Treasure Hunt

January 16th, 2019

Treasure Hunt Begins.jpg

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.

Tracking Cas.jpgWe 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.

sniffing for cas

snow tracker

hurry up

finding the prize

R & R

January 9th, 2019

Winter is well-entrenched here in Labrador West and won’t be ready to leave until late May.  January is usually the coldest month of the year.  Time outside is limited when temperatures plunge below -30 degrees Celsius.  It encourages me to spend more time on the couch with a book in hand.  As I have gotten older, I treasure the moments of reading a book.  The recent holidays provided so many hours of reading that my book stack has been diminished considerably.  Thankfully, our local library is close by and stocked with a variety of reading material.  When our family arrived here 8 1/2 years ago, the first place that we visited was the library. The library cards given to us were very special for a family who longed for a Newfoundland dog of their own.  nl library card colouredResidents of Newfoundland and Labrador enjoy the image of the Newfoundland dog and Labrador retriever on their library cards.  I took it as a sign that we had found the perfect place to bring a Newf puppy home.  Every time our library cards are used, we are reminded of the breed’s beauty.  The card for me symbolizes my love for books and the Newfoundland dog.  Bailey is supportive of my reading habit as she happily lies alongside the couch waiting for my hand to dangle down and connect with her exposed tummy.  “R & R” has a unique meaning to her – “Rubs & Reading” Time.

Who Let The Dog Out?

January 2nd, 2019

Newf Paradise.jpg

Frigid temperatures have been the norm for the last few days in Labrador West.  The local weather report had issued a extreme wind chill warning and most normal people hunker down inside.  Apparently, Bailey and I are the exceptions.  Minus fifty degrees Celsius didn’t keep us from our three outings.  Dressed for the cold, I followed behind Bailey as we headed for the protection of a tree-lined trail.  Although the air was cold, the wind was minimal.  Bailey’s thick coat seemed to be enough protection for her.  She stuck not just her muzzle in the snow (in the hopes of catching her pal’s scent) but, her entire head.  I was ready for a well-deserved cup of tea after our third hike in the early afternoon.  Bailey had other ideas.  The stare at the ball was an obvious clue that someone wanted to play in the backyard.  I accompanied my girl for a snow ball throwing frolic.  I tired long before the Newf did.  Bailey showed no signs of wanting to leave the white stuff.  However, she returned to the comfort of inside after I waved a treat in front of her nose.

White Stuff

It’s Going Down. I’m Yelling Timber!

December 19th, 2018

This Is The One.jpg

An afternoon adventure took place on Monday that will remain as one to remember.  It began with an idea at the start of the holiday month.  This year was about “economizing”.  Our family had decided to celebrate the festive season with less focus on presents.  My dog walking friend joined us in taking economizing measures.  She chose to forgo getting a bought Christmas tree as her husband has been working out of town and expenses needed to be kept down.  Still, our daily walks with the dogs were peppered with discussions about Christmas trees.  Like me, my friend would admire past Christmas trees throughout the holidays with the lights off – just the tree, the fur kids and a human.  The smell of pine needles in the air and the display of ornaments collected through the years were treasured by both of us.  I had to act.  She was “pining” on our daily morning walk through the forested trail, for a natural tree.  My friend was willing to settle for a Charlie Brown variety and I decided that an intervention was called for.  Bailey and I had a vital mission to locate a suitable candidate.  The tree had to be tall and slender to fit in my friend’s living room.  It had to be close to the packed trail because of sinking issues in deep snow.  More importantly, the tree needed to be close to home.  Last weekend, the search was over and I smiled to myself as the talk of not having a tree for the holidays came up.  Oh, how I wanted to squeal my idea.

