Picture Perfect

September 19th, 2017

Picture Perfect

In my head, it was the perfect place to take the perfect photo of Bailey and her human pack.  The execution of this plan was not so perfect.

Last month, we became official members of the North Western Ontario Regional Newfoundland Dog Club.  You may be wondering why at this point.  Labrador is a considerable distance from Thunder Bay where this club is located.  However, this situation will be changing for our family. Adam, head of the clan, accepted a position at a mine near Thunder Bay last November.  The boys, Bailey and I will follow once the house here is sold.  In the meantime, our family decided to join this club with the hopes of becoming “active members”.  Adam has already attended a BBQ social in August as well as the recent chiropractic therapy workshop.  He misses being around his sweetness.  Having an opportunity to hang with the other members and their giants is appreciated by him.

We are newbies to the club.  So, it did not come as a surprise to receive an invitation to submit a bit of a bio and a photo of the family for the seasonal newsletter, “Newfie Tales”.  The request sounded simple enough.  Sunday afternoon was sunny after a run of rainy days.  I wanted an outdoor shot highlighting our Labrador autumn.  My walking partner agreed to take the photo.  The family and Bailey loaded up in a very warm van and headed down to Jean Lake which is just below our house.  It is a favourite walking area for us.  We clambered out at the boathouse and made our way to the floating dock.  Bailey was panting at this point with drool starting to drip.  Rats! I forgot her drool rags.  A quick wipe with the backside of my coat sleeve did the trick.  I just needed to remember not to expose it when the picture was taken.  Bailey was not put off by the swaying of the dock, although I was.  The family got into position with Bailey front and centre.  It was at this point that I realized things were not going to go well.

Bailey was clearly hot and the water was looking inviting.  She was facing a huge, lake- sized water bowl.  With each passing minute, Bailey was getting more difficult to keep under control.  Our girl wanted to dip her paws.  I should have known that a black, long haired Newf would not enjoy sitting in the sun.  If that was not enough, my friend had brought her dog, Cas, and husband.  Bailey loves spending time with both of them.  They waited behind us – closer to shore.  Bailey kept trying to turn her head to see what they were doing.  Once Cas began calling to her, I  knew the photo shoot was doomed.  A series of snaps were taken before we decided to abandon looking into the sun.  The brightness of the sun caused the photos to be overexposed and, our eyes were half shut from squinting.  Hates Photo SessionWe moved to a new location which proved better with respect to the sun.  However, the dreary storage shed behind us spoiled any hope of showcasing how beautiful Labrador West is at this time of year.  We moved again.  Bailey wanted to bolt.  She was tired of the photo shoot.  Cameron tried to appear casual as he struggled to keep her still.  If I did not know better, the photos seem to show him throttling her.  By this time, the black flies had decided to join us.  Smiling casually while being devoured is an acting feat that I have never mastered.  Still, we persevered on to capture the “perfect” photo.  The fifteenth shot was deemed okay and we called it quits.  Perfect or not, we were done….



Misfortune Comes In Threes

September 12th, 2017

I have found after years of experience that if something unpleasant happens, then one can expect two more such occurrences to follow.  In recent weeks, Bailey has been plagued with diarrhea after ingesting (more like inhaling) wild blueberries.  The berries come into season by the third week of August and continue ripening well into September.  She and her sidekick, Cas, had been running off-leash on a local trail every morning.  Their excursions into the bush became more frequent as they discovered the wondrous taste of ripening berries.  Back on the trail, their owners were clueless as to how much was being consumed.  The happy, piggy grunts coming from my sweetness should have alerted me.  I finally had to admit that Bailey was like a giant harvester clearing a stripped path through the berry patch.  The solution was to keep both dogs on leash until the end of the berry season.  I also reduced the amount of vegetables given as treats and toppers on meals just to be on the safe side.  Although the diarrhea finally disappeared, we were not out of the woods yet.

