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Need a little good news? Read on

Toronto Star

January 5, 2012

By Carola Vyhnak

His name is Happy Happy and he’s about as cheerful as they come.

“I walk down the street, people shake my hand. Children and teenagers I don’t even know jump in my arms.”

Happy is an ex-con: “violent crimes, prison, drugs, knives, you name it.” His mother died when he was just 2 hours old and his father, who blamed him, called him “Bad Bobby,” he says.

He left home and school at 14, spending the first 27 years of his life getting into trouble. But he says he “got off the road to hell” in 1962 when he admitted he was a sinner.

Today, at 76, he’s a motivational speaker, author of eight self-published books, world traveller and born-again Christian. He has overcome alcoholism, childhood molestation, mental illness, a near-fatal car crash and dyslexia.

“I’ve been clean and sober for 21 years,” says the downtown Toronto resident who changed his name to Happy Happy 11 years ago to reflect his new life and outlook.

He signs his emails with a little yellow sun and delights in giving “Happy hugs.”

- We’ll start with the happy ending of this heart-wrenching tale: Phoenix, a sick 8-week-old puppy found starving at death’s door, is now healthy and well-loved in his new home.

But he almost didn’t make it. Skinny and shivering, the abandoned mixed-breed pup was suffering from deadly parvo virus when the Burlington Humane Society stepped in.

“He was covered in lice and fleas. He was a mess,” shelter manager Adrienne Gosse recalls. His pitiful cries at the emergency vet clinic where he spent a week last fall still haunt her.

After weeks of TLC, “we finally got him healthy,” she says, crediting clinic and shelter staff, as well as donations toward the discounted $2,000 vet bill.

“It’s an amazing ending,” says Gosse. “He was a very sweet boy who had a hard start but he was a fighter. He has a fabulous home now.”

- Georg Krohn was driving his wife Elfi home from surgery last month when she suddenly felt ill. She got out of the car and fainted on the roadside in Bowmanville. Passersby immediately stopped to help.

“It was a little overwhelming,” says Krohn, who lives in the village of Hampton. “A great number of people stopped and actually blocked the street. An off-duty police officer called an ambulance and a local doctor came out to help.”

Elfi began to feel better and they were able to continue their trip home, says Krohn, who’s a Rotarian and volunteer himself. “It made us feel really good to live in a community that cares.”

- It was a tragedy and “huge loss” when an early-morning fire tore through a barn at Chance Stables Equestrian Centre in Bowmanville a month ago.

Owner Bill Metcalf feels terrible that a pony lost its life in the blaze but he’s grateful that the toll wasn’t higher. He sees “good things” that came out of the fire: acts of heroism and kindness, and a flood of community support.

Three young stable hands and a boarder risked their lives to lead 60 horses out of the smoke and flames, Metcalf says. “If it wasn’t for their bravery, there wouldn’t have been any horses saved.”

Neighbours, friends and business associates quickly rallied to provide hay, food and equipment, and helped clean up the mess. The local church hosted a fundraiser.

“We’re thankful for all of it,” says Metcalf, who’s hoping to rebuild. “It really helped your head when there was such a tragedy going on.”

- Forget a bird in the hand; a bunch of unusual birds in the bush was a thrill for naturalists out for the annual Christmas count, just completed.

“The good news and highlight for me was seeing 23 American robins feeding in a field,” says Bob Bowles, an Orillia resident who’s done counts for 40 years. “That’s quite an unusual sight this far north.”

The mild weather also brought out more red-bellied woodpeckers, warblers and once-decimated bald eagles, he says.

Kevin Shackleton was delighted to spot an American coot for the first time in Bradford, and witness a family find a snowy owl near Keswick.

“They were very excited. They had come all the way from Niagara Falls looking for one,” says Shackleton, director of the Lake Ontario North region of Ontario Nature, which organizes the count. “Birders like to find stuff we’re not supposed to find,” he says. It’s a feather in their cap when it happens.

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