Ever since the 1970’s when I read about Newfoundland dogs in the olden days on their native island and how they lived 13 to 15 years and often worked until 13 years of age, it has been one of my life goals to have a working Newf at 13 years. I first achieved this in 2002 with my boy, Big Mac. Just two months shy of his 13th birthday he competed in a carting class at the Canadian National Specialty Show. Then I did it again in 2010 when my girl, Hannibal’s Christmas Belle, on her 13th birthday, hauled an ice fishing sled laden with water containers weighing 75 pounds. To be able to strike off an item in my bucket list, not once, but twice, was exhilarating.
Then came Belle’s 14th birthday on Christmas Day of 2011. I wanted photographic proof of what sound longevity really meant but didn’t want to use the ice fishing sled again as people might thinks they were from her 2010 birthday. Since there wasn’t much snow here in Southern Ontario anyway, I dug up one of my passenger carts. Unfortunately there were no kids around to give rides so I just tied in the dolls that I use for parades and hitched up my rather young fourteen year old. Belle as always came through for me and took the cart all over the four cleared acres on the property. I couldn’t contain my excitement as this was the best Christmas ever. Not only had I achieved a life goal twice but now I had exceeded it.
Of course that evening I had to share with my Newfie loving friends on Facebook and Newf Net Forums. Everyone was congratulating us except for one critic on Newf Net. I love critics as they keep me real and on my toes. While sending good wishes for Belle, she “wagged her finger” at me through cyberspace. Her thoughts were that even an empty cart had weight and could injure my precious oldie. In response I gave her a link to last year’s article onwhich she promptly rejected, so we had to agree to disagree. Nevertheless my critic did make a concession about the benefit of exercise by quoting a phrase “motion is lotion”. I love it and will add it to my carting lexicon. Of course carting and other forms of draft work are much more than just a good form of exercise for our canine buddies. It gives purpose and, whether human or canine, as we age, this becomes more and more important. In my quest to achieve sound longevity in Newfoundlands I am coming to the conclusion that the three main things that we guardians have control over are diet, exercise and sense of purpose. Canine draft work nicely combines the latter two.
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.
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