Lougheed House: Pet Friendly for 130 Years

Black and white photograph of a very fluffy Persian cat.

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Written by Kay Burns

Lady Isabella Lougheed, affectionately known as Belle, was involved in numerous clubs and societies in addition to her active social life as the matriarch of Beaulieu and wife of Senator Lougheed.

“In Calgary, Mrs. Lougheed has since she first went there in 1884, been considered a leader in society, and either at her beautiful city residence or in her summer bungalow at Banff has entertained many of the distinguished visitors to the West. She is an ideal hostess…”[1]

Unfortunately, there is surprisingly little known about her other than her most public image as wife of a senator. She did not leave diaries or any other form of personal note or record. To understand her, we must make certain deductions and observations from miscellaneous artifacts and snippets of stories told by others.

One thing we can confidently deduce is her connection to animals. From her early life in the north as the daughter of a Hudson’s Bay Company chief factor, she was accustomed to remote life and the presence of animals in a variety of ways: “At Fort Simpson her mother Mary Hardisty drove a train of dogs and also kept rabbit snares.”[2] During her years at boarding school, Belle would not have had much opportunity for interactions with animals, but as an adult her fondness for animals was realized.

Throughout her adult life she was involved in groups such as the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire (IODE), the Victorian Order of Nurses, Calgary Children’s Aid Society, Women’s Pioneer Association of Southern Alberta, and the General Hospital Women’s Auxiliary – but one of the most curious clubs she took part in was the Alberta Cat Club. She was president of the Club and her name is listed on the Club’s letterhead.

Black and white letterhead for the Alberta Cat Club. The club's board members are listed, along with the club's logo in the middle. Text is surrounded by two black and white oval photographs of two long-haired cats.

Letterhead of the Alberta Cat Club from a letter dated December 5, 1919.

 

An article in the Calgary Daily Herald on December 18, 1919 indicates she provided the main prize of a silver cup for the first cat show held in western Canada (put on by the Alberta Cat Club).

Historic newspaper article with the title "First Cat Show Draws A Crowd"

Calgary Daily Herald | December 18, 1919

 

Among some of the old photos in the Lougheed House archives are several assorted photos of family pets.

Black and white photograph of a very fluffy Persian cat.

David | Photographer Unknown | no date
On the back of this photo in Belle’s hand, she writes: “This is a Persian kitten that Norma gave me. She has the Mother of it and its Father is ‘Picadilly’ that George Stirritt brought out from London two years ago. We call the cat ‘David.’ It weighs over 10 pounds.”

 

Black and white photo of a small terrier-like dog with bowed front legs.

Chou-Chou | Photographer Unknown | no date
On the back of this photo Belle has written: “Chou Chou. 14 months old. Came from England last winter.”

 

Black and white image of two black dogs, one blurred and one a spaniel breed, on the steps of Lougheed House.

Chips and friend on the Mission Room steps at Lougheed House | Photographer Unknown | no date
Although part of the writing is illegible, Belle writes on this photo “__________ & Chips on the Mission room steps”.

 

That these photos are present among the few family photos with the archives at the House indicates that Belle had a deep fondness for her pets. Although none of the photos are dated, there is enough information to indicate that the family kept different pets over a number of years. One humorous family story that has been passed along is that when her son Edgar and daughter-in-law Edna had their second child, who was Peter Lougheed of Alberta renown, Belle declared “You’ve named the boy after my cat who is also called Peter.”

The importance of pets is something that remains a significant attribute of Lougheed House now. The park at Lougheed House includes an ‘on-leash’ dog park and walking through the park at any time of day means you will likely witness numerous dogs (and sometimes cats) out on walks with their owners from their Beltline homes.

Dog experiences are an important aspect of Lougheed House programming too. Each year during the summer Garden Festival on the Lougheed House grounds, there is a special ‘dog parade’ event for people to bring their pets to participate. During the warmer seasons, the Lougheed House Restaurant opens up the outdoor dining area outside the Mission Room to guests of the restaurant, who are permitted to have their meals in the company of their dogs. The restaurant has also been acknowledged as a dog-friendly space on the Bring Fido website. Just outside the Mission Room steps, dogs today are enjoying their time at Lougheed House in the same place as Chips and his pals all those years ago.

Photo of an older large-breed dog on a red rope leash, wearing a red scarf, black sunglasses, and black hat.

One of our many local visitors to the Lougheed House on-leash dog park. Photo taken during the 2018 Beltline Garden Party.

 

Small Chinese-crested dog on red leash and wearing a red sweater outdoors on green grass.

Another one of our many canine visitors to Lougheed House. Photo taken during the 2018 Beltline Garden Party.

 

References

[1] “An Alberta Woman Who Leads in the Official Set At Ottawa” Morning Albertan, April 4, 1912, p 5

[2] Smith, Donald, Calgary’s Grand Story, University of Calgary Press, 2005, p 46

[3] Alan Hustak, Peter Lougheed, McClelland and Stewart Ltd, Toronto, Canada, 1979, p.24

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 Comments

  1. Marie on March 26, 2021 at 6:13 pm

    I love that the gardens are for people and the people are for the pets.

    • BlogAdmin on March 29, 2021 at 2:19 pm

      You sure would know, Marie! Thank you for your years of hard work making them beautiful, and for giving treats to all the dogs 🙂 And thank you for reading!

  2. Marcel Hebert on March 25, 2021 at 5:54 pm

    Well done, I like the story.

    • BlogAdmin on March 26, 2021 at 11:35 am

      Thank you for reading, Marcel!

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