A little draft season wrap-up

Winn and I recently entered a Newfoundland Draft Test put on by our local Newfoundland Club.

We’ve been training for a few months. We started shortly after her 2nd birthday in March, which is the recommended age to start draft training. With all of the Rally classes we’ve had, she adapted to maneuvering with the cart really well and we entered the Draft Test at the Newfoundland National Specialty in April.  We didn’t pass but I came away with a better idea of what a test is like and some things for us to work on before we tried it again.

Winn and I passing through the low narrows at the National test. It was cold there too and we had the same judge!

I put the cart away while we focused on water training for the next few months and then pulled it out again about 6 weeks ago.

Training this fall was challenging. The weather was pretty terrible with lots of rain but surprise, surprise the dogs were happy as can be pulling their carts around on the cool fall weekend days! fullsizeoutput_2e8eIt was great to practice with a group, we had a maneuvering course set up, a beautiful forest preserve to use for the freight haul, and it was really helpful to have several dogs together to practice the three minute out of site stay.

The dogs must remain in a stay without moving for three minutes while their handlers are hidden out of sight.

As an added bonus, there was a tiny dog on site that was more than happy to fulfill the role of “intriguing distraction”, which was almost more that Winn could take until we plopped him in her cart and she took him for a ride.

Luke The Distracter

The weather for the test was cold and sunny and the site for the test was really beautiful.  It was a perfect setting, the dogs were frisky with the cool temps and there were lots of people on hand to help out and cheer on all of us that were entered.

Of seven entries, there was one team that passed. There are so many details to accomplish, it really is a beautiful sight when a team makes it successfully through a test.

What kind of things make you fail? Winn and I failed because she got a little too far away from me, she must stay within a four foot radius, and I had to grab her to keep her from getting off course which is an automatic fail and dismissal (you must be hands free for each of the exercises). Another team failed because the dog refused to back up. There are two back-ups required and she just wasn’t in the mood for the first one. One team failed because there was a problem with the cart. There is a full inspection of the harnessing and cart once the dog is hitched. All of these things happened at the very beginning of the test.

A couple of teams failed on the maneuvering course, either bumping too many times or not completing the obstacles correctly. One team failed on the freight haul, which is the very end of the test because her handler told her to turn right instead of left and she sandwiched her handler on the bridge. We all got a good laugh at that one, it’s pretty much always handler error. The dogs take our cues, whether it’s from stress, sloppy hand signals or forgetting our right and left.

Beautiful Ella, she came sooo close to passing!

We will keep practicing and hopefully pass a test sometime in the near future. Winn has such great instincts and the best part is that we have fun working together and that’s what it’s all about!

If you’d like to read the requirements for passing the Draft Dog test click here. There have been changes to the basic obedience since this was written but the overall test remains the same.fullsizeoutput_2e23

Holy crap, what was that!

We all hear “things that go bump in the night” and usually I blame the unexplained on the dogs. They are both quite large, and when they are wandering their footfalls can sound like person walking down the hall.

Recently my husband has been traveling a lot for work. A few nights ago when he was out of town, Maisie, Winn and I were are abruptly awoken at 2:00 am with a terrible crash and a high pitched shriek. Maisie immediately started barking but stayed planted in the middle of the bed. Winn stood up and perked her ears. I jumped up and scrambled around looking for the phone.IMG_1736.jpegAs I was pre-dialing 911, Winn started ambling down the hallway to investigate.  I stood just outside my bedroom with my finger on the dial button and watched Winn go in and out of the laundry room, sniff the closed door of the empty guest room and look out the window facing the back yard. I called out to my son and got no response while Winn stood at the top of the stairs, sniffing for anything unusual. Eventually she turned back around and headed toward my bedroom. I figured it was safe to follow her since she was obviously giving me an “all clear”. I admit, I was not brave enough to venture downstairs to face whatever/whoever had made such a crash.IMG_1719.jpegFor the next 45 minutes, I stared at the ceiling clutching the phone to my chest and tried to come up with a reasonable explanation for what we heard. Maybe a raccoon fell out of a tree and yelped when he landed on the deck. The only problem with that theory is that the noise really seemed to come from the front of the house and not the back. Maybe my son came home, tripped, fell and then screeched like a girl. He didn’t answer when I called out his name, could he possibly be laying unconscious on the floor? Nah, Winn would have run to his rescue.

I finally fell asleep to the sound of the two snoring dogs snuggled up next to me. I figured I was safe enough with Brave Winn and Barky Maisie by my side.

The next morning when I woke up I had forgotten about the commotion from the night before. When I got to the bottom of stairs, I was momentarily confused by what I saw but then I couldn’t help but laugh.

Are you ready to see what I found?fullsizeoutput_2df5.jpeg

There it is, the terrorizing culprit. A cordless leaf blower.

