Monthly Archives: April 2016

Taken Under His Wing

Typically, when Canadians think of penguins, we imagine the cold-weather birds waddling across snowy glaciers and sliding on the ice in their tuxedos. We don’t picture them lounging on a sunny seaside beach. But that’s what Dindim does, eight months of the year, on an island near Rio de Janeiro.

Dindim is a Magellanic penguin, a South American species. Actually, Dindim almost became an ex-penguin in 2011 when a coating of oil prevented him from eating properly. Luckily, he was discovered by Joao Pereira de Souza, a retired Brazilian bricklayer, who brought him home to his beachside shanty in Proveta and cleaned and fed him (and named him). And kind of fell hard for the feathery little fellow.

When Dindim had recovered his strength, Joao was prepared to release him back into the ocean. But Dindim refused to go, preferring to hang around for a while longer. It was almost a year later when the penguin finally left – only to come back a few months later. And every year since then, Dindim has been returning to catch up with his old pal Joao – who, as far as Dindim is concerned, is just a large, suntanned Magellanic penguin with most of his feathers inexplicably missing.

Joao tells reporters he loves Dindim like a son. He likes to feed him sardines as the bird cuddles in Joao’s lap. No other human can get close to the penguin. “I have never seen anything like this before,” a Brazilian biologist says in an Independent article. “When he sees him he wags his tail like a dog and honks with delight.”

If it weren’t for Joao’s care, Dindim surely wouldn’t have survived. I don’t speak penguin, but I think Dindim’s delighted honks roughly translate as an avian “thank you.”


I don’t think this is a Magellanic penguin, but it’s definitely an Adorable-ic penguin. (Photo by Marc Roche)

Good Will Driving

It was a Friday afternoon, I was headed downtown for an event, and I was standing at the bus stop silently cursing myself for leaving the house at 3:00 p.m. instead of 2:55.

See, in my neighbourhood, those five little minutes make a very big difference. At 2:55, you can count on a bus to stop for you. You can trust you’ll be accommodated fairly comfortably while riding said bus.

At 3:00, however, you enter the twilight zone. Instantly, you’re competing for bus real estate with hordes of students freshly dismissed from four area schools. At this point, there’s no guarantee that any of the passing buses will stop or have room for you. If a sympathetic driver does let you squeeze on, you’re resigned to standing as thinly as possible amid a crush of loudly gossiping adolescents, each one wearing a school backpack the approximate size and weight of a Toyota Corolla.

The truth is, I like teenagers. I happen to have one and I used to be one. I enjoy their enthusiasm, and I admire their energy. One can only hope that the driver who is forced to transport a busload of tightly packed teens feels the same way, instead of dreading the portion of her route that takes her past hundreds of waiting students, and resenting the part of her job that compels her to pick them up. One can only hope she sees their charm.

On this day, though, it was the driver who was charming. As the bus ride came to an end she got on the loudspeaker and made this unexpected but endearing announcement: “Okay, folks, we’re just pulling into the subway station. You’ve been a great bunch. So enjoy your day, and have great weekend.”

How did the kids respond? These are enthusiastic people, don’t forget. Naturally, they rewarded the driver with a round of applause.

Positivity all around. I love those kinds of rides.


By comparison, this bus is practically deserted.

Prejudice, Pooh

I have something to confess. I’m a poopist. Yes, I am guilty of discrimination against poops.

Doggy poops, that is. Specifically, I am prejudiced when it comes to choosing when and where I pick them up.

It goes without saying that I pick up after my own dog. But, you know, not everyone picks up after theirs. And therein lies the opportunity to do a good deed, as I’ve written in previous blog posts.

Because I’m a poopist, and also kind of squeamish, I don’t collect every neglected steamer that I see. I take a lot of walks, and trust me, I see plenty. Especially since I got my prescription glasses updated.

But I’m selective. When the dog droppings are far from my house, when they’re on the properties of people I’ve never met, when they’re not close to garbage bins (hence extending the length of time I’ll be required to hold onto the malodorous collection bag), most of the time the über-ick factor seems to outweigh any urge to do good.

But when I notice a poop pile near my house, when I personally know the neighbour who lives there (and let’s face it, we also know which neighbour is the one who’s not picking up), I don’t hesitate. I clean that nasty stuff off my friend’s front lawn faster than you can say, “Sit, Ubu, sit!”

I feel guilty for disregarding so much of life’s waste. But we all have our limits. And we probably shouldn’t be measuring our self-worth in terms of what we aren’t doing, but by what we are doing. I’m sometimes picking up neighbourhood poops. I’m sometimes doing people favours. I’m sometimes donating to charity. And sometimes I’m absorbed instead by a good book, a great glass of wine and my favourite spot on the couch.

Can you relate?


I didn’t do it…”  (Photo by Photostock/

The Real Lifesaver is Sweeter

Shanna Williams is only six years old, but even if she lives to be a hundred, I doubt she’ll ever forget what her big brother did for her last month.

Shanna and her 10-year-old brother Garrett were on their way home from school in their grandparents’ car when a Lifesaver suddenly got stuck in Shanna’s airway. Alarmingly, the little girl was choking, her lips turning blue. Grandpa pulled over, lifted Shanna out of the car and frantically began pushing on her chest, trying to get her air. But it wasn’t working.

Garrett quickly realized that chest compressions weren’t going to save his sister. The boy knows from first aid. He took a St. John Ambulance course geared to children when he was eight years old. “I thought, ‘I don’t think he’s going to be able to do it. I’ll have to go out and do it,’” Garrett told CTV News.

Miraculously, Garrett remembered what to do and held it together long enough to do it. He jumped out of the car, positioned himself behind his sister and performed the Heimlich manoeuvre – perfectly. The culprit candy flew out of Shanna’s mouth. Thankfully, the girl started breathing again.

At the school where the first-aid course was taught, an educational assistant told a reporter: “My body is just covered with goose bumps again, every time I hear the story.” The children’s mom, Carla Williams, fully endorses the St. John Ambulance program. “If something like this saves one kid’s life, it’s worth it.”

But they have a new house rule, Carla adds: no Lifesavers. Not ever again.

Unless they’re called Garrett, of course.


( Hauger)