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Newfs have many endearing qualities but in 33 years of sharing my life with this breed what stands out most is their caring for people well beyond their human pack. My first hint of this characteristic was the number of people who I met while walking or exhibiting my fur babies who claimed that they were “raised” by a Newfoundland dog. There were so many such folk that I wondered if there could really have been that many Newfs around a generation before. However as I talked with such people it became clear that in most instances the Newf lived down the street and was technically owned by another family. Obviously there was a multiplier effect as these Newfs spread their love afar.

Margaret Booth Chern in The New Complete Newfoundland tells of Mrs. Clara Ramsay in the early 1900’s, alone with Neptune on an isolated farm in New Hampshire when a tramp came to the kitchen door: “She was turning away the stranger when, to her utter astonishment, Neptune snatched a freshly baked, still-warm loaf of bread from the table and wagging his tail in the friendliest manner, delivered it to the hungry man.”

Belinda Burnett of Northern California just sent me a most wonderful eulogy for her service dog Newf, Hero. What especially caught my eye was Belinda’s recall of how Hero would provide her with mobility assistance: “You could even spot others who needed balance assistance. People noticed that you were pulling me and walking beside them at their pace so they could reach their hand out and retrieve their balance by leaning on you for a moment.”

Another example just came in from Christine Hutton in the UK: “Ellie went ‘missing’ last week; one minute she was there, the next gone. I looked everywhere and notified all the right people. Then a nearish neighbour dropped in to say she was in a bungalow further up the lane. When I got there she was in this elderly guy’s house who had prostrate cancer and lost his wife three months ago; he was having one of his ‘down’ days and Ellie had just strolled in and made herself at home. Uncanny or what?”

These are not the type of stories that make headline news. They are just examples of the day in and day out concern and compassion that make our Newfoundlands everyday heroes.

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

November 2008