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There were four nominations for the Newfoundland Nanny of the Year award for 2000. As secretary of the committee, I collect and pass on these nominations to the Grotto Cerebral Palsy Foundation who donate the beautiful trophy and choose the Nanny of the Year and a runner-up.

None of these terrific nominees did anything spectacular that would make newspaper headlines, but like true heroes, they simply did what was needed to be done in the situation. In all four cases, these Newfs gave inspiration and self-esteem to a child with some sort of disability.

For the first time in the award’s history, a “rescue” Newf was chosen as Nanny of the Year. Root Bear had been adopted by Karen Sladden of St. Catherine’s, Ontario from Canadian Newf Rescue in the Spring of 1999. In September of that year, her young son, Andrew, was diagnosed with a serious form of cancer and for the rest of that year and through 2000, Root Bear provided the inspirational strength that helped his young master cope with chemo and other treatments.

An honourable mention went to Gaufrette owned by Line Moisan of St-Rosaire, Quebec. Gaufrette adopted Line’s niece who suffers from dyslexia and helped her gain confidence in herself and her abilities.

Then there is Clipper who, at only four months of age, started helping his mistress, Joan Wormald of Campbellville, Ontario, with her volunteer work with a child needing special attention. This child now has an elevated self-esteem thanks to Clipper.

While all of these stories about the Newfie Nannies touched me very deeply, one has left an indelible mark on my heart. Alberta Newf breeder, Christel Hill, dying of a brain tumour, heard of a boy in Calgary who was also diagnosed with a brain tumour. Treatments had caused Geoffrey to be paralyzed as well and his family was looking for a Newf who could be trained as a wheel chair assistant and be a faithful companion to their son.

Christel donated one of her champion Newfs, J.P. and, with tears in her eyes, personally delivered him to his new home. She watched him check out the new family and then come to rest at Geoffrey’s feet, seeming to know instantly what the purpose of his new life would be.

While writing this column, I have just learned via the internet that Christel, despite a brave fight, has passed away. In fact, as I write these lines, a memorial service is being held for her. I take some small comfort in knowing that J.P. remains as a living memorial to Christel Hill’s undying selflessness.

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

December 2001