Archive for April, 2012

April 22, 2012

Animal care and the Calgary Stampede Ranch


Dr. Greg Evans takes care of champion Grated Coconut and other animals on the Calgary Stampede Ranch. (Julia Pelish photo)

[First published on]

HANNA, ALBERTA — Dr. Greg Evans pats Grated Coconut on the neck and nods. “This is the Wayne Gretzky of rodeo,” says the veterinarian who works at the Calgary Stampede Ranch, a 22,000-acre property that sprawls across the golden fields of southern Alberta and is home to 500 of the finest horses on the continent. Evans is in charge of taking care of Grated Coconut, a six-time world champion bucking stallion, and the other animals on the ranch, which sends the bulls, bucking broncos, chuckwagon-race thoroughbreds and other animals to the rodeo each year.

As Evans pets Grated Coconut, he marvels at the horse’s disposition. “You can’t go up to most bucking horses like this, especially ones that compete at the level that Grated Coconut did. But this one is special.”

Grated Coconut was retired in 2010 at a special ceremony. At 15, he will spend the rest of his life roaming the pasture near Drumheller in Alberta’s Badlands, breeding with several mares on the ranch and being spoiled with some of the best animal healthcare around. It’s star treatment that is well deserved for the thrills the horse brought to rodeo fans.

“I’m not exaggerating when I say the animals here get better care than many people’s children,” says Evans.

Whether it’s top-of-the-line medicine or even therapeutic massages, the horses and bulls receive it if the vets think they need it. Some even find a home away from the ranch. Champion bull rider Scott Schiffner now keeps two of the animals that he once rode to big paydays on his property. They’re so docile in retirement, he says, that his four-year-old daughter feeds them.

Despite such examples of adoration, the Stampede attracts heavy scrutiny each year from animal-rights groups. Last year, two horses died despite rules changes implemented to reduce risk of catastrophic injuries. In 2010, six horses were put down and more than 50 have perished since 1986, mostly in the chuckwagon races, which feature teams of horses leading conestoga-style wagons around the track at Stampede Park in a mayhem of hoofs, reins, and “yahs.” Tie-down roping, also known as calf roping, has fallen under even greater criticism because of what opponents say is the torment imposed on the animals.

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April 6, 2012

Excerpt from my new novel “Triumph the Lion” on CJSF Radio

In Chapter 2 of my new novel “Triumph the Lion,” the protagonist meets the story’s love interest, a photographer named Maria who has come to South Africa to document a lion with a peculiar trait. Blu, the Toronto-raised safari ranger, is immediately fascinated by Maria because of her beauty as well as the un-Canadian way she introduces herself.
I had the chance to read an excerpt from the book on KP Wee’s show “Smitten with the Written” on CJSF Radio (90.1 FM) in Vancouver last week. Prior to continuing with “Triumph the Lion,” KP and I talked about character development in fiction, and some techniques writers can incorporate to make sure they develop well-rounded protagonists, villains and supporting characters. Among the topics discussed are the use of inventive dialogue, the importance of conflict in storytelling and the necessity to employ action to reveal the truth about the characters you create.

Listen now to Excerpts 5 and 6 from “Triumph the Lion”:

Click here for Excerpt 5, which is after a 10-minute interview about character development in fiction.
Click here for Excerpt 6, which is more from Chapter 2 of the novel.

Click on the links below to hear Excerpts 3 and 4.

Click here for Excerpt 3, continuation of Chapter 2 (following interview)
Click here for Excerpt 4, also a continuation of Chapter 2

Chapter 1 and the first half of Chapter 2 are available here:

Click here for Part 1, Chapter 1 (following interview).
Click here for Part 2, start of Chapter 2.