Almost always, my ideas involve my husband in some way.  I announced my intention to him and gave assurances that the tree was neither too big to get home nor far away.  It would be fun, I exclaimed.  After all, the first 13 years of our marriage were spent making our way into the bush to find the perfect Charlie Brown tree in northern Manitoba.  The tree would leak sap on the flooring and drop what little needles that it had by Boxing Day.  Tree hunting day was always characterized by being the coldest day in the entire month.  We were determined back then.  The VW Golf was fired up in colder than minus thirty temperatures (making a screeching noise like a banshee that continued until the engine warmed up) and off we went.  The search for the tree was often not long as my pickiness for the perfect tree waned due to the cold.  Once the tree was dug out, cut and loaded on top of the car (by my husband), we clambered back inside to warm ourselves up.  This part was my favourite because it involved hot chocolate and cookies that had been packed.  On Monday, after a 12-year hiatus, we once again ventured out into the woods to get a Christmas tree.  Buying our tree for over a decade had made us soft.

Tree Coming Down

Fortunately, the day was not -34 degrees Celsius as it had been only a week before.  The sun was out.  The sky was blue.  It was a balmy -4 degrees Celsius and no wind.  Bailey was part of the plot in case we came across my friend walking her dog.  We were taking our girl out for her afternoon outing.  The axe and saw that my husband was carrying might have been hard to explain.  Bailey was just thrilled to have both of us taking her and scampered ahead.  We made our way along the trail as my husband noticed that the trees closest to our house were not Christmas tree material.  He was right.  They looked more suited to a haunted forest.  I assured him that the trees improved after climbing the big rock and going down the other side.  He reminded me several times that the tree had to be hauled back.  Finally, we came to the tree.  Cutting Tree DownBailey had enough sense to move far enough back to avoid getting hit.  I needed to be reminded.  The tree was located slightly off the trail which meant my husband sank up to his waist in snow.  He used both tools to cut the top portion of the 15 foot tree.  As he did it, I couldn’t help singing “It’s going down.  I’m yelling Timber!” as Bailey watched the proceedings.  The tree finally hit the ground and my husband tidied up the base.  Bailey dashed forward and gave the tree the sniff over – leaving a dribble of drool behind.

We were off, giddy with excitement.  Our tree hunt had unleashed a flood of memories for the two of us.  We reminisced about the old days when getting a Charlie Brown tree kicked off our holiday season.  Our threesome made our way back towards home.  While my husband waited outside with our special gift, I phoned my friend and asked if we could stop by.  Thankfully, she is only 5 houses away and my husband’s arms were revived enough to make the final journey with the tree held over his shoulder.  We arrived, tree in hand.  It is moments like this one that you remember.  She was surprised by and thrilled with this unexpected gift.  In doing this for her, we also had been gifted with a beautiful afternoon together.  An afternoon focused not on the endless list of holiday tasks but, on being outdoors on a perfect winter day with our girl, Bailey.

The Tree

In The Dark

February 6th, 2018

The family found themselves in the dark without power on Saturday night.  It was to be our family night of watching the pilot episode of Deep Space Nine, part of the Star Trek World.  Our boys had been too young to watch the series when it originally came out.  They have grown up to become Science Fiction fans like their parents.  We decided to give the entire 9 seasons in DVDs for Christmas to them.  The plan was to spend our Saturday nights as a family watching a couple of episodes.  Saturday was our first night and we were looking forward with anticipation to the experience.  A dinner of appetizers was enjoyed earlier followed by taking Bailey out for her evening walk an hour before her normal time.  We were showered and clad in fleecy sleepwear.  Bailey was groomed and lying stretched out alongside the sofa as she performed her night time job of being a rug anchor.

Everyone else was comfortably settled in their staked out areas.  The show began shortly before 7 o’clock.  We were hooked that was until 30 minutes later.  The worm hole suddenly appeared on the screen and suddenly everything went dark.  Had we been sucked into a black hole?  Nope!  It was unplanned power outage – the last one was about 2 weeks ago on another movie night.  Could the timing be any worse?  Our area was under an extreme weather warning as the temperature dropped to -47 degrees Celsius that evening.  One can’t help wondering if the power would return before the water pipes burst.  Our house is always kept at 19 degrees Celsius for our gal’s comfort.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for the house to cool off.  It’s always a concern when the power goes out during extreme cold weather periods.

