The Horsefly

Winn hates horseflies and she has a good reason. At our very first water test, she was attacked by the largest horsefly I’ve ever seen. We could all hear it buzzing around her. She bobbed her head up and down watching it while it terrorized her, then she turned around and ran out of the water. Ever since then, she’s highly tuned to buzzing noises near the water. We’ve tested at 5 locations of which 3 of them have had horseflies. We’ve only returned to one of those locations because that one usually has high winds which helps to keep them away.

This post isn’t reallly about horseflies. On August 22nd, we brought home a Newfie puppy. Maisie was delighted, Winn was disturbed. Somehow she knew this puppy wasn’t just visiting. She came out to greet us, stopped in her tracks and looked at me, looked at the puppy, and then turned back around and went in the house.

Winn does her best to stay away from Zuzu. Whenever Zuzu comes near her, she literally runs away. Her dodge and weave to avoid Zuzu reminds me of how she moves when she senses a horsefly nearby. We spent the majority of time outside with the puppy for the first couple of weeks and Winn stayed inside by herself. She would come out occasionally, but once she spotted the puppy, she would go back in as quickly as possible. Winn loves to be outside, just not with that puppy!

We are trying to show Winn that our basic routines are staying the same. She isn’t going to miss out on the things that she is used to. Winn knows not to beg at the table, but she does make frequent attempts to make an exchange. When she knows we are done eating, she will go and find something that I have touched and will bring it to me hoping for a bite of whatever is left. She will bring bills, catalogs, magazines, gloves, my checkbook, hat, small packages and so many other things that I didn’t realize I left out. If she cant find something that might be valuable to me, she will bring me a water toy. She stopped doing this when Zuzu arrived.

That behavior has driven me nuts on many occasions, but once she stopped doing it, I missed it. On the fourth night of her staying inside while we ate, I stepped away from the table, called her out, gave her a bumper and then traded it for a bite of chicken. The next night I looked up and there she was, standing in the doorway with her bumper in her mouth, comtemplating making a trade. Since then, she has joined us outside, lying around while we eat and eagerly hopping up when we start to clean up.

I have kept them all under constant supervision. Zuzu has been persistent in trying to get Winn to like her. She slowly moves a little bit closer when they are lying down. She’ll rub up against her when she walks by, trying to give her a whiff of her sweetness. She has respected the distance that Winn wants, but will test things out each day to see if the rules still apply. It seems to be working, Winn doesn’t get up immediately if Zuzu plops down near her and has even approached her to give her a sniff now and then. There haven’t been any issues during feeding times or when I’m giving out treats. Winn knows they each get a share, and Zuzu waits her turn. Each day is getting better with all of them. Winn has even come outside when Maisie and Zuzu are playing and drifted in and out of the play circle.

Puppies are a huge amount of work and Winn and Maisie are so easy. Winn is now 5 and Maisie is 9, both are pretty low maintenance so it seemed like a good time to bring in a puppy. Last year I wasn’t ready, next year seemed too far away. My friend is a breeder and we have been talking about this for several years. I love the pair that were bred together. They both have sweet temperments, are good working dogs and each represent the breed standard beautifully. Zuzu is the first female that she has had with the white markings that I have always admired. She also exhibits the traits that she might be a good working dog. In other words, she’s the puppy I’ve been waiting for so now is the time. We are back to being a three Newfie household and I am so excited to see what this sweet girl and I can do together!

Maisie’s birthday week!

On Saturday, May 14th, Maisie turned 9! I don’t really know how that is possible, the years have passed so quickly.

Since the day we brought Maisie home, she has been an absolute joy. Her greatest desire is to please those around her and she is the most perceptive dog I’ve ever known. She is so tuned in to human emotions, she can sense things before they become apparent to others. That quality is what makes her an outstanding reading assistance dog in Chicago Public Schools.

This year, Maisie’s birthday coincided with the Newfoundland National Specialty in Frankenmuth, MI. I can’t imagine a better way to celebrate her birthday than to travel up there and experience the week with Maisie!

In previous years, 2018 and 2019, Winn and I went to National and Maisie stayed home. I had never trained her in dog sports, and it didn’t occur to me that she would like them. The National Specialty in 2020 and 2021 were both cancelled due to the pandemic, so this year the organizers blended all three years into one amazing show. That set the theme of The Greatest Show on Earth celebrating 2020. 2021 and 2022.

We drove up on Mother’s Day so that Maisie and I would be ready to compete Monday morning. We started the day in a grand way by placing 3rd in Novice Obedience and her earning her Companion Dog title! I’m especiallly proud of this because we only started training about four months ago and I took her to her very first obedience trial the weekend before where she successfully completed the first two legs for her title.

