By Ed Dunlop
Several years ago, I finally retired from a contented career as a juvenile probation officer in Toronto. My girlfriend, now my wife, was a devoted Buffalonian and I immediately knew if we were to be together it would be in the Queen City.
My first impression of Buffalo was that it was one friendly city! Toronto had excitement and a variety of people from everywhere, but also a coldness about it. There, people were somewhat wary of others, which reflected their first-and second-generation backgrounds – Old Country thinking and fears.
So why was Buffalo so attractive to me? There was an easy-to-detect caring in the people I met daily.
I witnessed a great example of this caring and togetherness when I was at the local dog park by the Niagara River. I was leaving the park with my bichon frise dogs (a terrific, gentle and small breed). Unfortunately, someone left the other side of the pens open where the big dogs were cavorting about. In a heartbeat, a pit bull ran through the gates and had one of my bichons by the neck.
Immediately several dog owners dropped what they were doing and jumped on the dog. Through their efforts, my little dog was released. I was flabbergasted! This type of help, for whatever reason, would never occur in Toronto.
If not for these Good Samaritans, my bichon would not have made it. This would have been a great loss because Miki spends a good deal of her time working at Roswell Park Cancer Institute as a therapy dog.
My wife and I try to return the favor of neighborliness whenever we can. We were going out of town one day when we saw a young woman chasing a runaway puppy. Since the lady was dangerously out of breath, we stopped her. She said she was baby sitting the dog for a friend and the little guy ran out the door when he saw an opening.
We told her to rest and we took up the chase. My wife took off on foot as I tailed the puppy’s path with my car. Finally, after 45 minutes of this exercise, another neighbor joined in and we cornered the small and agile escape artist.
As we drove the puppy and the lady home, she asked for our address. A week later a gift certificate for a popular restaurant arrived in our mailbox as thanks for our efforts.
It was a great feeling to have done a good deed as certified Buffalonians!
The willingness of individuals to go out of their comfort zone here is, in my estimate, very remarkable. Many years ago, when I was teaching my wife to roller blade, she tried to show off and went down a steep hill. She didn’t make it, and fell and broke her shoulder and hip.
A car stopped behind her immediately and a medic came out and took over the scene, calling for an ambulance and comforting her and me.
When the ambulance left for the hospital, yet another driver stopped and drove me home. What great neighbors!
It isn’t just the friendliness, though. The enthusiasm for our professional sports teams also was an eye-opener for me. Perhaps Toronto is too big or so diverse that there is hesitancy among fans in clapping for their baseball team, the Blue Jays. The old English way of being reserved has not died yet in Toronto proper. I prefer the Buffalo fans, who let their pleasure (or displeasure) be known in a loud way.
Basically, the ease of comfort and conversing with new friends and strangers in Buffalo gives me a great sense of belonging here – my new home, Buffalo!