March 12th, 2020
Another long distance phone call from a much warmer place came again today. Typically, I am asked, “What have you been up to?” My answer for the past 4 ½ months is snow, snow and more snow. The Labrador translation is snow therapy. We hike in it. We work in it. And, most importantly, we play in it. If Bailey could talk, she would surely agree that romping through the snowbanks is a wonderful way to pass the time. And that is exactly what the two of us did in the afternoon. The woolly mammoth jumped like a bunny after her favorite ball. Her antics soon had me grinning and laughing. Others passing by in their vehicles seemed to appreciate a rather large bunny hopping in the snow for all to see. While the muddy season is beginning for those dog owners living in warmer places, I am thankful to still see the crisp white snow and a much cleaner dog. Our time will come but, not today.
February 19th, 2020
It was that kind of day! Hunkering down as the winds pick-up and the temperature drops.
One is happy and the other (Bailey) is not impressed! An extreme cold warning for Labrador West for the night and my walk with Bailey in the morning.
March 13th, 2019
It was too inviting out to stay inside looking at a screen. Bailey and I opted for an outdoor adventure.
January 16th, 2019
At the start of December, an unexpected opportunity arose that resulted in making trail walks more interesting for Bailey. Each morning, the two of us meet up with my friend and her lab/husky cross dog for a hike through the forest. It is an invigorating stroll because of the cold northern winds and winter temperatures that hover below -30 degrees Celsius. Bailey is not bothered much by the weather like her short-haired pal. Her double-coat is more than warm enough for these temperatures. She waddles along often at a very slow pace while the three of us feel the cool nip. Cas usually conveys his discomfort by lifting his paw up off the frigid ground. Sure she’ll chase him for brief periods. But, he needs to keep moving at a fast pace in order to stay warm. That’s the other issue. Cas has lots of energy to burn off before returning home. If not, my friend must play with him outside in the hopes of tiring Cas out. The last thing that you want to do after hiking for an hour in our harsh climate is to delay going inside. My situation is quite different. Bailey can walk for 10 minutes or an hour and the end result is the same – a morning of napping. Sometimes, she only gets as far as the front entry way before crashing for a well-deserved siesta. It’s was a troubling problem for us.
We decided to try a new approach. My friend and Cas would start 15 minutes before us. They would hike to the place that we call “the rock”, turn around and meet us somewhere between there and the start of the trail. Cas would be warmed up from chasing snowballs and leaping through the snowbanks. It was a wonderful plan. Both dogs were a little confused at first because their buddy didn’t show up as usual. I had to bribe Bailey with treats to entice her to move from the corner where we had met them previously. I guided her across the street to the trail head where she caught her pal’s scent. It was game on. And now a month later, Bailey can’t wait to track down her pal. I’ll get the game going by asking her, “Where’s Cas”. She moves quickly down the trail following his paw prints and p-mails squirted randomly on the sides of the trail. I have found myself challenged to keep up to her while wearing a heavy parka and snow pants. Now, I am the one trailing behind. Her nostrils flare in and out as her nose tries to catch his scent in the air. Suddenly, Cas appears out of thin air much to Bailey’s delight. The treasure hunt has ended. The prize has arrived and a different game begins.
May 8th, 2018
Monday afternoon was perfect for setting up a Rally-O training course. My husband had cut 10 stakes to attach the laminated commands onto them. The stakes had to be sturdy enough to withstand high winds and a Newf’s sweeping tail. He painstakingly applied two Velcro strips to each command card and their corresponding strips to the stakes. Each one was measured to perfection – a testament to his engineering skills. I decided that a course of 8 commands plus the start and finish cards were enough to begin. Altogether, I have 36 novice command cards to choose from. The course can be changed quite easily. As a result, I can customize the course to suit Bailey’s learning aptitude. I selected 8 commands to practice. The ground in the backyard is still frozen up here in Labrador. So, I placed the stakes in the snowbanks thereby creating a course that would take us down one side of the house, across the yard and back up the other side. A few adjustments had to be made once I realized that doing a 360 degree turn wouldn’t be possible in the space available between the garden shed and snowbank or that turning right would mean walking into the side of the house. I was ready to get my girl.