The two dogs and their owners continued to hike the trail – starting at 6:30 am.  The first of September arrived with a bang – literally.  Halfway into our hike, the beasts were unleashed for a quick frolic.  Bailey and her pal were thrilled to finally be loose.  They darted in and out of the shrubbery lining the trail.  Suddenly, a string of loud bangs were heard followed by a couple of barks from Cas.  These barks sounded quite different from his normal repertoire.  My first thought was a car had backfired.  Then, it dawned on us that it was a gun being fired.  Owning a large black dog that can pass as a small black bear was a real concern.  I was not any safer myself because my clothes were black as well.  Our dogs were not visible which made for a few anxious moments as we quickly went in search of them.  I found Bailey further up the path, looking somewhat mystified as to where her buddy was hiding.  Fortunately, I was able to keep her attention long enough to clip the leash back on.  Cas took a little longer to locate but, he was finally back on lead after what seemed like an eternity.  We wondered who would be firing guns when it was still dark out.  I always considered this trail to be safe from hunters as it is within the town’s limits.  The four of us quickly made our way down the trail towards home.  My heart racing as I listened for more shots.  We learned afterwards that it was opening day for hunting season.  This particular trail was going to be off limits until the season closed.  It seemed the best decision rather than risk having our dogs mistaken as game.  The dogs obviously did not understand.  Bailey and Cas were not thrilled with the street walks.  But, we still had the field at Jean Lake Recreation Area to let the dogs play off leash.  Or, so I thought.

The final misfortune came last week.  On Monday, Bailey went on her usual morning walk followed by a snooze until lunch time.  She ate her lunch and lay down on her blanket.  When I called her for the afternoon walk, she pulled herself up and limped to the door.  I could see that Bailey was favouring her right paw.The Wound  A closer examination revealed that the pain was with her paw and not the leg.  Leg injuries for Newfoundland dog owners are something to fear.  She hobbled out for a quick business break before returning home for an afternoon of rest.  That night, I discover a lump growing on the side of her second paw pad.  Bailey pulled her paw back even if it was only lightly touched.  A magnifying glass and headlamp revealed an opening the size of a pin hole.  I couldn’t help but, wonder if she had picked up a sliver.  Although she had stopped limping by Tuesday night, the bump remained.  A vet appointment was made for Friday and Bailey’s movements were further restricted – no trails, no off-leash and no long walks or outside playtime with Cas.

I kept the wound clean in the meantime.  Bailey saw the vet who took a blood sample from the lump.  The results showed a high white blood cell count which may be the result of an infected cut or the presence of a foreign body like a sliver.  Bailey was given a two week supply of antibiotics in the hopes that any infection would be cleared up.  I was told to keep cleaning the area and to restrict walks to pavement only.  If the lump did not improve over the next two weeks,  Bailey would have her pad opened up and flushed to remove any foreign matter.  A procedure which could require that Bailey be put under with anesthetic and the recovery time could be several weeks.  I was definitely going do everything to avoid that outcome.  I have been vigilant about keeping the area clean – almost fanatical at this point.  The two of us have been practicing Rally-O commands for short periods of time in the garage.  It helps to break up the monotony.  Bailey really misses hanging out at the old haunts like the ball field and the dog park.  She has managed to attract extra rubs and attention from our houseguests and the family.  Perhaps, Bailey’s luck will change for the better once this third incident is behind her.


They’re Back

August 22nd, 2017

Bailey Is BigMy parents are once again venturing to Labrador West after a two year hiatus.  They will be flying through Thursday night from Vancouver Island, British Columbia.  Their plane touches down here on Friday evening.  They will be greeted by a reception party consisting of two grandsons, myself and a very enthusiastic Newf.  Things have changed since their last visit in August 2015.  Bailey has grown considerably from a 84 pound, 7 month old Newfoundland puppy to an adult who now weighs in at 118 pounds.  Although my parents follow Bailey’s weekly blog, seeing Bailey in person brings home the realization of what “bigger” truly means.

Bailey Is BiggerBesides the obvious growth, there is more of Bailey’s fur and drool.  Our gal just recently started to blow her coat.  Fur bunnies are multiplying at such a rate that vacuuming barely makes a difference.  Our guests will soon become familiar with using a lint roller before exiting the house for a dinner out in fancy dress.  They will quickly learn to move far away from Bailey when she rigorously shakes her head, launching ropes of Newfie goober from her jowls.  A bigger head means she has a much bigger mouth that generates great quantities of slobber.  Then, there is her napping habits.  Bailey is our moving rug who plops herself down in the most inconvenient spots.  We are forced to step over or around her.  My parents will soon realize that once Bailey takes over a space for napping, moving her is not an easy task.

If they can adapt to these changes in Bailey, my parents will experience the best of our gentle giant.  Bailey is more settled than she was at 7 months.  Regular training has made a huge difference.  She is quite willing to lie still for hours – especially, if belly rubs are being given.  Bailey has become quite adept at waiting patiently and quietly for the opportunity to lick plates.  My mom will be a little squeamish with that development.  However, Bailey is not one to give up.  She has a winning personality combined with gorgeous fur that acts as a magnet in attracting one to her.  My parents are in for a real treat by having an up close experience with one of our province’s famous mascots, the Newfoundland dog.


