Monday, 15 December 2014


            In the early 1930’s Clifford Hargrove was a young boy growing up on New Brunswick’s picturesque Partridge Island.  With an natural attraction to all things nautical, he would frequently look out across the vast Atlantic Ocean pondering what his destiny might be, who would he become, where would he travel and how would he be remembered?

            As his step son since 1990, “Remembering Cliff” brings about a whole host of memories ranging from happiness and the many laughs we shared, our ongoing backgammon tournaments that would test our concentration and arithmetic skills (often over a couple of glasses of red wine) to the countless shared family Christmases, birthdays, thanksgiving and drop ins.  You could talk to Cliff on just about any subject matter and he would be genuinely engaged, animated and opinionated while imparting his lifetime of experience, wisdom and hard learned lessons. 

            Before finding his professional calling Cliff had a number of false starts and early career peregrinations.  After receiving a BA in 1949 in psychology and education,  he was hired as the Principal of the Grand Bay School in NB.  An naturally born teacher he was not and after a two year stint Cliff decided that education was not his forte . Likewise, there was a year working for a chartered accountant in Saint John, enrollment in chemistry at the University of Ottawa in 1952/53 and finally a stepping stone to physics at Montreal’s McGill University in 1953 which saw him thrive, earning degrees of BSc., MSc and eventually a PhD in nuclear physics in 1961 (the year I was born).

            Soon, the National Research Council (NRC) came calling and Cliff was fortunate to be recruited to their nuclear physics group.  Two years later he joined the High Energy Physics section whose primary focus is to study the properties of the components that make up a nucleus.  Through his approach to team work, laser-like focus and strong work ethic, he headed up the group and ventured into some advanced experiments which were at the forefront of sub-nuclear physics setting
Dr. Hargrove - NRC - 1970's

him up for the rest of his career.  Cliff was continually travelling to collaborate on various experiments all around North America and Europe.  Attached to some of the most venerable post-secondary institutions in the world, Cliff was a frequent traveller to Berkley National Lab in California,  Brookhaven National Lab in Long Island, New York, TRIUMF Lab in Vancouver, British Columbia, CERN in Geneva, Switzerland and the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory Lab (SNO) in Sudbury, Ontario to name a few.  Impressively, the product of these many experiments resulted in 350 published papers which have been referred to more than 20,000 times by others within the scientific community.               

            In 1991 their group transferred to Carleton University, where the many successful experiments continue today and may lead to new knowledge  that could ultimately provide details of the building blocks of nature.  While Cliff and his team were the recipients of numerous awards and recognition, one that stood out from the rest was receiving the inaugural John C. Polanyi award
Cliff + Colleague - Carleton University - Physics SNOLab Model 
(named after a Nobel Prize winner from the University of Toronto), bestowed to them by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council.  The award was accompanied by a $250,000 prize and was given to the group for the experiment carried out in Sudbury which measured the neutrinos from the sun leading to several important discoveries. 
Neutrinos are one of the building blocks of the universe. They are one of the least understood fundamental particles that make up matter. They are similar to electrons, but do not carry an electric charge, meaning that electromagnetic charges don't affect them. This allows neutrinos to pass through matter without being affected by it while travelling great distances.     

            Serendipitously, I started working with Carleton University earlier this fall at the Paul Menton Centre for Students with Disabilities in the role of Advisor, International Development.  This past November I invited Cliff to meet the next generation in the scientific world, a post graduate Biomechanical Engineer (self professed physics fanatic) and a friend of mine named Tim Inglis.  After a delicious lunch at The Bakers Grill, with the conversation being dominated by astrophysics, black holes, dark matter, quarks and light-years, we took a stroll over to the Hertzberg Building on campus to check out some of Cliff’s experiments which are still ongoing as part of the Physic’s Department’s raison d’etre and core curriculum.  It seemed that everyone knew Cliff and were genuinely pleased to see him back at his “old haunt”.  Since retirement in 1995, Cliff would continue
Carleton University - Physics Department - Current Students
to oversee his life’s work at the university with the designation of a “Distinguished Research Scientist”.  One thing is for sure, despite his older age and no salary, nothing could keep Cliff and his never ending inquisitive mind out of the laboratory.  This was his life’s calling … nothing made him happier … he was still like a kid in a candy store with such a zest for knowledge that never abated.  I vividly recall numerous hours of conversations about the importance of neutrinos, identifying the missing matter in the universe, Canada’s vital role at CERN and his enduring pride surrounding his team’s essential contributions to the recent Higgs Bosom particle discovery commonly referred to as “The God Particle”.

In recent conversations with Cliff’s esteemed colleagues at Carleton University; Dr. Gerald Oakham – Chair, Physics Department and Dr. David Sinclair - Distinguished Research Scientist, Past Director of SNO, I asked both gentlemen to reflect back on Cliff’s career and speak to his contributions to both science and humankind.   David asserted that Cliff was instrumental in securing the agreement to have Atomic Energy of Canada Limited contribute the “heavy water” to the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory lab which made the whole experiment possible in addition to his team leadership and many technical contributions including the design of the “photo tube” system which identified, captured and measured neutrinos.  Gerald stated that Cliff was a leader and visionary who understood that there is a convergence of understanding between the microscopic (sub atomic particles and matter) the and macroscopic universe (how galaxies, stars and planets form) where over the next 20-25 years the accumulated knowledge may lead to discoveries in areas such as medical processes and imaging which may one day ultimately hold the cure to many human conditions. 

My own take away when I reflect back to our many conversations, may be due in part to watching too many Star Trek reruns or present day programs like “Through the Wormhole” or “Cosmic Front”!  Regardless, I think Cliff’s lifetime contributions could provide us with the fundamental knowledge (building blocks) required to discover how to safely travel at light speed beyond our own galaxy to eventually discover earth like planets in other universes in which to continue the “Human Experiment”.  I would even venture a little further (pun intended) as proposed in an 2010 episode of “Through the Wormhole”; Is there a creator?  Was the universe created by chance or was it a work of god: Science shows that the universe may have been calibrated by someone or something.  Perhaps a supercomputer with god-like powers!
Cliff + Marta with our Clan - The Keg, Ottawa - 2005
 Remarkably, in a world of scientific, stoic and analytical matter-of-fact thinkers, Cliff often stood out because he was equally humanistic, empathetic, conversational and very approachable with a wide network of friends around the world.  Additionally, he had a great sense of humour and often my Mum Marta and Cliff would be drawn to watch the old British TV comedies with their rather dark and sarcastic plots and punch lines.  My Mum and Cliff met through their shared interest/passion for bridge and  in 1990 they became a committed and inseparable couple.  My brother Ray, sister Jackie, brother-in-law, Bruce, niece Alexandra, my partner Mary Anne and I quickly adopted Cliff into our family as both our mother’s life partner, our step dad and very much a friend and confidant to me personally. 

