January 2nd, 2018
A cold snap hit parts of Canada as the New Year approached. I could not help wondering what the big fuss over these “cold temperatures” was about. Here in Labrador, we survive under more frigid conditions. The morning of Christmas Day, I awoke to -42 degrees Celsius outside. My friend and I still went out with our dogs for not one but, two walks. Our husbands took the two furry pals out for the evening stroll. Bailey and her pal, Cas, were not in the least bit tempted to forfeit these outings. In a few days, the temperatures were hovering in the minus twenty range. It was quite pleasant if you were dressed warmly. Watching the antics of Bailey and Cas as they played in the snow was enough of a distraction for us to forget about the cold. I won’t pretend that the extreme cold here is better than the moderate climates enjoyed by southern Canadians. The majority of us in the North embrace living life to the fullest even if it means putting up with cold. We entertain ourselves through the long winter months by hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, skating and snowmobiling.
Dogs like Bailey and Cas encourage us to seek outdoor pursuits even in harsh temperatures. In Labrador, it was business as usual.
December 13th, 2017
The snowstorm warning was posted on Tuesday. Labrador West was expected to receive 30 cm of snow between Wednesday and Thursday morning. On Wednesday, the students were sent home at lunch. Bailey was thrilled with the unexpected early arrival of our eldest son. We decided to wait out the storm by holing up in our warm home. Bailey and I had just returned from her midday walk as the snowflakes began to fall and the wind started up. By 4 o’clock, it was time to take our gal out. Our unfenced yard meant that one of us must accompany her on outside excursions. I drew the short end of the straw so to speak. With some reluctance, I left the coziness of my fleecy blanket and the couch that I had been lying out on. Bailey waddled over to the door once she saw I was serious about going out. She had been snoring happily alongside the couch. But, it was time. Dinner hour was soon approaching and our girl needed her business trip.
I opened the garage entry door to be greeted by a howling wind and snow flurries. Gosh, how I wanted to return to the couch. My misery did not dampen Bailey’s reaction. She plunged into the snow with enthusiasm. The coolness of the snow melted against her hot paws. Bailey was designed for the winter environment. I was all about the business – get it done quickly and go home. I was a real kill joy in Bailey’s eyes. She had other ideas. She decided that staying outside longer might be fun. As I started for the door, Bailey seemed to be missing from my side. I turned around and found her sitting in the snow bank. I could tell that Bailey wanted to stay. Perhaps, I should have given in. I called to her instead. Bailey stayed put. I moved towards her. I grasped her collar and tugged her towards the door. My boots hit a slippery patch on the walk. Down I went, almost doing a face plant in the snow. Rising up, my snowflake-covered girl slipped a wet tongue kiss across my cheek as if to say, “Are we having fun yet!” Bailey was enjoying her winter bliss.
December 6th, 2017
It’s that time of year again, the writing of the annual Christmas card. Although I was once diligent about sending out cards in a timely fashion, the last decade has been a dismal failure. Each year, the cards that actually get into the mail have dwindled to immediate family only. I think there was one year that even they didn’t receive cards from us. Yesterday, the draw holding the Christmas card supplies revealed my sins from last year. My husband is the one who writes in the card – each one individually composed. I am responsible for writing a letter filled with news of our lives. I hung my head in shame when I pulled out several completed cards with photos inside and addressed envelopes. They were still waiting for the newsletter that was never done. Perhaps, I suggested to him in his shock, we could just send these ones now. A perfect solution until my husband brought the date written at the top of a card to my attention. It’s hard to change the six in 2016 to a seven. Rats, a great idea wasted. My response was for him to discontinue with that practice from now on. So, I am hoping to make a fresh start going into this holiday season.
In my imagination, Bailey would be transformed into an elf. Like Santa’s elves, she would be willing and capable of tackling our Christmas cards. Her tongue would be perfect for licking the envelopes after all. A simple paw print would be sufficient for a signature. Who knows what our sweetness would say? Jolly Old Saint Nick is lucky to have elves to do his bidding while he gets to indulge on cookies and milk. Sadly, our Newfie elf is limited in her card writing repertoire skills. I am left with the task. But, it was nice to dream.
