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In past columns I have recounted stories of Newfoundlands doing very dramatic heroic things such as rescuing all the passengers and crew of a sinking ship in a hurricane or saving the lives of our soldiers in a far off land by carrying a live grenade away from their midst. However, this life saving ability of the Newfoundland is not just a thing of the past but something that still happens daily albeit not usually with such drama.

Following is an excerpt from an e-mail that I received in July of this year that typifies the wonderfulness of the Newfoundland dog. The writer is Dr. Deborah Tor of Harvard University who lives on campus with her family. The family includes Debbie’s six year old daughter, Amiya, and their Newfoundland, Grace. Grace is a 17 month old puppy that the family got from a breeder in Canada.

Dear Peter,

Grace saved Amiya today. We went to Lake Saltonstall in Haverhill, MA, and I stayed on shore while Amiya and Grace went in the water. Amiya is a beginning swimmer; she can swim in water that’s over her head, but barely. The bottom of the lake was rocky, with fairly large boulders, and after a while (Grace was at this point out of the water, nosing around the meadow) Amiya suddenly walked off the underwater rocky area, found herself in water beyond her depth and began floundering and calling for help. I was about to jump in and rescue her, and called Grace (in a slightly panicky voice) as I was in the act to “get Amiya”. Grace came bounding past me, swam out (she swims very quickly, just as she runs quickly) and brought her in. Grace may not have a water rescue title, but she is clearly a water rescue dog. I am thankful to my breeder for breeding a Newf with all the right instincts…

If Grace was still resident in Canada, she would be eligible for the Newfoundland Nanny of the Year award given out by The Grotto Cerebral Palsy Foundation and/or the Hero Award of the Newfoundland Dog Club of Canada. Since Grace is now a US resident, I encouraged Debbie to apply to the Newfoundland Club of America for their Hero Award. It is important that we make use of such awards and report such wonderful incidents (no matter how common we might think they are). Otherwise, the front page reports in the popular media of the rare cases of impropriety by domestic canines will give the wrong slant to man’s best friend.

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

October 2003