People often ask me how I got involved with Newfoundlands. The story is simple. My late wife, Maribeth, and I both felt we had deprived childhoods because we were not allowed to have a dog. So when we got our first house in 1975 we had to make up for lost time. However we also wanted to have children and the safety of the children was of paramount importance to us when choosing a breed. With hundreds of breeds to choose from, each special in some unique way, we finally settled on the only breed known to instinctively care for children. We went on to be blessed with one child and many Newfs.
We had read much about the wonderful relationships between kids and Newfs, but it didn’t sink in completely until we got to see it first hand. One of my favourite memories is my son’s first steps. Allan was approaching two years of age and he hadn’t learn to crawl, never mind walk. He just rolled around our rec room to get from place to place whereas I was up on my feet and running at seven months. For hours on end I tried to get him to walk with zero success. Then one day he grabbed the ear of an 11 month old puppy. Lady stood still while he pulled himself up. Then with me staring in astonishment, he walked to the centre of her back while she stood still supporting him. If that wasn’t miracle enough, once he was firmly supported by the centre of her back, she slowly crept forward, with Allan hanging on taking his first steps forward. It was uphill from there and that puppy continued to help raise our son for the rest of her life.
I sort of thought Lady was a unique specimen of the breed until I got the following on the internet from Karen Wilson of Sandwich, Illinois:
We have a six year old grand daughter who spends a few hours a day with us. She is blind and severely mentally handicapped, so severely so that we wonder if she even recognizes our voices. Allyssa must be force fed and is very self abusive. Then we also have Maggie, our angel Newf that we adopted a month ago.
There is something special between Maggie and Allyssa – the only word Allyssa can say is ‘Maggie’. At her therapy they must force Allyssa to stand and hold a walker for 30 seconds. At our house she walks along side Maggie holding on to her and will walk throughout the house. No yelling or screaming at all. We have to put Maggie in the bedroom to force Allyssa to sit and take a break; in the last two weeks she has broken two bones in her feet because she is walking on feet that have never been used to support her! The doctors are thrilled. Even in a cast she will not stay down. Maggie is hyper and very lively but seems to realize that this child cannot see. This dog pulls me around the yard but will not take a step to cause the baby to fall.
Since we have had Maggie, Allyssa has not exhibited any self abusive acts; previously she would bang her head continuously and needed to wear a helmet. Now – no banging and no helmet. We also have three small dogs and Allyssa does not even acknowledge that they are here. We cannot figure out why she has bonded with Maggie and not them. Allyssa has a closer bond with Maggie than with any human. Somehow God must have meant for them to be together; what else could explain it? This is the most alert Allyssa has been in six years.
Peter Maniate has been writing columns for the Newf News, the magazine of the Newfoundland Dog Club of Canada, since 1979. In 1996 he started writing a Newfoundland dog column in the Breedlines section of Dogs in Canada magazine on behalf of the Newfoundland Dog Club of Canada. When Dogs in Canada ceased publication at the end of 2011 he continued the Breedlines column in the Newf Newfs.
Permission is granted for re-publication of the preceding article or excerpts from it as long as the author is credited and the name of the original publication and date of first publication is included.Dogs in Canada