Marion, Bob and Ivy

Marion and Bob’s Miniature Schnauzer Ivy is one of four dogs of the same breed that they've welcomed into the family in part due to their hypoallergenic properties. The two-year old charmer makes a show of defending the cottage when guests arrive, but once you've thrown her ball a few times or squeezed her squeaky duck toy, she wags her tail, allows her ears to be scratched and you are fast friends as easily as that.

Ivy's predecessors include the much beloved Pepper who was with them and their son John for nine years. Marion sadly states, "There was no high point to our second dog Ticho, which means 'quiet' in Slovak." She was poorly bred, unhealthy and poorly socialized. We later found that the breeder was not much more than a puppy mill”. She adds, "It made us much more cautious when we chose Sheena for our third dog. We found a wonderful breeder and while Sheena was a lovely little girl she died - no fault of anyone - after contracting meningitis." The breeder insisted that they take Ivy as a gift to help make up for their loss. Ivy is smart and even tempered. As if to demonstrate her intelligence she returns to the same spot she last left her ball and looks expectantly at the place it occupied, not realizing that Marion has moved it into a drawer.

She is a good humoured and obedient dog too. Marion has a wickedly good sense of humour coupled with a practical approach to dog rearing and it seems to show in Ivy's temperament. She stays, comes and even retrieves, which isn't all that common in the terrier breeds. Marion uses an 'earn to learn' approach along with her own happy, calm demeanour and it works!


She says, "I crate-trained Ivy right away and I really recommend it to new dog owners." She suggests, "Make sure they have a little bed, some toys - especially chew toys - and work with your dog. We love Ivy but we have expectations for her behaviour." She adds, "Having a dog takes work, especially in the puppy stage. But it's worth it. A solid 'come' success is not easy!" She also says, "But don't work against instinct either. If a dog has a strong prey drive as Ivy does, do not expect her to come when a squirrel shows up!" She laughs, "It's not going to happen and you are setting yourself and your dog up for failure."

Something else she suggests to ensure future success is that when you get a dog spend time with it. "If you can, take some 'pawternity' leave to bond with and train your puppy. If that's not possible, time your dog's arrival with vacation time so you aren't just welcoming him/her and then walking out the door."

Marion thinks that having a dog is great for children. She offers, "It helps kids put something else first in their lives for one thing. And research is showing that allergies can be mitigated by having a dog in the family from a young age." Their son John, a Toronto firefighter, loves Ivy too. She adores him and is very happy and excited when he shows up for some Kawagama Lake time with the family.

Ivy and her family spend most of the winter in Toronto but once spring arrives they make a bee-line for their charming, peaceful cottage on Kawagama Lake in the Algonquin Highlands just outside the hamlet of Dorset, Ontario. Bob commutes to work in the city when his schedule demands and Marion and Ivy try to spend as much time as possible at the cottage.

The family is no stranger to the traditions of cottage life: Marion spent her summers on Lake Muskoka with her parents and family friends who were like extra sets of parents. They all summered in adjacent cottages. "We always had other kids to play with and my memories of that time are truly magical."

"Bob's family rented a cottage in Barry's Bay." Marion laughs, "We knew that we'd loved being at the family cottage in our youth so all we had to confirm was that we would enjoy being cottage owners ourselves." The young couple rented in various places for a couple of weeks each summer eventually rented for two weeks on Kawagama Lake. Marion adds, "We really fell in love with the lake so all we had to do was wait until something came available."

They've been in their cottage for about 25 years. Marion smiles, "It's a standing joke in my family as to how bad I am at math but we bought in 1993 so let's call it 25 years... close enough."

She explains, "The cottage was 35 years old when we bought it and in serious need of some TLC. It was likely part of a crown land sale originally, which had a stipulation that a habitation had to be built within 2 years the land purchase." She adds, "Lots of companies sold cottage kits in those days - even Eaton’s - so this started out as a 900 square foot kit." It took patience, work and about four years to complete renovations. The changes left them with a pretty, comfortable cottage perched on the edge of the lake. Renovating the original cottage had the added benefit of enabling them to stay much closer to the lake than would be allowed today.

The cottage is almost an hour from Huntsville so it is not a drive you make for a loaf of bread or a quart of milk. Marion comments, "I love the farmers’ market so I will often tie in a trip to town with a visit to the market and make a full day of it." Rather than dragging Ivy around all day she takes her to Happy Tails for doggie daycare. "I've been going there for 22 years! All of our dogs loved it and it's a good place for Ivy to socialize while I shop and do my errands."

Marion has some experience herself with pet care. She was a groomer for almost a decade. It began when she really didn't like what she calls, "harsh Schnauzer cut" the current groomer was doing. So “I took a course and went to work at a lovely dog day care facility in the city." It was a physically demanding job that wasn't kind to her knees but she loved it. "I took great care to be gentle and not to try to cram in too many appointments each day." She smiles in remembrance, "I knew that I was doing it right when my 4 legged clients would rush in happily to greet me and jump up on the table instead of shying away in fear." She adds, "More is not better in dog grooming."


A screened-in porch overlooking the lake is a favourite spot for the family and for Ivy. She is always on high alert in case a squirrel shows up but mostly she sits happily on Marion's lap and watches the waves lap up against the dock. A sign reading 'There's Always Time to Sit on the Porch' says it all.

Ivy loves to go for a boat ride and gets excited when she sees her life-jacket come out of storage.

Surprisingly, even though Ivy has lots of freedom to roam outdoors, she tends to stay close to home. A little bell on her collar lets Marion know if she's getting a bit too far out of range. Mostly though, she’s happy to focus on keeping an eye out for the snake that lives under the dock, to sniff at a wee toad hopping by or to run out on the dock to greet a swimming duck. It's in Ivy's nature to be courageous. As Marion says, "Terriers were bred as ratters and they had to be brave to go down a small hole!" She adds, "She is really in dog heaven out here."

Lots of terriers need discipline and while Marion does correct Ivy she calls her, "an amazingly biddable little dog." In Marion's opinion, a terrier is not a good first dog. She laughs heartily, "You have to work up to owning a terrier!"

As she gently but firmly re-directs Ivy from a small toad in the yard, Marion smiles, "I really adore this little dog." She quips, "There is a long line of people who would like to come back in another life as my dog." Smiling an impish grin she adds, "And my husband is at the head of that line!" 

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