Friday, February 22, 2008
Skipper, Newfoundland Hero
The following story ran today in the Richmond Times Dispatch.
Dog Tale A History Lesson For Children
Author Entrances Manassas Students With A Sea Story
Friday, Feb 22, 2008 - 12:08 AM Updated: 09:24 AM
(By KEITH WALKER)
"MANASSAS -- Miss Mouse, a black, 165-pound Newfoundland dog, lay quietly on the floor at Sinclair Elementary School while her owner, Hilary Hyland, told the story of a long-ago shipwreck and Newfoundland named Skipper.
In December 1919, the steamship Ethie, with 92 passengers and crew, hit a storm off the coast of Newfoundland in Canada. The crew and captain fought the storm all night, only to be forced ashore and onto some rocks the next morning after running out of coal.
In her historical fiction children's novel "The Wreck of the Ethie," Hyland recounts the story of a girl named Colleen and her father, who discovered the shipwreck. Colleen persuaded her father to send Skipper into the stormy ocean to retrieve rescue ropes tossed from the ship.
Skipper succeeded in bringing the rope to the rescuers on shore, and everyone on board was saved, including an 18-month-old girl who had to be relayed from the ship to the shore in a mail bag.
Hyland told the story in great detail Wednesday to students at Sinclair, and the children listened quietly while Hyland also told them about Newfoundlands.
Hyland said that for all they're worth as companions, Newfoundlands have their shortcomings.
"They love children and they love people," the Centreville author said. But their natural gregariousness makes them "terrible, terrible watchdogs."
Hyland told her audience of third-, fourthand fifth-graders that Skipper knew how to get the rope and bring it to shore because of his training as a fishing dog. Newfoundlands were often used to help fishermen haul in their nets, Hyland said.
The children asked her how she found out so much about the shipwreck. She told them that writing books was all about research.
She even went to Newfoundland to talk to the woman who was the baby that was rescued from the ship.
"If you can -- as an author -- I think it always helps to go to the source," Hyland said.
She pieced together much of the story from old newspaper articles, the captain's log, the passenger manifest and old weather maps.
"I love history, so I enjoy doing the research," Hyland said.
Dunia Reyes enjoyed the presentation and said she hopes Hyland keeps up the good work.
"I think she's pretty good at writing," 11-year-old Dunia said.
At the end of the presentation, Miss Mouse waited in the lobby and wagged her tail at all of the children as they returned to class."
Of course, it would be kinda hard for a Newfie to save someone if it were required to be on a leash!!!