A Tropical Breath

April 11th, 2017

Ready For Brushing

If you want good teeth then you have to take care of them.  Everyone in the family brushes their teeth.  In Bailey’s case, I do the brushing and she keeps her mouth open.  We first used toothpaste bought from the vet for Bailey.  However, we switched to homemade toothpaste after a friend found a recipe that was designed for dogs.  Bailey loves the taste and brushing is only complicated by her tongue trying to lick it up.  We finished the last of it on Monday night.  So, after tonight’s dinner, my son made up another batch in 5 minutes.  It had firmed up enough to be used when Bailey and I had returned from the nightly waddle.  The recipe is quite simple to make.

2 Items

It only needs two items – 6 tablespoons of coconut oil and 4 tablespoons of baking soda – to make 85 ml of toothpaste.  The supplies needed are a 1 cup glass measuring cup, a piece of plastic wrap to cover the top of the measuring cup, a tablespoon, a spatula and a 250 ml Mason jar.  4 UtensilsMy chemistry-loving son measured the coconut oil into the glass measuring cup and covered it with the plastic wrap.  He melted the coconut oil in the microwave for 50 seconds.  Once the coconut oil was fully melted, he added in the 4 tablespoons of baking soda.  Next, he stirred the mixture with the spatula.  The toothpaste mixture was ready to pour into a 250 ml Mason jar.  The toothpaste firmed up after 20 minutes.  Setting UpAfter labelling the jar, I was ready for the real test – cleaning Bailey’s teeth.  My fingers gently pulled back her jowls.  Her tongue went into overdrive the instant that the toothbrush touched her teeth.  She was definitely going to endorse this toothpaste given the loud slurping sounds emitting out of her mouth.  We finished in record time.  No more unpleasant doggy breath coming from our tropical girl. Aloha!


The Taste Test


Cultivating Fur

April 4th, 2017

As I am doing Bailey’s nightly groom, it occurred to me that I had become a farmer.  I engaged daily in the watering, feeding, exercising and tending to anything else that would improve my black beastie’s life.  My farming efforts were paying off.  Bailey has been producing enough fur to fill three quarters of a plastic grocery bag each night since mid-February.  Clearly, I had found my calling – the cultivation of fur.  She is still blowing her undercoat after 6 weeks.  When it first started, I wondered what kind of dog gets rid of her fur at temperatures hovering around -40 degrees Celsius.  I was putting on more layers.  But, I guess Bailey knew that the days were getting longer and the excess dense fur needed to go.  It’s like a Newfoundland dog’s take on spring cleaning.  The fur supply is endless.

I return to the task at hand, brushing out the undercoat.  I imagine better things to do with this fur than toss into a bag.  The velvety soft undercoat could be used as stuffing in a duvet comforter.  Or even better, I could knit Christmas sweaters using sheared off fur for the boys.  It gives new meaning to being made with a renewable resource.  I chuckle thinking about my sons starting a new fashion trend.  Reality sets in.  I don’t have time for such activities.  I’m a farmer which means my time is spent on raising a Newfoundland dog.  I get up at the crack of dawn to be greeted by my tail wagging girl and spend the day cultivating fur.


Belle Of The Ball

March 28th, 2017

The unexpected is often an opportunity in disguise.  Last night, Bailey and I were taking a shorter version of our evening walk.  I noticed my neighbour walking her 9 month Goldendoodle, Jinx, down below in the sandpit.  We were slightly elevated as Bailey and I made our way down a trail to the side of the snow covered sandpit.  He was off-leash and Bailey was not.  We had moved far enough away from Jinx by the time Bailey caught sight of him.  I was not in the mood to be dragged down the steep incline if Bailey decided to personally greet him without my permission.  I thought that one of these days, the two dogs would have to get together for a play date.

