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Chandra's Blog

 

Entries in Newfoundlands (5)

Wednesday
Nov282012

DOG BLOG -- A letter from Sampson

While we have been on our international adventure, Sampson has been with his foster family in the middle of Pennsylvania, the human parents of his canine sister, Mercy. Kim, a first grade teacher, regularly writes letters to the children about Sampson's antics and sends photos and great updates. We are so lucky to have found this big-hearted family willing to open their home to another giant, hairy, slobbery Newf.

I could not resist sharing the most recent letter from Aunt Kim: 

 

Dear Mom, Dad and Kiddos,

Just got back from a long walk. Yup! This town is going to miss me. It's hard being a rock star. All the people, hugs and the pictures. Like tonight. I had to walk up on a porch of a lady yelling “Sampson, come say Good Bye before you leave.” Then… just a few steps later a little girl comes running up to me. I can always tell when Aunt Kim gets nervous, she holds my collar tight. So let me get this straight, she is nervous and chokes me!?

But I have to tell you about today! I let A.K. get an extra hour of sleep. Between us, she could use that beauty sleep. She is looking a bit weary since Uncle Matt left to go shoot Bambi. (Don’t pass that rumor on, but it is what I heard!) So, about 4:41 I thought it was time to get up. I saw something out the window. It sorta looked familiar but I couldn’t place it. So Aunt Kim suited me up and out we went. All around me was falling wet, white, cold stuff! A.K. said it was snow and I saw it before. I don’t really remember, I must have been too young. But oh… guys… how I wish you had been here! It was wonderful! I couldn’t get enough of it! So Miss Sissy Mercy Pants, I mean my sister and Aunt Kim went back to bed. Me? I watched the snow falling from the front window. Now that I removed the curtain you can see so much!

Well Aunt Kim stumbled down the steps. Now before we take this story any farther, I want to make a few comments. I know my basic color is black. I am not exactly Clinton Kelley, but I do know a few things about fashion….. Since Uncle M left, Aunt Kim has been wearing his Long John’s. Do not ask me why. I think for the same reason the kids wear Dad’s shirt when he is gone. Something about their scent?!?! So when Aunt Kim walked down the steps today I thought.. “Is that really the best she can do. It looks like she has some junk in that trunk!” Fast forward this Project Runway scene. So both Miss Pesty Pants and I want to go out at the same time. I knew that wouldn’t happen. Every SINGLE time A.K. takes us both out at the same time she SWEARS she will never do that again. She grumbles it under her breath. (Like I can’t hear?) But nope! There she is, strapping us both up, grabbing the reigns and opening the door. I am trying to give her the Newf Eyes! “Are you crazy? This never ends well! Mercy will not behave, she never does!” But… the teacher knows best.

Mercy, Kim and Sampson on a less hectic walkWell, my Forever Family! When we hit the cold air, with snowflakes swirling everywhere, so beautiful, so white, so wet… what could we do? We HAD to run! It is in our blood. We are from Newfoundland where it snows all the time! We had to live up to our heritage! And did we ever run! We ran, we rocked, we rolled, we tumbled and stumbled… and so did Aunt Kim. It was sorta like a dragging, sledding, slipping dance she was doing. She was trying to roll the leashes, but we would have none of it. The only thing that saved us was when Mercy had to poop. Now Mom and Dad… cover the kids ears…. At that very moment Aunt Kim called Mercy’s poop 'holy' and she took on a potty mouth about the word poop. Me? I stood there like a gentleman, enjoying the scenery.

 

It was just about the time Aunt Kim was taking out the 1,000,000,000 poop bag of the week that that darn bicanine starting jumping around. You will never believe what happned. Try NOT TO PICTURE THIS! Aunt Kim’s Long John’s fell right down to her snow boots! I knew they were sagging earlier! What was she thinking! There she was two leashes, one holy poop bag, a long coat and Long John’s down to her boots!