November 28th, 2017
There was a time when I could put on a pair of socks in the morning and by evening, they were relatively clean. Living with a Newfoundland dog has meant getting use to wearing wet socks or changing into another pair. I enjoy dry, clean ones for about 20 minutes at the start of my day. Once I bring Bailey in from her first business stroll of the day, the condition of my socks drastically changes. I spend a few minutes training Bailey once the snow is removed from her paws at the front door. She looks forward to this time with much anticipation. Her successful response to a series of commands means enjoying savoury treats. On this particular day, the treat was dried salmon chunks. I waited in the kitchen for Bailey to perform the last two commands – come and sit. She came faster than usual, drawn by the fish scent. Bailey sat beside me. I signalled her to move in closer to my leg. As she did, her eyes locked with mine. Bailey lifted her front right paw and leaned in closer to the treat coming towards her wide gapping mouth. Unfortunately for me, she shifted her weight onto the paw as it connected with my badly sprained toe that had recently started to heal from swelling and bruising. I gave Bailey her treat and pushed her over. But, it was not far enough.
A long rope of drool dripped down to land on the top of my sock that contained the aching toe. I could see more of it coming. The closest drool rag was hanging on the fridge door, a few steps away. I limped quickly over to the door. However, when I went to grab it, I failed to notice a pool of drool dropped by our girl on her way into the kitchen. But, I did feel my sock come in contact with the gooey substance. I lost my footing and began to descend into the splits. I never could do the splits as a teenager. It was certainly not going to happen in my middle age years. At the last minute, I rolled to one side – helped by Bailey. Seeing that no more treats were coming, Bailey had decided to retreat to the living room for her early morning siesta. Our kitchen has only one exit. She squeezed herself between the fridge and me. The fridge obviously wouldn’t budge. I had to make room for her to get by. While the drool rag hung still on the fridge door, she gave a slobbery wet nuzzle on my cheek as she passed. I was left wedged between the fridge door and the garbage can. I slowly picked myself up. I looked at the condition of my left sock. It was wet and slimy on the top and bottom. I resorted to using the drool rag not on the Newf but, on myself. It wasn’t worth putting on a new pair. After all, my right sock was still looking good. I then noticed Bailey’s kennel water dish lying on the counter and decided to take it out to the kennel. Halfway across the entry room tile, I hit another goo patch with the right sock. I did an unexpected lunge as my right sock slide forward. I could see it was time to throw in the socks and start fresh with another pair.
November 21st, 2017
Everyone in our household has experienced being dragged by Bailey since bringing her home. Other Newfoundland dog owners have shared their own unfortunate drag stories with us. There’s comfort knowing you are not alone. As she matured and became better trained, these unpleasant incidents became less frequent. But, once in a while, Bailey will take us by surprise. Last week, I was shocked to learn that my walking partner had such a mishap with our girl. It’s no longer only a family affair. We were hiking our usual trail route in the afternoon and had just turned around at the end of the second sandpit. The numerous snowfalls combined with the lack of snowmobilers to pack the deep snow down made going further impossible. My knee was acting up again from slogging through drifted snow over the past few days. So, we turned back, knowing that our two dogs would be short-changed on distance. They were just happy to be off-leash. We watched as they chased and tackled one another. Perhaps, we got too comfortable with the status quo. The two of us became engrossed in our conversation when suddenly it was interrupted.
Cas, an almost 50 pound lab/husky cross, barked and took off up the side of the sandpit towards the road overlooking the area. He leapt over the snow with grace. What had caught his attention? To our horror, he was heading towards a lady and her two dogs who themselves were off-leash. Our dogs are not allowed on this road which is used by snowmobiles going at high speeds. Cas and Bailey lack any road sense. Before I could get Bailey back on leash, she was eagerly chasing after her pal. My friend tried to reassure me that Bailey would not get far up the steep embankment covered in deep snow. She was wrong. Our girl was not going to let an almost 70 degree angled slope discourage her from reaching Cas and his newly found friends. No matter that she stands forever in front of our two wide steps leading from the garage into our home’s entry area. I often wonder if she is waiting for me to lift her. A nudge or two usually does the trick and she clambers up. Obviously, this steep slope didn’t deter her. Bailey bulldozed her way through the snow. She was determined. I blew the whistle to no avail. Both of us realized that they were not coming back anytime soon. My friend volunteered to climb the slope to get them. But, I knew the two dogs would be a handful especially when one of them is an excited Newfoundland dog. She began trudging up the embankment.