I Got a Friend In You.jpg

Another 20 feet down the trail, a familiar shape came into view.  It was 11 month old Cas, Bailey’s regular hiking partner, and his owner.  Cas had caught Bailey’s scent long before the rest of us were aware of the others in the area.  He was also free from the constraints of his leash and bounded towards us.  Just as I leaned down to unclip Bailey in preparation for this unexpected romp, Cas veered to the trail branching off to the right.  I was sure that he had caught a whiff of Jinx.  Bailey would just have to wait.  I kept her leashed as we headed towards our friend who was trailing behind his wandering dog.  He acknowledged Bailey in a very inviting voice.  Cory is one of Bailey’s favourite people.  Seeing him twice in one day was just too good to be true.  Bailey was not going to forgo a rub and maybe a treat.  She began to move forward with more effort.  I found it more and more difficult to keep her under control.  I made the decision to let the leash go rather than risk re-injuring my knee.  I had been undergoing physiotherapy for the last three months after knee surgery.  The treatment was finally paying off and looked like the end was near.  Bailey barrelled down the hill while I muttered, “Just a quick visit as we have to get home.”  I had not even finished voicing that thought when Cory reached out with the intent of giving her a pet only to touch air.  Bailey had swerved at the last second, hot on the trail of Cas and Jinx. She had vanished just like her pal.

I looked at Cory and shrugged, “I guess we are not going home.”  The two of us came around the corner to find the three dogs chasing one another around the open space.  Their tails wagged frantically.  Their owners realizing the futility of breaking up the three amigos settled on watching the dogs in action.  Cory produced a small ball that reminded me of a clown’s bright red nose.  He threw it.  Fortunately for Bailey, she was close enough to get it first.  Normally, Cas is much faster at retrieving thrown objects than my girl.  Oh, how she pranced and danced around…  She darted in between the two male dogs who tried in vain to get the ball from her.  If they started lose interest, Bailey flashed enough of the ball to get the game of chase going again.  She acted like the belle of the ball who was thrilled to have two male suitors vying for her attention.  It became quite apparent that Bailey was a ball hog.  Cory pulled out a stick and tossed it.  According to Jinx, stick trumps ball.  Cas and Jinx ignored Bailey as they worked on getting the stick away from other.  When Bailey realized that she had been jilted, she tried to stir interest by chasing after them.  Bailey could neither catch their attention nor keep up.  Belle of the BallShe was slowing down.  I seized the moment and commanded her to sit.  Bailey released the now frozen drool covered ball. I tried my best to wipe it before handing it over to the real owner.  Although she was no longer the belle with the ball, Bailey clearly loved being the centre of attention.


Spring Countdown

March 21st, 2017

Leaping Into Spring

The calendar indicates that spring has arrived.  Labrador West still has an abundant supply of the white stuff on the ground and more is predicted to fall.  But, I know that the melting will begin in a few short weeks.  The trails and roads will become mucky and wet making daily walks challenging.  Each hike into the woods is precious at this stage.  Mornings are cold even with the sun beaming down through the branches.  Temperatures are typically in the minus thirties now.  Exhaling leaves a crystalline fog in front of our faces.  Bailey doesn’t care.  She has spring in her step.  Thundering around in the snow only to stop suddenly and plunge her head into the ice crystals to quench her thirst.  In the mornings, I am bundled up in my parka, snow pants and full face balaclava mask.  By the afternoon, I have shed the heavier clothing for lighter fare as temperatures soar to -10 degrees Celsius.  It is only natural that Bailey prefers the coolness of the mornings.  Catching Some RaysHer long, pink tongue dangles out more at midday when her thick, black fur absorbs the sun’s heat.  I have to be more careful about staying on the trail.  One false step and down I plunge into the snowy depths.  Even the packed trail has hidden traps for inattentive hikers who find themselves sinking down on a soft portion.  Bailey seems to manage as she bulldozes her way back to firmer terrain.  She is in her element.  I am thankful that winter lasts for almost 7 months here.  With the arrival of spring, Bailey’s adversary, the pesky black fly, will soon return along with the hotter temperatures.  By then, the two of us will be counting down until winter arrives.

