First Annual Report of MacDuff Austin-Chester, Vice Regal Canine Consort

Dear readers,

It has been a very enjoyable year since I assumed the role of Vice Regal Canine Consort last April. Thank you all for welcoming me so warmly to Government House, for encouraging me in my new position and for following along with my adventures on Instagram.  It has been wonderful!

I am kept very busy with regular patrols of the grounds at Government House, and with my ceremonial responsibilities of welcoming visitors and entertaining guests. My paw has been shaken by many diplomats and dignitaries. Here I am, for example, with the Consul General of Vietnam, Mr. Pham Manh Hai. Her Honour says I am very good with people!

Some highlights of my time in the role include: participation in Victoria’s Pride Parade, the Vancouver Chinatown Parade, meeting the members of the Government House Foundation, visiting Salt Spring Island Seniors Housing and touring the Pender Islands Museum.

I especially enjoyed visiting the schools on Salt Spring and Pender Islands.  With the assistance of Her Honour, I exchanged correspondence with the students from Pender Islands Elementary Secondary School. Her Honour says I have quite a knack for communicating with students. They are always keen to learn the best dog massage techniques and I am happy to teach them!

I enjoyed making new friends at many of the public events we hosted at Government House, such as the New Year’s Day Levee, holiday choral singing, tree decorating, and dancing at the Music on the Lawn free summer concert series.

Halloween was especially fun for me.  I attended as a magical familiar to a couple of wizards. The House was very mysterious with skeletons in coffins, ravens, owls and bats, a blazing fire and lots of treats for all the little goblins, witches and wizards who came by. Spooky!

I also attended many award presentations and personally congratulated the recipients. These included the Provincial Long Service Awards, Police and Fire Service Honours, the Premier’s Awards for Education, the BC Community Achievement Awards, the Order of BC and many others. I am usually piped into these ceremonies, along with Their Honours and other dignitaries such as ministers, mayors and even the Premier!  There is nothing like the sound of the pipes to warm a Highland Terrier’s heart. Our chefs, Aleks and Vince, always prepare a scrumptious feast and I never turn down the opportunity to share a bite with our guests.

It has been delightful meeting many of British Columbia’s outstanding public servants; some of them are even highly skilled tummy scratchers! In September, I was delighted to welcome all the Deputy Ministers to a special luncheon as thanks for their important work, including Mr. Don Wright, deputy minister to the Premier and head of the BC Public Service.

I’ve also had the privilege of welcoming members of the Vice Regal family to Government House. The Honorable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, paid us a visit in the Fall. In March, we welcomed Her Excellency Julie Payette, our Governor General, for a weekend filled with exciting activities including a luncheon for women leaders in STEM. Most recently, the Honourable Judith Guichon, 29th Lieutenant Governor of BC, came back to Government House for a youth conference with the Trust for Sustainable Living.

Among my many new friends, I claim a special relationship with the members of the BC Youth Parliament, including my good friends Sheridan, Astra and Adriana; we are friends in person and on social media.  They are providing important leadership on the Lieutenant Governor’s Youth Council—if you’re between the ages of 17-24, I encourage you to apply—you might even get to meet me!

My greatest achievement this past year has certainly been my induction as Official Ambassador for the St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog Program. I was a bit nervous because I had to take the Therapy Dog Evaluation, but I passed with a perfect score. It was thrilling!  There was only one mistake, and it was made by Her Honour– not by me! I’m looking forward to supporting the important work of St. John Ambulance and visiting lots of children and seniors.

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of hosting my very own event – the Westies and Friends Community Dog Walk. Many dogs from the neighbourhood came by and we welcomed Westies from around the Island and Greater Vancouver. It was a perfect opportunity to announce my focus on honoring the important work of service dogs.

Pleased to host four-legged friends at the Westie Walk

Despite my demanding work and social schedule, we’ve taken time to explore the many beautiful parks and natural areas in the Capital Region.  Some of my favourites include Thetis Lake, PKOLS (Mount Douglas), Gonzales Hill, Elk and Beaver lakes, Uplands Park, Cattle Point, and John Dean Park.  I would really like to explore the Galloping Goose Trail by cycle.  Perhaps you can help me to convince Her Honour to have her bike fitted with a comfortable wicker basket with padded interior?  What do you think?   

All of this work is very much to my liking. However, one matter of concern has come to my attention. That is, considerable information has been collected on the role and history of the Lieutenant Governor in BC, but very little has been written on the history of the Canine Consort. A shocking oversight, don’t you agree!

I’m pleased to announce that I have initiated a research project to correct this most serious omission and will be perusing the archives at Government House for historical records and photos. So “stay tuned” for further information on the canine history of Government House. 

Finally, it must be acknowledged that there may well have been several cats in residence at Government House over the years. However, this is not my area of expertise or interest. The cats will have to write their own history!

Yours truly,

🐾

MacDuff Austin-Chester

Vice Regal Canine Consort