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.
May 8th, 2018
Monday afternoon was perfect for setting up a Rally-O training course. My husband had cut 10 stakes to attach the laminated commands onto them. The stakes had to be sturdy enough to withstand high winds and a Newf’s sweeping tail. He painstakingly applied two Velcro strips to each command card and their corresponding strips to the stakes. Each one was measured to perfection – a testament to his engineering skills. I decided that a course of 8 commands plus the start and finish cards were enough to begin. Altogether, I have 36 novice command cards to choose from. The course can be changed quite easily. As a result, I can customize the course to suit Bailey’s learning aptitude. I selected 8 commands to practice. The ground in the backyard is still frozen up here in Labrador. So, I placed the stakes in the snowbanks thereby creating a course that would take us down one side of the house, across the yard and back up the other side. A few adjustments had to be made once I realized that doing a 360 degree turn wouldn’t be possible in the space available between the garden shed and snowbank or that turning right would mean walking into the side of the house. I was ready to get my girl.
Now, Bailey always naps in the afternoon to help recover from her noon hour walk. I aroused her from a sleepy slumber of only one hour. I made up for the enthusiasm that she was lacking. My girl perked up when she saw the start sign. I showed her the reward, dried sweet potato. We were off with my command of “Okay, heel”. The first station required a stop then sit. Bailey pulled that one off without too much effort. Praise was her reward and we were off to the next card. We proceeded around the yard until finally the end of the course was reached. Bailey gobbled her treat for a well-done effort.
It was a bright sunny day even though it was -1 degrees Celsius (-10 if you factor in the windchill). I was bundled up to ward off getting chilled. The furnace, our black beastie, was warm. We detoured into the garage for a quick pit stop. Bailey drained down the water bucket by a third. Another treat convinced her to try the course again. I made the mistake this time by turning the wrong way. Had we been in a sanctioned Rally-O competition, I would have lost points for the team. I guess that I am the one who needs more practice. We finished the round and Bailey freshened up with another trip to the water bucket. I still thought my girl was up for one more round. Bailey’s speed was much slower as she waddled from station to station. By the time that we reached the sit followed by down command, Bailey lingered a bit longer on the ground before responding to my “Okay, heel” command. Obviously, she was ready to call it quits. Her reward was a fetching a ball tossed into the snowbank. It only took a couple of throws before my girl was ready to continue her siesta.
May 2nd, 2018
Two weeks ago, I was wondering where spring was. Mother Nature must have heard me and sent an answer. Not quite the one that I was expecting. I was thinking about the positive signs that spring had finally arrived in our part of Northern Canada. Things like warmer temperatures, blue skies and evidence of life such as the return of birds from wintering in the south and plants starting to peak through the soil. What I got was a cruel joke! A rainy downpour greeted Bailey and I as we exited the garage last Wednesday. I had already peeked out the windows at 5:30 am and realized that snow wear was not going to do. I rooted through the hall closet in search of the rain gear that had not been worn since last October. The task was made more difficult when I realized that my splash pants were buried at the bottom of a container. The container had other ones stacked on it and all of them were stored on the top shelf of the closet. I tried my best not to wake the household as I carefully removed each heavy container. Where was the muscle when you needed it? I removed the insulated insert from my waterproof jacket as it was no longer required for plus temperatures. I exchanged the snow boots with waterproof hikers but, decided to keep the winter gloves on. After months of multiply layers, I felt almost naked. I was ready.
It was time to get my girl and head outside. Bailey took notice of my new attire. She sniffed my rain pants – leaving a trail of goo on them. I wasn’t bothered as the rain would soon be streaming down the pant legs to wash all of her drool marks away. Once the door was open, Bailey stood there, looking out in disbelief at the sudden disappearance of snow. Brown grass was visible as the snow bank in the front yard had shrunk back. I nudged her forward into the pouring rain. It was not a warm rain. I was soon chilled to the bone and wishing for that extra layer of insulation. The rain clung to Bailey’s fur which soaked it up like a giant sponge. She had gone through several puddles on our early morning business excursion. We returned home in desperate need of towels. I simply climbed out of my dripping outerwear and was ready to hunt down another cup of coffee. Bailey was another story. She received her first towel dry in the garage followed by a second one in the entry area. I had long ago given up using regular towels. The extra large bath sheet that seemed adequate last year was now looking a bit small for the job. Despite my efforts, Bailey was still quite wet. She would have to spend some time drying out at the front door. Soon her wet dog smell had permeated the main living area. As each family member came out of their bedrooms, they were greeted with the scent. It drew them to her. Wet dog or not, Bailey still got her rubs. Spring rains are here to stay and they linger in the fur of our “water” dog.