Now, Bailey always naps in the afternoon to help recover from her noon hour walk. I aroused her from a sleepy slumber of only one hour. I made up for the enthusiasm that she was lacking. My girl perked up when she saw the start sign. I showed her the reward, dried sweet potato. We were off with my command of “Okay, heel”. The first station required a stop then sit. Bailey pulled that one off without too much effort. Praise was her reward and we were off to the next card. We proceeded around the yard until finally the end of the course was reached. Bailey gobbled her treat for a well-done effort.
It was a bright sunny day even though it was -1 degrees Celsius (-10 if you factor in the windchill). I was bundled up to ward off getting chilled. The furnace, our black beastie, was warm. We detoured into the garage for a quick pit stop. Bailey drained down the water bucket by a third. Another treat convinced her to try the course again. I made the mistake this time by turning the wrong way. Had we been in a sanctioned Rally-O competition, I would have lost points for the team. I guess that I am the one who needs more practice. We finished the round and Bailey freshened up with another trip to the water bucket. I still thought my girl was up for one more round. Bailey’s speed was much slower as she waddled from station to station. By the time that we reached the sit followed by down command, Bailey lingered a bit longer on the ground before responding to my “Okay, heel” command. Obviously, she was ready to call it quits. Her reward was a fetching a ball tossed into the snowbank. It only took a couple of throws before my girl was ready to continue her siesta.
April 4th, 2018
By all accounts, a storm is coming soon to Labrador West. It has left dumps of snow across Northern Ontario, moving through Quebec and arriving around midnight tonight. My husband and boys are spending Spring Break in Quebec City with family while Bailey and I take care of the homestead here. They experienced the snow blizzard there early today. Staying in a hotel means no shovelling for them. I won’t be so lucky if we get the predicted snowfall. Tomorrow will be all about snow removal in the form of shovelling. Knowing the cleared parts of the yard will once again be covered in white stuff, Bailey and I spent the afternoon playing in the open space around the house. A pathway has been kept clear around the entire house due to the hard efforts of my husband. Besides allowing the basement windows to be free of snow in case of fire, Bailey and I can practice our Rally-O techniques as we move around the outside of the house. The snowbanks are over 6 feet high and act as a natural barrier between distractions and Bailey. It may have been -36 degrees Celsuis on our walk this morning (-41 degrees Celsius if you count the windchill) but, the sky was blue and the sun shone down on us. The air was invigorating. It was quite pleasant as long as one was dressed for the weather. We played with the ball. Bailey fetched. Then, the two of us wrestled with the ball. A simple “Leave it” command and the ball was mine. We soon collapsed down on the snow in need of a rest. Life won’t be so leisurely tomorrow. While Bailey will be thrilled to see the white stuff, a morning of shovelling will definitely dampen my spirits. Tonight, I plan to enjoy the calm before the storm.
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.
They 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. Cas 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. Anyway, 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. Bailey 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.
May 2nd, 2017
Our girl, Bailey, has been somewhat out of sorts as of late. Every time that she ventures outside, the amount of snow on the ground has been shrinking. The recent warming of temperatures has contributed to its disappearance. I would not be surprised if Bailey has been wishing for more snow. I don’t think there is a Newfoundland dog out there that does not love the white stuff. Tonight, she received her wish from Mother Nature. Exiting the garage, we were greeted by soft snowflakes floating down. Bailey, who had been lethargic about street walking, suddenly was bursting with energy. She had spring in her step. Her head was high as she pranced across the field, through the parking lot, up the street to the snow-covered trail. I think it’s her best look. Snowflakes sprinkled randomly on her shiny black coat. She plopped herself into a sit and seemed to savour the moment. Bailey was in heaven. I haven’t the heart to tell her that in a few weeks, the family will be leaving the north to travel to South Eastern Ontario. There temperatures will be in the high twenties or thirties on the Celsius scale. She pants at -2 degrees Celsius. Thankfully, Bailey will have the benefit of being kept cool with air conditioning. She has a reprieve from the heat for now. The weather forecast says a couple more days of falling snow. It won’t be too much snow. Just enough for Bailey to know that wishes sometimes do come true.