Inconvenient Sundays

August 15th, 2017

Scrubbing Bailey’s kennel floor on my knees, I ask myself, “Why Sundays?”  After all, is this not the day of rest?  The morning had started out so well.  The perfect cup of coffee savoured as I read my latest mystery novel.  Finally, it was 6:15 am and I was ready to wake my sweetness up from her sound sleep for the morning trail walk.  I whipped the garage door open only to be hit with a repugnant odour.  I remembered that smell from a Sunday not that long ago.

It was Father’s Day – June 18th.  It was a jam-packed day.  I had the task of getting my youngest son to the Iron City 2017 Duathlon in the morning.  My other son and I were slated to man one of the water stations as volunteers.  My husband would be at the start/finish line supporting his son and ensuring there were no equipment failures.  I rose early to ease into the day and planned to take Bailey out for a trail walk before returning home for the well-earned second cup of java.  The rest of the family would get up around 8:30 am for a leisurely breakfast of waffles and wild blueberry sauce before packing up.  It was a superb plan until I opened the garage door.

Bailey was sitting as tight as a Newf could in the corner of her kennel pen.  The smell of diarrhea permeated the area.  Having raised two boys, I instantly knew what was in store for me.  I reluctantly looked in. It was bad scene – an explosion of poop.  What an introduction into experiencing Bailey’s first bout of diarrhea!  I marvelled that Bailey managed to avoid getting any of the offending material on herself.  No encouragement was required for Bailey to exit the kennel.  She needed her walk and I was motivated to delay the nasty clean-up.  I thought about waking up my husband and saying Happy Father’s Day before springing the task of poop removal on him.  But, I was kind.  I decided to take this one for the team.

Off the two of us went to join our trail partners.  I envied my walking partner who would be soon enjoying her second cup of coffee.  Bailey and I returned.  It was still there.  Bailey plopped herself down as far away as she possibly could.  She fell asleep quickly after a night of very little sleep.  I scooped the offending puddle with plastic grocery bags.  I decided to share the fun and woke my sleep-loving husband.  He collected the cleaning items and I began the task of  disinfecting the kennel and its sides.  The homemade waffles and sauce were scrapped as my husband took over cooking duties.  The boys were somewhat disappointed when they sat down to a breakfast of oatmeal porridge and fruit.  Outside, the rain was pouring down.

I thought how living with children and pets often means dealing with unpleasant situations at the most inconvenient times.  Our family was less than 72 hours away from leaving on our 6,000 km road trip and Bailey was coming with us.  A dog with loose stools in a van was a terrifying thought.  I suspected that the lake water drank by Bailey on a walk around Jean Lake, the previous day,  was the likely source of her discomfort.  Two hours later, Bailey was washed and her kennel was spotless.  We decided that my husband would stay home to make sure that Bailey was okay.  Personally, I think he was relieved not to be standing in the rain at the race.  After a day of no food and lots of rest, Bailey showed some improvement.  She made short work of the rice and chicken on Monday.  Bailey was back eating her regular food by the next day.

Here I am – Déjà vu!  The clean-up went quicker this time.  Thanks in part due to it being less explosive and I found better ways to tackle the mess.  On Saturday, Bailey had been wading in the lake as a break from backpacking and managed to gulp down enough water to set her bowels off again.  It took Bailey until Sunday afternoon to clear her system followed by 24 hours without food.  As if today, things are back to normal for her.  She’ll only be drinking her packed water until summer is over.  The calamity has passed for our sweetness.  The good news is that I not only cleaned Bailey’s kennel but, tackled the rest of the garage – a job that I had been procrastinating on doing for weeks.


Tea Newf


August 8th, 2017

Bailey Mom & Flies

With cooler temperatures and no sign of the yet to materialize thunderstorm, Bailey and I headed out to Jean Lake for an afternoon of collecting Labrador tea leaves (also called Ledum groenlandicum which is a shrub that flowers from late May to mid-July).  The plants grow abundantly in the forest around Labrador West without any human care.  All that we have to do is be patient until the leaves are ready for harvesting.  The leaves are picked, washed and dried before being stored away for the winter months.  It is the North’s version of herbal tea.  The leaves can be used to make a tea that is rich with vitamin C.  Faced with the harsh weather here, I relish warming myself up with a mug of seeped Labrador tea leaves throughout the winter.  I can close my eyes and its smoky aroma reminds me of hiking off the trail in search of unblemished leaves.  This harvest, I have a helper.  Bailey & Her LoadBailey would be hauling our gear as well as the collected leaves.  She must know that hauling is what Newfoundland dogs were bred for.  The sight of her harness brings on an instant tail wag.  I have become more skilled at putting the harness on her over the last few weeks.  I carefully balance the load consisting of water bottles, drinking bowl, bug spray for the two of us, collection bags and camera.  Then, we are off. Bailey ignores another dog and owner coming towards us.  She plods ahead, focused on her work.  Within 10 minutes of leaving home, we are strolling down the trail in search of “perfect” tea leaves.  I have learned not to pick from plants too close to the trail.  Local dog traffic on the trail means these plants are likely to have been specially fertilized.