April 18th, 2018
Yesterday, our area was hit with another snowstorm. It was crippling enough to shut down the schools for the day. The boys rejoiced until they realized that snow shovelling was the main activity for them. My plans were also derailed as snow removal became the central activity of the day. Mother Nature has a cruel sense of humour. She teases us with glimpses of grass exposed as the snow melts. Then, in just a few hours, any signs of spring are erased by newly formed blankets of falling snow. Don’t get me wrong, I love our long winters to enjoy skiing, snowshoeing and trail hiking. Even shovelling the white stuff is fine if it comes 5 cm at a time. A couple of big dumps depositing over 25 cm can make one long for the spring weather enjoyed by southerners. From the look of things outside, we will be waiting for a while. Bailey loves her snowy wonderland. As we shovel and haul the snow away, Bailey gleefully charges up the snow bank to retrieve her ball that one of us has thrown. After several of these climbs, she is quite content to lie down and watch us work. Bailey may belong to the working dog breed family but, her four humans are the “working dogs” today. The exhausted troops were rewarded with homemade sourdough bread and tomato soup. Evening plans to attend a volunteer appreciation function were cancelled. I wasn’t fit to stay awake. Bailey quite willingly joined me for a nap to regain our strength for the next snowstorm to roll in.
April 10th, 2018
Like being on a roller coaster ride that had delivered too many dips and turns, Bailey and I were ready to get off. What began in January as a bad case of infected ears soon spread to inflammation on the skin between her paw pads. Her ailments were most likely to be caused by food intolerances. Treatment should have been simple or so one would have thought. One of the challenges of living in Northern Canada is that often services are offered by only one provider. Shopping the specials is limited with only one grocery store in Labrador West. The same is true for veterinary services – just one. In January, the local vet left. The Veterinary College has been sending replacement vets every three weeks until a permanent one can be found to fill the position. You see, our clinic is not owned by a vet but, rather an accounting firm (or so I have been told). Bailey saw a total of three vets. Each one had a different treatment plan to get our girl healthy. They meant well. The first vet suggested a duck-based kibble. The next one told us to give a fowl and grain-free kibble. Ironically, the one that she ordered in for us had grain in it. We refused to buy it. The last one actually suggested putting Bailey on a black bean and sweet potato diet. Really, I can’t imagine Bailey eating beans and sweet potato for 6 to 8 weeks. Just thinking about the amount of gas that she would produce meant a greater willingness on my part to spring the extra money needed to buy the fish-based, grain-free kibble. Bailey has come around to accepting her new kibble, although she longs for a return of turkey roaster licks – not a chance. The kibble seems to be working for her after several weeks of being on it.
The ears have been slow to respond to the various treatments prescribed. The second vet ordered a culture to be taken and sent away. I was surprised because last year, I had asked for a culture of her ear to be taken and was told transporting cultures in winter temperatures was not done. The culture sample would likely not survive the trip. My husband, not knowing this information, agreed to the culture being taken as I was instructing at ski school. The single type of bacteria present in the ear had become multiple bacteria. No cleaning or medication in the ears could be given for 4 days prior to the culture being taken. The results came back stating no growth according to the animal technician. No antibiotics would be prescribed even though the second vet felt they were necessary after 4 weeks on steroids. I questioned the result’s accuracy given that transportation could have killed the sample. The clinic was between vets. Bailey was to go back on a medication that had not worked earlier and to which she had reacted badly. I made another vet appointment with the next one who was expected to arrive in a couple of days. In the meantime, my husband and I brainstormed for other options. How far would we go to get treatment for our sweetness?
Well, 3,400 km to be exact! My husband and the boys were leaving to spend Spring Break in Quebec City with relatives while I stayed home to care for Bailey. We decided to make an appointment with Bailey’s vet in Peterborough, Ontario who she sees while attending courses with the Southeastern Ontario Newfoundland Dog Club. The extra days of driving combined with the hotel costs meant something would have to be given up. We agreed to cancel our 25th anniversary trip to Nova Scotia planned in July if necessary. Bailey was more important to us than spending our first holiday alone since our teenagers were born. I made the vet appointment in Peterborough for 1 ½ weeks later.