Cliff and Marta had many mutual interests including yearly season ticket holders for our National Art Centre – Pops Concert Series, they were both voracious readers, tennis aficionados and loved to travel.  From the volcanoes of Hawaii and Scottish Highlands to the beaches of Mexico,
Marta + Cliff - Christmas - 2013
Cuba, Costa Rica, Florida and sailing excursions to the Caribbean, they were both globe trotting like they were kids at heart.  Truth be told, Cliff was an experienced and seasoned sailor dating back to his upbringing in the Maritimes.  Always in search of his next grand adventure, he had committed to be part of a 7 person crew on a catamaran in the Caribbean with some of his family members next January.

            I still vividly recall our last supper at Mum and Cliff’s place, just three days before his sudden death due to a massive heart attack.  Typically that night, Cliff had a tremendous appetite, consuming twice of everyone else around the table.  Incredibly, right up until the day he passed away - one day prior to his 86th birthday - he was physically active and mentally astute.  Moreover, each and every week he would play bridge, get in a game or two of tennis, watch sports, keep track of his physics experiments, dote over his two grand daughters and enjoy a quality-of-life that most of us yearn for.  While his passing leaves a huge void in our lives, we are all grateful for the many amazing memories left by such an intelligent, humble and gracious man … a true gentle man
Cliff + Mike - Our Ongoing Backgammon Tournament 
That young Maritime boy from the 1930’s more than lived up to his potential, surpassed his contemporaries, raised two families, dared to dream, followed his passions and left an indelible mark on this world and indeed far out into the cosmos.  Finally Cliff, I want to leave your final send off with a fitting and poignant quotation from Walt Whitman.  “Let your soul stand cool and composed before a million universes”.  

Importantly, please watch the following 5 min. video clip below which profiles Cliff and recalls his many contributions to the scientific world.  If you want to dive deeper into the world of particle physics and continue to follow some of Cliff’s collaborations and experiments please check out the following links.


            While I will continue blogging in 2015, we will be adopting a new format of bringing you more varied and in-depth posting at the end of each quarter in the months of March, June, September and December.  If you liked what you have read and watched, please follow me on Google in addition to sending me your comments, “likes” and sharing this story with your network of friends.  I hope to see you on the sunny side of the mountain!

Monday, 13 October 2014


Sassy - Banff Alberta - Summer 2004

Dear Friends,

Our summer hiatus seemed to linger on a little more than planned but “cest la vie” … we’re back on the bloggersphere and I will continue to post “Mike’s Quadrant” on a monthly basis.

Before reading any further, this particular and rather unique blog has been written from a very personal and heartfelt perspective intended to reach those who are truly committed to animal welfare and love our pets.  If you are one of these kindred souls then please read on but be forewarned that I do not write in brevity and what follows is a 5,000 word epitaph/essay conveying our love and remembrance. 

I have to relay the sad news that “Our Beloved Sassy” passed away peacefully last August 28th.  While it’s true that all pets are unique and special, while endearing themselves to us in ways we never thought possible, our Sassy girl was extraordinary in so many facets that we felt compelled to celebrate and share her remarkable life with my many friends around the world.  If you are one of my friends on Facebook, you probably saw Sassy on my home page without even realizing the significance of this beautiful, athletic, intelligent, compassionate and loyal girl who was always at my side for the past 12 years.  My partner Mary Anne (Maire) and I spent half a year in 2003 researching breeders and kennels all across Eastern Canada ideally looking for a black colored Labrador retriever who could be potentially trained to become my working dog.  After experiencing so many highs and lows we came close to giving up the search when at the 11th hour we received a phone call from Karl Lechowski Farms based in Gravenhurst, Ontario that he may just have the right dog which fit all of our criteria except for one thing, she was not black, but rather a Yellow Labrador Retriever.  Undaunted, we quickly made the 4 hour jaunt east to finally meet our prospective new addition to our family.  Talk about “love at first sight”.  Sassy was the cutest 2 year old, youthful, eager to please, boundless energy and clearly in need of a safe environment and a loving family setting.  The bond was almost immediate.  Maire and I were like two doting parents bringing their newborn home from the hospital!  We spoiled her with everything from the finest doggy bed and a wide array of play toys in her own labelled toy box to the healthiest (usually most expensive) food on the market and a daily regime of 2-4 km walkies around our neighbourhood.  Typical of most Labs, she adored the water and quickly became our bathing beauty at the nearby Rideau River, in ponds, lakes and later in the oceans of the world.  Sass soon became a fixture at everything we did and everywhere we went.  Usually, she was the star of the show, and on the odd occasion when we didn’t bring her along our hosts were visibly upset that it was just the two of us!  
Mike, Maire & Sassy - Rideau River, Manotick Ontario - Fall 2003
Fast forward to age 4 or age 28 in human years.  Sass was growing out of her puppy phase, enjoying life as my trusted and steadfast companion eagerly entering into her young adult life.  While working at the National Office of the Canadian Paraplegic Association I came across a new organization called “Canines With A Cause” (CWAC) who were based in Ottawa and just happened to be starting an Assistance Dog certification program. I soon established contact with the head of the charity Ms. Miriam Mas who was open to the concept of training a slightly older dog like Sassy for potential certification.  After a couple of introductory assessments, Miriam felt comfortable that Sassy’s health, intelligence and obedience were of a high enough standard to be accepted into the program … then the real work began.  Virtually all of 2004-2005 were dedicated towards succeeding in having Sassy become a fully certified Assistance Dog.  It is truly a team effort utilizing an abundance of resources and it was exhausting on Maire, me and my pooch.  In addition to learning upwards of 80 verbal commands I had many books and manuals to read on Canine history, behavior and the rationale supporting the human bond.  As Miriam was always fond of reminding us potential graduates, your puppy in training is only as smart as its master … I’ll let you guys ponder that one! 

