October 24th, 2018
Unfortunately, my last two blog posts could not be posted while away. Here is the one written on October 9th.
It has been 4 long days since I last saw my Newfoundland dog, Bailey. I haven’t been able to throw a ball, play tug with her rope toy or rub her endless body of real estate. Where am I? I left Labrador for Vancouver Island, British Columbia. It is the place where I grew up and my parents still live. The trip involved travelling across 5 provinces before arriving in the province of my destination. The journey spanned two days. I left a place where winter is nipping at fall’s heels and landed in one just bursting in autumn colours. The toque and gloves lie dormant in my suitcase. And now that I am here in “paradise” as the locals refer to it (obviously, they are biased), my heart longs for my girl. We parted knowing our routine would be changing. The suitcase was a dead give away for a Newf use to seeing my husband disappear for weeks when it suddenly appeared in the entry way. Bailey sensed something was amiss. She exerted quite a bit of effort to arouse herself from a deep sleep and clamber to the door for a final goodbye. I snapped a parting shot to remind me of the wonderful creature waiting back home on my return.
Since my arrival, I have kept up the early morning walking routine. The four hour time zone change has wrecked havoc on my internal clock. I wake up around 2:30 am and force myself to remain in bed until 4:30 am. By 5 am, the bed is made and I am dressed for a hike. I don’t encounter many people, a couple of joggers and a dog or two being taken for a walk. As I tried to remember places from 40 years ago, I found myself venturing into newly developed areas that no longer resemble what was there in the past. It is unsettling but, I kept on moving down one street then another. The place was overtaken with deer. I saw 8 on the first morning, followed by 7 on the next day and today’s count was a high of 9. I am thankful that Bailey is not with me on these encounters. I often wonder if she would give into her prey drive and give chase with me dragged behind. The trees are tall and stunning while the vegetation is lush. Bailey would have lots to sniff and ideal spots to leave her p-mail.
To pass the time on these walks, I mentally compose love letters to Bailey about what she means to me. You may be asking yourself is she crazy, love letters to a Newf? I assure you that I am not. I spend a large portion of my days in Labrador West with her. And yes, talk to her as if she really understood what I was saying. Bailey is my joy even on those days when she vomits her dinner up after I had just cleaned the kennel. The drool, the piles of poop, the fur bunnies floating tn the house are a small price to pay for everything that Bailey has given me. The wet kisses at the start of the day warm my heart and strenghten my resolve to brave the cold winter temperatures for an outing with my sweetness. Research indicates that pet owners live longer. Under Bailey’s watch, I have maximized my life span to the fullest. Each love letter reflects how much I miss her. Simply put, I love her and eagerly await our reunion.
October 2nd, 2018
We’re finally writing again about our adventures with a Newfoundland dog after a long hiatus. Life happens in unexpected ways and the blog was shelved for quite some time. I am only now downloading summer holiday photos onto the laptop album. As I scrolled through them, I discovered a couple of snaps that were truly memorable. The subject matter was Bailey and her special pal, Cas. In July, my husband and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary by visiting one of the most beautiful provinces in Canada, Nova Scotia. Of course, Bailey tagged along for part of the trip with Cas and his owner. The two dogs were kennelled together while my friend visited family in Toronto and we flew to Halifax, Nova Scotia. However, it meant two long days of driving with three adults and two active dogs. The first day of the trip involved driving from Labrador West to Baie Comeau, Quebec. After an eight hour drive, we checked into our hotel rooms and got the dogs settled. Everyone was fed and the dogs were ready to explore the area. Bailey did not last long in the heat and we returned her to the hotel to stay with my husband.
Cas, my friend and I decided to continue walking. Our plan was to head towards the water in the hopes of finding a park nearby. We went down one street then another one before stumbling upon a rustic green space that overlooked the water. A path weaved through the tall grass and lead down to smooth rocks. We clambered down the rocks onto the cool sand. Cas splashed around while we ditched our shoes and waded into the refreshing water. Sunset was starting and the reflections on the water’s surface were stunning. No map or GPS had led us to this paradise. It was secluded and rustic – perfect for dogs to run free after being cooped up in a van. We left, vowing to bring Bailey along with us in the morning.
Getting Bailey there was a process. She was not so keen about the heat or a “sidewalk stroll”. My stubborn Newf slowly waddled behind as if to let us know she was displeased with the choice of walk. Cas was straining at the front because he knew exactly where our foursome was headed. Eventually, we arrived and Bailey perked up. They were let off-leash and the joyful antics began. One would chase the other before the roles were reversed. It was cooler than the evening before but, still quite warm for us northerners. The socks and shoes were quickly removed for another foot dip. Then, we sat down on the rocks to admire our playful fur buddies who provided much entertainment. The time went by too fast. It was with much reluctance that the four of us left this “paradise found”.