The four of us were stunned for a moment before my youngest son sprang into action.  He retrieved his flashlight (one of many that he owns) and then proceeded to get the Coleman lantern from the kitchen.  I wisely bought one in the fall after years of numerous power failures.  It was the third time being used.  He had it on and our living space was lit up to allow the rest of us to move safely around Bailey.  While we complained about the sad turn of events, Bailey remained unaffected.  Her evening wasn’t ruined.  She was still going to get her precious shut-eye and tummy rubs.  I think she instinctively knew that more rubs were coming with our options being rather limited.  My eldest son was soon stretched out beside her, trying to absorb a bit of her warmth as he stroked her fur.  Life was treating our sweetness pretty well.  For the next 2 hours, the power went on and off six times before everyone gave up and went to bed.  Bailey didn’t seem to mind the unusually cooler house than normal.  Power was finally restored before midnight and another family night was sabotaged as far as we were concerned.  Bailey, on the other hand, thought it was a wonderful night of pampering.


Business As Usual

January 2nd, 2018

Catching Snowflakes

A cold snap hit parts of Canada as the New Year approached.  I could not help wondering what the big fuss over these “cold temperatures” was about.  Here in Labrador, we survive under more frigid conditions.  The morning of Christmas Day, I awoke to -42 degrees Celsius outside.  Waiting For TreatsMy friend and I still went out with our dogs for not one but, two walks.  Our husbands took the two furry pals out for the evening stroll.  Bailey and her pal, Cas, were not in the least bit tempted to forfeit these outings.  In a few days, the temperatures were hovering in the minus twenty range.  It was quite pleasant if you were dressed warmly.  Watching the antics of Bailey and Cas as they played in the snow was enough of a distraction for us to forget about the cold.  I won’t pretend that the extreme cold here is better than the moderate climates enjoyed by southern Canadians.  The majority of us in the North embrace living life to the fullest even if it means putting up with cold.  We entertain ourselves through the long winter months by hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, skating and snowmobiling.  Newf Heaven

Dogs like Bailey and Cas encourage us to seek outdoor pursuits even in harsh temperatures.  In Labrador, it was business as usual.

Snow Queen


Winter Bliss

December 13th, 2017

Dog Bliss

The snowstorm warning was posted on Tuesday. Labrador West was expected to receive 30 cm of snow between Wednesday and Thursday morning.  On Wednesday, the students were sent home at lunch.  Bailey was thrilled with the unexpected early arrival of our eldest son.  We decided to wait out the storm by holing up in our warm home.  Bailey and I had just returned from her midday walk as the snowflakes began to fall and the wind started up.  By 4 o’clock, it was time to take our gal out.  Our unfenced yard meant that one of us must accompany her on outside excursions.  I drew the short end of the straw so to speak.  With some reluctance, I left the coziness of my fleecy blanket and the couch that I had been lying out on.  Bailey waddled over to the door once she saw I was serious about going out.  She had been snoring happily alongside the couch.  But, it was time.  Dinner hour was soon approaching and our girl needed her business trip.

I opened the garage entry door to be greeted by a howling wind and snow flurries.  Gosh, how I wanted to return to the couch.  My misery did not dampen Bailey’s reaction.  She plunged into the snow with enthusiasm.  The coolness of the snow melted against her hot paws.  Bailey was designed for the winter environment.  I was all about the business – get it done quickly and go home.  I was a real kill joy in Bailey’s eyes.  She had other ideas.  She decided that staying outside longer might be fun.  As I started for the door, Bailey seemed to be missing from my side.  The Perfect StormI turned around and found her sitting in the snow bank.  I could tell that Bailey wanted to stay.  Perhaps, I should have given in. I  called to her instead.  Bailey stayed put.  I moved towards her.  I grasped her collar and tugged her towards the door.  My boots hit a slippery patch on the walk.  Down I went, almost doing a face plant in the snow.  Rising up, my snowflake-covered girl slipped a wet tongue kiss across my cheek as if to say, “Are we having fun yet!”  Bailey was enjoying her winter bliss.