On Tuesday, she earned her Rally Novice title with another high score and later that afternoon we gathered with all of the other regional clubs and participated in the Opening Ceremony. Each club interpreted the circus theme with costumes and floats. The local marching band was on hand and each club got to strut their stuff across the ring and then we all followed the band to the river front for a champaigne toast to kick off the week.

Wednesday was another successful day and the final day of our obedience events. Maisie and I bumped up to Rally Intermediate where she earned a perfect score of 100 and first place. I decided to move her into the Veteran’s Obedience class which is more of an exhibition class. Somehow she knew it was her last event and she showed off. She was her abolute best and most joyful, rolling over for a belly rub after her recall. She knew she was doing a good job and couldn’t contain herself! The judge was charmed and chuckled as she pointed us to our final exercise. She earned first place in that event as well and I was so proud of all she accomplished.

At this point in the show, the conformation judging begins and the building with the obedience rings turns into grooming central. Everywhere you turn, there are Newfies and their owners prepping for their time in the big ring. It is really a sight to behold! Maisie handled all the extra noise like a pro and seemed to genuinely enjoy being around all of the excitement.

Thursday afternoon, after the judging of the boy dogs concluded, there was an honors ceremony for dogs that have earned titles. I signed Winn and Maisie up for this and we stood ring side waiting for their names to be called. The dogs are called out by birth year so Maisie was first then we waited a bit for Winn. This is special to me since neither of them are conformation dogs and we get to parade across the big ring and celebrate their accomplishments.

Friday was our last day at the show. The female dogs are in the conformation ring and during the lunch break is my favorite event of the week, the Rescue Parade!

The Rescue Parade is something I wanted to do with Annie, but the timing wasn’t right for her, so I make a point of attending every year in her honor. I had three friends participating this year with their Newfs and it was emotional for all of them. Each Newf is called out with their owner and their story is read over the microphone. They receive a medal and have the option of running around the ring. To hear each of their stories, all so different, many heart breaking but also heart warming is incredible. They have all found their forever homes and are treasured and loved as they should be. The first dog called out was in memoriam, and his owner carried a stuffed newf in his honor. The remaining all took their turns and there were tears and smiles all around!

After a little more shopping, we packed up and headed home. This week was so memorable. I was happy to get back up there and participate in this big event after two year pause. I am also a lot more confident in my handling skills and to have Maisie by my side was so very special. The week flew by and as always, I can’t wait to go again next year!

Happy birthday Maisie, you are such a special girl!

Therapy dog in the time of Corona

Maisie and I got to go back to work today!

Our session was very different from the way we used to help out in Chicago classrooms, but since we are all getting used to virtual communciations, it seemed to go really well.

As usual with Sit Stay Read, everything was very well planned. I got an email with a suggested script to point out certain words and pictures and the book was delivered to my house. Tips on selecting a place to do our reading as well as how to deal with technical glitches were included. I practiced several times so that I could adjust the camera angle and our positions.

We recorded our reading during a Zoom session with our program leader. Since we were in a virtual classroom, Winn was able to join us as well. She even provided some humor when she ran off to chase a squirrel!

We recorded the reading a couple of times, and I was surprised by how natural it felt to be sharing a book with Maisie again. The book was one I haven’t read before. It was written by collaboration of a Sit Stay Read classroom and an author. It is about a dog who didn’t have a home and was adopted by a loving family. This is a topic close to my heart and it is a lovely story.

This has been such a challenging time and I hope that our contribution to a restructured reading program is helpful. It will be great to get back into the classroom and let Maisie work her paws-on magic, but until then, keep reading!

Corona Dogs

The dogs are living their best life ever!

Someone is always home to give them attention.

There are multiple opportunities for snacks in the kitchen with everyone taking their lunchbreaks at different times.

We all spend lots of time on the front porch, waving at friends and watching people walk by.

With everyone at home, crate time is minimal and play time in the yard is available all day long.

During normal times (it’s almost hard to remember what those times were like), I was the one who was home the most. I’m the one in charge and I feel like I know my dogs really well, but with all of this concentrated time together with more family members added in, I’ve learned even more about each of them.


Nicknames include: Winsor, Winderella, Big Winn, Winn Winn, Pushy McPush, Chompadile and Kissyface


Winn. What can I say about Winn except that she is constantly looking to do something that will bring her a treat. (When she’s not passed out on the cool tile of course.)

