October 10th, 2017
The Canadian Thanksgiving holiday weekend has now past. Our waistlines are slightly larger after days of feasting. We celebrated on Saturday night, a day earlier than the family normally does. We invited friends to share in the harvest bounty with us. The layering of smells began on Friday with the making of the partridge berry sauce – the North’s version of cranberry sauce. By Saturday morning, I had flaxseed dinner buns baking in the oven. Some family members were disappointed to learn that the smell of fresh buns was all that they could enjoy. I specifically clarified that every bun had to be accounted for at dinner – no sampling. It was a difficult feat for my bun-loving crew to perform. The next smell to permeate the house was the cooking turkey complete with garlic-flavoured stuffing and roast potatoes. I almost forgot to make the wild rice with dried apricots. Fortunately, I remembered with just enough time to spare. By late afternoon, I had prepared the steamed broccoli and could take a well-deserved break.
Bailey was not oblivious to these wonderful smells lofting through our home. Her muzzle was on high alert in case any tidbits found their way onto the floor. She flopped herself down in the kitchen which forced us to step over her to get to the other counter. Bailey was well aware that a turkey dinner meant a night of licking plates and the glorious roaster. Our friends were bringing their own contribution to the meal in the form of partridgeberry apple crumble as well as butternut squash lentil stew. Their arms would be full so we decided to divert disaster from Bailey getting underfoot as she gave her own special Newfie greeting. Bailey was fed her usual dinner fare in her kennel, located in the attached garage. Bailey didn’t seem to mind as she followed her food dish being transported out there. However, she certainly realized the state of affairs when the doorbell buzzed and the voices of her favourite visitors were heard. She woofed as if to say, “Don’t forget about me?”. Clearly, Bailey had found herself on the wrong side of the door. Dinner was ready and people were hungry. Our girl was without an invitation to the feast which the rest of us enjoyed.
Between the smells and voices, our girl plotted her invasion. Our tummies needed a break before sampling dessert. One son began clearing the table and I loaded the dishwasher. My husband worked on serving the dessert. Things were going well. I asked my youngest son to take the pop cans to the garage for recycling. Bailey was patiently waiting until my unsuspecting son opened the door. She suddenly charged past him before he could stop her. “Let her in,” I called. After all, she had been good. Bailey circled each person that she encountered on the way to the kitchen – slobbering and whipping her tail back and forth. As she went through the living room, I heard my eldest son exclaim that Bailey smelt bad. I asked for clarification from the kitchen and was told it was a poop smell. I am not quite sure who suggested that she might have stepped in poop while playing with my son in the backyard before dinner. A quick thinking person opened up the living room windows and sliding glass door. Our girl had successfully stunk up the house. When Bailey arrived in the kitchen, I caught a whiff of her aromatic scent. I was rapidly losing my appetite for dessert. Bailey soon found herself being escorted back to the garage. Her smell lingered a bit longer even after her departure. Ironically, our sweetness did not appear to have poop anywhere on her fur after a quick look. She would need a thorough exam later. Bathing Bailey seemed unavoidable at this point. I pushed that thought out of my head for the moment. Our party once again sat down at the table to sample the fruit crumble. Of course, it was delicious despite the recent mayhem.
The last of the dishes were placed in the dishwasher and the remaining food was put away. My friend and I prepared our dogs for the nightly walk. Try as I might, I could not find the source of Bailey’s pungent odour. The nightly grooming session was my last chance to solve the mystery. As I lifted up her tail to brush underneath it, I heard her. My girl had gas. I had forgotten about the chopped up broccoli stalks in her dinner. I had given a very generous portion to her. Bailey had contributed her own festive aroma to our Thanksgiving Day celebration. It was a ripper of a good time.
September 26th, 2017
The harvesting is done and the freezer is bulging with berries, rhubarb and herbs. It was time to turn my attention to preparing the yard for winter. I felt a sudden urgency when today’s forecast showed minus temperatures and a strong possibility of snow. True, the snow won’t last for long. Labrador West can always count on a couple more weeks of autumn-like weather. I decided to tackle the flower beds and raised garden bed first. The bonus of waiting until cooler temperatures is that the black flies have gone. I left my bug hat in the garage. I realized that Bailey could finally join me in the backyard without fear of being eaten alive. She happily wagged her tail as the two of us made our way to the lupine bed. Thankfully, I had cut down the stocks over a week ago which made weeding a lot easier. While I dug and pulled a number of different weeds, Bailey sat beside me. I could see she was enjoying herself. Bailey sniffed the air. She looked and listened to the activity in the neighbourhood and forest behind us.
Then, I heard the sliding glass door open. I continued to work. Bailey was no longer looking over my shoulder. I noticed her hot breath had disappeared. As I turned to see what had captured her interest, I discovered my teenage son with a camera in hand. I was a bit annoyed. Here I was on my hands and knees working like a dog while another dog supervised and no teenage sons in sight. Where had I gone wrong? I muttered something about loyalty and family duty. The only response that I got from my son was “Smile”. It turns out that he was studying and noticed Bailey looking over my shoulder as if to say, “You missed a weed.” He felt the moment needed to be captured on film. I couldn’t help but, smile. I knew it was the shea butter balm on my lips that had attracted Bailey. She was trying to get closer in case it warranted a lick. We took a break to be photographed before turning back to the job at hand. By the end of the afternoon, the beds were weed free and neatly edged. The work and fresh air had exhausted us. The only thing left to do was lie out on the couch with Bailey stretched out alongside it and rest.
September 19th, 2017
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. We 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….
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. 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.
August 22nd, 2017
My 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.
Besides 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.
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.
August 8th, 2017
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 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.
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. I 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.
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. I 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.