Christmas Card Elf

December 6th, 2017

Santa's Helper

It’s that time of year again, the writing of the annual Christmas card.  Although I was once diligent about sending out cards in a timely fashion, the last decade has been a dismal failure.  Each year, the cards that actually get into the mail have dwindled to immediate family only.  I think there was one year that even they didn’t receive cards from us.  Yesterday, the draw holding the Christmas card supplies revealed my sins from last year.  My husband is the one who writes in the card – each one individually composed.  I am responsible for writing a letter filled with news of our lives.  I hung my head in shame when I pulled out several completed cards with photos inside and addressed envelopes.  They were still waiting for the newsletter that was never done.  Perhaps, I suggested to him in his shock, we could just send these ones now.  A perfect solution until my husband brought the date written at the top of a card to my attention.  It’s hard to change the six in 2016 to a seven.  Rats, a great idea wasted.  My response was for him to discontinue with that practice from now on.  So, I am hoping to make a fresh start going into this holiday season.

An ElfIn my imagination, Bailey would be transformed into an elf.  Like Santa’s elves, she would be willing and capable of tackling our Christmas cards.  Her tongue would be perfect for licking the envelopes after all.  A simple paw print would be sufficient for a signature.  Who knows what our sweetness would say?  Jolly Old Saint Nick is lucky to have elves to do his bidding while he gets to indulge on cookies and milk.  Sadly, our Newfie elf is limited in her card writing repertoire skills.  I am left with the task.  But, it was nice to dream.

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


An Unwitting Accomplice

February 7th, 2017

Last Wednesday, the evening walk started innocently enough.  It was a much shorter distance than we usually covered.  The temperatures had been dropping steadily as the week progressed.  In fact, Wabush was the coldest place in Canada on Saturday when -58 degrees Celsius was reached.  It was a record breaking temperature for our community on that particular day.  Between the cooler temperatures and wind, Bailey showed little interest in going out.  Duty called and we left the warm comfort of our home behind.  Bailey poked her muzzle in the snow and sniffed a few snowbanks for interesting scents.  A couple of vehicles passed us but, we were on our own shuffling down the snowy covered streets.  No dogs or people meant a relatively dull walk for our social butterfly.  On the return loop, Bailey picked up speed as we climbed upwards on the last two streets.  Moving quickly up two steep roads is uncharacteristic of our waddling Bailey.  Nothing seemed out of the ordinary though.

Occasionally, she glanced slightly back at me while maintaining a forward position.  I sensed something was not quite right.  Bailey was no longer sniffing the ground or stopping at her pal’s yard to leave a quick p-mail.  She was a dog on a mission – to get home quickly.  I normally allow Bailey to go forward with the leash loose rather than heeling on these streets.  Her being in front of me was not unusual.  So what was bothering me?  By the time that we reached our driveway, I had a pretty good idea.  Bailey had contraband stowed away in her mouth.  It was that last glance of hers that gave things away.  I expected that she had found a small twig or worse, one with those little pine cones attached.  Would she never learn?  Smuggled pine cones created quite a mess for me in recent weeks.  Bailey threw-up on her blanket during the night.  Luckily, I did not step in it on my way to turn the lights on.  Lying in the middle of regurgitated kibble were two tiny pine cones – the source of irritation.  Obviously, Bailey had squirrelled them away in her mouth sometime during the previous night’s walk unbeknownst to me.

I pried open her mouth and did the two finger sweep.  I was taken by surprise when a tennis ball fell out onto the pavement.  Bailey tried to snatch up her treasure.  I was quicker.  It was mine.  She knew it was gone for good.  Bailey has learned that tennis balls are a big no.  At the dog park, she is told to leave it.  I had no idea where she had picked it up on our walk.  Did the ball belong to another dog or was it left behind from a road hockey game?  I pondered over the incident for a moment.  I felt like a person who had driven her friend to the bank, waited outside until the banking was done and then drove away together.  In reality, the friend had just robbed the bank and I had no idea.  I was an unwitting accomplice of Bailey, the ball thief.  Guilty by association, I guess.