January 24th, 2017
Tomorrow, our girl will officially be an adult Newfoundland dog. She turns 2 years old and puppyhood becomes part of her past. Although the time has gone by quickly, our lives have been filled with interesting experiences and lessons since Bailey’s arrival in the Big Land. Just like a new baby changes your life, Bailey has certainly impacted ours. Every family member participates in her daily schedule – the feedings, the walks, the business pick-ups, the rubs and the playtimes. She is loved and valued. And Bailey is well aware of it. We don’t own her, she owns us – at least, our hearts. Is the work of training done now that she has moved into the adult life stage?
Hell no! Just last week, Bailey and I were hiking with a friend and her dog on the snow covered trails. The dogs were off leash and focused on chasing one another around. We were entering into a large open space when the dogs caught sight of two toy dogs about 150 metres away. Cas, the other dog, ran over to them. Bailey was near enough to us that we managed to get her on leash. We called Cas who ignored us for a few minutes before starting back our way. I wondered aloud, “Where’s the owner?” Suddenly, an elderly woman appeared around the bend. Bailey also took notice of her. In seconds, I found myself face planted and dragged through the snow as Bailey tried to greet the newcomer. With my friend attempting to help me up, we temporarily gained control of our Walmart greeter. Bailey took both of us by surprise with another burst of effort and I found myself, once again, face down in the snow. I rose up covered in snow and reined Bailey in. Not surprisingly, I decided to cut our hike short and return home. My pride and body wounded. Bailey forgave me for not letting her thunder down to spread her love to a new person. The adventures will continue…..
November 1st, 2016
These last three days have been rest, rest and more rest for our sweetness, Bailey. No playdates with puppy Cas. No walks. No games with “Stuffie”. Simply put, she was to move as little as possible. Why? Bailey had a very active Saturday. The two of us took an extended early morning walk in the freshly fallen snow. It was peaceful and quiet. We returned home to start the day. Bailey happily slept while I made zucchini loaves. The snowy outdoors called to us again. After lunch, we joined Cas and his owner for a hike on the nature trail across from our house. Only a portion of the trail had been packed down by snowmobiles. It was hard work moving down the trail for both humans and dogs. Cas, a perfect agility candidate, sprang over the snowbanks while Bailey bulldozed through them. The two pals chased one another in amongst the trees providing much entertainment for their humans. The four of us were tired when we returned. Bailey had another nap – a pick-me-up as I like to call it. I wasn’t so lucky and headed into town to get some last minute shopping items.
A couple of hours later, my youngest son went with Bailey to the backyard for the first game of “King of the Snowhill” this winter. It is a game that involves a considerable amount of lying down in the snow. Bailey was keen to play the game and made some great tackles to throw Cam off his claim of the hill. Who won? I can’t say. They trooped in for dinner and Bailey inhaled hers. By 6 pm, we were off to the ball field for one last play romp with Cas. A few times, Bailey found herself lying with her feet in the air and Cas on top. Snow covered both of them. They appeared to be having a wonderful time. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. We said our good byes and headed home for the nightly grooming session. Bailey snored and stretched through the entire process. She moved to her special blanket afterwards and spent the remainder of the evening sleeping. It was not until bedtime that we noticed Bailey favouring her front right leg. After we checked her over and found nothing apparently wrong, she limped outside to do her business. We settled her as comfortable as possible in the garage kennel. After a Saturday of frolicking in the powdery snow, we hoped that her leg was achy from having been so active. I did not sleep very well unlike Bailey.
The morning came and the limp remained. It did lessen as the day progressed which we took as a encouraging sign. Still, Bailey was restricted in her movements. We helped her get up and lifted her down the two stairs to get outside. By Monday, Bailey was getting a little bored with the napping and tried to get a throwing game going with “Stuffie”. “Stuffie” was removed from circulation and only appeared at naptime. Bailey also showed more interest in going for walks. After finishing her business, she seemed puzzled that we were heading back home. Bailey would give a slight pull on her leash to let us know that she wanted to keep going rather than turn around towards the house. Orders were orders and back we went. A call to the vet reinforced the idea of rest. We agreed to bring her in if the limping did not improve by Wednesday. Today is Tuesday and Bailey shows no sign of a limp. She whipped past me without any hesitation to get to her food dish at the start of the day. I guess bobbing for pear chunks in her water bowl does not seem so boring after all. I am hopeful that by Friday, we can resume our daily walks. We’ll just have to make sure that Bailey doesn’t overdo it. Until then, Bailey can only rest and soak up lots of rubs.