Here is another nomination for the 1998 Newfoundland Nanny of the Year. This is an example of a Newf raised in a household without children who still demonstrates a very strong instinct to care for children. Codco is owned by Marty Southcott of North Bay, Ontario.
Codco has had a busy year. This summer he was awarded his final St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog certification and was assigned to Barkley House, a residence for seniors. We wanted him to continue his work with children so when I was offered a position as a performing arts instructor, I requested permission to bring Codco and once they had met him, he was welcomed as part of the team. This was an experimental program to introduce junior kindergarten through grade one to the performing arts. There were 150 children involved and the program ran for three months.
My original reason for bringing Codco was for his benefit, to continue his contact with children. However, by the end of the first two weeks the five team members I was working with all agreed that perhaps the most successful member of the team was Codco. He sat quietly with crying children and soon the tears were forgotten. We used him to teach the youngest children about taking turns and they quickly calmed down and happily stood in line to have a chance to talk to him, one on one.
It is the story of Curtis that I think you would be most interested in. Curtis was five years old in junior kindergarten and had no language; he was incapable of sitting still and crawled around on the floor, climbed on the tables and threw things at anyone who attempted to control him. In the first two sessions we had with his class he had to be physically removed from the room; he was literally carried screaming and kicking to the hall. By our third session we were at our wits end so I decided to try a new approach. Instead of trying to get him to participate , I asked if he would take care of Codco. He sat perfectly with Codco for the full 30 minutes of the session. The teacher noticed that on the days we were there he seemed calmer and actually would co-operate occasionally with the teacher’s aid.
Eventually this project had to be shared with an audience and I wondered how we would incorporate Curtis. Over the three months he had only participated in the project if Codco was with him… picture 150 pounds of black Newfie pretending to be a little blue pigeon! I suggested to Curtis that he could bring Codco on stage for the finale. Because he didn’t talk, I had no idea if he understood this concept.
The big day arrived. Codco was bathed and brushed within an inch of his life and all dressed up with a Santa hat and beautiful red bow. When his moment came I took him down the hall to meet Curtis. The junior kindergartens were all lined up ready to make their entrance but no Curtis. The teacher in charge said he had been taken away because he wouldn’t behave. I was terribly upset when, all of a sudden from down the hall came Curtis yelling at the top of his lungs “PUPPY, PUPPY”. It was the first word that he had spoken at school and this was the end of November. He and Codco led the class in and Curtis grinned from ear to ear as the whole audience stood up to applaud them.
Since that time Curtis has been diagnosed as autistic. With care and treatment he is now speaking at a two year old level. Codco still visits the school occasionally and when we go, Curtis is always waiting for us.
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