On The Prowl


Inspiring Spring Cleaning

March 14th, 2017


Spring Cleaning Deterrent

I started thinking about spring cleaning the house with the arrival of daylight savings time.  It’s a process that can seem daunting at the beginning.  Small steps, I reminded myself.  Better to get an early start rather than wait until painting the interior living space begins in May.  I can only do so much at one time.  Painting and Bailey will be challenging enough without the annual house clean-up added on.  I put a schedule together that focused on one room at a time.  Sounded simple!  I was ready to begin.  What I did not anticipate on was Bailey sabotaging my motivation.

Not A Care In The WorldThe entry area seemed like a good place to start.  It only had one closet.  But, with winter weather still here, it was bulging with cold season gear.  Cross-country ski boots and clothing jammed between snow pants and ski jackets caused me to pause.  Should I be holding off until spring in Labrador West had actually arrived?  The carefully written cleaning schedule went through its first revision.  The living room was next.  Bailey had other ideas.  She naps in the morning on her special blankets with “Stuffie”.   After a longer early morning walk, Bailey had fallen into a deep sleep punctuated with the occasional snore.  I commanded her to move – no response.  I attempted to move her and was met with a sound reminiscent of extricating my teenage sons from their beds on a Saturday morning.  I was determined to not be thwarted by Bailey.  After all, I am the boss.  Show No FearI pulled the vacuum out from the hall closet and into the living room.  I was sure that the noise would convince Bailey to relocate to a quieter place.  It did not.  She simply rolled onto her back; jowls exposed and let out a long sigh.  God, I envied her.  I had been up since 5 am.  If anyone needed a snooze, it was me.  Things were not going according to the plan.  With each snore from Bailey, my motivation quickly waned. I  finished vacuuming throughout the house minus the living room carpet before ditching the cleaning schedule.  I plopped myself down on the sofa with my latest novel, teacup in hand and Bailey lying happily below me.  Secretly, I hoped that spring would arrive late this year as I reached down to give a few belly rubs to my girl.

Someone Is Not On Her Blanket

Urge To Rub



Discovering Bailey’s Heritage

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.

The Newf Poster Dispaly

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.

Cam At Heritage Fair 2017


A Whole Lotta Lovin’

February 14th, 2017

Happy Valentine’s Day!  It is the day that we celebrate “love”. For my family, it is the celebration of our love for chocolate.  The boys left with heart cookies covered with crushed cherry flavoured Jolly Ranchers and chocolate drizzled over top in their lunch bags.  Did I really think that those cookies would survive the ride to school on the bus?  I was doubtful given that I only lasted until the 9 am.  I barely stuffed two of them down before Bailey caught on that something was up.  She kept close watch afterwards in case what smelt so good suddenly appeared again.

By the afternoon, I was whipping up a batch of cheesecake brownies.  Bailey moved herself into the kitchen.  She looked up eagerly as I carried dirty bowls and utensils to the sink for washing.  I felt a nudge on my leg and glanced down.  A hopeful face peered back at me as if to say, “Don’t forget the dish lick!”  I responded by telling her that chocolate was not allowed.  Bailey was less than pleased when the anticipated lick failed to happen.  I took pity on this moocher and thought a peanut butter and pumpkin dog treat would satisfy her.  I got the feeling that Bailey was not impressed with the substitute.  Once the oven was on with the brownies baking, Bailey sought refuge from the heat in the garage.  She caught up on her missed morning napping.  The boys arrived home to the smell of brownies waffling into the main entry area.  A voice called out, “Something sure smells good.”  no-brownies-for-meAmazing how two boys and a dog suddenly appear out of thin air.  Bailey watched as I sliced up the brownies and placed each serving into a bowl.  She lay down on the kitchen floor as we enjoyed the decadent dessert.  The dishes were whisked into the dishwasher.  Bailey was definitely not feeling the love.  She parked herself down in the entry way and gave a dejected look to me as I passed by.

I was drawn to her.  My hands reached out to rub her favourite spots – under the chin and around the ears.  The boys joined us. Bailey rolled over and waited as if to say, “Show me the love.”  The boys and I massaged her entire body.  The love flowed from us to her and her to us.  With Bailey in our lives, love will always be there.