Well… I could tell she has been working out because did she drag, and I mean drag the two of us in the house! When we hit the porch she took off her coat and her sagging issues were all pulled up by now. Guys, you have to understand… beauty is meant to be shared! Aunt Kim picked up the towel and for a second I thought she was coming towards me. No way! That is only for rain, not snow. So I thought, share that snow! I dug down deep and shook that snow in Aunt Kim’s direction as hard as I could!!!!!

And I heard her exclaim and she gritted her teeth tight…
"Samps I would strangle you right here… but it’s not worth the fight."

As with that my family, I am taking my Mallard duck with me and saying “Good Night!”

Love, Licks and Drool!

* *** *

How do we thank the family who have taken such loving care of our hairiest son? How can we show our appreciation for the tender care, the tolerance, and the rapt attention they have given him? 

Before this, we were strangers, acquaintances connected only by the fact that our dogs had the same mother, like distant cousins of the bride meeting the groom's secretary's mother in the bar line at the wedding. And then one day, Kim wrote me a letter, and offered to be Sampson's foster family while we traveled, for as long as we needed it. She said she remembered being a young mother, and how the generosity of others made things possible.

Next week, we travel home, and there will be a long-anticipated, joyful reunion between Samps and his family. Piper has been talking about this, drawing it, dreaming it. For the first time, we will get to meet Mercy, who was recovering from surgery when we first left for Honduras. We'll have brunch, and try try try to convey our gratitude. Kim has promised there will be tears. I have no doubt. 

 

 

 

 

Monday
Sep192011

The Dog Blog Returns with Jessie

What has happened to the dog blog, and more importantly, Sampson? Readers can rest assured Sampson is just fine. He was going through a bit of an awkward stage recently--you know the middle school class pictures of which your mom has piles of wallet and 3x5s leftovers, because let's face it, you and your braces and your smattering of zits and your nose growing faster than the rest of your face and your greasy comb-over were not exactly the images that she wanted to send out to the far-flung family? That was Sampson the last few weeks. Not that we don't love him in all of his gangly, jacked-up back end, swirly-new-dog-hair-meets-puppy-fluff and long pointy snout magic, but we know HE didn't want himself represented this way to the world at large. When he's a big studly Mufasa, these awkward shots might embarass him. Nevertheless, I'll throw in one or two...

Professor Chufferson, I presumeCooling off in the pool with Max


 

 

I could also bemoan the busy-ness of birthday week and sending the three littles off to school, which sometimes seems miles more challenging than homeschooling. J remarked the other day that it doesn't feel like less effort--pointing out the amount of time it takes to get everyone out the door for a day (or half-day) at school, and then in the evening again getting them ready to go back with homework done and clean uniforms and gluten-free food and library books and gym shoes and dance/sports outfits and teeth brushed and recitations memorized.

But this is also not the reason why the blog has been flagging. The truth is, the real writing, the second novel, is in deconstruction beat sheet stage all over the house, and I am so excited to share it with readers that it takes priority when I have kid-free time. 

Still, I fell in love with Jessie when I first saw her on Lois' Facebook page, and have been anxious to share her in her golden years glory ever since. This week we celebrate the return of the dog blog with an elderstateswoman, Jessie, a quintessential representative of the Newfoundland breed. 


   From Goofy Newfy to Grand Old Dame

by Lois Alter Markco-founder of StyleSubstanceSoul.com

 

 

When Jessie, my Newfy, was a puppy (notice I didn’t say “little” – she was never really little!), you could tell the minute she noticed kids approaching, even from far away. She would freeze in her tracks, her eyes would light up, and we’d have a split second to try to hold her back before she would take off, bounding exuberantly to greet them, usually knocking them down in her enthusiasm. 

 

Lois and Jessie At two years old, Jessie had knee surgery and was confined to the family room for a couple of weeks to heal. Because there’s no door between that room and the kitchen, we blocked the doorway with a wide coffee table that she couldn’t fit under or jump over. One day, while we were out, our son called and in the middle of the conversation, suddenly burst out, “Jessie is standing next to me in the kitchen!” We still have no idea how she managed that, but as our vet often reminds me, laughing, “Jessie is not typical.”

