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Bowser plans birthday celebration for Mike, B.C.’s famous bartending dog

Pooch became a small-town Vancouver Island sensation in the ’30s and ’40s for his tavern exploits
(Vancouver archives)

In a tiny Vancouver Island town — fittingly called Bowser — residents are poised to pay tribute to their canine bartending legend, Mike the dog.

Mike became famous in the late 1930s and early 1940s for his skills at the old Bowser Hotel, including bringing out a bottle of beer for a customer and collecting a payment, according to Doug Harrison, committee chair for the Dog Days of Bowser event, which will celebrate what would have been Mike’s 90th birthday in ‘human’ years.

“I think it’s important that every community embrace what is special about themselves,” Harrison said. “We have Mike. He was famous back in the day and so many new people have moved here and they hear a little bit about it, but they don’t really know the full story.”

The black and white English sheep-dog/terrier cross would follow hotel proprietor Charlie Winfield’s command and deliver a bottle to a table, place it upright, pick up the customary 50-cent piece, drop the coin into the correct slot in the till, and then take the change from Charlie and return it to the customer, according to a news release by the committee.

“There’s rumours that if people didn’t leave the correct change, Mike would just sit there and stare at them until the guy figured out the right change,” Harrison said.

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If things were quiet, Mike would sometimes sit at the table with patrons, waiting patiently for them to finish. He would then take the empty to the bar’s storage room.

A local dog and trainer will show off canine acrobatic and acting skills, including an attempt to replicate some of Mike’s tricks during the party, Harrison said. He added the community has embraced the event, which is planned to become a yearly Bowser tradition.

An artisan fair will run in conjunction and a number of art pieces will also be on display, each will incorporate an image of Mike. Bowser Seniors Housing Society will be there with its fundraising hot dog sale. A Legion beer garden will be open and local businesses will sponsor various events, along with children’s activities and games, according to the release.

There will also be a canine competition with three categories: cutest dog, best-dressed dog and ugliest dog. There will be a cash prize for the latter.

One particularly endearing job for Mike was to say goodbye to departing guests, which he did by slamming the door behind them with his paw.

He also fetched mail from the post office, and with a note in his mouth, picked up items from the general store.

In 1941, nine-year-old Mike was killed by a hit-and-run driver while grocery shopping. He was recognized by Ripley’s Believe it or Not and mourned far and wide.

Though gone for 80 years now, his memory lives on in the town. There are even plans for a bronze statue of Mike on the former site of his hotel, which burned down years ago and is now a vacant lot up for redevelopment.

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(Vancouver archives)

Kevin Forsyth

About the Author: Kevin Forsyth

As a lifelong learner, I enjoy experiencing new cultures and traveled around the world before making Vancouver Island my home.
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