Bailey saw the third vet who examined and swabbed her ear. I brought every bottle that had been prescribed by the previous vets – all ten of them. The vet could not detect the presence of any yeast or bacteria. She wanted to reduce the swelling and inflammation quickly so Bailey was given a high dose of steroids for 5 days. The ears were to be kept dry and if possible, the ear flaps needed to be pinned up to increase airflow. I was to only clean her ears twice a week. Apparently, my daily cleaning sessions endorsed by the first two vets had aggravated the inflammation in her ears. I followed the prescribed treatment and saw improvement within a few days. Bailey wasn’t thrilled with the clothes peg holding up her ear flaps. We compromised with me laying her flaps back every time she was lying down. A day before Spring Break, I cancelled the vet appointment in Ontario and gave a sigh of relief that I would be staying home with my girl. Bailey was on the mend and as of last night, she is back to her old self. Our roller coaster ride has come to an end.
April 4th, 2018
By all accounts, a storm is coming soon to Labrador West. It has left dumps of snow across Northern Ontario, moving through Quebec and arriving around midnight tonight. My husband and boys are spending Spring Break in Quebec City with family while Bailey and I take care of the homestead here. They experienced the snow blizzard there early today. Staying in a hotel means no shovelling for them. I won’t be so lucky if we get the predicted snowfall. Tomorrow will be all about snow removal in the form of shovelling. Knowing the cleared parts of the yard will once again be covered in white stuff, Bailey and I spent the afternoon playing in the open space around the house. A pathway has been kept clear around the entire house due to the hard efforts of my husband. Besides allowing the basement windows to be free of snow in case of fire, Bailey and I can practice our Rally-O techniques as we move around the outside of the house. The snowbanks are over 6 feet high and act as a natural barrier between distractions and Bailey. It may have been -36 degrees Celsuis on our walk this morning (-41 degrees Celsius if you count the windchill) but, the sky was blue and the sun shone down on us. The air was invigorating. It was quite pleasant as long as one was dressed for the weather. We played with the ball. Bailey fetched. Then, the two of us wrestled with the ball. A simple “Leave it” command and the ball was mine. We soon collapsed down on the snow in need of a rest. Life won’t be so leisurely tomorrow. While Bailey will be thrilled to see the white stuff, a morning of shovelling will definitely dampen my spirits. Tonight, I plan to enjoy the calm before the storm.
March 13th, 2018
It was time. No more delays on my part. I grabbed the necessary equipment to fix the horrific wounds on not one but, two patients. Bailey`s twin stuffies required immediate attention or they were not going to survive another vigorous shake from our sweetness. I decided to tackle the task while Bailey was out for a business stroll. One of the bear stuffies had just been laundered. The other one had just spent the last hour being sucked on and licked by Bailey. I decided to start with the dry one. The stuffies have been her go to toy since they were picked up at a garage sale. They were unused and unclaimed until Bailey got a hold of them. Buying two identical bears allowed us to clean one while the other was kept under Bailey`s watchful eye. Since that time, Bailey always has her Stuffie nearby. It is her constant companion in the house. The house rule is that Stuffie must remain inside where Bailey can always find it. As soon as she is given the okay to go into the living room, Bailey retrieves her Stuffie from the toy basket that stores her other neglected toys. For Bailey, it has always been about Stuffie. If it is important to Bailey then the mangled bear is worth fixing.
And this is how I find myself trying to sew using a blanket stitch. A long time ago, I learned that sewing was not my talent. I spent 3 years in 4-H Home Arts followed by 2 years of Home Economics. My mother tried her best to cultivate my sewing skills with minimal success. It must skip a generation because my sons excel in the area given their Home Economics marks. I used to select thread to match Stuffie`s fur – not any more. Both stuffies sport Frankenstein-like stitches that cover their bodies. They are testament to my lack of skill. But, Bailey doesn`t seem to mind in the least bit. Another repair session was underway when our girl returned home and a quick poke in her basket revealed no Stuffie. She looked baffled until her eyes caught the treasured bear in my lap. Bailey approached and tugged gently at one of the bear`s dangling paws. The operation was in progress so releasing the patient for further abuse was out of the question. Bailey would have to wait. She did. Our girl sat down in front of me with eyes glued on the bear. Talk about being under pressure. The repairs looked ugly but, I hoped they would hold up to the tender mercy of our girl`s affections. With a quick toss, Bailey leapt into action. The bear was given a quick shake by Bailey`s mighty jaws before she settled down to run her tongue over its entire body. My break was over as I had a second patient who needed immediate attention.