Winn learned to bring in the paper just a few weeks after we brought her home, and as she’s gotten bigger and stronger she brings in lots of other things as well. When she hears the car pull into the alley, she charges outside to help. She loves to bring in groceries and shopping bags.

Everytime one of us goes out to the front porch, Winn is right on our heels looking for packages or mail. There have been a lot more deliveries since the Stay at Home orders were activated and Winn is thrilled about that! If we don’t open them right away, she will grab one that might be laying around and bring it to me again, looking for a treat. This also includes empty mailers and boxes, packing material and anything that might be in a plastic bag.

She developed a new habit as soon as my husband and I would sit down for dinner. We have never fed from the table, and never will, but she decided it was worth a try to push that boundary. Immediately after we sit down, we will hear her rummaging and then she will appear with something in her mouth. If she can’t find a piece of mail, paper, wrapper or a catalog, she’ll bring something else. When she started bringing me shoes, I had enough of this new habit and started putting her in her crate when we ate. After two nights in the crate she got the hint and left us alone….for a few days. Now if she brings something while we are eating, I take the item, say thank you and direct her to her crate with the door open. She lies in there for a few minutes and then will leave and go to her napping spot in the other room.

After realizing she won’t get anywhere with us while we are eating, she has recently started bringing us a toy when she thinks we are finished and might be ready to clear the table. Since this is water season and I hope to start water training soon, she’s been playing with her bumper and that’s currently her toy of choice to retrieve. I really can’t turn her down when she sits there looking so cute as she patiently waits for us to throw it.  That’s the signal that we are done with dinner and she might get a little reward (recently she got some tortilla bites which she thought were abosolutely delicious).IMG_4903Winn makes me smile. She is so affectionate and will suddenly charge at me and climb all over me. She likes to kiss my face, and she usually does this when she wants to go outside, but first I have to get her off of me so I can get up and let her out! She loves food, any food, but she also knows that everyone gets a bite so she is (somewhat) patient when I give Maisie and Chocolate a nibble of whatever Winn is getting. Maisie is very picky so if she takes too long sniffing the offering, Winn is happy to take it off of my hands.

Winn doesn’t like it when I’m on the phone, or working on my laptop. I have to be quick when her big head comes at me because she will flop it down on the keyboard.  She wants my attention immediately, and she will do whatever necessary to get it!

Winn is my working girl and we have had so much fun together learning new tricks and skills. We haven’t been to our Rally and Obedience training class since February, nor have we done any water training yet but I hope to get back to it soon. Safety is the priority but we could both use a change of scenery and I really miss training with other dogs and handlers.


Nicknames include: Maisiepie, Maizelda, Tiptoe, Miss Princess, Snugglepuss and Fussypants


I’ve always said Maisie is like Mary Poppins, she’s practically perfect in every way.

She is so sweet, so gentle, so eager to please. She understands and reacts to human emotions so much more deeply than any other dog I’ve had. She instinctually knows when someone is sad and needs comfort, when someone is frail and she needs to be extra gentle, when someone is fearful or shy and she needs to be still and patient while they approach.

Maisie is also a Nanny dog. She will become alarmed and scold when kids are running, people are yelling, or someone is being disruptive. This pertains to people she sees both in real life and on the TV. We have a very hard time watching TV when Maisie is in the room. After seven years, this is my biggest training fail because she still barks at the TV and we still correct. Every. Single. Day.

Maisie and I have volunteered with a reading program for kids in Chicago Public Schools. Maisie is a natural with the kids and is very popular when we show up in the classroom. She also takes her hall monitor duties very seriously and will tell kids to slow down if they even think about running. I work very hard to spot her warning signs before she lets out a bark, but every now and then I’m not quick enough and she lets them know when they are being too loud and fast in the hallway. We both miss seeing the kids and having them read to us.IMG_0292

I’ve mentioned that Maisie is a fussy eater. She doesn’t like green vegetables, strong smelling cheese or things that feel slimy. Sometimes she will eat a banana, but if it’s too ripe, she will spit it out. Sometimes she will eat a tomato, after Winn has inhaled a piece, but often times she will spit it out and Winn will swoop in and gobble it up. She doesn’t like ice, but she loves “ice cream”. I  mix yogurt and different flavors together and freeze  in silicone molds. Maisie sits by the freezer every night waiting for her bedtime ice cream treat. Maisie loves all meat, chicken and most fish. Sometimes she will eat shrimp, sometimes she will spit it out depending on if she thinks the texture feels wierd that day. Winn is happy to clean up the floor for her.

