As I write this column I’m just back from teaching carting seminars in Quebec over the Labour Day weekend for the new Quebec Newf Club, Passion Terre-Neuve Quebec. While the seminars were greeted with incredible enthusiasm, I kept hearing the old refrain “I would love to cart my dog but he is too old”. Even my wonderful translator and assistant, Sophie, said this about her Newf from S.O.S. Terre-Neuve, the Newf rescue group in Quebec. Initially she fostered Nikki but then became a “foster failure” and adopted this girl whose age was estimated to be nine years. At the end of the seminars, Sophie asked me to hitch up Nikki to see how she would do with a cart. To her surprise and delight, this senior took to carting like a duck/Newf to water. Nikki finished up by taking Sophie as her passenger up and down the driveway.
When I first got involved in dog carting in the mid 1970’s I had read that Newfs in Newfoundland use to work until they were 13 years old and it became my dream to be able to cart a 13 year old Newf. This dream came true in 2002 at the Canadian National Specialty. Big Mac, at 12 years & 10 months of age, was entered in a carting competition at the Specialty. Someone who hadn’t read the catalogue thought he was “slow” but they were severely admonished by another spectator who said “you’ll be slow too when you’re over 100”. Big Mac was also third that year in the Newfoundland Club of America’s annual search for the oldest living Newfoundland dog.
Big Mac went on to live to 13 years, 8 months. His longevity was due to many factors such as genes, diet and overall care; however I believe that the regular exercise that he got as a carting dog played a major role in his long healthy life. Until the day before he had to be euthanized, he could jump in and out of my mini van. He eventually succumbed to cancer of the small intestine because it prevented him from eating and his weight had dropped from 130 pounds to a mere 85. However I am proud to say my boy carted to the end.
In my last column I described carting as the best exercise for a canine and now I am taking it one step further and declaring that draft work is the best type of exercise for the senior dog. Dogs as old as 12 years of age can and have been started in carting; they have also earned CKC draft dog titles. Pulling a properly engineered modern dog carting on flat hard ground is practically effortless; even when the cart is loaded it only takes two pounds of pressure to keep the cart in motion and only five pounds of power to get it started. This means that you can start carting with your senior dog at an effortless level and gradually increase the resistance at a rate tailored to his personal capacity. Besides giving your fur baby great exercise you are also giving him a “purpose” which is extremely important in maintaining the will to live. Just like with humans, working gives a dog a sense of purpose which translates into “dignity” and as long as your canine buddy has dignity, he has quality of life.
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.
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