It appears to be a feature of pioneer Whistler that its residents would have unusual animals for pets.
The latest furry friend to come to my attention is Lady, the pet deer at Parkhurst. Lady belonged to the Barr family who owned Parkhurst sawmill on Green Lake from 1926-1930.
She was originally discovered as an abandoned fawn on Vancouver Island around 1925 when the Barrs were looking for a place to set up a logging business. When the Barrs bought their land on Green Lake, Lady came with them.
By all accounts Lady seemed to have been rather spoilt. Norm Barr, who was only a small child at the time, recalls: “Dad just pampered her you know. She’d lay on the chesterfield beside him and eat prunes and spit the pips on the floor.”
Norm’s mother, Alison, wrote even more about Lady’s habits in her memoirs. Apparently Lady favoured dates, prunes, fresh bread, apples and the moss that grew on the trees in the logging camp. Her love of fresh bread meant that on occasions she would often sneak up and take a bite out of a newly baked loaf, much to the ire of the camp cook.
She would spend her days wandering around the camp and the forest and in the evening when her name was called, it wasn’t long before she was at the door rattling the doorknob.
She had a red flannel collar with a small sheep’s bell on it, and this proved to have been a good idea, as a hunter told the family that he had been ready to shoot her until he saw that collar and realized that she must have been a pet.
Lady also had a knack for swimming, even in the freezing glacier waters of Green Lake. She would swim alongside the boom boat until she got tired and someone would have to haul her onboard – not easy with her long legs and sharp hooves!
Lady definitely comes across as a bit of a princess, she would bully the Barr’s pet spaniel, go blueberry picking and get all the best fruit for herself and on occasions would hold up the train by standing on the tracks and refusing to move. When she finally got up on the bank she would shake her tail and look “saucy” as if to say “I made it! Ha!”
Eventually, Lady’s bad behavior meant that the family had to get rid of her. Apparently she was jealous of the young Norm and would be aggressive towards guests who stole her limelight. The family decided to give Lady to Stanley Park Zoo who had a male deer in need of a mate and finally the pair were set free on Saltspring Island where Lady successfully had a fawn of her own. To the best of the Barr’s knowledge she lived out the rest of her days happily, in a normal wild manner.
Sarah Drewery is executive director for the Whistler Museum.