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Magnus The Great - Food Gypsy

Lessons in Greatness from a Great Dog

Early this month we said goodbye our much beloved bulldog, Magnus The Great.   Magnus is Latin for strong, brawn, or ‘great’, never was there a dog so aptly named.  As he grew from the unruly brat of our first meeting to the fine, balanced beast of his adulthood, I added “The Great” to his name because he was great – and he knew it.

Those with pets understand our loss, they are furry members of the family who love us willingly and unconditionally.  He was claimed by cancer, all too quickly, and with his passing there is a certain emptiness in the house; less snoring, snorting and protesting a general lack of falling food stuffs.

Mags, as he was affectionately known, was not a dog I chose for myself, he came along with a past relationship, and like many unexpected things in life, he was a great gift.  When I first met him in 2003 as an uninvited guest to my backyard, he was three years old and completely destroyed my garden in less than 20 minutes.  (He’s lucky he lived.)  A 100lb wrecking ball, he was fat, lacked discipline and had horrible manners – a spoiled puppy – and impossible to manage.  I dubbed him “the walking pot roast”.

He soon came under my care, leaned down to a solid 80 pound mass of muscle and learned that there was a higher standard of behaviour expected, that when met,  held GREAT rewards.  Like fuzzy blankets, down duvets and his very own couch.  In our days at the Dragonfly Inn (Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia 2005 – 2010), Mags acted as my concierge, greeting guests as they arrived, escorting them to their rooms with his signature swagger.  In the evening, he would often wander from room to room in search of children and… snacks.  To find him I would follow the shrieks of  laughter and catch him sitting expectantly, awaiting the next potato chip flung his way.  We were then a pack of three along with my West Highland Terrier Zoe, who left us in 2010 bringing our pack down to two.

Dragonfly Inn, 2007 - Food Gypsy Dragonfly Inn 2007, Pack of Three - Food Gypsy

Food Gypsy regulars will recognize his big mug from many posts, he was our official cheese tester and lover of gravy.  Mags was a social creature with a big heart, and over the years he taught me a thing or two about living a GREAT life.

Lessons in Greatness ~ by Magnus The Great (as translated by his Mum)

Mags Napping - Food Gypsy


1.  Naps are good.  I’d never been much of a nap kind of person before my time as an innkeeper, but early mornings and long days in a busy tourism-based business made them an essential part of life.  Mags taught me everything I know.  He began his day with an early morning nap (sometimes stealing on to the the bed), followed by his midday nap, afternoon nap/suntan,  post-walk nap, and the all important pre-bedtime nap.   The essential elements to a good nap are as follows:  softness and a lack of vacuum cleaners.


Mags & Chef B - Food Gypsy


2.  Let people love you.  “Not everyone is going to fall in love with you instantly when you have a gigantic face, but if you let them, they might start to like you a little bit and next thing you know you’re best buddies.  You never know, that person might discover that you are at heart a gourmand and feed you bits of duck magret, foie gras, and hanger steak.”  – Magnus


The Scurvy Dog - Food Gypsy


3.  Try not to take yourself too seriously.  I’ve never met a dog with a developed sense of humor before.  He would do things just to make me laugh and willingly allowed himself to be photographed each year in his various Halloween costumes, in exchange for cheese.


Mags & Camille - Food Gypsy


4.  Be yourself.  Our Bear could be funny, cranky, and willful (not to mention stubborn) as well as loyal and deeply affectionate, but he was at all times completely himself.    I think this is the reason he was so loved by so many.  He received regular fan mail in our time at the Inn, which the local post office insisted he pick up himself.  Kids in particular found him a delightful companion.  In his last year he found a soulmate in our Miss Camille, a kid of his very own.


Magnus, Snow Angels - Food Gypsy


5.  Live with complete abandon.  There was no hill too big, no puddle too deep, no snow drift too cold, no roll not worth taking, no cheese too strong for our Magzie.  His love of life was contagious.


Magnus, leader of the Pack - Food Gypsy


6.  Pay it forward.  Over the years he mentored many a dog.  My mother credits his mature presence with bringing her unruly mob into line.  Magnus understood the principle of leading by example and being calm and centered.  Now Chef B’s little dog, Teah (rescued from foster care) who spent the last 10 months in the company of His Royal Greatness, is a changed dog.

His calm, easy going temperament made him a pleasure to be around,  like a wise Buddhist Monk in dog from, living in the moment with a sense of joy and ease.  Unless of course dinner was late… then there was hell to pay!

With his passing I was put in contact with Jennifer Currie Rose Depp who volunteers with rescue agencies in the Ottawa area, helping rehabilitate and find homes for dogs rescued from puppy mills.  Jennifer kindly came by to pick up our boy’s personal effects and sent us back a little note: “Thank you so much Corinna!!  There was so much stuff I’ve reached out to a few Ottawa groups to share. So far Magnus has helped rescued dogs with LOYAL Rescue Inc., Hopeful Hearts Dog Rescue and Catahoula Rescue-Ontario.  Some of these dogs have never had the pleasure of a soft bed, or a toy to call their own.  I think Mags is at the bridge in full bulldog wiggle thinking about the joy his things will bring to these little ones.”

