Infidel Dogs, written by Father Julien Paquin, s.j.
From: The Manitoulin Expositor, 14 January 1932
by Rev. J. Paquin, S.J.
NOTE: The following story written by Father Paquin, S.J., retired Jesuit Missionary, formerly stationed at Wikwemikong, who had Little Current, Killarney, French River, and Byng Inlet to look after, will be of interest to the old timers. Father Paquin and Sandy McIvor as mentioned later in the story were well known here in former years. Sandy McIvor was one of the best mail couriers who ever drove a team or sailed a boat out of Little Current. -- Ed.
In spite of the title, this story has nothing to do with Mohammedanism. But read on and you will understand.
It was the end of March when traveling over the ice on the Georgian Bay becomes perilous. It is then that the pony has to yield a place to the dog team. In the morning, after a frosty night the going is good, but once the sun has risen fairly high, the roads become soft slush and even dangerous, and both dogs and driver have a hard time of it.
I had come across a corner of the Georgian Bay from Killarney to Wikwemikong, my headquarters, by a roundabout way, covering a distance of twenty miles, and my dogs were thoroughly played out. I arrived home about noontime, and found awaiting me a sick call to French River, a lumbering village at a distance of about sixty miles as the crow flies but close to a hundred miles by dog team. Bad roads or good roads, I had to go. The vesing part of it was that I had to retrace my steps back to Killarney. I took a lunch, borrowed a team of Indian dogs and started on my trip.
But the dogs would not travel, they just crept along at a snail's pace. I wondered at first what was wrong with them. True they were very lean, as are all Indian dogs, for they are all underfed. However I soon found out that these had been overfed just before leaving by good Brother Clark, who had pity on the poor hungry beasts. But dogs don't travel on a full stomach. At last I reached Killarney, but it was already dark and there I had to stay overnight.
Sandy McIvor, a genial, good friend, the mail carrier, whom I often met on the road, was there with his pony, enroute to Collins Inlet. He offered to take me along and lend me his team of dogs for the balance of the trip, and I gladly accepted. We left in the early morning, after a stormy night followed by a biting frost. As it was good going on the ice we covered the distance in a couple of hours.
Sandy offered me a cup of hot coffee and brought out his dogs and sled. The were a fine, high span of blacks quite anxious to take the road. But with a grin on his face Sandy gave me this solemn warning - "Now Father these are Protestant dogs..." He was a Protestant himself. "Treat them well and they will serve you well. But, mind you, don't let them loose for I am sure they have no love for a priest and if they are given a chance they will leave you in the lurch". I answered with a laugh and off I went.
I had yet to cover about forty miles. Since there was no track I kept going from one island to another to give the dogs a landmark. The frost had hardened the ice and we made good time. At last I reached the River. The village was about a mile inland. But here I was puzzld, there was no track visible and I had never been there in winter. I determined to let the dogs have their way.
As soon as they saw the houses in the distance they made for them on a gallop. But as I reached the docks I heard the cracking of theice and felt it sagging under my sled, even the dogs' feet went through occasionally. I realized the danger, but had to go ahead, urging the dogs to greater speed.
Soon all the people were at their doors holding their breath and expected to see me go down at any moment. I swerved the dogs to the first landing spot and there I met my old friend, Mr. Benoit, his face white, his lips trembling. He exclaimed: A priest does not drown. I have been here twenty years, and I have never seen a man pass there, and shall never see one again." Then indeed did I begin to feel fear creeping in my flesh. In fact, there was only a fozen crust of snow over the swiftwater, and the next day it had disappeared.
But this is not the end. I went at once to the sick man for whom I had been called. He was a victim of typhoid fever, and I was told he had been unconscious the last three days. As I entered the room he seemed to revive; he opened his eyes and said to me "I am glad to see you, Father; I have been waiting for you". I heard his confession, gave him Holy Communion, anointed him, just before he died.
The next morning I prepared to return home. There was no time to lose, for the ice as fast breaking up. What was my dismay to find the dogs gone. In spite of my recommendations to the keeper not to let them loose, they had worked free and at once had made a beeline for home. Sandy's estimate of his dogs were true; they were Protestant dogs; they had no love for the priest and they left him in the lurch. However, another team of dogs took me back and when I met Sandy McIvor he had a great laugh at my expense.
Father Paquin was stationed in Killarney during the following years: