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Elizabeth Kirby of Toronto has a modern day working Newfoundland and regularly supplies me with examples. The following story is my favourite:

Last year I spent a term at the Dixie Public School in Mississauga doing a field practicum for my Educational Assistant certificate. While at Dixie I worked in a special literacy initiative with children who were having difficulty reading and writing.

The problem of how to motivate these children weighed heavily on me until I decided that Kody, my 140 pound Newf, was just the dog for the job. I began by introducing the children, who were in grades one and two, to some of my library of stories about Newfoundland dogs. We started with simple adventure stories and the kids were captivated by the illustrations of these giant, sweet-tempered heroes. Then I began to talk about Kody the Newfoundland who lived at home with me. I told them about his accomplishments in the water and with his cart. They were interested in learning more and their questions began to flow. Most of these children had no experience of owning dogs, let alone a Newfoundland.

In my class there was a young student, Alex, who didn’t talk at all. Alex was an elective mute – he refused to speak to anyone while at school. When I brought Kody’s Water Rescue ribbons and medal into class for Show and Tell, he was very interested in holding them (they might as well have been Olympic gold’s!). I gave him a picture of Kody to keep and promised that if the class worked hard, Kody would bring his cart to school at the end of the term and give them all rides in the playground. Alex who didn’t smile very often was very excited about going for a ride. I explained to him that Kody loved to take kids for rides, but in order for Kody to know that he had done a good job, we all had to tell him “Good boy, Kody. Thanks for the ride.” Alex just nodded.

After each pair of students had had their ride, they were encouraged to praise Kody for his fine work. It then came time for Alex to take his turn. The school speech pathologist had recommended to me that I remind Alex of my expectation that he would praise and thank Kody for his ride. Alex climbed up onto the seat with his best friend, Nicholas, and off they went, giggling and smiling. When we pulled up to the end of the route, Nicholas shouted out “Thanks Kody” but Alex, who stood about as high as Kody’s head, went over to Kody and gently lifted his ear flap. He then leaned over and appeared to be whispering into Kody’s ear. I couldn’t tell for sure what he might have said to Kody, but I do know that Kody looked really pleased!

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

February 2004