Nearing the end of 2005 summer I had successfully passed the theoretical component of the program (90% minimum comprehension) and all that remained was the much dreaded “Public Access Test”.  This is a mandatory annual test under the auspices of the Assistance Dogs International and the Canadian Association of Guide and Assistance Dog Schools which all certified animals must successfully complete if they are to receive their official certification card and all the inherent rights that accords the dog and its handler.  My test, which was conducted in North Bay, Ontario was set in a large shopping mall and comprised a team of volunteers all dispersed to strategic locations where Sassy and I had to successfully complete approximately 15 separate tasks utilizing a multitude of commands.  They ranged from opening an automatic door opener with her paw; a sit-stay with random children without reacting;  fetching her own leash a bringing it to me;  picking up off the floor a variety of objects such as a quarter, keys and my wallet to my glasses and backpack.  Some of the more challenging aspects of the test involved remaining on a tight leash while browsing through a pet store without sniffing or reacting to all the environmental senses; being led away with my consent by a security guard and finally (my favourite and most challenging) was to remain alone on a sit-stay for 5 minutes in front of a busy bakery without any reaction.  Apparently, the scent of hot baked bread arouses the senses like nothing else … I guess yet another human/canine commonality!  After a grueling hour of being in the “hot seat” both Sassy and I were physically and mentally exhausted.  Finally, I, Maire and trainer Miriam were directed to a nearby restaurant where we met a group of 10 volunteer observers who had been covertly following and tracking all our tasks and evaluating our performances.  They all collectively smiled at the same moment and said “Congratulations, you passed with flying colours”!  The relief on both Sassy and my face was palpable … we could breathe again and of course Sass was now a fully certified Assistance Dog legally able to go anywhere and everywhere with us as a vital part of my safety, welfare and companionship.

Award - CWAC Official Graduation Ceremony - Fall, 2005
In 2007 we drove to Southern West Coast Mexico on an extended business (Research and Development) road trip.  We eventually found our little piece of paradise in the form of a two acre lot in a very remote surfing beach near Las Brisas with a Mexican style villa complete with a small outdoor shower and pool directly facing the Pacific Ocean.  At age seven, Sass was in heaven!  Most days she traded in her working dog cape, collar and leash in exchange for being “au naturel” while hanging out with the many other wild beach roaming cats, dogs, horses, fishermen and surfers.  We later adopted a “quasi” security dog named Pulgas (Spanish for fleas), a beautiful large German Shepard with quite a bit of history, who became our protector and had the utmost respect for Sassy (aka Sassita).  The two of them soon became best buddies and could always be found rolling on the sand, running the 7 km. beach and then Pulgas taught Sassita how to body surf … it was a magical time.  As word got passed up and down the beach about these Canadian’s who take in dogs, we were inundated with canines of every size, shape and breed.  One of the stray girls who stole a piece of my heart was named Pantera (Spanish for Panther).  While she was a mix breed (as almost all Mexican dogs are) she was predominantly of the Weirmeranger breed hailing from Germany as bred as hunting dogs.  She would continue to hang out at our villa day after day and when we’d head out in my modified Chevy Tahoe down the beach or over the mountain to the nearest large town of Zihuatanejho (2 hours away) she’d be lying right next to where I parked my truck whether we were away for 2 or 14 hours … to say she was bonded would be an understatement!  Perhaps because we 
Mike, Sassy & Pantera - Las Brisas Mexico - Summer 2007
fed her so well, cared for her by bringing all the dogs to the nearest vet, Jorge in Ixtapa or giving them some true Canadian TLC, she became our third dog.  Thinking we were over-feeding her or that she had a stomach infection, it rapidly became apparent she was pregnant.  Some two months later we were the proud surrogate parents of another 9 puppies.  Of course, by now you can tell that Maire and I are animal-holics and accordingly we made the necessary arrangements to keep Pantera in a safe and sanitary area under our sun deck so she could tend to the pups and let them experience the world in a relatively safe environment.  We even rode out a direct hit from a category one hurricane which are quite common on that stretch of oceanfront.  Nature and birth is at its most wonderful as she delivered two grey, two black, two brown and one yellow pups all healthy with their own unique characters.  We gave them all Spanish names but one beautiful, brave and curious pup stood out from the rest … the one we named her Amarillo (Spanish for yellow) later nicknamed Amo because she was always “firing on all cylinders”!  Through our many local Mexican friends we eventually found safe and caring homes for all the 8 pups but decided to adopt Amo and bring her back to Canada that fall. 

Pantera's Pups - Las Brisas, Mexico - Summer 2007
 Firmly back on Canadian soil with the “tres amigos con uno pera” in the form of one 6 week old pup who would become Sassy’s younger sister and all the joys, adventures and misadventures that dogs inevitably get into each and every day.  In a typical day I would walk both dogs each and every morning in every season and every weather condition a good 2-4 km while Maire would take over the afternoon “walkies” and of course we would all share in the playtimes and try to love both of them equally.  As Amo started growing out of her puppy phase she began to grow and fill out with a huge barrel chest, pretty face and beautiful markings.  By age 2 she weighed about 60 pounds but was strong, fierce and powerful.  Being a more dominant personally then Sassy she always wanted to take the lead and Sassy seemed content to cover the rear as I’d wheel around with both dogs tethered to a post welded onto the left side of my power wheelchair.  When we were going flat out in excess of 8.5 km and the dogs were in full stride I almost felt like I was starting to assemble a wheelchair “sled team” as I could feel the wind in my face and the strength of these two amazing animals at a combined weight 140 pounds ripping up the streets.