I had been working in the front yard the day before and when I came inside I set the blower on top of the box by the door. My son must have bumped it when he came in for the night leaving it precariously perched on the box for a couple of hours until it teetered off. At that point, it crashed to the floor, landing briefly on the trigger, expelling a quick, noisy blast of air directed at the front door.

Winn was correct with her assessment, no danger here. Just a large object going bump in the night.



National Lobster Day!

I grew up in New England, and lobsters were present at our table multiple times a year.

My preference was always soft shell because I love to rip into them using my hands without relying on cracking tools. Soft shell (available late summer, early fall) are typically only available in Massachusetts and Maine, they don’t transport well because they don’t survive as long out of the water. I really miss the ease of soft shell but since hard shell is the industry standard, I’ll take a lobster any way I can get it. I close my eyes at the prices I pay in the Midwest because I love them on the table for family celebrations, Christmas Eve and just when I get a craving.2ciO9F2vTdqQKXdJd6kIlQ

So now, in honor of National Lobster Day, here are some fun pictures for your entertainment!

No Boys Allowed!

No running, no yelling, no throwing things, no horse-play!

If Maisie could talk, these are all things we would be hearing from her. We call her the fun police, and she is very vocal when she thinks things are getting out of hand.

Apparently a new phrase to add to her scoldings is “no boys allowed”.

Recently, Winn’s heat started. She tends to be more clingy and needy when she’s in heat so I try to give her the attention she craves. Maisie has also been pretty in tune with Winn’s special time and she dotes on her and snuggles up to her a little more than usual.

On Saturday, we were dog watching my mom’s dog. A few weeks ago she asked me if we would be available and I easily agreed. Chocolate is an 8 year old collie. He is very sweet and everyone gets along perfectly. Whenever he comes by, they all quickly look at each other and settle in like he’s always been around.

Since I haven’t had him around Winn before when she’s been in heat, I was planning on keeping them outside with me under close supervision and if necessary, I would separate them. Winn and Chocolate acted like nothing was out of the ordinary. Winn wasn’t flirty and Chocolate didn’t try any funny business. They were happy to be outside, played occasionally with each other and took turns napping in Winn’s favorite dirt hole.

Maisie decided to hang out downstairs with my son. When my son went out for the day, she continued to seclude herself from the rest of us. I assumed she was napping but when I went in to find her, she wouldn’t get up when I called her and if dogs can glare, that’s what she was doing.

Maisie was not acting like her normal, fun loving self. She did join Winn and Chocolate for dinner, but then she disappeared on her own again and wouldn’t come outside. I actually started getting concerned that maybe she was sick. I couldn’t get her to engage with me, she barely looked at me and wasn’t receptive to any affection.

When the time came for Chocolate to go home, Maisie was still nowhere nearby. Shortly after the door closed behind him, she came trotting out from wherever she was hiding.  Within moments, she was wagging her tail, punching Winn in the shoulder and playing chase around the house. That little stinker!

We’ve always said that Maisie is the most emotional and sensitive dog we’ve ever had. Apparently, I really let her down that day by letting Chocolate come over to play. I knew nothing was going to happen to Winn but it was obviously too much for Maisie and she was worried about Winn. She was really trying to send me a message: No boys allowed!fullsizeoutput_2d3d

Do you believe in coincidences?

We’ve all had those moments. Something reminds you of a friend you haven’t seen or talked to in a while and the next day they call you for no other purpose but to catch up.

I had one of those moments today and I can’t stop thinking about it.

Yesterday I was missing Annie. It’s been a little over a year since we said goodbye and I still have days in which the ache in my gut is ever present. I don’t know why some days I think of her more than others, but yesterday was one of those days.

I opened up my Annie photo file and impulsively posted a video of her on Instagram. She was happily running on the beach with several other dogs.

For most people watching that, they would see a typical dog having fun but for Annie it was so much more. She was so fearful of new places, new people and new situations. She was very nervous the first time we took her to the beach but it became one her favorite places. A safe place with safe people.

Most of the time, she would stay glued to my side. We would walk up and down the beach along the water’s edge while Maisie ran and played with the other dogs. Annie running with the pack was a big deal and I’m so happy to have that video.

I went to bed thinking about her and when I woke up this morning I had a Facebook message from the woman who fostered her for almost a year before we adopted her. She sent me a video of Annie rubbing up against her daughter, wagging her tail and loving the moment.

I figured she had seen my Instagram and was adding another video to my collection. When I asked, she said no, it had come up in her Facebook memories.


Very weird.

To that I can only think, I miss you Annie and I’m glad you are doing well.newfgirlsweb-13-1

a shared life with our very large dogs

%d bloggers like this: