This is a footnote to The Kingsway Animal Hospital history, recounted by a former employee…
Yesterday, in a conversation with a friend, I recounted my time at the Vet Hospital on the Kingsway and the incredible events of 1954 as a result of Hurricane Hazel. I was in high school at the time and worked for several years in your facility. And so, I thought you might appreciate learning what happened in your building over 60 years ago!
In the summer of 1953, I began work with Dr. Ken Campbell & Staff in his practice in your present day facility. “The Kingsway” was one of the larger DVM practices in Toronto. Then kennels and interior/exterior runs extended downstairs where we housed significant numbers of animals, including “Gunner”, Ken’s well-known Canadian Black Lab sire. Ken was an active sportsman; Gunner’s services were sought after by many hunters from all over Ontario and parts of Canada. There are many stories to be told of the Hospital, its clients (some famous) and the incredible good that was achieved for many best friends; however, one event truly stands out in my memory.
It was the fall of 1954 and torrential rains hit Ontario in what would turn out to be the storm of the Century. Due to the impending storm, I was called in a day early for my weekend duty. Little did we know what lay ahead. Our experience with snow and ice storms would be of no use, given that Hurricane Hazel was upon us in full force. In the midst of the horrific floods that followed, indeed, there were miracle moments. After devastating Woodbridge and Dufferin to the north, Hurricane Hazel hit Etobicoke. In the early am hours on Saturday, the Humber rose rapidly over its banks and without warning, began flowing through the hospital basement inundating kennels and runs. Ken dawned his scuba gear, and we team-worked and managed to save 22 dogs. Sadly, as I recall, 14 animals were lost including Gunner whose permanent kennel and outdoor run were at the end of the basement. Gunner was just not reachable in the rising flood waters raging through the basement. Sensing, that the flood waters were about to rise above the main floor, Ken ordered all animals to be taken upstairs to his private living quarters that housed him, his wife Marg and their two Cocker spaniels “Inky” and “Fudge”. And, so multiple animals cats, dogs and even a de-scented skunk became penthouse residents. Much to everyone’s surprise and deep appreciation, it was as though the animals individually and collectively sensed the danger and fully comprehended their roles. They divided and redivided themselves into groups and went to corners, sofas and chairs and lay quietly the entire time. For days…not one growl, squabble or snap. We spread papers over horizontal surfaces; however, the accidents were minimal. Getting sufficient food for these involuntary guests was a challenge, since the bulk of our basement storage and freezers were under water. But we managed. And throughout it all..Inky and Fudge went from group to group sniffing each resident and acting like hosts, seemingly welcoming and calming their guests. Normally, no “downstairs foreigner” would be granted entry into their “upstairs private domain”. And now the most incredible miracle of all…on the third day, dawn broke and we saw sun for the first time in days. The radio morning news was reporting extensive damage and the loss of human lives in Woodbridge (including our family friends) Long Branch, and all those close-by on Raymore Drive. We were standing on the roof in the rear surveying the damage, when we first heard it. A dog barking, and barking loudly from the far banks of the receding river. He was excitedly running back and forth on top of piles of debris attempting to get our attention. The Humber banks were such a jumble of buildings ruins, uprooted and broken trees and mud, it was difficult to see him at first. Finally, we all yelled “there he is! Hey! it’s Gunner…Ken..Ken its Gunner”.
Under the most challenging of surgeries, Ken maintained the demeanor of a hardened, combat-ready marine Captain on a mission with his team…fully focused, always alert. And now standing before me was this man…shoulders drooping, exhausted, but relieved and sobbing, huge tears of joys dripping off his mustache. Gunner spotted Ken, and much to our amazement and horror, Gunner jumped into the still rapid waters and thankfully, with extraordinary effort swam to safety on our side. Weeks later, the crews cleaned the last of tons of mud from the basement quarters and we were able to see the remains of Gunner’s inside kennel as well as the exterior run. The manual, cable-operated sliding kennel door connecting kennel to exterior run had been shattered. The teeth-marked frame was ripped from its mounts. And, outside in the run, the wire clips affixed between the hurricane fence side and roof panels had been torn off and a two foot or so section of the wire torn and tweaked backwards, allowing that full grown Lab to extricate himself from “prison” and a watery grave. We stood and looked in amazement at what must have been the waging of an an incredible fight for life, much of it likely underwater. This intelligent, immensely strong, and beautiful four-footed furry friend had fought for his life and won! Seemingly unaffected by the trials of the storm, Gunner remained active for years.
I hope this token of history gives everyone additional insight and appreciation for the events that took place upstairs and downstairs in your building decades ago…’