July 11th, 2018
Bailey was somewhat preoccupied on today’s early morning walk at Jean Lake. Usually, we have the trail and surrounding area to ourselves. Bailey and I could hear voices that grew louder as we neared the lake. I could see the small outline of a boat in the distance. At first, I thought who would be boating at 6:30 am. With a second glance, I realized that it was a group of rowers. They were practicing for the upcoming Regatta Races held on the last Friday of July – recognized by Labradorians as the Long Weekend. Before I moved here, the long weekend always referred to the first one in August and Monday was the holiday. I wasn’t the only one showing interest in the rowers. Bailey was fixated on the boat, the voices and the movement of paddles. I could see she was drawn down to the water’s edge. She observed without going in. For a fleeting moment, I thought maybe the Newfoundland dog’s instinct to perform a water rescue might surface in my girl. I held the leash tighter in preparation. I need not worry. Bailey remained on shore but, refused to budge from her spot until the rowers turned around and headed to the other end of the lake. As we made our way down the trail, both of us were able to keep track of their progress where the bushes thinned in places. Spurred on by the rowers, Bailey and I quickened our pace and finished the trail in record time. I’m quite sure if given the opportunity, Bailey would have loved to greet them as they arrived at the dock.
July 4th, 2018
After weeks of waiting for the ice to melt off Jean Lake and its trail to dry up of run off from melting snow banks, Baily and I returned with much anticipation. I wondered if she would remember bounding into the cold icy water to retrieve a thrown branch. Seven months of snow is a long stretch between lake romps. She didn’t forget. Her nose hardly left the ground once we veered off our usual street walk and onto the trail leading to the lake. Her bushy tail swished back and forth with enthusiasm. I was equally excited after spending almost 2 ½ weeks recovering from a lingering flu bug. Long walks were put on hold as I felt too weak and exhausted to go far. When we first returned, the water level had risen enough to cover a portion of the trail. The town had issued an advisory warning so I expected a couple of detours along the way. It turned out that I took the detours while Bailey waded through the water. Thankfully, I had taken another leash that clipped to her regular one. This leash extension allowed Bailey to have an extra 6 feet and kept me from getting my hiking boots soaked.
The two of us have witnessed rabbits, squirrels and a variety of birds on these early morning walks. Bailey even caught sight of a school of minnows swimming near her. Her mouth and paws failed to catch any of them. On my part, I picked up garbage and admired the scenery. Some days, I would marvel at Bailey’s fur rippling in the blowing wind. Her stoic presence as she looked out over the lake’s crashing waves reminded me of Bailey’s heritage. It does not take much to envision her on the prow of a ship from days gone by. Each walk ends with a highly anticipated treat for Bailey and a second cup of coffee for me. Today’s walk may be over but, a new one awaits us tomorrow.
June 6th, 2018
I found myself doing something that was never part of my dog ownership vision. Like many wannabe dog owners, I thought of what having a Newfoundland dog would mean for our family. It meant providing medical care, nutritional meals, regular exercise, grooming, training and lots of attention to name a few. What I didn’t expect was to be trail blazing on a Tuesday morning at 6:35 am. And yet, there I was with a pair of clippers in hand, trimming back brush. Bailey enjoys early morning walks on the trail system located across the street from my house. It is not a trail maintained by our Town. With spring thrust upon us, the snow has almost melted. Happily, we ditched our street walking and returned to the solitude of nature. The trails are still wet in places but, can usually be circumvented by detouring through the bush lining the sides. One particular spot near the start of the trail is covered in deep mud for about 7 feet. We avoid the mess by taking a slightly worn moss path to the right. The weedy shrubs as I like to call them have become more overgrown than they were last year. As much as my friend and I try to prevent them from swatting the dog or person behind, our attempts often end in failure.
Our main concern was that one of the dogs would get a sharp end in the eye. The sting of a springy twig and the possibility of ripping our outerwear added to this concern. We had complained about the situation to one another throughout the previous summer. However, I never could remember to bring the cutters to trim the bushes. The presence of black flies provided further discouragement. In addition, I had ripped my expensive waterproof pants last year within a week of getting them. The situation was aggravating to say the least. It was time for action. Black fly season would be in full swing by the weekend with warmer temperatures and wet weather on the way.