Maisie does not like a water bowl with floaties in it. Winn leaves floaties everytime she takes a drink. Maisie will go up to the water bowl, dip her nose in about 1/8 inch, and turn and walk away if she doesn’t think the water is fresh enough. If she’s really thirsty, she will sit by the bowl and stare at one of us until we change the water. Now that so many people are home, she’s gotten really bold and started flipping the bowl when she would like it to be fresh. When the bowl with the fresh water arrives, we try to give Maisie first dibs but Winn almost always comes rushing over and sticks her big head in while Maisie is drinking. These two girls are a lot of work, just in very different ways!


Nicknames include: Chockie, Choco Taco, Buddy and Needle Nose (given more time together, more names will evolve)IMG_0077

Chocolate is doing really well. He has adapted to our house and family remarkably fast. He seems to be more at ease and his barking has decreased by a huge amount.

He still sneaks up on me, but I’m getting better about checking behind me when I move around to see if he’s there. I’m not running into him quite as often but I’m still amazed by his ability to move around so quietly.

He has accepted us as his new flock to watch over, and I think that’s really sweet. He spends most of his time keeping tabs on me, I’m the one who feeds him but he does flit around the house checking up on my mom, husband and son.

Chocolate is a pill spitter. He will eat any food I offer him, but pills, chewable or not, forget it.  I’ve had to wrap his meds multipe times in diffent things. Peanut butter was good at first, but now he knows that trick and won’t touch it. Bread doesn’t work at all but turkey and ham are acceptable. For now, at least.

He’s a quirky little dog, but I find him entertaining the more I get to know him. He likes to learn new things, maybe when things get a little more normal we will try taking a class together.

Have you noticed new behaviors from your dogs recently? How have they responded to the Corona lifestyle changes?





Going to the Vet in the time of Corona

Because of the Corona Virus we’ve had to put almost everything on hold,  but when it comes to medical care I had to figure out how to do that. In the very first week of our lockdown, I made a trip to the Animal Emergency Hospital and the Emergency Room for humans. Everyone is fine, they were treated for their conditions and sent home to recuperate but the stress level was very high during both of these episodes!

Once the emergencies were behind us, I thought I had done everything right. I made sure that we had two months worth of medications, both animal and human, but eventually those ran out and I had to get refills. Maisie and Chocolate were both overdue for their annual physicals, so I made the decision to make an appointment for all of them and get them taken care of in one big swoop.

I was nervous about taking this on, but I figured “in for penny, in for a pound”. So I headed out, knowing this was going to cost a lot of pennies and loaded over 200 pounds of dog into the car.IMG_4612I received instructions on the new ways of handling the appointments, so I knew what to expect. I’m sure they will vary by office but if you are going to the Vet sometime soon, these changes are probably similar to what you will experience.

  1. I was told to park in a designated area and call when we arrived. After the Dr. explained all of the sterilization procedures they are practicing, we talked about what each dog needed (vaccinations, refills, nail trims etc.).  She asked for the make and model of my car and then sent out two techs to pick up the dogs. I was asked to wear a mask during the transfer and then wait in the car until the appointments were completed.  (It was pouring rain, they were fully covered in masks, gloves and rain gear and Winn was not a fan.)IMG_4614
  2. Once they were inside, their collars and leashes were removed and put in bags with their names on them. Sterilized slip leads were put on and used while they were in the office.
  3. I received a call from their doctor, and she carefully went over her appointment notes for each dog, explaining everything they did and answering all of my questions. It was difficult not being inside to comfort them during their appointments, but I knew they were well taken care of. We’ve been going to this office for over 20 years and have always had very positive relationships with all of the staff.
  4. After going through all of the appointment notes, I was transferred to the front desk to, ahem, settle up. Yes, it was a big bill but I was glad to have it all done at once.
  5. I waited outside, and they were all brought to me. Three bags were set down in front of me containing their leashes, collars, meds and appointment summaries. IMG_4711

So…despite the changes it really wasn’t so bad. Everyone went out of their their way to smile and be friendly (behind their masks) and make the appointments as easy as possible. I have the feeling these protocols will be in place for a while, so many things have changed over the last few months, but it is still possible to safely take care of important appointments to maintain good health.

I’m glad we went, an issue was discovered with Maisie that needs to be addressed. This was something I didn’t want to put off despite my inclination to stay home and I’m hoping for the best. She went back yesterday for a biopsy, so please keep her in your thoughts. She’s such a special girl who brings joy to everyone she meets. IMG_0336I hope you have all been safe, healthy and enjoying being with your pets during this stressful time.


a shared life with our very large dogs

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