Adopt A Senior Pet Month

November is Adopt a Senior Pet Month and I can say from experience, it’s one of the best thing I’ve ever done!

Annie was 9 1/2 when we brought her home.  She had been in foster care for over a year, but her case was extreme. Most senior dogs that are up for adoption don’t have the emotional and behavioral needs she had.

When you adopt a senior pet:

1. You are saving a life!

2. Seniors have been around, they’ve seen a lot and they have a lot of love to give.  They are usually calmer and adaptable to new situations.

3. Seniors don’t demand the same level of exercise or entertainment of a younger dog.  They are very happy to curl up by your feet and take a nice long nap.

4. They usually have some training, are house broken and aren’t teething so they aren’t shoe destroyers. Seniors are a lot less work than puppies and you probably won’t need to supervise any middle of the night potty breaks!

5. Don’t believe the old saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”.  It might take a little while, but senior dogs aim to please and are receptive to training.  They will learn the “house rules” in order to earn your love and affection.

6.  There is no mystery about how big they will be, what they will look like and what their grooming needs will be.

7. Even though your time will be shorter with a senior pet, I have found that I appreciate each day that much more. There is no lifespan guarantee with our pets but knowing Annie is a senior has reminded me that every moment with her is precious.  Pets change our lives, they give us so much love and every day is enriched with my sweet, old girl.

I feel so lucky to have Annie in my life, but it’s not always easy.  Seniors need more medical care as they age. (Something all pet owners face at some point.) Twice yearly health checks are recommended so one should be prepared for increased veterinary bills compared to those of a younger and middle-aged pet. Their health can change quickly and must be attended to. Annie just developed an abscess in one of her teeth.  She needs to have it removed which requires anesthesia.  I’m nervous about that but we will have it taken care of and hope all goes well.

If I had to make the decision again, I wouldn’t change a thing. I know our time is limited, but really, our time is limited with all of our pets.  I know that I’ve changed her life.  She’s living her best years now and she showers me with love.  She acts like she appreciates everything we give her and she is so happy, every day.  I also know she’s changed our lives and I treasure every moment.img_4487

It all started with the newspaper…

Bailey was my first Newfoundland and she loved to work.  I taught her to bring in the paper and this was her daily job.  Her ritual was to bring in the paper after breakfast, the reward was her dessert.  Believe me, if I waited too long to open the door, she let me know!  When the paper was late, there was no relaxing until she heard it hit the porch.

I noticed early on that Winn exhibited many of the same personality traits and this is one of the first things she learned.  Since we don’t get the paper daily anymore, training opportunities were sporadic. I worked with her 3 or 4 times and it didn’t seem like she was getting it, I assumed she was too young.  About a week after our last attempt, I opened the door to bring in the mail and completely unprompted, she spotted the town paper, raced down the steps and grabbed it to bring it into the kitchen.  I couldn’t believe it!

14 week old Winn learns to bring in the paper:

The trouble is that once she figured out that she got treats for bringing in the paper, she began bringing me other things that she found around the house.  Close to meal time, she will sneak off and find things to bring to me in hopes of getting a tasty reward.

Empty food bags or containers:

Boxes intended for recycling:

Treasures stolen from the kids’ rooms:

Water training items:

Things that I set down while doing a task (a remote, a stir stick and packing tape).

And most obviously, empty food and water bowls:

Oh, what have I done!

Mini road trip

Recently we loaded Maisie and Winn into the car and went on a quick road trip.  We were off to visit our daughter who lives about 3 hours away.

It’s pretty obvious that Maisie considers Abigail to be her favorite person on earth.  It is always so fun to see their reunions, and this time was no different.  Winn loves everybody and responded to Maisie’s energy by wiggling and squeaking while showering Abigail with kisses.  A two Newfie welcome can be a pretty overwhelming affair!

We all walked to a little brew pub for lunch and I was so impressed with Winn.  She walked calmly and confidently through crowds while staying in a perfect heel.  All of our training time really paid off!

