Thursday, July 9, 2009

A Celebration Of Seaman (It's Not What You Might Think)

Fort Clatsop Visitors Discover A New Found Friend
Park Sets Aside A Day For The Lewis And Clark Expedition’s Dog "Seaman"

The Daily Astorian
July 9, 2009

"The Newfie owners are on to something.

"They have found love, loyalty, intelligence and companionship in a single, living entity. This compassionate, adoring being has even deigned to throw in mountains of fur and slug trails of drool for free.

"Newfoundland dogs, or 'Newfies' as they're often called, are maybe as close to the perfect dog as humanity will ever get. Or, at least, that's what some people are claiming.

"'They're different from any other dog', says Happy Valley resident Donna Azevedo who owns two Newfoundlands, Olivia and Lola, and has owned a variety of dogs in the past. 'They're so much more gentle. And they're not yappy'.

"Her granddaughter, Peyton Azevedo, 6, sits on a bench nearby at Fort Clatsop, Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, with Lola's leash twined around her wrist. 'They're great with kids', Azevedo adds. 'She lets (Peyton) just manhandle her. She's never snapped at her.'

"'He's human', says Brittany Woods, 16, of Albany, about her 18-month-old dog Hunter. 'He's happy to see you, but he's not like 'Ohmygod! Ohmygod!'

"Lola and Hunter were only two of the eight bear-like dogs wandering around the Fort Clatsop replica Wednesday greeting children and adults for the park's 16th annual Seaman's Day.

"Seaman's Day is an educational celebration of the nonhuman member of the Corps of Discovery, a Newfie named Seaman.

"Park Ranger Sally Freeman has been a part of the event for several years. She says it helps people, especially children, connect and interact with history in a new and exciting way: through the eyes of a dog.

"Capt. Meriwether Lewis of Lewis and Clark fame bought the dog before launching off into the great unknown in September 1803.

"Lewis put the capable Seaman to work almost immediately. He served as both a guard and hunting dog, chasing off a buffalo that charged through the camp one night and hunting squirrels along the Ohio River for the explorers' dinner.

"There are scattered references to Seaman throughout Lewis's journals. The dog was valued for his intelligence and courage. The last reference to Seaman was July 15, 1806. At the Great Falls of the Missouri River, Lewis noted that the mosquitos were making life miserable for both man and beast.

"Seaman was not mentioned again in the journals although there is some documentation that suggests he died of heartbreak soon after Lewis died. 'I believe that story', says Ed Maass who traveled all the way from Colorado with his two Newfoundlands, Ogee and Seaman, to be a part of Seaman's Day. 'They're incredibly loyal. They want to be with you.'

"Down by the fort replica, Jeffrey McCormick, 9, of Eugene pets Kona, a black Newfoundland. She pats at him with a front paw. 'Oh!' he says as the dog licks his hand. 'You've got a slobbery tongue.'

"Kona is nearly as tall as McCormick when she is sitting, but he has a Great Dane back at home and is not intimidated by the Newfoundland's size. He gives her a hug, almost disappearing in all her fur. Kona belongs to Laurie Ewert and her two daughters Lyndsay, 9, and Bethany, 5, of Portland. This was their third Seaman's Day.

"They love owning Newfoundlands, but are realistic about the drool and fur. Potential "Newfers" must realize that both of these come in bulk. 'They can sling drool', Ewert says.

"'It's on the TV screen and on the ceiling', Lyndsay adds, as matter-of-factly as if she were reciting 'Two plus two equals four.'

"'Oh! And on our couch too.'

"Far from repulsing owners, the drool only seems to charm them further. 'They drool so much!' Azevedo says. She laughs as she describes the 'slug trail' on the couch.

"Also the fur. Newfoundlands must be brushed often or their fur builds up into impossible-to-brush-out mats and dreadlocks. But even then, owners speak fondly of the 'second dog', a common term for the pile of fur they brush out of their Newfoundlands every week.

"There is another more rational explanation for the owners' love of Newfoundlands. Despite their massive size - adult Newfoundlands usually weigh in at 110 to 150 pounds - they eat relatively little food and don't require much space. While activity levels vary from dog to dog, most prefer to lie around like friendly rugs.

"While Freeman speaks to a crowd of nearly 30 people about Seaman, Lola slides to the ground, front paws outstretched, her big, heavy head resting between them. At 15 months, still a puppy, she already weighs 135 pounds and has no trouble gently dragging around whoever is on the other end of the leash.

"Children wander over to where Azevedo stands with Lola. They walk straight up to Lola, entranced by this giant, furry dog. They pull her face to theirs. She doesn't even blink, she just shoves her muzzle deeper into their open hands, tail wagging.

"Seaman's Day takes place every year on the second Wednesday of July, rain or shine, at the Fort Clatsop Visitor Center in the Lewis and Clark National Park."

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