Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Legend Of The Newfoundland Dog (Thanksgiving Reprise)

A Happy And Healthy Thanksgiving To All!

And for the incredible breed that binds us, no more perfectly beautiful words ever have been written:


"There is a land where the waves explode upon the reef in a boiling foam, there the legend was born.

"As the story is told, God turned one day to contemplate all of his creations and saw on that Newfoundland Isle, flailed by storm a small nation of fishermen, whose rough, weather-beaten people fought courageously against the impervious elements of nature as the freezing cold winter and the unforgiving coastline took its toll, and the sea often asked the sacrifice of human life. Nevertheless, they remained deep-rooted, these men of Newfoundland with the stubbornness as great as their courage.

"God saw, and in his infinite compassion, thought how he might alleviate their suffering. He searched among the creatures of his creations but found none that would serve. It was then he decided to create one anew.

"He took the body of a bear, whose bone structure lent well to such arduous labours and whose thick fur would resist the bitter Newfoundland cold. Then he thought to sweeten this silhouette with the lithe, flexuous lines and movements of the seal, with all its prowess to swim and speedily slip between the waves.

"Now turning to the sea, he saw the playful dolphins happily following the ships, their sweet, joy-filled eyes revealing their serene temperament, and more; they so love man that they often rescue them, saving them from the sea. Yes, they too would be part of this creature.

"When he had done the moulding and casting, there suddenly appeared in his creative arms, a superb animal with glistening black fur; powerful and sweet in the same moment.

"This new being, however, had to have an allegiance and faithfulness, tried and true, to be able to live beside man and be ever ready to offer his life for his master. It was at that moment that the Lord opened and placed in his chest, the heart of a dog, and the miracle was complete.

"From that day onward, those men of the sea had beside them, their courageous companion ever strong, ever faithful, the Newfoundland Dog."

(Reprinted in translation from the book Il Cane Di Terra Nova by Emmy Bruno, editor Mursia-Milano)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Conversation, Part Two

S: "I'm not talkin to you."

A: "I'm not talkin to you either. How come?"

S: "I dunno, but humans say that all the time."

A: "Who?"

S: "You did make a fool of yourself fawning over Bella, licking her ears, licking her face, snuggling up to her."

A: "She digs me. We're gonna have puppies."

S: "Puppies!! You can't even get to your water bowl without tripping."

A: "Oh, yeah. What do you think Gizzy and Hummer are doing?"

S: "Something better than this; something fun."

A: "So what do you like to do for fun."

S: "I told you last time; after four years I still don't know, but this isn't it."

A: "He's telling us to 'come'."

S: "Don't listen and don't turn you head. He's just trying to use the image-taking thing without our prior written consent."

A: "What's that?"

S: "Don't worry 'bout it; just keeping looking away."

A: "Now he's yelling at us."

S: "Yes, our work here is almost done. Just relax until he talks about having a 'headache'. I love it when I hear that."

A: "Hey, aren't we talking?"

S: "Of course! I'd never really stoop to being like a human."

A: "I miss Bella; she's Newfylicious."

S: "Oh young one, you're giving me a headache."

A: "Scoldy boy"

S: "You got that right."

A: "Hey, he used that word about his head hurting."

S: "Now you know why they call us 'working dogs'."

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Satchie's Training Tips, Part Two

As we have previously documented,
at some stage in your owner's life
he or she may decide to instill
some basic control on your way of
life; of course, this must be gradually
trained out of them.

Lately, however, be it at shows,
parks, or just out and about,
we've seen some utterly horrible
examples of canines who appear to be
well-trained and enjoying it.
We must, therefore, reiterate and
update our training tips.

You see, humans are exceedingly
strange creatures; they may even
take you to classes to attempt to teach
you one or more forms of nonsense.
Hence, 'Drew and I have devised the
following set of rules and conditions
which, if you abide by,
should result in your speedy
retirement from obedience circles.

The first stage is to develop a range
of expressions concentrating mainly
on the eyes and angle of the head.
"Deep Mournful" looks
and "Sideways Glances" are important,
but not as critical as the pitiful
"Don't Whip Me" look. Above and
beyond all else, the "Don't Whip Me"
look will work to prevent any further
attempts at training by your human.
This is because perhaps above and
beyond all else, the human has an
innate capacity for guilt, and it
is by preying upon and maximizing
the human guilt that you can obtain
virtually anything you so desire.

The golden rule is that you can get
away with anything, so long as you
eventually trot back to the heel position
and ply your owner with "Sweet
Innocent" looks. Indeed,
even the mere threat of the "Don't Whip Me"
look, if executed properly, will convince
all others present that your owner is
the Marquis de Sade in disguise.

The first steps of basic control are
"heel on lead" and "sit". Heel on lead is
easy to master; simply drag your head
along the ground, tail between the
legs, as slowly as possible. Any jerking
on lead should be greeted by "Pitiful
Whimpering" and "Deep Mournful"
looks. Variations can include sudden
springing forward which can result in
your owner dislocating shoulders or
better still falling flat on his face.
Wait for the Plonker's fingers to get entangled
in the choke chain (another form of cruelty)
then spring with all your might
to see how many fingers you can
catch. A good firm thrust should break
at least one finger. With luck, you
may dislocate a wrist and then enjoy
weeks of off-leash bliss.