Although my pants had two patches on them, I decided not to add a third one. I wrapped the cutters in one of Bailey’s drool rags before packing it in my waist bag filled with treats and poop bags. We were ready to meet our friends. The four of us hiked until we reached the detour. The dogs patiently waited with my friend. It was a remarkable feat given the number of rabbits, squirrels and birds that lived in the area. I began to tackle the offending twigs. Bit by bit, our single file path over the cushy moss became more open. It was hard work for me to be performing with only a cup of coffee for energy. The dogs seemed to know that the trail was being improved for them. The work was finally done. The four of us resumed hiking under blue skies and the warmth of the sun. The way back was more pleasant as we were no longer bothered by pesky twigs impeding our movement. I look forward to a summer of forging ahead with Bailey at my side.
May 30th, 2018
I finally have a retriever. No, the family didn’t get another dog. For the past week, Bailey has indulged her need to fetch a stuffed toy over and over again. It’s a need that has only recently surfaced after almost 3 ½ years of living with us. Bailey is good for about five throws before she “tires” of the activity – sticks, balls and stuffed animals. Other dogs eagerly chased down balls at the dog park while Bailey was content to watch them and hang out with their people. I came to accept that fetching wasn’t Bailey’s thing.
Out of the blue, our girl suddenly looked forward to marathon fetching sessions with a certain plush toy. The toy was originally given to Bailey by the owner of her pal, Cas. Early last year, they were going away for a couple of weeks and knew Bailey would miss her daily adventures with him. The toy smelt of Cas and we hoped it would offer some comfort to her while he was gone. Although she never played with it, Bailey would stare at her toy basket until one of us got it out and tossed it beside her. The same scenario played out each day until Cas came home. Then, she no longer had any interest in it. I washed it and placed it back in the basket. There the toy stayed. I considered getting rid of it but, never took action. The toy remained buried and neglected until last Thursday.
Bailey went to her basket as was her usual practice after the nightly grooming. Even though she can get her own toy, she prefers that one of us grab Stuffie. Her stuffed bear was lying top of the heap and I gave it to her. Bailey loves to suck on her Stuffie before falling asleep. She ignored that Stuffie and continued to focus on the basket. I was too slow. So, she took it upon herself to take the other stuffed animal out. Bailey brought it over to me and nudged me with it. I threw it into the entry and Bailey charged madly after it. She returned quickly and waited for the next throw. I kept thinking that each throw would be the last. Bailey just kept scrambling to get it and brought the toy back to me. It was getting wetter by the minute. I was getting sloppy with my throws. In fact, I hit the light switch and turned the living room lights on. Granted, I was lying out on the couch which restricted my arm movements. I kept wondering how much longer she was going to last. That first night, Bailey fetched twenty-three times. She reached thirty on the following night and I have stopped counting since then. Is it a phase or has my Newfoundland dog discovered the joy of retrieving? I’m not sure. But, thanks to our girl, my arm muscles will be firmer by summer.
May 23rd, 2018
At last, a beautiful spring day had arrived. I had been hoping to spend part of the afternoon with Bailey practicing our carting technique. The appearance of the harness elicited a tail wag from her. She was excited. That was good, I thought. Slightly above zero, Bailey would not be too hot as we meandered around the yard. I placed the harness on her and began to cinch up the belt under her chest. The fourth notch was going to be difficult to reach. It appeared that someone had either grown a bit more in her chest or her longer fur was taking up more space. My husband, Adam, lengthened the belt on the other side. Bailey and I completed a couple of circuits around the yard with positive results. She had responded perfectly to my commands of Haw (right turn), Gee (left turn), Whoa and Stand. We were off to a good start. Next, Bailey was then strapped to the whiffle bar which was attached by rope to a 4 litre plastic jug filled with sidewalk salt. WWe were ready to haul. Twice, one of the side straps got caught under Bailey’s leg. It did not take long for her to become more accustom to the straps touching her on the outside of her legs. Adam placed her water bucket by the garage so Bailey could replenish herself after finishing a round of the yard.
As we returned to the back yard, Adam offered to take Bailey for a spin. After all, he had trained with her at the South Eastern Ontario Regional Newfoundland Club’s beginner carting seminar. Bailey found her strength renewed with the new trainer. Behind the garden shed, the two of them disappeared only to reappear on the other side. Adam directed Bailey to go in between the raised bed and the garden shed. She did. Unfortunately, the opening was not enough for the jug to make the turn. Her left strap snagged the corner cement block. As Bailey plodded forward, the cement block tumbled out of place. I could see that our girl was far from hauling her maximum load. The leisurely time that Adam had been enjoying with Bailey was over. He cursed himself for not remembering to consider the straps’ clearance requirements. Bailey just looked at the overturn cement block. She seemed to be saying, “Did I do that?” Perhaps, a refresher carting course was needed. I took over carting duties while Adam grabbed a shovel and began to repair the shed’s retaining wall. Bailey was not the only one who had worked hard. The three of us called it quits and headed in for refreshments. Bailey had earned one of her special biscuits and a well-deserved rest.