 

Newfoundlands are known for their superior water rescue skills, but Jessie hates the pool, and used to bark at us when we went swimming as if to warn us, “You’re on your own. I’m not coming in to save you.” When she had a toy she loved, she would walk around the house with it in her mouth, crying with the stress of protecting it and finding a safe place to leave it. 

 

During the California wildfires, we had to evacuate our house and were lucky enough to get a room at the dog-friendly Loews Coronado. Because Jessie will only walk on carpet or concrete (yes, she’s a bit of a diva but, really, she’s deathly afraid of slipping on any other surface), she parked herself at the hotel entrance, refusing to walk across the marble lobby until the kind-hearted concierge -- to whom we will always be grateful -- set out a path of towels for her, which she proudly sashayed across, creating a light moment during a crisis for the other guests. 

 

Because Jessie has never understood her size or strength, she has gotten stuck under a table, knocked down a tree at the vet’s office and run around the house with a cactus stuck to her tail. She has taken my place in bed, stretched out to her full length next to my husband before I had a chance to get in, leaving me to sleep on the couch. She has followed a horse on TV as it ran off the screen, running right out of the room and looking back in confusion, not understanding where it went. She has made us smile, giggle and guffaw more times than I can count.

 

Now, at almost eleven and a half, Jessie can no longer get up the stairs to our bedroom or run through the house. She has diabetes and can barely see, but she is still the gentle giant she has always been. She kisses the vet after giving her a hard time about taking blood, she wags her tail and barks in delight when she hears her beloved FedEx deliverywoman at the door, and she turns over for a belly rub anytime someone approaches her, pawing them to continue when they stop. She is love, plain and simple.

 

Because Jessie is so attuned to our emotions, she goes over to squeak her furry green frog every single day,Michael and Jessie which I’m convinced is her way of reassuring us that she’s okay and we should stop worrying or feeling sorry for her. Since the day I tore a tendon in my arm while helping her get up, she has never again whimpered for me to assist her. She has figured out how to do it herself, and it is an amazing and inspiring sight – especially because of her obvious intention.

 

As I write, Jessie is lying here with her head on the floor and her feet on her orthopedic bed. She is comfortable in her golden years, content to simply love and be loved. I can only hope to age with as much spirit and acceptance as she has.

 

 

* *** *

Jessie and Lois BIO: You can find more writing from Lois on her website StyleSubstanceSoul.com, as a contributor to the Huffington Post, or also on She Writes.

Saturday
Aug062011

Dog Blog--Sampson, 17 weeks old

17 weeks old

Piper and Sampson, 17 weeks old

54.5 lbs

 

 

WATER BABY!

Remember how I fantasized, before Sampson came home, about having a Newf that would actually swim? How I bemoaned the fact that Jonah, and Dakota before him, had done nothing more than wade?

We officially have a swimmer. Not only does Sampson run ahead of us and jump into the pool for a paddle, a cute, summertime thing, and will even venture into the deep end with a flotation noodle under his chest, he has recently discovered the pond. 

 

Swamp ThingWhat this means is that in all seasons, not just the sunny summertime, Sampson will have access to a goose-chasin', muckin', paddlin' good time. It means I will be bathing the pond stench off him in sub-zero temps. It means that I will be vacuuming endlessly the fine dust of dried silt from our hardwood floors. It means his breath will take on that distinctive scent of freshwater fish and crawdads... 

But it also means hours of hilarity and enjoyment, that second burst of energy he gets as he comes bounding up the bank with a joyful shake. It means the geese are on high alert at all times, in the water more, crapping on the driveway less. Sampson also has a healthy way to build strength in his caboose, burn off some of that endless adolescent puppy energy, and cool off during the heat waves. 

Pond DwellerI have also noticed that as I get older, I experience a curious delight from facilitating animals doing what they are meant to do and having it bring them joy while benefiting humans.

