The Vinyl Cafe is, I think , the most obscure reference I’ve made yet. Not that it is necessarily obscure, not that it would take tow trucks to pull it out of the depths of all known entertainment references, rather that, on the global scale, at least, it’s the least likely to be recognized out of the four posts I’ve made. The Vinyl Cafe is a CBC radio show hosted by Canadian hero Stuart McLean. It is my favourite radio show of all time. Tragically, Stuart was taken from us and his loved ones earlier this year by cancer, and left a nation of CBC fans mourning. But I don’t imagine Stuart would want us to dwell on his death, but rather on what he gave us in life.
What Stuart McLean gave us is a whole host of wonderful stories about a family he created, consisting of Dave and Morley, and their children, Sam and Stephanie. And, of course, you can’t forget the family pets, Galway the cat and Arthur the dog. I’ve chosen to focus this post on Arthur, and I’m sure I’ll get around to posting another about Galway at some point. They both have very distinct personalities, and it would be an injustice to cram them both into one post.
Arthur the dog is a very prevalent character in the Dave and Morley stories, often showing up in the background, or as a minor plot device, and does even have a few episodes devoted primarily to him. He is as much part of the family as any of the other characters, and it says a lot about how Stuart thought about animals that he gave Arthur such an important role. Arthur was a good dog. He loved his family, and, though he was mischievous, always made them happy. He would never fail to get up to hilarious antics.
One of the episodes in which we learn a whole lot about Arthur is called “Dave Gives the Dog a Personality Test,” and we learn a lot about Arthur in this episode. We learn that Sam tends to feed things he doesn’t want to eat to Arthur, under the dinner table. We’re told that ice cream is Arthur’s favourite food. But only soft serve. It is also discovered in this episode that Arthur likes to sleep on the vent in Dave and Morley’s room, meaning that he blocks the heat in the winter, and the cool air in the summer, and cost Dave and Morley hundreds in handyman bills until Sam figured out what was going on.
Most hilariously, though, we learn that Arthur the dog likes to steal potatoes out of the cupboard, and sit on them in his basket. We’re not sure why. No one is sure why. But nevertheless, Morley uses them. This horrifies Dave, but I think that it’s wonderful. The quirkiness, the slight dysfunction that Arthur adds to the household makes it all that much more human, that much more relatable. We feel like Arthur could be our dog. Is our dog. Along with a legacy of brilliant, wondrous storytelling, Stuart also gave us each a dog to love and care about, and what better gift could any of us ask for.