The Greens and their beloved Violet
Sharon and Gary Green and their beloved ten-year-old Schnoodle Violet live in a pretty, picturesque 500 acre development tucked away just outside of Huntsville near Deerhurst Resort. The charming neighbourhood is made up of beautifully landscaped homes on estate sized lots. A tranquil 145 acre nature sanctuary has a myriad of trails perfect for walking the family dog and exploring the scenic views of wetlands, streams and lush forests. They built the house in 2011 and lived on their boat during construction and as of last December the lovely two-storey pond-side Muskoka cottage has become their primary residence.
It is a far cry from the Orlando, Florida area where the couple made their home for two plus decades. It may even be their forever home. Sharon smiles when she says that they are here to stay, adding, “Our friends tend to laugh at us when we suggest that we might stay put somewhere!” It's hardly any wonder since the couple has had 19 or so homes over the years.” She laughingly recalls, "When I was pregnant with our first child, we lived in three different cities and had three doctors over the nine months!" Both girls were born in Washington D.C. and are dual citizens. Today Missy and Jenn are married moms and working women with kids - and dogs - of their own.
The couple, who are both from the Tillsonburg area originally, became introduced to Muskoka early in life. Gary and his parents camped at Arrowhead Park as a child. Sharon recalls, “They even brought me along once when Gary and I were dating in high school. I remember shopping in the store that is now Source for Sports on Main Street.” She recollects, “After we were married we loved coming here, especially in the fall. Gary has always said that the air is special up here, as are many things.”
While Sharon says that winter isn't her favourite season, Violet, who spent all of her life in Florida, just loves it. “She loves to romp and roll around in the snow wearing a jacket and booties,” says Sharon. “We were so surprised at her enthusiasm.” While Violet was raised in south Florida, she was born in Ontario where the Greens got her as a pup; maybe a love of winter is in her genes. "A big benefit of having a dog" smiles Sharon, "is that she motivates me to walk every day. I don't get to avoid going outdoors because the weather isn't perfect!"
Violet welcomes guests with barking but seconds after introductions are made, it becomes obvious that she is a charmer. She is mostly a pretty 'chill' dog but she can be very protective of Sharon, especially when she is walking on a leash and another dog happens by. She has made lots friends at the dog resort she visits when Sharon and Gary travel and she trots in happily when it's time to drop her off.
Running around outdoors isn't an option at home. Being a city dog for most of her life and then being able to run free when she's at Happy Tails Pet Resort she would “know no boundaries” according to Sharon. She laughs, “I'm pretty sure that off leash she would charge after a deer if she saw one so while we walk a lot, it's always on a lead.”
Violet really is Sharon's dog as she proves by cuddling up with her head nestled against Sharon's neck as they perch on a chair together. “She is my little princess” Sharon acknowledges. “We almost lost her to an attack of pancreatitis last year, so now she is on a very strict diet.” She adds, “Even her treats are just a nugget of her special dogfood. She used to love a piece of carrot or a slice of apple but we continue to be really careful with her and those treats are gone forever.”
Like any proud parent, Sharon is quite sure that Violet is a smart dog and Gary concurs: “We have to spell any number of things because she knows the word for it and gets excited.” As an example, Sharon spells out D-E-E-R and explains that if she says deer, Violet will run barking to the window in high excitement. Just a few minutes later, a spotted fawn crosses the road very near the house but Violet doesn't see it and silence reigns at the window.
The house is a lovely two-story clad in a soft green board and batten with naturalized front and back yards. A multitude of living room windows looks over a large pond big enough to paddle around in a pedal boat or kayak. A pretty Muskoka room with striped ticking pillows on white wicker chairs offers a perfect spot for Violet to perch and watch for deer. A doorway off the sun room leads to a deck where stairs lead down to a flagstone patio, a dock and a fire pit circled with Muskoka chairs.
Sharon worked in real estate in south Florida for 15 years while Gary had a varied and highly successful career as a hockey coach, hockey broadcaster and businessman. He was the head coach and general manager of the Ontario Hockey League's Peterborough Petes, and coach of the Hersey Bears, where he won an OHA Coach of the Year Award. At just 26 years of age Green became the youngest head coach in NHL history when he was hired by the Washington Capitals. After coaching, he landed a job with the USA Network as an analyst on their NHL telecasts. From there he joined TSN where he remained until 2004.
One of Green’s greatest tangible achievements was helping to launch the Florida Panthers franchise. One newspaper interview quoted Green who said he knew that he needed about $70 million to start the team “and I was $69.99 million short.” He approached Miami Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga, who agreed with him and put up much of the money to begin the Panthers franchise. Even with a successful business life out of the NHL, this self-described “broadcasting businessman” didn't remove his coaching hat completely. National pride was the driver in getting him behind the bench again and beginning in 2002, he was the part-time coach of the Canadian national team for two years, helping lead them to a Spengler Cup championship.
Today, Gary is a senior director at Toronto-based Brisbin Brook Beynon Architects where he ensures a better understand of the wants and needs of players, coaches, broadcasters and the like when it comes to building functionality.
Gary's career is reflected in the vast array of memorabilia that lines the walls of the downstairs office, his beautifully appointed man cave/wine cellar and the family room. It is a veritable Who's Who of the sports, broadcasting and even the political world as a photo of he and Sharon with Ronald and Nancy Reagan attests. He stops at one Wayne Gretzky poster and recounts, "Our oldest was always a bit cheeky. She kept asking Wayne for signed photos of him that they could give to their friends and he was very accommodating. One day she decided to sign a photo of her and her sister and she sent it to him!" The result is another Wayne Gretzky poster with a signed note to the girls thanking them for their picture.
When the Greens travel, they take Violet to Happy Tails Pet Resort, which she regards as a second home. Sharon says, "We feel so happy to have discovered Happy Tails. We've never looked back." She continues, "The first time we used it we were staying at the only place in town that allowed dogs. But we needed some time out at the construction site and it wasn't safe for Violet so we took her out to the resort. When we picked her up she was so damp and dirty and such a 'good' tired. We had to run out to the Dollar Store to buy towels to give her not one but two baths. I wasn't going to ruin the motel's linens!" Lisa always laughs and teasingly pleads with her, "Don't tell that story! Sharon says, "I love that story because looking into Violet's little face you could see that she was, like, "Oh, I had SO much fun!"
Travel these days is mostly down to Tillsonburg to visit Gary's parents, their extended family and daughter Missy and her husband and children. Or they venture to Kansas City to see Jenn and their newest seven- month-old granddaughter.
Sharon explains, "We travelled so much during the height of Gary's career that we feel kind of done with it. We've seen the world and now we are pretty content to stay closer to home." She laughs, "The only thing that might get me to move again would be the ability to be closer to the grandchildren." She muses, "We love it here and we might just stay put." Then she laughs, "But as Gary has always said, 'Never say never about anything!"