Hoping that Amo might also have the same characteristics of Sassy in terms of intelligence, obedience and disposition to one day also become a certified Assistance Dog, we entered her into the CWAC puppy program for evaluation.  While she was doing quite well at the beginning, she started showing signs of aggression and nipped at one of the trainers.  There was a strict policy of “one bite and you’re out” so we had to accept the fact that she didn’t have the right socialization skills vital to become part of this elite group of canines.  While it wasn’t working dog status, we achieved quite an accomplishment when Maire and Amo passed PetSmart’s Level I Training Course and learned many of the standard commands such as “watch me”, “heal”, “sit”, stay”, “fetch it”, “leave it”, “shake paw”, “lie down”, etc.  We were especially proud of the fact that she also responded to all of her
Amo & Sassy - Manotick, Ontario - Fall 2008

commands in English and Spanish.  After 3 years of blending into our family we were glad that Sassy had a sister and a play pal but inevitably Amo always wanted to dominate Sassy, most people and even tested my patience on many occasions as her aggression started to get the better of her.  I suppose you can take the dog out of Mexico but never Mexico out the dog!  When you consider the many millions of wild Mexican stray dogs and their DNA, they are programmed to fight for territory, food and ultimately their survival.  Hence, with all the mixed breeds you are bound to have plenty of anti-social behavior issues in virtually all dogs especially when their entire existence is predicated on being a protector of people’s homes and property.  In the end, we thought it best for Sassy’s long-term health and welfare to locate  a good safe home for Amo with another local couple who were capable of continuing to love and care for her as we had.

Over the next years Sassy really came into her prime and year-after-year managed to be my loyal and trusted sidekick, loving to travel in the truck with us, swimming whenever she could and of course always rising to the challenge of passing the annual Public Access Tests so she could retain the Service Dog designation.  When she’s at home she is just like any other pet with all the perks of playing with her toys, prancing around the yard and loving to be petted but as soon as she dons her cape she turns into a different kind of “super pooch” who somehow becomes more professional, more alert, carries herself with greater stature and performs her tasks on the very first command.  Likewise, she is also a beautiful, loving and curious dog who likes to socialize and adores children.  While all handlers with and without disabilities are unique and different, I take a very liberal policy of allowing people to interact with her even when she’s working as long as they asked me politely and Sassy remains calm on a sit-stay and does not get her focus diverted from doing her job.

In 2009 we had the opportunity to revisit Mexico.  On this occasion it was on their east coast known as the Mexican Rivera and we spent time travelling from the States of Campeche and Yucatan Peninsula to Cancun in Quintana Roo.  On this occasion, I wanted to stretch my independence and actually for the first time in 7 years travelled without my partner Maire so it was just me and my side-kick Sassy.  Truth be told, I did not enjoy the east coast nearly as much as the west coast.  I found the pace to be much more frenetic, the interactions with some of the locals more strained and opportunistic and never understood what all the commotion (self- promotion)  about Cancun was all
Sassy & Amigos - Westin Hotel - Cancun Mexico - Winter 2009
about.  If you can picture Las Vegas on the Gulf of Mexico that about sums up the clutter of hotels, nightclubs, shops, tourist attractions and nightmare traffic with very little consideration given to accessibility issues for people using mobility devices.  Maire flew down to join us in Cancun and we eventually located a rental unit which was not too fond of dogs, even working dogs.  Most Mexican’s can’t seem to wrap their heads around the concept of a dog being of service to a person even if it’s a violation of my international human rights to which Mexico have agreed to uphold.  Even though we spoke quite good “Spanglish” and had Sassy’s credentials translated into Spanish we were perpetually put in the position of having to defend our rights to have her access to public areas.  In the end we were more satisfied to hang out at the beach and sip on cold cervezas and tequilas!

Upon our return we were informed by Sassy’s trainer Miriam that she would be merging her CWAC organization with the prestigious Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind (CGDB) and starting a new Assistance Dog Division. As such Sassy would need to be recertified adopting a more comprehensive set of guidelines and stringent sets of regulations and standards that are followed to the tee by the various international Guide Dogs associations.  As they were fond of stating we are only as good as the weakest canine and handler and they set the bar very high in terms of which dogs and handlers actually make it all the way into the program and actually graduate.  The failure rate is
Sassy - Riding in the Chevy Tahoe - Suumer 2010
considered quite high.  One of their strict rules is that each working dog would have to be mandatory retired at age 11 which, if successful, would give Sassy only 1 ½ years of active service.  Like the trooper she is we again wrapped our heads around learning the new theory and some of the new set of skills and commands that would be required for retaining her Assistance Dog status.  We again passed our examinations including the 6th Public Access Test and it was a proud moment when we received her new red and white cape complete with certification card with me wearing my matching tropical yellow shirt.  We were further honoured by having a one page profile in the CGDB quarterly magazine called “Side by Side”.

As the old adage goes nothing stays the same forever and change is inevitable whether you are ready for it or not.  Upon considerable introspection, with the support of Maire we made the bold decision to finally complete my business diploma which I had started in 1989 age 28 and now at the tender age of 49 I entered Algonquin College’s School of Business in Small and Medium Enterprise Management (SME) studies.  As many of you may know the old days of blackboards, pencils and paper have been replaced by computer labs, online programs, laptops and digital everything!  It took me more than the first 6 month just to navigate the new methods of learning and more often than not I was the old guy in the power wheelchair sitting at the back of the class with my dog.  Yes, Sassy was back on the job and took it all in stride even adopting a renewed youth akin to returning to “doggy school” herself and quickly became a favourite with many professors, support staff and fellow
Mike & Sassy -  Manotick, Ontario - Winter 2011
students.  Out of an enrollment of 60,000 full and part time student-body Sassy and were the only ones to have both our headshots on my student card. My plan of trying to be stealth never panned out too well especially after a feature long article was published in the Algonquin Times newspaper where the writer inserted of photo of Sassy at my side and some salient quotes about how she helps facilitate my independence and the many tasks she performs throughout the day.  With my prior education and many life skills I was able to be exempted from a number of courses but in the end I had quite a full plate of courses both in class and online.  Focusing intently on challenging my older mind to absorb new knowledge, some three years later in 2013, I was proud to graduate with Maire and doggy family in attendance to receive my second business diploma with honours at a lavish ceremony in the NHL hockey arena here in nearby Kanata.

