The Science of Sticks

March 1st, 2016

Fetching sticks is a major activity in our Newfoundland puppy’s life.  I have learned that not all sticks are created equally in her eyes.  Bailey is selective.  There’s a science to her picking the perfect stick.  Found Perfect StickShe prefers the bushy branches of fir trees that have fallen from high winds and heavy snowfalls.  Usually, they have numerous smaller twig-like branches shooting off from a thick main branch.  I can’t for the life of me understand how holding a mouth full of fir needles is comfortable.  Some branches even come with the pinecones still attached.  Neither the cones nor needles seem to bother her.  The length of the stick is also important.  Bailey likes long ones around 3 feet or more.  Not exactly a length conducive to throwing.  I know because I have tried and tried.  Although Bailey is not impressed with my attempts to throw these cumbersome sticks – landing only a few feet in front of us, she persists in bringing them to me.

Stick Could Be The One

I, on the other hand, seek out solid sticks that are about 12 inches in length with no needles or twig-like branches attached.  “Boring sticks” in Bailey’s mind.  However, I can throw these sticks a fair distance without wrenching my shoulder muscles like those ones chosen by Bailey.  I am also selective.  My sticks should be hard and thick enough that they do not easily splinter in Bailey’s mouth.  Skinny sticks have short lives when faced with a newf’s large molars.  She snaps them in small bits, dropping them as we stroll.  Many of my sticks end up rejected.  Bailey tries them out for a few minutes before dropping them on the path and moving on.  However, should she like my stick, that’s when our game begins.

Over the past month, our region has received quite a bit of snow which has made stick selection challenging.  Just when you think a perfect stick has been found, you discover it is still attached to a tree buried under the snow.  Poor Bailey gets so excited – prancing around in anticipation of the stick being thrown.  My failed attempt to retrieve it dampens her spirit but only briefly.  Soon she takes matters into her own paws and takes over finding “the stick”.  Eventually, one is found and the fun begins.  I love to throw sticks into the deep snow and watch Bailey as she springs like a rabbit to fetch it.  She’s just not graceful – more like a snow plow.  This scene will play over and over again until one of us tires.  If it is me who stops playing first, Bailey will try to keep the game going.  She will take the stick and push it against the back of my legs as I am walking.  In doing so, she gets my attention.  More often than not, I stumble as the stick slips in between my legs.  Bailey likes to approach me from the right side and sometimes the end of the stick will catch the fabric of whatever I am wearing.  Thanks to Bailey, I have several pants with holes in the right knee.  This is why I like shorter sticks rather than her longer ones.

All Mine

Stick storage is another problem for us.  Once our walk on the trails comes to an end, we carefully select a spot to leave the stick.  We are careful to not make it obvious as numerous other dogs and their owners use the trails.  Bailey and I have hidden many perfect sticks too well.  We can’t find them again.  The new snow does not help us.  The two of us are left to find a new “perfect stick” and resume a friendly game of fetch.

Bailey Lunged & I Plunged

November 3rd, 2015

Trail WalkingIt has been a little over a week since this incident occurred.  I am still feeling the effects.  As I mentioned in previous blogs, Mother Nature blessed us with an early appearance of snow in the middle of October.  Sometimes, if we are lucky, the rain comes along or the temperatures rise to melt it away.  I was hopeful.  It must be the ex-British Columbian in me that holds out for a green Fall.  So, the leaves did not get raked as I was still waiting for the trees to drop all of them.  Why rake more than one must?  I have lived for the past 22 years in three Northern Canadian communities.  That first year, I remember clearly (to my amazement) snow falling on my birthday in September.  I should have expected yet another early start to winter.  The snow came.  Snow FaceBailey has been thrilled beyond belief.  She has been sticking her head in snow – searching for what I have no idea.  Looking For TreasureBeing thirsty is no longer a problem on a walk for Bailey with snow everywhere.  Our sweetness will happily crunch on ice or snow chunks while I work up a sweat shovelling the driveway.  I have six and half months of snow removal to contend with.  But, this story is not about snow shovelling.  With temperatures hovering between -5 and 0 degrees Celsius, the snow softens during the day and hardens up at nighttime.  Walking in the evenings or mornings can be treacherous as the roads and sidewalks are slick.  As often the case, our area will get a little dusting of snow which covers these slippery hazards.  One has to exercise much caution when out for a stroll and even more so with a Newfoundland puppy.Wait There Is Treasure Here