I decided to go back where we had come from and work my way over to the road. Then, if the woman continued on her walk with Bailey trailing behind, I could meet up with them. Since my knee surgery last year and almost an entire year of physiotherapy exercises, I have not regained the ability to move fast. I attempted to speed walk which became impossible through the deep snow. With a grouping of densely packed trees between me and the entourage of dogs, I lost sight of what was happening. I cursed Bailey and my bad luck as I huffed and puffed along. I stumbled a few times sideways which did not help my knee. Each step became more painful. Yet, my concern for the dogs drove me to continue. I finally reached the road and saw that the woman had waited. Although I could not hear what was being said, I noticed that Bailey had responded by sitting down in front of my friend. By the time I arrived, everything seemed under control. I apologized to the woman who seemed unfazed by the whole experience. We were lucky. My friend was leashing her dog as Bailey looked up at me, pleased with herself. I struggled to leash her as she tried a last ditch attempt to get to the other dogs. The lady finally moved on with her two dogs. I could tell that Bailey was disappointed that the fun was ending.
My friend filled me in on what had happened in my absence. She had made it up the hill with some effort. For safety reasons, she decided to use her leash to restrain Bailey. My friend is like a second mother to Bailey and didn’t want to risk her getting in the way of a snow machine roaring by. Unfortunately, her leash is attached to her waist – not a problem with a smaller dog. However, it is a cardinal rule never to tether a Newfoundland dog to one’s body. She soon found herself flopping on the ground behind Bailey who was eager to be a part of the dog crowd. The fact that she weighs a few more pounds than Bailey made no difference. My friend could not stand her ground. I reminded her that Bailey had no trouble dragging my husband who is much heavier than Bailey. I remembered that the lady had her phone out when I got there. I hoped that the sordid incident was not recorded to become a viral sensation on the web. My friend assured me that Bailey’s indiscretion had not been filmed. Whew!!! She had managed to get herself up and using a very stern voice, commanded Bailey to sit. Thankfully, our girl listened. The whole event has shown me that more training is needed. For now, Bailey will always be our “Drag Queen”.
November 14th, 2017
Someone is in the “dog house” and the cold shoulder treatment by Bailey doesn’t seem to be fading quickly. Something happened at our house that has never occurred since getting Bailey as a 10 week old Newfoundland puppy. At 9:20 pm, Bailey is always let out into our attached garage for a drink of water. Our girl is a creature of habit and looks forward to guzzling about half her water bucket. Afterwards, she is taken on the last business stroll of the night at 9:30 pm. My husband is once again home with us after working at a mine site in Ontario. He resumed this nightly ritual for the past two weeks until Sunday night. I can’t really blame him because he went out later in the evening to shovel snow. Labrador West had been under winter storm conditions since Friday night. It left us with lots of snows drifts due to 96 kph winds. He came in and Bailey was let out for her water. The other members of the family turned in for the night and he bade us goodnight. He returned to working on the newspaper’s Sudoku puzzle before heading downstairs to catch up on computer work. In his mind, he was finished for the night.
I rose up at 5 am on Monday morning as usual. I soon noticed that the outside front door light was still on. Although unusual, it has happened before that we forgot to turn it off. I went about my chores – one involves putting Bailey’s towels and sheets away. As I was placing a sheet to capture Bailey’s fur snowballs on the front door entry rug, I noticed light coming through a tiny crack in the attached garage’s door frame. I thought it was odd. Normally, Bailey sleeps in her garage kennel with a nightlight on and the main lights off. Clearly, my husband had forgotten the lights. Then, my eyes fell to the deadbolt. It was unlocked. The situation began to slowly dawn on me. Bailey had not been taken out since 5:30 pm on Sunday night. I wondered if her iron bladder could hold it for the last 12 ½ hours. From the scent that greeted me as I opened the door, Bailey had failed.
I found her lying outside her kennel and a large puddle seeping into the cement wall and underneath the rubber flooring. It wasn’t her fault but, I could tell that she was upset about peeing in her kennel. Thankfully, my husband was sleeping. I had time to cool off as Bailey was quickly whisked outside much to her relief. We returned and I noticed her water bucket had only an inch of water remaining. She had filled herself up to the max. I sopped up the pee pooled on the rubber flooring in the kennel. I was thankful that I had procrastinated with cleaning her kennel on the weekend. Snowshoeing on the local cross-country trails seemed more inviting to me. Now, I had an incentive to wash the walls and flooring down after a very wet and muddy fall. It was going to be a bigger job than normal because the rubber matting had to be pulled out. The job could wait until I had my second cup of coffee followed by the daily morning hike with friends.
