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

 

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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.

 

 

No Room At The Inn

July 18th, 2017

Cameron & Tristan with Bailey at Chippewa Falls

As I mentioned in last Tuesday’s blog post, we had just returned from an epic 6,000 km road trip.  We covered a lot of ground in the course of 16 days which meant seeking out dog friendly hotels.  Thankfully, the internet makes searching simple.  I went with a certain pet friendly hotel chain and booked their properties in the places that we would be stopping overnight.  The first two Comfort Inns in Quebec City and Cornwall were familiar to us from last year’s trip to Peterborough, Ontario.  Bailey came with us to attend a beginner carting seminar given by the South Eastern Ontario Regional Newfoundland Dog Club.  Both inns allowed us to access our room from the outside.  They provided quiet, grassy areas for Bailey to explore and ultimately, to do her business on.  They were good fits for our giant sweetness.  The rooms were spacious enough that Bailey could stretch out on her special blankets next to the air conditioner.  She was not thrilled with the hotter temperatures outside and sought refuge by the cooling unit as soon as she entered the room.  With her water and food dishes nearby, Bailey saw no need to move off her blankets.  For such a large dog, Bailey’s presence went unnoticed by staff and guests.  I can’t say the same for the yappy pooch at the end of the hall.

Hoping For Ice CreamBy the time that we arrived in Peterborough, Bailey was embracing her new vagabond life.  Things were somewhat different at this Comfort Hotel. Bailey had to go through three doors and across a slippery tiled floor before getting to the carpeted hallway leading to our room.  She did not like it at first.  But, none of the hotel’s rooms had their own exterior door.  Our gal adapted quite quickly and was soon handling the tiles without any hesitation.  The hotel staff gave a doggy welcoming kit and seemed unfazed with having such a big dog on the premises.  We did have to pay an additional charge for bringing a pet at all of the places up to this point.  We expected it.  After 4 nights without any incidents, Bailey was back on the road with us on the way to Sault Saint Marie in Northern Ontario.

We pulled into the parking lot at the Comfort Inn late in the day.  By now, my sons and Bailey knew the drill.  They waited while I staggered tiredly into the hotel to fill out the paperwork.  I returned to drive the gang to their new cave for the night.  Usually, I would have the exterior sliding glass door already unlocked to aid in unloading our gear as fast as possible.  This place was no different.  However, I also wanted to get Bailey inside with no one getting a close glimpse of her.  Why, the sudden covert action?  It became apparent upon checking in that not all of these chain’s hotels share the same pet policy.  This one accepted up to two pets that did not exceed 50 kg.  As I stood at the front desk and read this part of the pet check-in contract, I wondered if one pet who was slightly over 100 kg would qualify.  Would I consider a few pounds over my normal weight to be a big thing?  No, unless it was bikini season.  The only good thing was that Bailey had actually lost 10 pounds from having a bout of diarrhea two days before our trip and had yet to gain it back.  Did the contract mean that one pet could not weigh more than 50 kg or both pets combined had to be less than 50 kg?  I did not to ask for clarification.  In my mind, Bailey was just the weight of two pets.  I rationalized it to my tired self and decided that Bailey was legit.  Since I had not confirmed Bailey’s status with the front desk clerk, I thought it best to minimize sightings of our big girl.  Not an easy thing to do when your dog looks like a young adult black bear in hunting country.  Bailey seemed a little bewildered with me.  I herded her quickly past people standing outside in the parking lot on the way to finding a secluded place for Bailey to relieve herself.  Bailey is social.  Seeking out people is what she likes to do, not avoid them.  It seemed to me that Bailey was determined to make me cool my heels for not allowing visits while she found her “spot”.  I was relieved that the night went smoothly even if I hardly got much sleep.  The van was repacked and loaded for the final leg of our trip to Thunder Bay.

Cameron and Tristan with Bailey at Rossport on Lake SuperiorI was really looking forward to getting more sleep and an opportunity to stay in one place for a few nights.  It was not to be.  Our reservation had three us in a pet friendly room with only one bed.  There was hardly any room for Bailey and me, never mind two teenage boys.  It was a mistake but, one that could not be easily fixed.  The Canada Day long weekend was coming and no other pet friendly rooms with two beds were available.  The boys ended up with their own non-pet room on the second floor.  When I made the original reservation, I was told that for an additional charge, Bailey’s size would not be a problem.  The contract presented to me at check-in stated otherwise.  We would be sneaking her in again through 4 heavy doors, past a washer and dryer that may be in use to the room that was located just around the corner from the front desk.  It was go to be a very long night.  Then, the skies opened up and the rain came down heavily.  Bailey hates being out in heavy downpours – so much for hiking during the day.  I shuddered to think of Bailey shaking her wet fur with enough force to coat the room in water droplets.  As a result, I spent the night tossing and turning while Bailey panted heavily.  The air conditioner had stopped working at 12 am.  I knew that moving out was the only viable option.  So, at 7:30 am, I began phoning around for another pet friendly motel.  I scaled back my expectations of an on-site laundry facility, fridge, microwave and included breakfast.  I found a couple of local motels who would accept our oversized gal.  They just were full up for the long weekend.  No room at the inn so to speak.  Rats!  I moved on to plan C – boarding kennels.