We sat down at a big picnic table and our waitress brought a large water bowl for the girls.  Maisie loves to sit and watch the people walk by on the sidewalk, but Winn quietly settled right beside me, looked around a bit and ignored the other dog that was barking at us from a table near by.  Eventually she crawled under the table and rested her head so that she could see all of the other patio diners.IMG_4227IMG_4250We tend to get a lot of attention when we are out with the dogs, their size makes it impossible to remain unnoticed and most people haven’t seen a brown Newfoundland so we get a lot of questions about their breed.  This usually includes:  “What do they weigh?”, “How much do they eat?”,  “Do they come with a saddle?”, and my least favorite  “Do they shed?”.  Yes they shed, Newfoundlands shed!  Most dogs shed! There are a few breeds that don’t, but there seems to be an increased assumption that one should have a dog that doesn’t shed.

After lunch we walked back to her house, left the dogs with two of her friends and went to a movie. When we returned, we took the girls out again, stopped and got some ice cream and relaxed by the shores of a nearby lake.  As soon as we were close to the water, Maisie and Winn both wanted to wander in, but they stayed close by and immediately came when called when they strayed too far away.  I was so proud of both of them, they were so well-behaved!IMG_4247IMG_4245IMG_4236It was a lovely day spent with our daughter in the town that she loves and has decided to make her home.  It’s close enough that we headed back home as the sun was setting and Maisie and Winn slept the whole way after having such a fun-filled day of activity!IMG_4229

 

More working dog stuff!

This weekend I had the opportunity to watch another Newfoundland Dog test, this time it was for Draft Dog. In addition to water work, Newfoundlands are also excellent at draft work.  Drafting involves different exercises with the dog hooked up to a cart.

Think back to the days when merchants hauled their goods in carts and wagons.  Most of us probably picture horses or donkeys but large working dogs were also used, especially in Newfoundland, Canada and England.  Their size, temperament, strength, and dependability made them perfect for milk wagons, vegetable carts, delivery and mail wagons and teams were used for large sledges.

This test was especially fun to watch because Winn’s mother was one of the entrants.  It was her first draft test and she and her handler had been working very hard to prepare. Her cart was fashioned out of a milk crate weighted with milk jugs filled with sand.  What a brilliant idea that really incorporated the origins of the working Newfoundland Dog!

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Arlene waits patiently for her turn with her cart ready to go.

Similar to the Water Test, the Draft Test is made up of 5 exercises:

  1. Basic Control
  2. Harnessing and hitching
  3. Maneuvering
  4. Freight load
  5. Freight haul

Basic Control is the first exercise because it is crucial that the handler has control over the dog throughout the test.  All of the dogs entered did so well on this, I assume because the whole test involves cooperation between the dog and handler.  This is the foundation for what they had been doing together.  They had to walk side by side, do a left turn, an about turn (u-turn), a right turn and a halt, all with the dog off leash and remaining close to the handler’s left leg.  Next was a sit stay and recall and finally all the dogs were in the ring together for a one minute down stay.  Arleen is a big, beautiful brown girl who listened and responded so well to her handler but she did let her personality shine through right before the down stay when she decided to roll over and kick her legs up for a back scratch in the grass.  She quickly recovered and then she stayed in place for the expected time.

For harnessing and hitching the handler puts the harness on the dog, then the dog backs up so that the cart can be attached to the harness.  The judges are looking for cooperation, proper fit and correct and safe attachment.

Now they are ready to start the course! The course includes circular patterns, a right and a left 90 degree turn, 2 narrow areas, a removable object that requires the dog to stop and wait for the handler to clear the path, and changes in pace. This video shows Arleen going through the tall, narrow obstacle and stopping for the removable obstacle.

The dogs must also do a 3 minute down stay with their handlers out of sight.  They did this as a group after everyone had completed the maneuvering exercises. The people in the yellow vests are the stewards/volunteers not the handlers.

The final part of the test is the freight load which must be secured in the cart and then a 1 mile walk over natural terrain with the load. The load is about 25 lbs.

Arleen had 1 very small error on the first day but on the second day she achieved her Draft Dog title!  It was so wonderful to watch these handlers and dogs work together and have fun.

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Day 2 Draft Dogs Neko and Arleen, their handlers and the judges

While Winn is the one that shows the most drive to work, we won’t start training for this until she has finished growing and is at least 2 years old.  For now, we are enjoying our Rally Class and obedience training.  We will also be doing exercises this winter on land in preparation for water training to hopefully participate in a Water Test next summer.

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Winn thinks I go too fast, I think she could speed up just a little bit!

In case you missed it, I wrote about the Newfoundland Dog Water Test here, here and here.

a shared life with our very large dogs

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