This partially explains my fascination/obsession with goats. That's Nico, the neighbor's goat in the background while Piper and Sampson share one of our first pixie crunch apples, doing what Nico loves to do, eating down the scrub and poison ivy along our stream and randomly fertilizing the grass as he goes. Samps, Piper and Nico the GoatAnd that's Sampson, (right) doing what Newfs are supposed to do, with their enormous webbed paws.

Though they are no longer used as official lifeguards on beaches in the US and Canada, some European swimming spots still count on the Newfs to do what they do best. 

(Click here for some great video clips of Newfs training and facilitating water rescue.)

I notice Sampson watching my children attentively as they swim, and though at this point he is more likely to take you down with his frantically paddling flippers than save you, we are laying the ground work for a future skill, and tapping into something innate in him.

 

I'll vacuum and give baths all winter long for that. 


Quick photo for size comparison as Sampson continues to grow. My Facebook friends will remember this photo of Sampson and Atticus (aka, "Sporty") facing off at dawn? Oh how the tides are turning...

(My kale has really grown too.)

Off to arrange our first water-based puppy playdate.

Pics next week! 

Sampson and Atticus face off, round XVII

Tuesday
Jul192011

Guest Dog Blog -- Sampson's sister, Remy

The dog blog has been on a little bit of a hiatus with all the hubbub of J in the hospital (see my Writer on Wednesday post about our amazing home town) and the kids' swim team season wrapping up, not to mention a heat wave in the Northeast that means most of Sampson's photo ops are happening at dawn or are simply him, passed out on the a/c vent in the bathroom. 

But I'll take a second to share his stats:

Tomorrow, Sampson (and his sister Remy, who is the guest this week) are 15 weeks old and Samps tips the scales at 43.2 lbs.

Biggest accomplishments are climbing the stairs to our bedroom and solo swimming in the pool. This includes the courage to leap in off the side, which has translated into joining any of his human siblings for a 'swim' when they're in the bathtub. Sampson is 90% housebroken and though he still bounds up to the under-ten set, he (mostly) manages to check himself before chomping. More photos and stories coming soon, but today his sweet sister gets the spotlight. Meet Nicole and Remy, living a parallel experience elsewhere in PA... 

 

My name is Nicole and I am the proud owner of Sampson’s sister, Remy!  I was so excited when our breeder informed me about Chandra’s dog blog and was completely shocked at how everything she described about Sampson was identical to Remy.  Several quirks that Chandra discussed made me laugh out loud because I felt she was talking about Remy.  Running around crazy, nipping at the poor little ones, favorite spot on the cool kitchen tile, hating the heat and running to the door right after going to the bathroom (if I was lucky enough to have it happen outside rather than on my carpet…), just to name a few.  Like brother/like sister!!!

 

I first became interested in Newfoundlands when I graduated from high school and got a summer job on a farm.  The owners purchased a Newfoundland puppy and I fell in love with the little guy!  Then over the past two years, I’ve been around several adult Newfoundlands and just could not believe their size and how sweet and gentle they were.  When I expressed interest in getting a puppy, my boyfriend said he would only agree to a large breed dog…so Newfoundland it was!  I discovered our breeder, Sherry Cook with Opening Heaven’s Doors, on the internet.  As soon as I began speaking with her over the phone, I knew that the only puppy I would purchase would be from one of her litters.  After a few bumps in the road and approximately a year and a half later, we were finally blessed with the arrival of our long awaited black female Newfoundland…Remy Alexa!

 

When Remy came home with us, she weighed about 14 pounds and was the most calm, quiet and shy puppy I had ever met.  For the first few days, she just laid next to her water dish on the tile floor in the kitchen.  We actually had to carry her into the living room in the evening to hang out with us as a family.  But it was never long before she wandered back to her kitchen spot!  And if only I would have known that this was the calm before the storm!  Remy Doodle came out of her shell and became a little firecracker with a big attitude!  Most often, during her antics, I would try to discipline her and then just start laughing because she cracked me up!