After turning 11 years old including being a working dog for the past six years under two organizations, countless travel and a world of experiences Sassy was visibly tired and her age was catching up to her.  As difficult as it was we had no choice except to accept the fact that she would be retiring shortly.  Her playful spirit, beautiful lines and sparkling eyes belayed a body that was starting to wear out.  But even when she was most tired and slept throughout the day, she always had a smile that could melt your heart, a voracious appetite and would still be up for her daily 2-4 kilometer “walkies” around the neighbourhood.  She still enjoyed fetching just about anything, swimming in the nearby Rideau River and the odd time in our pool and seemed content that her routine and “raison d’etre” had changed.  She reverted into her natural role of our guard dog and took her new role
Sassy - Showing Off - Manotick, ON - Summer 2011
seriously letting out a resonate bark whenever someone would come to the door that you’d think she was a 120 pound German Shepherd not a 70 pound aging Yellow Lab.  The one skill that she retained all of her life was the most important command and that was to “fetch phone”.  If my partner ever fell or had an accident and our lives were in jeopardy Sassy was trained to sniff out a special phone with a strap around it and bring it to me gently placing it in a position where I could call out for help.  Fortunately, we never found ourselves in this situation but I feel certain that Sassy could have saved our lives if ever put to the test.   You can’t say that about every dog or every human.  It just reinforces the importance of these special animals and the vital roles they play in helping enhance people’s lives including those of us with disabilities.  

We were fortunate to have a trainer like Miriam who understood our needs, that of the dogs and was able to pare her prior knowledge and experience in order for us to look at transitioning to having another Assistance Dog “seamlessly” from where Sassy left off.   Both Maire and I were somewhat leery about having our home life altered yet again and trying to blend another dog with a “twice shy” Sassy might be quite a challenge that we weren’t ready for.  On the flip side, we had such a life-altering positive experience with Sassy that we thought we’d give it a go and took the plunge.  Miriam had secretly put our needs on her radar and had been on the lookout for a potential match between me and a new younger puppy in training who might fit the bill.  In 2011, we were summoned to CGDB headquarters in nearby Manotick and Miriam introduced us to her new “J
Sassy & Jigger - Bonding at Home - Fall 2011
Litter” breed of Yellow/Golden Retrievers, specifically narrowed down to Joel and his brother Jigger.  My senses were supercharging when I met both of them but when I interacted with Jigger there was a strong connection.  He was a big, beautiful 2 year-old with a large head, floppy ears, gorgeous lines and a “goofy” demeanor that made him all the more lovable.  We always see him as an old soul in a young body and he looked like a suitable match for me but equally as important the question of whether he would interact in a respectful and positive way with Sassy?  Upon bringing him over for the first meeting they did the traditional old sniffing each other up and down and then Jigger laid down in a subservient gesture which we all took as a sign of respect for Sassy’s age, wisdom, territory and that she was and would always remain our number one dog!  The two of them worked as a true team of sister and brother and more often than not, Sassy would teach Jigger how to perform tasks and commands as most dogs are so eager to please and learn through observation, repetition and positive reinforcement.  We had found the right match and slowly but surely Sassy seemed content to accept relinquishing her role as my Assistance Dog and seemed satisfied that I was in good hands with Jigger.  At age 11 or 77 human years Sassy was finally enjoying a peaceful retirement at home after a long, highly successful and rewarding career … who could ask for anything more!      

Mike Playing with the Pooches - Home Manotick, ON - Summer 2011
             In the summer of 2011, we had the honour of being invited to the Governor General’s residence in Ottawa to greet Prince William and Kate during their very first trip (honeymoon) to Canada when we bestowed upon them a gift that money can’t buy.  It was one of the few occasions when we had both Sassy and Jigger wearing their capes and both being on their best behavior despite all the commotion.  Here is an extraction from the Press Release:


Before her death, Princess Diana made it clear that she wanted to help Mike with The Back-Up Trust – a British based charity founded by Nemesvary, which helps people with spinal cord injuries transform their lives by realizing their full potential.  Although the Princess supported Back-Up from the “sidelines”, her indomitable spirit, strength of character and “Royal Inspiration” helped Nemesvary and his charitable organizations improve the lives of thousands of people with spinal cord injuries while raising in excess of $25 Million (CND).  Following her tragic car crash in 1997, Nemesvary had the honour of recounting his friendship with Princess Diana when he addressed the Nation through a variety of media interviews.

Now, twenty five years after first meeting Princess Diana this “Royal Inspiration Comes Full Circle” as Nemesvary will meet Prince William and Princess Kate in Ottawa on “Canada Day”.  He will present the Royal Couple with a gift truly befitting a Prince and Princess and something that money can’t buy … fond memories of “Mum”.  Nemesvary will also present the couple with a beautifully framed, glass encased, hand written letter on “Charles and Diana” stationary from Princess Diana to Nemesvary in July, 1986, a Daily Mail newspaper clipping in which Diana and Mike discuss plans for Prince William’s first outing on the ski slopes and a copy of his most recent documentary film, ‘Round the World Challenge (RWC) in which Nemesvary and the Canadian television production company GAPC Entertainment Inc. have memorialized Princess Diana. 

On “Canada Day” Mike Nemesvary’s gift, combined with a unique and enduring Canadian-British royal connection, is sure to warm the hearts of  William and Kate at the start of their “honeymoon” while reminding everyone how much positive impact the Monarchy is making around the world.

Sassy & Jigger - Awaiting the Royal Couple - Governor General's Residence - Ottawa ON - Summer 2011
As Sassy was now in retirement mode, we were having more health concerns, and frequent trips to her veterinarian were becoming the norm.  All Pure Bred Labradors are at risk for hip dysplasia and Sassy was no exception as her many years of jumping up and down, fetching items and remaining on guard had taken their toll.  She had now been diagnosed with arthritis which was quite progressive and it became necessary for Sass to take a Vet prescribed medicine that was almost a “miracle drug” as it alleviated her pain and kept her mobility, independence and dignity intact. 

Sassy with Favourite Duck - Chilling at Home - Summer 2014  
Therefore it came as quite a blow to the gut when we learned that at age 13 she was diagnosed with an inoperable splenetic tumor and was given approximately one month to live.  For a short while after we were continually walking (rolling) on egg shells but month after month she defied the doctors and was still able to get around and was remarkably experiencing a high quality of life.  It didn’t hurt that always had “Iron Will”, the “Heart of a Lioness” and was always glad to be alive. This past July 28th marked Sassy’s 14th birthday and likely her last, so we had a grand celebration along with plenty of hugs, presents and Maire’s coconut cake. 

