TORONTO — Initially there was shock and anger over his trade to the Toronto Blue Jays for Mark Buehrle, the life he had carefully carved out for his family by signing as a free agent with the Miami Marlins scuttled after only one year.
The classy left-hander is over that now, embracing his new opportunity "with open arms" and "looking forward to moving to my career forward," leaving only the taxing upheaval inherent to every move to deal with.
And that’s where things remain complicated.
The Buehrles — wife Jamie and children Braden and Brooklyn — own four dogs, three vizslas and Slater, a rescued pit bull banned under Ontario’s Dog Owners’ Liability Act. Slater is part of the family and there’s no chance he gets left behind — "I joke around with my wife that they shouldn’t let me in the country before they let in my dog, my dog is so loving and so awesome," Buehrle explained during a conference call Thursday.
So that leaves them scrambling to find a place to live, and eager to join the fight to repeal the province’s pit bull ban, just as Buehrle and wife Jamie did in Miami, where existing laws forced them to live in Broward County to keep Slater around.
A similar option doesn’t exist in Toronto, unless you consider commuting some two hours each way every day from Buffalo or Niagara Falls, N.Y., convenient.
"It is going to be an obstacle and we’re looking at every option we have right now," said Buehrle. "I don’t agree with the ban, it’s a discriminatory law, I don’t feel like that dog should be banned just because of the way it looks. … We’re working with some people that we know that do some stuff with pit bulls, trying to do what we can do to get some things resolved.
"As of right now, I don’t know exactly what we’re doing."
One ray of hope is the private members bill authored by Randy Hillier of the Progressive Conservatives in December 2011 and co-sponsored by fellow MPPs Kim Craitor of the ruling Liberals and Cheri DiNovo of the New Democratic Party.
The bill advanced through two readings plus study by a committee, and was awaiting a third reading when Premier Dalton McGuinty’s prorogation of Queen’s Park killed all existing bills, and his resignation left unclear when the legislature will resume. Once it does, all bills must be restarted.
Complicating things is that "the odds are looking pretty good for an election sometime this spring," says Hillier, adding that should there be a change in government, "there’s a high probability that the ban would be repealed. There is a strong desire by both members of the NDP caucus and of the Conservative caucus to repeal this bill."
The Liberals introduced the ban in 2005 and are less interested in repealing it.
The representative for Lanark, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington, Hillier owns a dog that would be considered a pit bull under the ban and subject to seizure if caught outside, but his interest in repealing the law extends beyond personal interest. He’s troubled by the countless families who can’t bring their dogs to the province like the Buehrles, and by those who have moved elsewhere to protect their beloved pets.
"We’re essentially saying to (Buehrle) we’d love to have you come and play ball in Ontario, but you’re going to have to live in Buffalo or something," said Hillier. "It’s just a crazy unintended consequence of this poorly thought out bill where we’re preventing high-calibre people, and all kinds of people, from taking up residence and being part of our community."
Hillier said people who have worked with him on the ban have been in contact with the Buehrles, and that he would "certainly would welcome their support and advocacy."
In Buehrle, and especially Jamie, he’ll get just that, since the pitcher pointed out that "my wife has been involved since minutes after the trade happened. She knew pit bulls aren’t allowed up there so she contacted people (she’s been involved with previously), got some help from the Blue Jays, we’ve been pretty much non-stop and we’re going to do everything we can to try and get this passed."
"We are big spokesmen and we’re trying to do what we can do to help other people out," Buehrle added. "In Miami we fortunate to live out in Broward County, which allows them, but some people can’t afford to move out of a different county or move out of a different city to drive back and forth to work, they just have to give up their dog. I don’t feel like that’s right."
At least things from a baseball perspective are much more straightforward.
Buehrle said he’s been impressed with all GM Alex Anthopoulos has been able to accomplish this off-season and believes he’s joining a legitimate contender. Certainly the 33-year-old will be a key part of that, particularly if he can extend his streak of 12 consecutive seasons with 200-plus innings.
Better still is that the native of St. Charles, Mo., has never once been on the disabled list.
"To be honest with you, no," Buehrle replied when asked if there was something he could attribute his health and longevity to. "It’s funny, I obviously spent most of my career in Chicago, last year in spring training, I started going down to the weight room and during my Day 1 I asked Ty (Hill, the Marlins strength and conditioning coach) ‘Hey, what you want me to do?’ He looked at me and said, ‘You do whatever you’re doing, I’m not messing with you.’
"I said, ‘Listen, I’ve done whatever the team wants me to do, arm stuff, workout stuff, you tell me what you want me to do, this is your organization, your plan, I’ll go with it.’ So I’m not that guy that’s stuck on having to this many reps, or this many sets, working out, whatever the team wants you to do, I go in and get my arm stuff done, I go in to work out between starts. I’m pretty simple, just get my stuff done and pretty much go to my locker and stay out of everybody’s way."
Adding to that package is a willingness to reach out to struggling teammates and do the things that leaders do, making him a quality presence off the field as well as on the mound.
Still, that stuff is the easy part of his trade. Dealing with the other surrounding uncertainties is what, at least from the outset, will challenge him most.
"It depends on what we do, if the family has to stay home because of the dog and I have to go up to Toronto by myself, it’s going to be tough on (Jamie)," he said. "I told her things could be worse, there’s other stuff that could happen or other situations to be in, at least we’re going to see each other when we can make it happen."
A positive outlook on a situation he never could have imagined himself facing.