 

At 12 weeks old, Remy is just shy of 30 pounds!  She absolutely LOVES the water and this is by far my favorite trait of hers!  My boyfriend has a cabin on Hill Island near Three Mile Island and we can’t keep her from trying to get in the water.  She loves to hang out at Sandy Beach with all the kids and the other dogs!  Jumping from the pontoon boat into the water is still a little high for her, but once in the water, she just paddles away!  We have a baby pool in our back yard for Remy to keep cool and she just climbs right in and lays down whether the pool has water or not.  She also has a very bad habit (but quite funny) of putting her two front paws in her water bowl and splashing around in it until all the water is emptied across the kitchen floor!

Guess we shouldn’t have laughed at her when she first started doing it because now she thinks it’s funny…me, not so much!  And just this morning, while I was taking a shower, Remy jumped in and got completely soaked before I could grab her and get her out!  Our little Remy is a fruit and veggie freak…among her favorites are carrots, apples, apple peals, watermelon, watermelon rind, orange bell peppers, and of course ice!  Remy also loves chewing on piggy ears and bully sticks, which usually keep her occupied for about two hours and gives us all a much needed break!

 

Remy has actually impressed me with her excitement about exercise!  She loves to play tug of war and fetch a tennis ball and Frisbee.  Something else that cracks us up is the way Remy retrieves a toy.  We call it “Stealth Mode”…after we throw the toy, she sneaks up on it real slow with her head down and her tail straight back.  When she gets a few steps away from the toy, then she makes a quick pounce!  It’s hilarious!  We’re not sure if she’s just too lazy to run after the toy or if she really thinks that she’s being sly!  She was terrible with the leash at first, but she is getting much better.  When we exercise at night or are just hanging out by the campfire at the cabin on the river, Remy wears a glow light on her collar that changes between five or six colors.  Without the light, people trip over her left and right because she blends right in with the dark night!

 

Overall, I feel that Remy has adjusted quite well to her new family!  Since night three or four, she has been sleeping through the night in her crate in our bedroom…no crying or crate accidents at all!  She does great in the car.  Her first long trip (12 hours) was to Canada last week and she did excellent!  Only one accident in our cottage and she loved hanging out on the boat and in the lake of course!

At home, we’re working on our third straight day without any accidents in the house…I must find wood to knock on immediately!!!  Besides housebreaking, the only other issue is the biting…which I’m told will get better with time.  We understand that she’s a puppy and it’s just a phase she has to go through.  But our little guy Mason doesn’t appreciate getting mauled over when he simply tries to take one step!  And those little teeth are terribly sharp…our hands, arms and legs have the scars to prove it!

 

As a family, we couldn’t be more blessed to have Remy in our lives now!  She makes us incredibly happy (most of the time).  We are looking forward to a long, happy, healthy life with her!  Thanks to Sherry for bringing her into our lives!  And to Sampson and his family, good luck and we would love to have a family reunion at some point!  We will certainly be following Sampson’s progress on the blog! 

 

 

Thursday
Jun092011

Weekly Dog Blog -- Sampson, 8 weeks

Age: 8 weeks 

Weight: 20.4 lbs

 

Yesterday, Sampson turned 8 weeks old and already he feels like a member of the family. After a whirlwind week of sleeping on the floor in strange positions, being chewed on in the dark, rising at dawn, over-caffeinating in the afternoons, peppered with bouts of blinding cuteness and much gallumphing about, it feels like he has always been here, guiding us with his puppy ways.

 

MY WHAT BIG PAWS YOU HAVE, MY DEAR!

 

Lesson #1 -- Appreciate the dawn: 

I am not being sarcastic here. J and I have never been able to let our children 'cry it out'; why would we listen to the horrible yips and yelps coming from the kitchen when our hairy baby woke up lonely? So there has been some sleeplessness. We all take shifts sleeping with Sampson in his cozy spot in the kitchen. 

Max takes the midnight tour of duty with Sampson

 

 

When he gets up for the day, as early as 4:50 am as the birds are just thinking about trying out their morning chirps, I do too.  We go outside and putter, pull weeds in the garden, take out the compost, feed the cats and water the vegetables. The world is quiet and we have had the good fortune to see a doe and fawn, a red-headed woodpecker and a fox heading home. 