On August 28th Sassy passed away peacefully at Carleton Veterinary Services just outside North Gower during a gorgeous sunset befitting a beautiful creature who brought so much joy to this world.  We are dedicating this Thanksgiving Day for having Sassy on the planet for 14 years or 98 human years ...  may she rest in peace.

           Stay tuned for my next Quadrant which will be posted at the end of November.  Finally and importantly, please watch the following 8 min. video clip below which shows Sassy in all her glory.  If you liked what you’ve read and watched, please follow me on Google in addition to sending me your comments, “likes” and sharing this story with your network of friends.  I hope to see you on the sunny side of the mountain!

Wednesday, 25 June 2014


Friends … one and all,

Thanks, merci, gracias, danke, grazie, köszönöm, spasibo, tack, takk, terima kasih, arigato!  My sincere gratitude goes out to all my friends around the world for your Comments, Follows, Shares, Likes and Views on my first six monthly installments of Mike’s Quadrant.  Your genuine interest and collective positive feedback is the fuel I was hoping for and the incentive needed to continue to share my life’s story past, present and future.  For the past 53 years I've been bold enough to try and discover new roads regardless of wherever they may lead, whatever obstacles I may encounter and what I’ll learn at the end of each and every journey, short or long.

Here I'm in "Full Rant" mode last February!
Upon entering the Blogger-sphere last January I inherently sensed it would not be easy.  It has been incredibly taxing and even at times overwhelming on my physical, intellectual, emotional and creative juices in order to generate my monthly content and meet the deliverables.  My hat goes off to those many “true” writers around the world who are tasked with monthly, weekly and often daily deadlines to get their messages out to the world by traditional and new social media platforms.  Personally, I've always been a writer at heart but have chosen to be very discriminating and selective about what, when, where and to whom I share my inner thoughts. 

Hence, Mike’s Quadrant was somewhat of a social experiment to explore this new digital platform while monitoring the overall response and feedback.  While the numbers of supporters are significant I think that only a quantitative review of my blog only tells a part of what you (my friends and readers) reflect back to me.  Looking at all the feedback through a qualitative lens I believe is much more telling as I loved to hear back from those of you who truly took the time to read and view the various installments in their entirety as opposed to those who took a quick glance and didn't offer any feedback at all.  I think this is thereby the BIG unknown about new media because we are all bombarded with information through so many competing platforms vying for our attention that is virtually impossible to follow everything and “weed out” the good from the ordinary and then take valuable time to share your thoughts with me.

For those of you who have been loyal and dedicated readers of Mike’s Quadrant you’ll recall that I've posted 6 installments respectively named: Let the Games Commence, The Olympian Within, The Right Stuff, ‘Round the World Challenge … Revisited, CTV Ottawa - Amazing People and now Friends … One and All. For the record, here is how the raw numbers stack up and I’ll leave it up to you my friends to make of them what you will. As of June 23rd we have received 15,460 Views; 281 Likes, 105 Comments, 63 Shares and 21 Followers.  Perhaps, more important and revealing are the highly qualitative, supportive and complimentary responses which have been threaded throughout the following video segment accompanying my written blog.  In my opinion, many of these thought-provoking comments are the testimony to what the stories really meant to some of my readers and how some of my subject matters truly hit home and resonated.                                              

Here I'm flying in an open cockpit 1941 Stamp .... vintage WWII 
Please note that we will be taking a hiatus in July and will not be posting an installment that month. However, stay tuned for my next Quadrant which will resume and be posted at the end of August.  Keep us on your radar as we will be shifting gears and poised to take on some highly interesting, innovative and controversial subject matters over the coming summer and fall seasons which will be sure to make you laugh and cry and ponder!  If you liked what you've read and watched, please follow me on Google in addition to sending me your comments, “likes” and sharing this story with your network of friends.  I hope to see you on the sunny side of the mountain!

Friday, 30 May 2014

CTV Ottawa - Amazing People

Hi Friends,

Yesterday evening and earlier today I had the distinct honour of being profiled on CTV Ottawa’s Amazing People series.  It was a whirlwind week of shooting an outdoor interview both around our home in Manotick (south of Ottawa) and on the banks of the Rideau River in close proximity.  Suggesting a location which is usually a deserted and quiet "off the beaten path" trail leading to the water's edge didn't exactly pan out.  We were all continuously swarmed by an infestation of insects, an unusual amount of pleasure boat traffic and a mix of sun and cloud which drove Mark the camerman rather mad due to the infrequent background noise, the constantly changing lighting condition while swatting away bugs.  My dear friend and new host of the TV series Ms. Leanne Cusack kept joking that for a man with many good ideas, my choice of shoot locations was not one of the better ones!  In any event we all persevered and although almost bitten alive managed to get most of our points across.

The main interview was broadcast yesterday evening at 6:30 pm on our local news channel and I've received plenty of positive feedback from family, friends and viewers.  I was quite impressed that Leanne and her editor were able to tell my life's story in a powerful and succinct 4 minute segment.  Earlier this afternoon we then followed up with another live interview at the CTV studio in the heart of Ottawa's busy Byward Market whereby we had the opportunity to expand upon the original broadcast over a 15 minute time slot.  My gratitude goes out to my partner Mary Anne McPhee and good friend Larry McClosky for taking time out of their day to join me in the studio and talk about their own perspectives on our relationship, disability issues and what the future has in store. 

For your information the Amazing People series has been running since 2012 and every February there is a large gala evening held at the Ottawa Convention Centre celebrating all of the individuals profiled throughout the year with one person being voted as the most amazing person of all.  To view the broadcast, please click on the following link.

           Stay tuned for my next Quadrant which will be posted at the end of June.  If you liked what you’ve read and watched, please send me your comments and “likes” while sharing this story with your network of friends.  I hope to see you on the sunny side of the mountain!