As I sipped my coffee, my husband came out to say good morning. I summarized “my morning” to him. I knew he had not done it intentionally. We agreed to tackle dismantling the kennel when I got back. But, he was feeling guilty. I seized the moment to request crepes for breakfast upon my return after the hike. When I arrived back, the kennel was dismantled, the boys were fed and hot crepes were waiting for me. All was forgiven by me. Our girl was another story. Bailey didn’t go to him like she always does with her tail wagging. She remained lying down and ignored him. Bailey was miffed and the cold shoulder treatment wasn’t stopping anytime soon. Tonight, Bailey showed some signs of warming up to my husband as he scratched under her chin. I don’t think Bailey has to worry about him forgetting about her again. She’s better at working the guilt than I am.
November 7th, 2017
Our girl had her first sleepover party. She lives in a singleton dog household. So, it should not come as a surprise that Bailey was excited about sharing her turf with another four-legged friend. It was a test run. We wanted to see if her best pal, Cas, would be comfortable staying with us. If so, he will spend 3 days and 2 nights at the end of November while his owners are away. Both families were curious to see how the two dogs would behave while spending the night together. Friday night came and the pals enjoyed their nightly playtime at the ball field. They seemed a little confused when both of them returned to our house. Since Cas was familiar with playing in our garage, we let them chase one another around. Our friends tried to quietly sneak out with no luck. Cas was on to them. They did finally manage to squeeze out the door without him. Thirty minutes of active play appeared to work at tiring the two pals out.
Bailey peeked out of her kennel pen to watch me groom Cas including doing his teeth and ears. I couldn’t believe how quick it was to groom him. Cas is a short-haired black lab/husky cross, weighing in at just under 50 pounds. Everyone in our family has picked Mr. Light-As-A-Feather up and marvelled that we could. Our days of carrying Bailey ended long ago. I think around 5 months. Bailey is hefty and needs two people to heave her into the bathtub. My husband pulled his shoulder on the last occasion. Needless to say, she doesn’t get bathed inside very often. Once he was finished, Cas scampered into the house from the garage. He was preoccupied with the new scene and took little notice of Bailey flopping down in the entry area for her nightly spa treatment. He scouted out the kitchen and spotted the heavenly smelling roaster before trotting back through the dining area to the living room. A glass door separated them so Bailey could enjoy her groom without distraction. She snored happily as I brushed out her coat. Cas pressed his muzzle up to the one of the glass panes, eager to see his pal. The few whines that escaped from his mouth did not register with our sleep comatose girl. It wasn’t until she was flipped over onto the other side and facing towards him that Bailey realized Cas was in “her” house. She jumped up quickly, a rarity, and charged to the door. I called her back to finish grooming – another 30 minutes passed before the sleepover could get into full swing.
Bailey barrelled into the living room, ready to play and tussle. I squashed that idea with a simple, yet sternly given command of “down Bailey’s blanket”. She stretched out alongside the sofa. With his playmate out of commission, Cas resigned himself to laying down in front of the loveseat. We began watching a movie which was interesting but, Cas had other plans. Several whines and a couple of quickly interrupted howls of misery from Cas later, Bailey gave him the “stink-eye” as if to say, “Just go to sleep. It is way past my bedtime.” The situation reminded me of a sleepover where there is always one child who refuses to go to sleep much to the disgust of those wanting to sleep. He settled down for a while but, started whimpering again after half an hour. We tried to reassure him but, Bailey, sensing her friend’s distress, moved closer to nuzzle him. Her efforts helped greatly and he relaxed. Around 9 o’clock, they were taken for one last business break before returning to the kennel. Bailey was wagging her tail at being locked in with Cas. Cas appeared shocked that he would be spending the night with his big, woolly mammoth friend. The two friends peered out from the kennel at us, illuminated by a nightlight. “Good night”, we said as the garage door closed. I slept fitfully as I dreamt of what Bailey and Cas might get up to. I need not have worried. They were fine. Both of them were wagging their tails in anticipation of going outside for an early morning romp. My son and I got them ready and headed out for a walk around the block. Once the walk was completed, I gathered his stuff up and walked him down to his house for homecoming celebration meal. I returned without him and Bailey needed no encouragement to lie down. She made it as far as the front entry rug before crashing. It would appear that not a lot of sleep took place at the party.