I know that the Magnificent Mags would like the idea of animals who’ve never had a soft place to sleep to have his many blankets, beds & toys; it was his final act of greatness.  

He has taught me well.

Magnus, being Great - Food Gypsy
Magnus The Great (2000 – 2012) – One Great Life


Cori Horton

Fearlessly cooking in her home kitchen just outside Ottawa, Canada; Cori Horton is a food photographer, food marketing consultant, recipe developer and sustainability advocate. A Cordon Bleu trained chef, Cori spent five years as the owner of Nova Scotia's Dragonfly Inn and now shares all things delicious - right here.

This Post Has 23 Comments

  1. I should have known before I read this… 6 mths pregnant + this memoire for Mags = crying.. grr. he will be missed. He was quite a dog, used to bark at me if I didn’t rinse the silverware before placing in the dishwasher.. kind freaked me out when I realized what he was doing… but I made sure to do it after that. He also made sure we never forgot how to open and close the door a hundred times a day :)
    He always made sure no piece of your muffin went to waste, liked a good snuggle and made Kyle fall in love with his big slobbery face.

    -Soo sorry for your loss Cori, but what a life to celebrate, he certainly was no regular pooch. Lots of love.

  2. This is beautiful. Thank you for sharing Magnus with us. (And, as a fellow dog-owner who just lost her 14 year old Labrador, my heart goes out to you.)

  3. What a heartwarming post. Magnus’ legacy will always live on. They live on forever in our hearts. My Mom has 3 bullies & they are wonderful dogs. I lost my boxer Ginger a couple of years ago to cancer also. Much love & hugs to you and your family during your time of sorrow.

  4. Sweet tribute to your Mags. I’ve been loved by a few good dogs in my life & they left permanent paw prints on my heart. In fact, I think they made my heart bigger. Currently I share my family with Lacy the WonderDog (who has her own twitter @LacyDog).

    Hugs to you on your loss.

  5. The death of my first dog, Emily, in 2009 was just about the worst thing that’s ever happened to me. It took me 10 months to be found by someone new. I love him and he requires a lot of engagement (terrier, smart, you know) so he’s a handful. I keep browsing other dogs, thinking about how he’d like a partner in crime but hate sharing my lap. I stop myself every time with the thought of the money and the unknown of it all. Reading about Magnus The Mentor, though, is making me wonder if I’m doing it all wrong.

    I’m so sorry for your loss and so grateful that you shared him here.

    1. You know Kizz, we considered getting him a baby bully to mentor last fall as we knew his time with us was waning, but we thought we had a little while longer. I am a big believer in “cloning” well behaved balanced dogs through their mentoring behavior. It’s natural for a younger pup to be groomed and taught the ways of the household… and how to glean extra treats from the humans. ;)

      I am so touched that so many of you found my memories of The Magnificent Mags joyful. He would have liked that.
      He also would have expected cheese for it…
      ~ Gypsy

  6. This is such a sweet post…. I am a dog lover and know how hard it is to lose a dog, like losing a family member. I am sure you have many MANY memories and stories that you will celebrate over the years of your beloved Magnus. And, he will always be with you…

    1. Yes Nanci, he was a many storied canine. From his love of puddles to his over-fondenss for gravy. Even on his last night with us, when the food snatching Jackwawa Teah, grabbed his pain pill… he got up in the middle of the night to make sure she was OK. He will live on in our hearts.
      ~ Gypsy

  7. This moved me. Our fur babies teach us so much. Mags sounds like the perfect gentleman with wisdom to be shared forever.

    You guys are in my heart xoxo

    1. Thank you so much Crystal, and thank you to Hopeful Hearts Dog Rescue for sharing this story of our boy today. We love that he continues touching lives, even now. Last night we had smoked duck breast and did a toast to him… he LOVED duck! xox

  8. Thank you for sharing Magnus the Great’s journey.
    It is a heart breaker to lose one’s 4 legged
    furry kids. Thankful for memories,pictures, and to be
    surrounded by loved ones (humans as well).Magnus was handsome
    love his pictures and know he was loved!Special Boy w/ personality.
    I am very very sorry he left so soon.I know the heartache you
    have endured.My 1st bully died at 10 1/2 yrs old.
    I had no other dogs,but eventually my heart
    gave in to have another.
    “Rose” is part of my life now.
    From My <3 heart to yours~

    1. Thank you Katalin. Just the other day I found myself daydreaming about bulldog puppies, with their fat little legs and “I’m the boss of me… and you” attitude. I must be healing from the great loss that was my boy’s departure. They are special aren’t they.

      You know, I had no idea this piece, so personal and yes, a bit sad would touch so many. Thank you all for sharing your hearts with me. Mags would have licked you all (an then tried to hump your foot…)!
      ~ Corinna

  9. I’m so sorry to hear of Magnus passing Cori. We were just thinking of him today and how unique he was. He lead me to this blog. We stayed at the dragonfly inn a few years ago (probably in 09 as Zoe was there) with our two chihuahuas. Had such a wonderful stay and your dogs made it all the more special.

    Hope all else is great.

    1. Hi Amanda – What a thoughtful note. Yes, he was among the most unique animals I’ve ever met. Such a personality! We still miss him like crazy and talk about him when ever we make gravy… such a food monster! All is well, wishing you the same.

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