Monday, August 18, 2008
Newfoundlands Get In The Swim
(By Carley Thornell, Boston Herald, Sunday, August 17, 2008)
"You might think dog fur and water don’t mix, but for Newfoundland owners and trainers nothing could be further from the truth.
"Twenty-five pooches and their posses are competing for Newfoundland glory this weekend in Auburn, where Newfoundland Club of New England-sponsored water rescue tests were conducted yesterday and continue today.
"Events including water retrieval and rescue went swimmingly for top dogs Jersey, 4, owned and handled by Molly O’Connell of Mashpee, and 6-year-old Ellie, owned by Nancy Brown of Woodstock, Conn., and handled by Donna Thibodeau of Union, Conn.
“'They’re sweet, gentle, obedient dogs, and they love water', said Thibodeau. 'They’re not good watchdogs - they’ll watch anybody take anything. But they can be intimidating because of their size.'
"That size is advantageous to the breed in the water, where Newfoundlands’ broad chests and webbed feet help propel them in pools and lakes. Basically, they’re big whelps that swim like Olympian Michael Phelps.
"Thibodeau, who has four “newfies” of her own and has trained dozens, including 36 New England club champions, started training Ellie last summer.
"So can you teach an 'old' dog new tricks? Absolutely. 'I find the older ones are more steady than the younger ones. You’ve got to counteract that puppy exhuberance,' she said. 'An older dog will take direction more easily and doesn’t get flustered with strange situations and new surroundings.'
"Ellie would know. After failing to complete all of her challenges last year, she passed in the 25-dog junior division yesterday. The similarly sized senior division builds off junior challenges: retrieving articles in the water, taking a line to a person drowning, getting a line from a boat and towing it to shore, retrieving fallen paddles and retrieving objects underwater.
"Competition continues at 8 a.m. today. Events are free to the public at Century Sportsman’s Club."
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Again, this type of activity is quite worthwhile and noble, although not for everyone, and particularly not for me. But I don't mind the sprinklers at the park from time to time and I certainly love my water bowl!