It is true that good things can come out of unpleasant situations. I contacted a kennel that specializes in large and giant breeds – Greer Newfoundland Dogs Kennels.  I called and Fay Greer listened to my sad tale.  She encouraged me to come out with Bailey and tour the facilities.  You see, they had room at their inn.  My son and I arrived with Bailey to find 192 acres of stunning beauty.  Fay walked us around and introduced us to her own gang of Newfs.  She had been a member of our Newfoundland dog club in South Eastern Ontario before moving north decades earlier.  Now, Fay was a member of the Northwestern Ontario regional club in Thunder Bay.  I learned that the world of Newfoundland dogs is indeed small.  It was the perfect place for our gal.  The kennels were roomy with access to a large outside pens.  Bailey would also have supervised outings in the barn and large fenced area. I realized that Bailey was not going to your typical kennel operation.  She was being left at a retreat for Newfoundland dogs.  It was hard to leave her.  I kept looking over my shoulder only to realize that Bailey’s spot on the van’s bench was empty.  To ease my guilt, we returned each day to take her out for a daily walk followed by afternoon tea with Fay and her husband.  Our family enjoyed getting to know this exceptional couple who shared a love for Newfoundland dogs with us.  Travelling is complicated with a giant breed such as Bailey.  Despite our accommodation difficulties, Bailey’s presence on vacations has cultivated new friendships with like-minded people who love their canines.

Bailey Posing With The Wawa Goose

 

The Unexpected Souvenir

July 11th, 2017

Bailey & Donna at Terry Fox Monument in Thunder Bay2

Home at last.  My annual escape to civilization has come to an end as of last Thursday.  But, it was quite a vacation – 16 days and 6,000 kilometres.  We celebrated Canada’s 150th birthday in Thunder Bay, Ontario after stopping in Quebec City, Montreal, Cornwall, Peterborough and Sault Saint Marie.  Bailey joined us on this epic journey as she and I participated in a Rally-O course offered by the South Eastern Ontario Regional Newfoundland Dog Club.  I was planning on writing about the course until tonight’s grooming session revealed an unexpected souvenir.  Be forewarned, the photos are graphic.  Stomach-turners for people like me.

I was just finishing up with my sweetness when I decided to have one more run of the rake through her ruff underneath the left ear.  Something caught my eye and I bent down for a closer look. At first I thought it was a piece of wood in the shape of a corn kernel that Bailey must have got lodged in her fur on one of today’s hikes.  Nope…  For a second, I imagined it was the start of a tumour.  It moved.  Without thinking, I pulled the insect off.  Blood gushed out of a bubbled up piece of angry red skin.  I was trying my best to keep my recently eaten dinner down. All of us bring back souvenirs to remember our travels.  I just wasn’t expecting Bailey to have her own “special” one.  My suspicions suggested it was a tick.  Labrador is still considered to be a tick free zone.  Bailey’s passenger must have hopped aboard somewhere on our trip as we marvelled at the beautiful landscapes.  Thankfully, our gal had received a preventative treatment for ticks and other unwanted critters before we left.  Her next one is due in two days.  I retrieved a baggie from the kitchen and used the comb to flick the bug into the bag.  Captured & JailedOn further examination, the bug was tan in colour and the size of my middle finger nail.  Was it a tick?  I decided the situation required a second opinion. I called my hiking partner who lives around the corner and explained my predicament.  Her husband and she arrived quickly with IPad in tow.  Despite Bailey’s overly enthusiastic greeting, we managed to settle her down enough to examine the wound site.  The mystery bug was confirmed to be a tick.

While waiting for them to arrive, I pulled out the new shaver that I had bought for Bailey’s paws.  I managed to put aside my queasiness.  Then, I removed some of the fur surrounding the wound bulbous to not only get a better look at it but, to find it.  The Wound SiteEven with it shaved, it took a few minutes for me to locate it again.  It was not surprising that Bailey’s long guard hair and thick undercoat provided the perfect cover for the tick.  I scrounged around for my magnifying glass and took a more detailed look.  This tick was the first one that I had seen in real life.  Hopefully, it is the last time.  Bailey would have to go to the vet tomorrow to make sure that she was alright.  I realized that she had been tousling with her best bud, Cas, on numerous occasions since getting home on Thursday.  He was going to have to be thoroughly examined as well.  My friends left knowing what my cheerful news meant for them and Cas – an extended grooming session and possible tick prevention treatment.  Bailey, her souvenir and I have date with the veterinarian in the very near future and a second tick prevention treatment in two days.  We avoided several tourist traps on our road trip hawking over-priced souvenirs.  Who knew that Mother Nature had her own souvenir trap waiting for us?