The "sit" is quite easy to master.
On command "Sit Newfie", start to slowly angle rear end
toward the ground, shuffling slightly and looking bemused.
Stop at any stage before
actually sitting so that a further command is necessary.
If ground is damp or cold, keep rear end one inch above ground level.
This gives you a distinct advantage to spring away suddenly.
Ensure tail goes into muddiest puddles then when it is really wet and sticky,
and wag tail with glee particularly when several owners are around.

The "stays" are especially easy to master.
"Sit-stays" can be destroyed
by smiling at your owner and slowly sinking to the
down position. "Down stays" are quite simple,
for all humans think that
once a Newfie is lying down he will not hurry to get back up
again. However, always remember to do good down stays until
exam day. Then you should run away and disturb as many other
dogs as possible. A big bonus is gained for keeping out of
owner's sight for about five minutes.

Learn to recognise the commands humans use such as "Exercise
Finished" and react accordingly. I am quite good at this,
if I don't say so myself.

Once you have mastered these exercises,
you can try "heel off lead", "basic recall" and "retrieve".
Heel off lead is particularly easy for you can gradually work it to get out of arms reach before dashing off.
"Retrieve" is okay, the only rule is to never pick up the object.
It's fine to spring forward on command and run towards it,
but either continue running, or sniff the object and return perfectly to owner without it.
(Under no circumstance should you let him know you can swim.)

"Recall" is one of my favourite exercises as there are limitless possibilities. One I particularly enjoy is to await the command "Come" and then slink forward, belly on the ground, tail between legs, grovelling, "Whining Pitifully" and "Pleading Innocent" looks. This always convinces other humans of how cruel your owner is. Another good tool is to spring forward on command, run to owner and sit diligently directly in front of him. On the "finish" command (because confidence has grown) either rear up on hind legs or roll over on the ground, play dead or likewise.
If sitting just outside arms reach then spring away and cavort with other dogs.

Remember other dog etiquette - always greet members of the opposite sex with
the usually intimate Newfie greeting, and remember the maxim to
treat all bitches as if they are in season. ('Drew is excellent at this.)
Leg cocking is probably the only punishable offence in obedience and is best
left alone. Anything else goes. And remember, you can't be punished, and if you do the odd thing right (and this doesn't bore you too much) then "Warm Praise"
and "Big Cuddles" will be given. Indeed, I have so mastered the human that a
simple run around the show ring (win or not)is greeted with praise and cookies.
Hard to believe, but true.

However, once you have your "master" (throw him a bone and let him believe this) well trained you can revert to the old habits and no objection will be heard.

The point is that these training tips must be worked on and "reinforced".
There is no substitute for practice. You will know when you have mastered
them at the point in which he throws up his arms, mutters something
incomprehensible, and walks away. You will have then perfected your
human training. What can never be overlooked is the innate human capacity
for guilt. For once his attempts at training have failed, the human will
assiduously blame himself (a bit like "there are no bad dogs, only bad owners").
It is at this crucial time when the human is feeling such deep grief and
guilt that you must strike: jog up to him (some sacrifice is necessary),
wag your tail, rub up against him and give him "The Look of Love".
Nothing is more powerful. It may bring him to tears but at a minimum
will result in hugs and treats and the complete cessation of his attempts to
train you. Should he cry, remember to employ "Lick Tears" which will evoke
even more crying, guilt and spoiling of you.
Moreover, the human will realize that while he may be
a failure, you are his loving companion in both good times and bad.
"Preying Upon Guilt" cannot be overemphasized. It may be the most
essential training tool in your arsenal.

Best of luck to all. "Reinforcement" is the key.


Sunday, November 2, 2008

"Lines To A Curled Up Franny"

We wanted to bring you the story of our Grandpa and his first Newfie.
Grandpa served for several years in the U.S. Air Force in Italy and the Persian Gulf during World War II. He was a highly decorated Lieutenant and spent much of his time in dangerous reconnaissance work.
One of his last assignments came in leading a supply platoon into Russia during the winter of 1944. After successfully getting the supplies into the hands of Russian troops, Grandpa was approached by a young Russian soldier. The soldier had a Newfie puppy and he was being shipped out and could not take the Newfie with him. He pleaded with Grandpa to take the Newfie so that it would have a good home and not face a very uncertain future.
Grandpa agreed and the brief encounter between two soldiers was enough for handshakes, hugs, and best wishes to be exchanged.
Only a few weeks later, Grandpa received his orders to return home after years away from Grandma and his family. He had named the puppy "Franny" and was very concerned about how he would get Franny back home with him. After considerable thought, he decided to see if the pilot of the Air Force plane would take some money and store Franny underneath the pilot's seat. The pilot agreed, and Grandpa put Franny in a cardboard box with holes in it so she could breath. He gave her a sleeping pill so that no one else would know of the precious cargo.

