particular. As Ginny revealed “they are very soothing and they are a companion. You can tell them anything and they don’t judge you.”

I asked Ginny what advice she would give to other seniors considering dog ownership. “You have to get a dog you can handle” she explained, both in size and temperament. For that reason, she recommends researching breeds and considering a purebred from a reputable breeder.

She also says you need to be fair to the pet and be able to give them lots of exercise. Ginny was already an active person before getting Leo and Ringo, so bringing them on daily walks was not a stretch for her by any means.

“If I wasn’t as mobile I think I would consider an older dog. You have to assess your situation. I wouldn’t recommend to anyone, let alone a senior, to get a puppy unless you are active. They need exercise. It’s not fair to the dog to be housebound. You owe them as good of a life as you can give them. “

For Ginny and Grant, along with their sons and any visitors, it’s clear that Leo and Ringo are “an extension of the family” and have a grand life indeed! Though she’d love some grandchildren to focus her  energy on, Ginny says ‘her boys’ (of the K9 variety) “pretty much dominate the scene (at home) right now!”