The first time then-Boston Bruins coach Don Cherry met rugged young scrapper Stan Jonathan, he told the player’s father exactly what he thought of his boy.
“I told him he reminded me of my dog,” Cherry joked Monday.
He never forgot the look on the man’s face.
“He thought it was a put down,” said Don, laughing. “He didn’t realize it was the highest compliment I could ever hand out.”
Don loved Stan Jonathan, whose professional hockey career ran from 1975-83.
And Cherry loved his bull terrier Blue.
Some things don’t change.
“It always breaks my heart when I see people abusing dogs or wanting to have them put to death,” he said. “I would do anything for them.”
There he was Monday in Stouffville supporting the Ontario SPCA and Dog Tales Rescue and Sanctuary as they loaded 18 pit bull puppies on an air-conditioned bus which was destined to take them to a safe haven in Florida.
“I had tears in my eyes that thanks to the OSPCA and Dog Tales, these puppies — some just four months old, and some of their parents — will get a second chance at life,” he said. “These people are heroes.”
He was talking specifically about Dog Tales founder Rob Scheinberg and the whole OSPCA team, which was out there early to see the dogs off.
“It’s a beautiful thing,” said Cherry, who with his daughter, Cindy, founded the Don Cherry Pet Rescue Foundation.
It’s certainly a better scenario than what happened in October 2015 when the OSPCA found an alleged dog fighting ring operating near Chatham. Some of the dogs died, some had to be put down but there was a legal battle to save the rest.
Some of these puppies were born from the dogs that were originally rescued from Chatham.
“Pit Sisters, a behavioural and dog training program with the mission to find challenging dogs new homes, will be taking 10 of the dogs and Dogs Playing for Life will be taking four of the dogs,” said a news release from the OSPCA.
OSPCA deputy chief Jennifer Bluhm said although it took almost two years to see this result, “our staff have been actively working with them every day to continue their rehabilitation and we are so pleased that we can finally relocate them and have them start the next chapter of their lives.”
“Killing pit bulls is not the answer,” added Cherry. “It’s not these dogs fault that people would abuse them. They are good dogs if the owners treat them right. I know because I have a rescued pit bull and do does (NHL coach) John Tortorella and (NHL executive) John Davidson. I phoned those guys right away to tell them about this.”
Cherry said you can’t judge a book by its cover and sometimes a dog by its owner.
“They are loyal animals and man’s best friend,” said Cherry.
Like he told Stan Jonathan’s dad all those years ago, it’s actually a positive thing to be compared to a dog.