Jann Arden and the Dog Whistle Blower

photo credit: Sue Sortino

photo credit: Sue Sortino

On Sunday, every Canadian news source was belching out the story of Jann Arden getting sidetracked by VIA Rail for inadvertently boarding a train in Toronto with her ever-present Morkie in tow. Midi, her darling four pound dog became a weighty issue when noticed by a policy watchdog VIA employee en route to Ottawa. After several sightings by other staff members, Arden was told by Mr. Dog Whistle Blower that commute-savvy Midi could be caged and ride the remainder of the trip in the baggage car, or, the illegal duo would have to disembark at the next station, Oshawa (commonly referred to as the ‘middle of nowhere’ by those who live somewhere. And, blog editor’s note: When you live in downtown Toronto, anything east or north of The Pie Shack on Queen East in The Beaches is outer space).

Clearly, VIA Rail has a pet peeve. If dogs were baggage, would they not come with handles already fastened on their backs for easier carrying? This is their policy (from viarail.ca):

Only cats, dogs and small rodents are allowed aboard VIA trains. They must be carried in a rigid cage large enough for them to stand in and you must provide a padlock to keep it shut. Please be aware that baggage cars are often heated, but not air-conditioned, and so your pet may be exposed to high temperatures.

The GO Train is entirely on track and encouragingly progressive with their online policy:

We allow animals on board our trains and buses when they are in enclosed, secure containers that do not inconvenience other passengers. Containers are not needed for seeing-eye, hearing-ear, or special-needs dogs required by passengers for independent travel.

A passenger with disabilities needing a companion and/or a specially trained dog for assistance may bring either or both along free of charge. If you are bringing a companion for assistance, your GO ticket seller can endorse your single-ride or day pass as a “party ticket.” It will be marked so two people can ride with one ticket or pass.

And the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC)?

Leashed pets or pets secured in an enclosed container are welcome to travel on the TTC during weekday off-peak periods – that is before 6:30 am; 10:00 am to 3:30 pm; after 7:00 pm. A Service Animal may accompany a passenger at any time.

We are living in an increasingly dog-centric world (hurray!), and the Fairmont Hotel chain knew they were barking up the right tree when they introduced their Very Important Pooch program and brought dog ambassadors on staff in 2009. The canine hotel residents are available for traveling dog-owners needing a fur and slobber fix, or for those wanting some extra security as they walk about an unfamiliar city. Check out Gracie, Mavis and their Fairmont colleagues–proud pooches who take up regal addresses in Vancouver, Tremblant, Kenya and Scotland.

If you are toting your own dog along in your travels, the Fairmont caters to your pal by providing gourmet dog treats prepped by the Executive Chef, pet-friendly walking maps of the city and a 5% donation from your room rate to local animal rescue teams. Go Fairmont!

Isn’t this how it should be? All of this pro-pet endorsement makes Sunday’s fiasco so trivial.

But ‘all of this’ is not really the point. It was the reaction and sour uproar that ensued on Twitter and Facebook by Jann Arden followers. The feed took on a vicious momentum with cross-armed Oshawa ambassadors cranky about Arden’s “middle of nowhere” tweet to all those allergic to dogs crying “shame!” to a very vocal camp who praised any dog’s company over the presence of crying, bratty children on trains. A bitter VIA rail Service Sucks coalition emerged alongside rattled VIA staff and a mysterious mass who decided this was all a narcissistic, fabricated publicity stunt for Jann Arden’s tour. Really?

Unfortunately, social media has become an easily accessed platform for destructive mouthing off and bullying. The virtual combat inertia continued when Arden wrote a genuine explanatory piece to the Ottawa Citizen titled “Trains, Planes and Automobiles” and posted it on her Jann Arden Official Facebook page. Last check? There were 262 comments, 84 shares and 464 likes. The thread read like a ping pong game between the parties jockeying for the last word.

Apparently Facebook and Twitter have become the hotbed venue for failed high school debating team dreams. Fans rallied with steely support while naysayers lashed out, demonstrating black belts in criticism. It was like a congregation of vultures, scavenging and nit-picking near skeletal remains. Etch-a-sketch minds with one-way thinking. One comment would shake them up and they’d start all over again, right back to the beginning.

Because Jann Arden said Oshawa was the ‘middle of nowhere.’

Because she accidentally took her dog on the train, unaware of VIA Rail’s ‘no pets in the passenger car’ policy.

Because she was human and upset to be left in an desolate parking lot with a looming performance in Ottawa that very night.

What has happened to us as a society? We have become such sorry suckers for celebrity fodder, our brains have become cotton candy. Remember the media storm over Shiloh Jolie-Pitt’s haircut? Is the world really concerned that her “boyish” and “deviant” haircut is going to make her a lesbian? Better yet: Angelina’s secret plan is to turn Shiloh into a boy! Say it isn’t so!

The celebrity attack is embarrassing: leaked casket photos from Whitney Houston’s funeral, Lindsay Lohan’s hit and run details, audio of Demi Moore’s 911 call, did Ashely Judd have surgery? Dennis Quaid’s divorce details, and reports that Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds can’t stop cuddling and kissing on flight to L.A.


And it continues. In yesterday’s Toronto Star there was a cheeky Ode to Oshawa by Katie Daubs: “Mayor Henry’s 10 reasons to visit Jann Arden’s ‘middle of nowhere.’”

Who knew that Oshawa had so many ambassadors? I hope they all run for city council and proudly volunteer in their community. The Twitter and Facebook feed was rampant with rabid Oshawa fans, more concerned about their tarnished city reputation than by Midi taking a joyride on the train.

Reason #8 to visit Oshawa cited the University of Ontario Institute of Technology campus (who knew we even had a University of Ontario?), which is home to the world’s largest climatic wind tunnel. How have I not seen this?

And, apparently Mayor John Henry hands out Oh Henry! Bars as business cards. If only his last name were Crunchie or Bounty. Or whiskey.

I’m disappointed in our province and the corrosive commentary of the Twitter army. And that Jann didn’t get an invite for a wind tunnel tour or an Oh Henry! Bar.

But now, because of all this, we know that caged rodents are also permitted on VIA rail in the baggage area. And that Oshawa has “Tank Saturdays” where you can see live demonstrations of the largest collection of working antique military vehicles in the country.

Anyone want to take their rodent for a train ride to Oshawa this weekend?

Categories: Polyblogs in a Jar, Things with Fur and Feathers | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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