I had forgotten how much I cherish early rising, how many things can be done before all the little towheads stagger out of their beds demanding bacon and hugs. And much like a human baby, Sampson often comes back in for an early morning snooze, which means I get some writing time with a faithful dog at my feet--something that's been missing for too long. sleeping after a swim 

LESSON #2 -- Be present:

I don't mean this in the 'burn your patchouli stick and fold yourself into full lotus and breathe in some chi', but in the 'this puppy has grown 4.5 lbs in a week and will be a full-on dog by Christmas' way. Enjoy who he is right now. Lie on the floor with him. Coax everyone out on another lap of our evening walk (bonus: Sampson sleeps better when he's tuckered out!)Evening walk Watch with amazement and joy as he pounces on the clover flowers or discovers the tangy zip of onion grass. 

I had an idea to take a weekly photo with Sampson and the same, standard object to show his growth. I picked a tennis ball, since he was frolicking and mauling one at the time before I remembered that in a very short space of time, a tennis ball will disappear in his cavernous jaws. (Jonah used to treat the boys' baseballs as gobstoppers, crunched into nothing.) Nevertheless, here's your NOW photo of Sampson.A boy and his ball

 

For his part, Sampson keeps me present and on my toes in the more practical way--if I lose sight of the now, lose my awareness of my surroundings, stop watching his every toddling, snuffling move, he brings me right back by peeing on the floor. (Today's score? Me: 4, Sampson: 6) Some days are better than others.

It is also very difficult for me to report these infractions to J without feeling like Parker Posey's, yuppie, therapy-attending, neurotic-Wiemaraner-owning character in "Best in Show",  without using words like 'pee-pee' and 'poopie'.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, there's something waiting to be added to your Netflix queue now. 

House training has been a challenge, compounded by the fact that we don't have a big dog around to show him the way. My boys have offered to pee outside for him, but I just don't think it's the same, cross-species. 

 

The message for my family? Lesson #3: Appreciate Mom's Cooking

"How come Sampson gets fed before any of us?" one of my boy's wailed when they woke up to see him chin-deep in his bowl, crunching away.

In part, this is because Sampson appreciates what I make. He sits politely as I poach his egg, maybe just the slightest wriggle of eager anticipation, smiling his canine grin. There's no, "When are we going to get some real food from the store?" or "Why do you have to bake our bread!" or "This smells like throw up!" or "This again?!" Sampson eats the same meal of puppy chow and poached egg with gusto every day. Of course, just like my human children, there is some snacking between meals... 


Busted in the snack cupboard!
BUSTED in the snack cupboard

LESSON #4 -- PICK UP YOUR THINGS

$40 in Petsmart chew toys have got nothing on toilet paper rolls, the pool bag, Max's red Keens, two pairs of my flip-flops, the feathered cat fishing rod, and a certain pink squeaky bath toy.  Here, cross-species works just fine. Sampson will 'play' with any and all objects left out, testing them with his little needle-sharp puppy teeth.

 

LESSON #5 -- REDIRECT

"Something shiny just went over the trench!"

The redirect is a staple of parenting. What can be more attractive than poking your sister, teasing your brother, or in Sampson's case, following after a pack of small compadres, the littlest of which wears ruffled and flouncing fabrics that just beg for a nip? How can we tempt you to put your energy and impulses elsewhere?

Outside, Piper has learned to Beauty and the (petite) Beastcarry a chew toy in hand and when he nips at her flanks, she's an expert at the art of distraction.  I think she'll make an excellent mother. 

 

Finally, LESSON #6 -- Time your rewards

In an attempt to be expedient, to quickly reinforce the positive of going to the bathroom outside, I whipped out a dog treat while poor Samps was still mid-crouch, throwing the deuce. Misunderstanding what I wanted from him, (we've been practicing 'sit' a lot this week), Sampson promptly sat. Right in it. 

We love our Newfoundlands for their gentle nature, not their intellect.

Stay tuned next week to see if Sampson has learned to sleep through the night yet...