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

'Round the World Challenge ... Revisted

More than 3 years in the planning, on March 20th, 2001 the ‘Round the World Challenge set off from Parliament Hill, Ottawa Canada in an attempt for me to become the first quadriplegic to circumnavigate the world in my modified truck.  Importantly, the project was the platform to raise awareness about the many urgent issues facing people with disabilities while generating funds for spinal cord injury rehabilitation and research.

Through a hugely successful international multimedia campaign we managed to reach more than 100 million people and raise over $1M for our cause.  While many articles covered the project from start to finish, one that stood out from the rest and really encapsulated the entire “feel” of  the challenge was a feature length piece written by Hans Posthuma  for Canadian Disability magazine in their Fall/Winter edition of 2001.  I am grateful that Hans has agreed to let me share this story in its entirety and as published with all of you.  

I’m pleased to inform you that we have just completed a 1 hour reedited version of our documentary film which chronicled the entire project.  My gratitude goes out to Derek Prosser, our AV Adviser and Editor for all his hard work in telling our story in a much tighter time frame while still managing to capture the various milestones, relentless challenges and overall themes of the project.  If you’d like to learn more about this unique project please click on the following link
Stay tuned for my next Quadrant which will be posted at the end of May.  If you liked what you’ve read and watched, please send me your comments and “likes” while sharing this story with your network of friends.  I hope to see you on the sunny side of the mountain!



Monday, 31 March 2014


             Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, I‘ve always retained a strong sense of social values including being a passionate proponent for full equality across the board regardless of gender, beliefs or disability.  In fact, I fondly recall working with the “Disabled Ski Club of Great Britain” training some blind athletes on the dry ski slopes in England in the early 80’s even before my own spinal cord injury.  In all my worldly travels and varied experiences I’ve always tried to empathize with others and strived to see how I would live and react if our circumstances were reversed.  Perhaps I was naïve, but prior to my accident I had no idea to what degree people with disabilities were marginalized, ostracized and discriminated against be it consciously or subconsciously.  Indifference and ignorance is often worse than outright and overt discrimination.  As the old saying goes, “walk a day in my shoes” and then you “just might” see part of my life’s challenges.  I would go one step further and add that we in the disabled community call all those in the able-bodied community TAB’s which is an acronym for “Temporarily Able Bodied”!  Of course nobody chooses to lose any amount of mobility or independence yet as I’ve learned first-hand at the tender age of 24 that accidents can happen to anyone, at anytime and anywhere … most often in a heartbeat.

First time - Adaptive Waterskiing - Heron Park, England '95
           I fundamentally think that the riddle of spinal cord injury research will eventually pay dividends, ideally finding a cure to regenerate paralyzed limbs either partially or completely throughout the body.  Until that time, we (people with disabilities) still have to live in the “here and now”.  This means, not predicating all our resources on a future cure but rather, maximizing our collective quality of life through education, acceptance
and applicable research that helps us become more independent and participate fully in all aspects of society.  Depending on your comfort zone, this could range from attending your first concert and pursuing adventure sports to playing a musical instrument or even ultimately going into space with Sir Richard Branson’s “Virgin Galactic” set to launch their inaugural commercial flights later this year!

        As it would require writing a book to address all of my 30+ years of disability activism and advocacy work, I thought it would be more impactful to elaborate on one major personal incident which has had far reaching consequences but eventually resulting in changes which have benefited all of society.  It seems that my greatest lessons in life have usually come as a direct result from my own personal setbacks and adversity which at the time seemed so overwhelming that I thought I’d never overcome those obstacles and view the world with the same level of trust and unbridled optimism. 
Ottawa Carleton - Injury Prevention Week - Organizing Committee - City Hall '95
            Some of those major roadblocks came in the early fall of 1996 when I hired a young lady (let’s call her LK) to attend to some of my personal care.  At the time I was the Educational Coordinator for The Rehabilitation Centre’s – Disability Awareness and Prevention Program.  Working flat out in a full time job, frequently after dinner I would get transferred to bed early by LK completely unaware that something sinister was taking place right under my nose.   

Flash forward a couple of weeks when I was performing some routine banking at my local Canada Trust branch and then reviewed my pass book (a booklet commonly used before internet banking). Suddenly, to my horror, I discovered eleven unauthorized withdrawals on five separate days from my personal bank account. After a thorough review, I calculated that I had been defrauded a total of $5,207.00. I then went directly to the Ottawa-Carleton Police Station to file a report. I was advised by a detective to see a lawyer before the police became involved, because I would need an affidavit testifying that all the transactions were unauthorized and not made by me. Apparently, in this type of fraud, the person usually reporting the crime is the first prime suspect.  After getting all of my paperwork in order I returned to the police station to file a formal report but was advised by the detective, due to the back log of cases, no investigation would take place for many months.

            With that knowledge, I took matters into my own hands. Instantly, I knew who to suspect was behind these crimes. The only person who had access to my PIN number and regularly helped me with my banking and my care was my new personal attendant, LK.   Over the next few days I did a little more investigative work and all the evidence pointed to LK. I felt so very violated by this person since she was always in my home, I trusted her with my most intimate details and even treated her like a friend. I couldn't comprehend how someone whom I employed, at a good hourly wage, could breech my trust and live with themselves in the bargain. When I eventually met up with LK I relayed all of the terrible events of the previous week but the entire time she never said a word and surprisingly, never offered any empathy or concern for my loss! Then I asked outright if LK had ever taken my ATM card without my knowledge or whether she knew anything about these crimes or had any involvement whatsoever? She denied everything.

            A few months later I received a call from a Police Detective to inform me that under duress, LK finally admitted to stealing my ATM card from my home (wallet) and was a direct accomplice by giving her boyfriend’s my bank card and PIN number on five separate occasions. In order to avoid prosecution, LK plea bargained with the police. In return for identifying her boyfriends in connection with the crimes, she was granted immunity and would not be implicated in the frauds. What makes this fraud even more distressing is the fact that, due to my disability and reliance on others, my vulnerable situation was exploited and my trust seriously violated. The repercussions of these crimes were felt financially and psychologically for many years afterwards.  Worse, even after all these years I have been unable to place 100% trust in my personal care attendants and this has negatively impacted on my working relationship with the people I depend on for my day to day routines and literal survival! 