Crop of Tea Leaves

Bingo, I spot a mother lode of vibrant, dark green leafed plants.  They are setback from the trail.  Bailey responds immediately to the command, “Whoa” and remains stationary while I root in the backpack for one of the collection bags.  Bailey Patiently WaitingI begin picking.  I soon realize that Bailey is no longer standing on the trail.  She has followed behind me – curious to see what I am doing.  Perhaps, Bailey remembers me picking berries and is hopeful that a tasty treat might come her way.  One sniff of the Labrador tea leaves and Bailey’s hopes were dashed.  The leaves were not appealing to a Newfoundland dog unlike berries.  The forest was peaceful.  A bird would chirp every so often but, Bailey and I were on our own.  That is, if one does not count the hundreds of black flies swarming us.  We continued for a while before moving back to the trail in search of other picking spots.  I reflected on the fact that my father’s paternal side also had picked Labrador tea out west and sold the dried tea leaves to men headed for British Columbia’s Gold Rush.  It must be in the genes.  The only difference is that I had a Newfoundland dog assisting me.

I Have Your Back

Occasionally, I would take a break for water.  Bailey seemed to understand guzzling the water in her bowl resulted in the backpacks getting lighter.  A couple of places on the trail allowed Bailey to wade into the lake.  Can I Go In The LakeI always took off the backpacks before she entered. It was a precaution.  One cannot always tell how far out a Newfoundland dog will go.  Not all of the items in the backpacks would fare well if submerged in water like the camera.  When the bags were filled, we made our way home.  Bailey made quite an impression on two preteen girls who wanted to know what she was carrying.  Working or not, Bailey earned the ear scratches that the girls gave her.  Bailey promptly plopped herself down onto the cool concrete in the garage for a late afternoon siesta and it was tea time for me.

Washed & Ready To Ddry


The Dog Cave

August 1st, 2017

Bailey and I have found refuge from black flies and warm temperatures in the garage.  It stopped being my husband’s “man cave” as of the beginning of July.  Instead, the garage has been transformed into Bailey’s own private paradise of cool concrete, a big bucket of refreshing water that is continually replenished, an assortment of balls as well as pull toys, and a supply of tantalizing treats.  No bug spray or air conditioning is needed.  But, what is paradise without a friend to share in its offerings.  Bailey and her fur buddy, Cas, have a short walk together every afternoon followed by a garage play date.  The two pals would happily skip the walk and go directly to the garage if it were not for their owners.  Once there though, Bailey and Cas can barely tolerate standing still while their leashes and collars are removed.  Then, the real fun begins.

Between Friends

Waiting To Be Pounced OnThey chase one another around the confined space while tugging on each other’s fur, tails, ears and droopy jowls in Bailey’s case.  The two of them frequently run in a circular pattern as they hold on dearly to the body part of the other one.  Before long, one of them is rolling on the floor while the other climbs aboard (that would be Cas) or looms over top (this one would be Bailey).  Cas has never been intimidated by Bailey’s large size.  He uses his front paws like a light weight boxer against his heavier opponent.  Cas is quicker and uses his speed to full advantage.  When Bailey is on the ground with four paws flailing in the air, he manages to straddle her chest.  Big TeethCas has developed a technique that allows him to pin Bailey down by placing his front legs on both sides of her head.  Then, the weight of his body on her chest immobilizes Bailey.  She tries her best to squirm out from under him, getting frustrated in the process.  Eventually, Bailey does escape.  It is Cas who becomes the hunted.  Bailey directs him with her huge paws until she succeeds at flipping him onto his back.  She likes to grab him by his fur and drag him around.  Cas will give a little whine when Bailey gets carried away.  I think she believes Cas is a real living “Stuffie” that can be shaken.  Water Bowl PalsAnyway, my friend and I remind her to play gently.  If necessary, both of them are given a rest as they quench their thirst at the water bowl.