My husband and I were taking our regular nighttime walk with Bailey.  The night was clear after lightly falling snow in the afternoon.  The wind had picked up speed since we left home (about 35 km per hour).  Leaves were swirling around us.  Luckily, we were on the finally leg of the walk.  I had Bailey on leash, not heeling, but loosely ahead of me.  Engrossed in our conversation, I missed seeing a leaf catch Bailey’s interest.  She lunged for it.  In doing so, I slipped on a thin layer of snow covering an ice patch.  I plunged sideways into a snow bank.  I gave a cry.  I am not sure if it was due to being taken by surprise or I felt something pull.  Thankfully, I had enough sense to let go of the leash.  Being dragged by a 100 pound Newf down an icy road was not a pleasant thought.  My husband came to my aid as I lay in the bank and asked if I was alright.  I snapped back with “Get Bailey!”.  A dark night and a black puppy chasing a leaf on a road is a owner’s nightmare.  By this time, she had stopped about 10 feet ahead.  She gave a look back.  Her face seemed to say, “What are you doing lying in the snow?“.  It quickly changed to “Is this a new game?” as she charged towards us.  My husband grabbed her leash.  I struggled up.  I did not hurt too much at first.  My body was achy as I groomed Bailey later that night.  By bedtime, I was desperate for pain relief.  A heating pad and a couple of anti-inflammatories helped greatly.  I awoke the next morning to a piercing pain shooting down my right leg.  I was not able to bend the leg or get myself out of bed.  My husband helped me get upright and took over Bailey’s early morning business walk.  He is not an early morning riser by nature so I appreciated his sacrifice.  The crutches came out of storage which helped my mobility around the house.  My regular routine had to be shelved for a few days.  Bailey enjoyed the extra snoozing time as I lay out on the sofa.

I Found TreasureThese days, we are taking more walks on the trails with Bailey off her leash.  Here there is no ice.  Bailey can chase leaves to her heart’s content.  I do not have to worry about traffic.  Happy TrailsMy leg is slowly healing.  Things could have turned out worse.  Thankfully, our sweetness was not hurt.

P.S.  At 40 weeks, Bailey is now 44.6 kg or 98 pounds 5 ounces.

Where Is Bailey

Let It Snow!

October 20th, 2015

Do you want to build a snowman throw a snowball?  That seems to be Bailey’s mantra since snow fell on the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend (October 9th to 12th).  On the Friday, the family was hiking on the trail while enjoying the sunshine and blue sky.  Bailey & MeThe temperature was hovering around 8 degrees Celsius and the ground was without snow.  Bailey and I were treated the following morning on our stroll to large, fluffy snowflakes falling from the heavens.  Bailey greeted these flakes with her mouth wide open – snapping shut when they got in her range.  Embracing the snowflakesEndless entertainment for me and a newly found water source for her.  The ground was barely covered but Bailey’s enthusiasm was hardly dampened.  She tried to stir some flakes into the air, dove for her deflated football in the snow covered grass and tried to entice me to make a snowball for her to fetch.  It is this last activity that Bailey seems to enjoy the best.  And today, she got her snowball wish.

Waiting For Her CallNot The FootballAfter returning from the walk to school with local children this morning, I decided to tackle the 3 inches of freshly fallen snow lying on the front walk and driveway.  Bailey, now off her leash, zoomed around the yard.  It is hard to remain focused on the task of snow shovelling when a very playful Newfoundland puppy is snow diving in search of treasure (the leaves that did not get raked up in time).  Bailey Playing With FootballThen, Bailey’s attention fixated on the snow flying off my scoop shovel.  Each time that I threw a shovel full, Bailey would try to pounce on the falling snow clumps.  I got the hint and started to throw the baseball size chunks onto the lawn for her to chase.  Waiting For A SnowballWe had lots of fun but, not much snow removal work got done.  I finally finished and Bailey seemed ready for her morning nap after expending oodles of energy on the white stuff.  I stomped my boots to get rid of the snow encrusting them.  Bailey shook her coat that was covered in a white dusting of snow.  Little came off so I gave her entire body a towel rub.  Bailey loves her towel rubs.  It took a lot longer than I remembered it taking me in April.  Bailey has grown from 22 pounds to being close to 100 pounds.  There is definitely more Newf which means more snow to remove from her.  No grumbles from me.  Snow shovelling is so much better when a Newfoundland puppy is around.  Let it snow!  Let it snow!Where Did The Snowball Go

P.S.  At 38 weeks, Bailey is now 44.1 kg or 97 pounds 4 ounces.