 

Study Buddy

June 13th, 2017

The end of the school year is almost here.  But, Bailey’s boys must first get through a week of final exams that started on Monday.  Test anxiety can be a little much for even the most studious students.  Bailey is quite willing to offer her “study buddy” services to alleviate such stress.  She offers a few options.  Clearly, one of Bailey’s favourites is sprawling on her backside – tummy side up – in the hopes that a needy student will stumble upon her and feel compelled to vigorously rub a neglected belly.  I have walked by on numerous occasions to observe my newf spread eagle with a kneeing son running his fingers through her thick undercoat.  Bailey is obviously enjoying every minute given the happy grunts radiating out of her mouth.  Her “study buddy” is also benefiting from this symbiotic relationship.  I see the stress disappear as his face lights up with a smile.

Bailey also provides comedic relief to loosen the tension in household.  She is still wearing her special panties in the aftermath of the dreaded UTI (urinary tract infection) because Bailey truly enjoys wearing them.  I haven’t the heart to put them away yet.  That being said, my sons crack up with laughter at the sight of Bailey prancing through the house once she gets them on after being outside.  She has a number of laughter producing antics such as whipping her “Stuffie” bear back and forth with enough force to make a loud thud as it comes in contact with the side of her head.  The boys can’t stop themselves from chuckling.  I have come to realize that dogs are natural clowns.

Study BuddiesSometimes, Bailey’s presence is all that is needed.  She is really good natured about the boys using her as a pillow to prop themselves against as they study.  The warmth radiating from her belly has a calming effect much like a mug of hot chocolate does after a cold ski outside.  With the stress greatly reduced, my sons can give their complete attention to studying for the next exam.  Listening is another tactic of Bailey’s.  She is content to sit or lie down while one of her boys talks to her.  A nuzzle against the hand encourages her “study buddy” to continue.  My sons do not have to worry about Bailey interrupting.  She has all the time in the world for her guys.  High school finals are unavoidable.  However, having a Newfoundland dog as your own personal “study buddy” can improve your mood.

 

 

Rustic Gal

June 6th, 2017

Bailey is a well-groomed Newfoundland dog because of her nightly brushing.  However, I admit there are times when I see photos of show groomed Newfs and wish Bailey had a more professional look.  She’s a true country girl – bushy all over with bits of stray grass and sand peeking out of her fur.  The polished image that I imagine for her is clearly a fantasy.  I have not found a local groomer who would be willing tame Bailey’s unruly mass of fur.  As a result, I am left to tackle this task myself.  Oh, I watched the videos on Youtube that demonstrate grooming techniques for Newfoundland dogs.  These people make it look so easy.  You think to yourself, I should be able to manage it.  That’s a laugh…

Trimmed EarsTake Bailey’s ear trimming for example.  I have only done it twice since she came home with us.  My first effort reminded me of the 70’s bowl haircuts.  Back in those days, most parents trimmed their kids’ hair.  Beauty salons were not places that children went for haircuts.  Most of my classmates were subjected to their parents’ clipping and snipping.  It was like a bowl was placed inverted on your head and they cut the hair hanging below the rim.  Hence, the cut was referred to as the ghastly “bowl cut”.  Nobody seemed to mind too much because all of us came to school with either lopsided bangs or shaved heads.  I seem to recall that my mom started taking me to a beauty salon after my blonde hair turned a light green colour from the chlorine in the swimming pool.  My hairstyles suddenly became a lot more flattering.

Bailey’s not so fortunate.  Last week, I could no longer ignore the scraggy hair surrounding her ears.  She was due for an overhaul.  My skill level had improved very little as I tackled trimming her ears for a second time.  The more that I tried to blend, the more choppy it became.  Bailey didn’t care.  She was happily snoozing on her side as I lifted the visible ear flap up.  I wondered what the other Newfoundland dog owners would say about her look at the South Eastern Ontario Newfoundland Dog Club’s Rally-O seminar – only 19 days away.  It would be highly unlikely that Bailey’s classmates would be sporting a similar look.  They had access to large dog groomers or their owners have the opportunity to learn from experienced Newfoundland dog owners.  I am hoping that she will standout for her ability to follow commands rather than as a living example of my poor grooming skills.  Bailey is not bothered by her new look even if I think her stylist needs to find another career.