In the hope that true justice would prevail and that these young individuals would realize how much their crimes have hurt me and set back my life, I wanted to attain some assurance that the three would be held judicially and morally accountable for their actions.  I subsequently launched, pursued and was eventually successful in a civil action against the perpetrators which saw them (2 boyfriends) paying me back all of the funds that I had been defrauded.  In order to address this matter systemically across North America while hoping to prevent others from ever having to endure what I went through, I launched a formal complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) against all 6 federally chartered banks.  In essence, these nationally regulated institutions failed all of their customers with physical disabilities by not accommodating our “special needs” in the provision of wheelchair accessible ABM’s and subsequently leaving us with little choice other than having to divulge our PIN numbers to a third party. 

After being the longest CHRC complainant case (over 9 years from start to finish) in battling the banks, their Toronto based lawyers and their lobbying arm, the Canadian Bankers Association, in 2005 I was finally victorious in having a wide range of policies, practices and disability accommodation issues agreed to by all the 6 banks.  At a reported cost of more than $1 Billion the banks were forced to have at least one lower counter ABM at every location across Canada in addition to being signatories to the following ongoing initiatives.

1.    Reaffirm their Commitment to implementation of the Canadian Standards Association’s (CSA) “Barrier-Free Design for Automated Banking Machines.

2.     Develop an implementation plan for compliance with the ABM standard and report on an annual basis their progress to the CHRC.

3.  Continue to develop barrier-free access standards for Point of Sales (POS) devices by encouraging participation by retail, manufacturing and the Acquirer industries.

4.      Provide print information available to the public in alternate formats.

5.      When constructing new premises and significant renovations at bank branches, accommodate the needs of people with disabilities to the point of undue hardship.

6.   Consider the needs of people with disabilities in the development of web-based services and products.

7.    Maintain an internal dispute resolution process for addressing customer complaints specifically available to people with disabilities who wish to raise any issue concerning access to financial services.

8.    Report on the accessibility of their services to people with disabilities in their respective annual Public Accountability Statements.

As I am legally bound not to disclose any further details about my Human Rights case, I am pleased that the many years of fighting for my personal rights, systemically lobbying the banking industry and “going the distance” in pursuing a satisfactory resolution has finally paid off for all Canadians with disabilities. 

World Toboggan Speed Record Attempt - Les Arcs, France '87
The video clip below speaks mainly to my disability human rights advocacy work, awareness and fundraising through the World Toboggan Speed Record attempt and the ‘Round the World Challenge charitable organization.  I have had the distinct honour of working with and representing some of the most notable organizations in the world including the United Nations, World Bank, Christopher Reeve Paralysis Organization, Canadian Paraplegic Association, The Back-Up Trust, General Motors Corporation, Pfizer Inc. and the Government of Canada. 

With more than a billion people with disabilities around the planet and growing, I will continue to act in a leadership role as a true activist, advocate and change maker.  Stay tuned for my next Quadrant which will be posted at the end of April.  If you liked what you’ve read and watched, please send me your comments and “likes” while sharing this story with your network of friends.

Hope to see you on the sunny side of the mountain!


About Me

My photo

Skiing and Film Career:


At age 15, Mike Nemesvary set his goal to become the best freestyle skier in the world.  By the mid 1980's he held more than 40 titles in his sport including 3 World Cup Victories; 18 World Cup Podiums; 3 European; 11 Canadian and 5 British Championships.  Mike also developed a successful sideline as a skier and stunt performer in a number of television commercials, programs and feature films including James Bond’s “A View to a Kill” and Willy Bogner’s “Fire and Ice.” 


Spinal Cord Injury:


On May 18th, 1985 Mike’s life dramatically changed during a routine trampoline workout when he attempted a double twisting, double back somersault and blacked-out, landing on his neck instantly becoming a high level quadriplegic, paralysed from the chest down and losing full use of his legs, arms and hands.  Following months of intensive rehabilitation Mike picked up the pieces and began to rebuild his life.  He moved into an accessible home, learned to drive a modified sports car and became a proficient sit skier.  Wanting to share his life-affirming approach he started “The Back Up Trust”; a very successful UK-Based charity raising more than $20 million to enable people with spinal cord injuries to reintegrate back into society and surpass their aspirations by facilitating challenging sports.


Speaking Career and Disability Advocacy:


After completing his post-secondary education in Commerce, Mike developed and honed his skills to become a passionate, powerful and outspoken disability advocate.  He has represented many Not-For-Profit organizations including: World Committee on Disability; March of Dimes; Tetra Society of North America and National Access Awareness Week.  In 1992 he formed Mike Nemesvary & Associates and enjoys a successful and rewarding career as a professional speaker presenting 100's of keynotes, seminars and workshops to local, national and international organizations.  Some of his prestigious clients include: Pfizer Pharmaceutical Company; General Motors Corporation; Bell Canada; National Research Council; Canada Customs and Revenue Agency; Health Canada and the Canadian Injury Prevention Foundation.


‘Round the World Challenge:


Mike then decided to take the ultimate challenge by becoming the first quadriplegic to drive unassisted around the world.  More than 7 years in development, the ‘Round the World Challenge was a grueling circumnavigation lasting 7 months, through 20 countries and clocking more than 40,000 kilometres.  While navigating some of the most treacherous roads, enduring the most extreme weather conditions and temperatures on the planet, Mike also surmounted continual inaccessible stops and accommodations in an unrelenting, exhausting daily schedule.  During the formidable odyssey, Mike also managed to visit 40 medical institutions, gave 52 speaking engagements and wrote weekly columns.  The ‘Round the World Challenge successfully culminated in the Fall of 2001 and raised more than $1.5 million for spinal cord injury rehabilitation and research. His accomplishments received numerous honours and recognition in many countries including the “Key to the City” in Ottawa and the “Meritorious Service Medal” from the Governor General of Canada.


Personal Life:


Mike’s remarkable life has been extensively chronicled as the subject of six international and award winning television documentaries in addition to numerous magazine, newspaper articles, radio interviews and television appearances.  Mike presently resides south of Ottawa with his Partner, Mary Anne McPhee and “Sassy” and “Jigger”, both Labrador Retrievers “Certified Assistance Dogs”.  In his spare time Mikes enjoys sit-skiing, scuba diving, swimming, writing, backgammon, listening to music and playing the harmonica.