March 7th, 2017
Raising an animal like Bailey, our two year old Newfoundland dog, opens up endless possibilities for your child to use as a topic for school assignments and projects. Bailey has been the subject of two speeches that my youngest son has given since her arrival. Now, she has become the inspiration for his Heritage Fair Project. Grade 8 students in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador must write an essay of 8 to 10 pages, construct a poster display and create an original project on a subject that reflects the province’s heritage. Like many parents here, it is a relief when the project is finally done. Thankfully, this fair would be the last one for our family. Students (or those ones who are smart not to leave such a massive undertaking to the last minute) begin in January to select their topic and start researching. No class time is given to work on it. Cameron had already decided on “The Newfoundland Dog”. As a parent, you know that you’re coming along on the journey of discovery.
His trip began with a visit to the local libraries where he found many sources of information. Surprisingly, we learned that Newfoundland has its own unique provincial encyclopedia. Searching on the internet proved very successful at the Canadian Kennel Club’s website as well as the Newfoundland Dog Club of Canada. Our family’s collection of books on this giant breed rounded out his fact finding mission. While he wrote his essay, Cameron informed us about interesting tidbits on Bailey’s breed evolution. For instance, the Newfoundland dog is one of the few dog breeds in North America that is considered indigenous. It became very clear to us that there was much to know.
We debated which breed was the original ancestor of the Newfoundland dog – the Great Pyrenees, the Tibetan or Malaysian Mastiff, or the big black dogs resembling bears that were brought over to the island by Leif Erikson and his Norsemen. The recent discovery of a Viking settlement seems to support the bear dog theory. Another interesting fact was that the Newfoundland dog almost became extinct on the island of its origin several times. Cameron plodded on with the writing. By the end of January, the essay was taking shape. He tackled the poster display next. A photo taken of Bailey lying out on the hillside dominated the centre of the board. Pictures of her parents, Ike and Willow, demonstrated the two types of Newfoundland dogs recognized in Canada. A section on modern newfs showcased Bailey carting at the South Eastern Ontario Region – Newfoundland Dog Club of Canada’s drafting seminar in July 2016. But, photos of Bailey were not her only contribution.
Bailey donated a night’s worth of groomed out undercoat fur to be used as a part of a touching display. I laughed when he enquired as to whether or not Bailey would have enough fur to donate. She’s blowing her fur at the moment which means half of a grocery bag of undercoat is thrown out each night. Fur collection was not a problem.
The last portion of the project was a model depicting a Newfoundland dog carting fish unloaded from a fishing dory. Cameron decided his artistic skills to sculpt a dog were not up to par. I could relate since my drawing is limited to stick people. We settled on ordering a plastic Newf figurine that was pricy at $35. The only other option was shipping one from the United Kingdom with a price tag of $120. The first option suddenly looked like a better deal. He made the wharf, dory and cart out of popsicle sticks and loads of white glue along with a couple paint layers. Our house was filled with the chipping sound of popsicles being cut in the mornings. It reminded me of having a woodpecker nearby. By day 3, I was resorting to ear plugs to block the noise. The first cart was rejected because it was not built to scale. Dad, an engineer, offered suggestions to make the cart proportionate to the dog figurine. It took a while before our son was convinced to redo the cart and more chipping commenced. When no black paint could be found in the house on a Sunday night, Cameron improvised with a dab of black food colouring gel to mix into white paint. He created the perfect gray tone for the wharf. A trip to the local pet store was successful in producing blue-coloured hamster bedding to simulate the ocean and small aquarium stones provided a realistic shoreline. A small fortune was spent there. The model was assembled and placed on the dining room table where the rest of the display had been set-up. It was done…
Everyone was relieved. Bailey had her playmate back after spending weeks of lying at the top of the stairs, listening to Cameron chopping sticks and hoping he might have some time to spare for a romp in the backyard. In a couple of weeks, Cameron and seven other students will be representing their high school at the Regional Heritage Fair. Hopefully, other people will enjoy discovering the rich heritage of the Newfoundland dog as much as we did.