Well, all went well, and Franny made her way with Grandpa back to Chicago and then on to San Francisco, where she lived until 1958 with two daughters who loved her dearly. Grandpa had brought back a Persian rug he kept in his office overseas. He put it in his basement office at home when he got back, and he and Franny spent many fond hours there curled up on the rug.

Not long after finally getting home, Grandpa wrote a poem to Franny, entitled

"Lines To A Curled Up Franny":

"Little Franny, lax and lazy
With a mind extremely hazy
In regard to human cares
Far removed from worldly affairs.

"There you lie your tail around you
With no Charlotte to hound you
With no taxes to be met
With no spending to regret.

"There you snuggle on the Persian
Bothered not by reconversion
Void of grief and sacrifice
Dreaming dreams of cats and mice."

(Lt. Samuel D. Sayad, 1945)

'Drew and I wish we'd have known him, if only for a moment.


Saturday, November 1, 2008

Letter From Home

Our good friend Alexander Bridge (founder of "Safe Haven" Newfoundland Rescue) recently wrote of the beauty of the land from which we came. We want to share it because of the importance of remembering our origins and the civility and humanity which still exists in that beautiful place, way back home.

Letter From Tracadie, Nova Scotia

"The daylight is shrinking now. Giving up to the approaching winter
months. Christmas is only two months away. We have been here Nova
Scotia since late June.

"It is getting colder too with stronger north winds streaming in off
the Northumberland Strait. I am reminded too of the coming winter, by
a large yellow highway sign at Exit 37 on the Trans Canada Highway.
It's situated at the exit that leads down into Tracadie and warns
motorists in large black letters- 'CAUTION Blowing snow area.'

"Only one heron from the colony of nearly twenty blue herons remains.
He walks as though in slow motion, like a solider on patrol, through
the low marshland and across the mud flats by the causeway, searching
for food. The other herons have left the inlets, dispatched by an
innate inner clock and heading south for a warmer place. Ducks too
have gathered in noisy groups by the island estuary, and have this
week, moved on south. Just the black birds, gulls, field birds, and a
pair of bald headed eagles and a few loons remain.

"Last night, I stood outside the house on the shore of the West Arm
harbour basin, staring at the black sky that touches the even darker
silhouette of Cape George in the distance. I listen to the Canadian
National freight train lumbering through East and West Tracadie, about
a mile away, as the crow flies. The tired whistle offers a low moan.
The sound drifts on the wind then vanishes into the night sky.

"I remember a time, when only ten, my family an lived beside a train
track in a small Laurentian, Quebec town. The railway line connected
Montreal in the east to the western part of the country out beyond
Thunder Bay, Winnipeg, Regina, and finally to the west coast and
Vancouver. In my mind's eye I can still see those huge black lumbering
steam trains and the friendly engineers, bandanas wrapped around their
necks, who waved regularly as they passed by, carrying passengers by
day and late at night, an assortment of freight cars.

"Three locomotives are hauling over a hundred freight cars westward.
The screech of steel on steel can be heard as the procession slows
down through these little communities, crossing the old Highway 4
insertions, guarded by red flashing lights and vintage railway bells.
The trains hauls Cape Breton coal from up near Sydney, to the Nova
Scotia electric generating plants on the mainland, coming through at
least two or three times a day.

"The train also reminds me of a recent trip to our bank in Antigonish,
a small Main Street branch populated by my mostly female employees who
refer to you as 'dear', 'hon', or 'my darling'. I tell myself that on
days when I might feel a little low, to go in there, not to conduct
any business, but just to hear the confronting words of their warm

"I have come to town to make a deposit in our checking account. I tell
the teller, who has already greeted me as 'my dear', that I do not
have my bank card with me, or my account number. She looks at me
across the black Formica counter and smiles one of the most caring
smiles and asks- 'But you do know who you are dear, don't you?' I
smile back and offer a ready, reassuring 'Oh, yes.'

"We chat while she processes my deposit. Not recognizing me, she asks
if I am new to the area. I tell her about recently building a home in
Tracadie and how welcoming the people have been towards my wife and
myself. She nods her head and smiles knowingly, adding she lives in
Monastery, the next town over from us.

"Between the various pieces of the bank transaction I comment on the
large families in Tracadie. I mention a neighbour who was one of
sixteen children, and another neighbour, one of twelve.

"She smiles and asks, 'You know why the families are that size in
Tracadie don't you?' I offer 'No, why?'

"'Well', she says, delivering her answer with a slight a smile, 'The
train comes through Tracadie at two in the morning, waking everyone
up. So a wife will turn to her husband and say, 'Well what do we do
now dear?'

"Our contagious laughter can be heard from one end of the small bank to
other. I thank her for her help and the local information and leave,
the sound of 'See you again soon, dear,' drifting over my shoulder.

"I walk down Main Street back to the half full parking lot. A smile as
wide as any harvest moon on my face. 'I love this place', I mutter to
myself. 'I love this place and the people here.'"

(Alexander Bridge, October 25, 2008)

Wonderful writing from a wonderful person.