Recently, the two of them have discovered the joy of playing tug-a-war with Bailey’s rope toy.  It was designed and made by my eldest son using knots learned at sea cadets.  A monkey knot creates a ball at one end and the other end has a handle to pull on.  The two ends are linked by a series of cobra knots.  Not A ChanceBailey prefers the ball to hold onto while Cas likes the handle.  Now, it is Cas who gets frustrated when he cannot pull Bailey towards him.  His only hope is to wait until she is readjusting her grip and pull when the rope slackens.  The winner struts around the garage while whipping the rope back and forth.  They keep us amused with their antics.  These afternoons in the garage have become our sanctuary from the black flies and hot, humid temperatures.  Every pooch needs a dog cave to share with their pals.

A New Tactic


A Working Gal

July 25th, 2017

Today, Bailey became an official working dog.  She hauled her own water bottles and bug spray in a specially-designed backpack for Newfoundland dogs.  When Bailey attended the beginner carting course offered by the South Eastern Ontario Regional Newfoundland Dog Club in June 2016, we placed an order for a customized harness to be made by Allan Maniate.  He is also belongs to our club, instructs most of the club’s courses while running a dog equipment business on the side.  The harness would allow  Bailey to safely and comfortably participate in draft activities.  Should she grow, the harness can be adjusted within a certain range.  Oh, how I wish that my own clothes offered this option.  I Am A Working GalAnyway, the harness is made of sheepskin and leather to withstand the strain of a hardworking Newf.  The harness allows Bailey to pull sleds, wagons or carts tailored to the size of a Newf.  Our original intent was to train Bailey to use a sled.  After all, Labrador is under snow 7 months of the year.  However, we decided to purchase a backpack for her that would attach to the modified harness.  Bailey and I hike frequently.  I was getting tired of being the one to carry everything.  Bailey needed to embrace her drafting heritage.

The night before the Rally-O seminar, the reason for travelling down to Peterborough, Bailey received her final fitting.  My husband and I were shown by Allan on how to place it on her and fasten the buckles up.  I learned that it is not as easy as my husband made it seem at last year’s carting course.  Allan explained the technique of keeping one hand behind the strap to keep Bailey’s long guard hairs from becoming tangled up.  The other hand had to pull the other strap under the belly of our black beastie.  You need really good arm muscles as I found out.  Eventually, I managed to get the straps done up.  Whew!  Then, Allan informed me that I should tighten the strap up one more notch.  Draft animals including dogs have a habit of puffing out their chests to keep the strap loose.  I tugged until I had added another hole on the strap.  Bailey was now cinched in.  We received a refresher course on carting and I sustained a few bruises from the cart’s poles hitting the sides of my knees.  Bailey was not the only one requiring more practice.  At the close of this learning session, we inquired about getting a backpack.  Fortunately, Allan had one on hand.  He was willing to make the customized leather strap needed to tether the backpack to the harness before the next day’s course.  Sure enough, the backpack was waiting for me.

My Bags Are PackedSince arriving back in Labrador West, I have slowly re-introduced Bailey to the harness.  She and I practiced getting it on her.  Once that part was mastered, I led her around the property to get her comfortable with wearing the harness.  Next, we moved to having her carry an empty backpack.  Bailey had to realize that she was wider than without the packs.  At first, she hit the door frame to the garage or me as she tried to perform our tight heel position.  Bailey seemed confused with the fact that her clearance parameters had shrunk.  I remained persistent and patient.  Bailey waddled around the yard with the empty backpacks.  She made progress very quickly that I began increasing her weight load.  First, she carried empty water bottles followed by half full ones.  Things were going so well that I thought today was a good day to try carrying a full load.

Bailey wagged her tail as I brought the harness out.  That is a good sign, I thought to myself.  I fumbled a bit with the straps but, got them done up.  The backpack was attached to her harness followed by loading an identical, full water bottle on each side.  The bug spray went in next as did my camera.  She owed me one for all those months of carrying drool rags, poop bags and treats.  I felt free for the first time in a very long time.  It was the same feeling that I had when the boys were big enough to carry their own stuff.  I was liberated from being a pack mule.  The day had come for Bailey to venture off the property in working mode.  The two of us and our friends headed down to Jean Lake to hike around it.  The morning was cool enough and the black flies seemed less bothersome.  The trees offered some shade from the heat of the sun.  At first, she wanted to play with her husky/lab friend, Cas.  I reminded her that she was working and all thoughts of play disappeared.  Bailey strutted like a pro.  We took water breaks along the way.  Sometimes, they involved wading into the lake for a quick drink and paw cooling.  I decided to remove the backpack when Bailey wanted to enter into the lake.  Other times, she happily drank the bottled water which magically lessened her load.  Her working attire attracted some attention but, not enough for Bailey to lose focus of the task at hand.  Our working gal earned a well-deserved afternoon siesta and a couple of high valued treats at the conclusion of the hike.