“Newfie” Newfoundland Dog Stories – Gentle Giants

Seaman, the Newfoundland that accompanied Lewis and Clark on their expedition

Seaman, the Newfoundland that accompanied Lewis and Clark on the Voyage of Discovery

Maine Coon Cats were the subject of my last blog so today’s post will give equal time to dog lovers and feature the Newfoundland breed. Both a Maine Coon Cat and a Newfoundland Dog appear in my next book, The Mystery at Black Partridge Woods, which will be released soon!

Sorry, this post is a little long, but once started I couldn’t stop sharing. So if you’re busy, pick and choose the parts that interest you most – better yet, come back when you have time to be entertained!

A little basic info before I get into stories:

Newfoundlands are in the “giant” dog breed category. Their average weight is 100 to 150 pounds, but they have been known to weight over 200 pounds, with the record being 260 pounds!

People think of newfies as large, black, thick-furred dogs with huge heads and floppy ears. Black and white is another common color, and they can also be brown or grey. They live longer than most large breeds, an average of 12-14 years. They get along well with other dogs, preferring companions their own size. They shed and drool in abundance.

Known as “gentle giants”, they are sweet-tempered. They do not need much exercise and are very people-oriented. They follow their owners and like to lean against them. They are especially fold of children, and at one time were used as “nannies”. Nana, from Peter Pan, was Luath, a Newfoundland, writer J. M. Barrie’s much-loved pet.

They are also known for courage, endurance, and loyalty. Webbed feet make them natural swimmers and they have a natural instinct for rescue. Stories of people saved from drowning or dug from snowdrifts are numerous.

Newfies are remarkably intelligent. An example is Chloe, a Newfoundland owned and trained by Hazel Carter. Hazel has taught Chloe to help with household chores that include loading the washing machine, transferring clean clothes from washing machine to dryer, taking out trash, carrying shopping bags and putting groceries away,  collecting groceries from the pantry, and pulling weeds.

The following web sites have interesting pictures and videos. You will have to scroll and click through:
Click here for video about Chloe: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/real-life-stories/dog-can-cook-even-fetch-6195917
Click here to see pics and video clips with newfie and giggling baby and a newfies jumping from a helicopter for water rescue: http://barkpost.com/discover/10-greatest-things-about-newfoundland-dogs/

The history of the breed goes as far back as the Vikings, and it is said that in 1775 Newfoundland Island was named for the dog, not the other way around. This is debatable.

Newfoundlands often accompanied U.S. explorers and voyageurs as early as the 17th Century. They would lope along on land, following canoes down the rivers, hunting their own food along the way, available to pull burdens, perform rescues, and for companionship.

The pictures before and after this post are of Seaman, a Newfoundland who was owned by Merriweather Lewis and accompanied Lewis and Clark’s Voyage of Discovery, probably selected because he was smart, strong, and a good swimmer. Lewis wrote in his journal that Seaman was skilled at catching and killing squirrels, which Lewis found excellent to eat once “fryed.”

The Shawnees were much attracted by the dog, but Lewis refused to trade for him. Seaman would wander and explore on his own, but each morning would return to accompany the group on the next leg of the trip. One night a buffalo bull charged into the camp, which was saved from destruction when Seaman chased it off.

Timothy Alden, in his book of inscriptions and epitaphs of the day, wrote the only known account of Seaman following the expedition. Lewis had suffered from depression for many years and met an untimely and suspicious death in 1809. Alden writes of Seaman the following: “The fidelity and attachment of this animal were remarkable. After the melancholy exit of Gov. Lewis, his dog would not depart for a moment from his lifeless remains; and when they were deposited in the earth no gentle means could draw him from the spot of interment. He refused to take every kind of food, which was offered him, and actually pined away and died with grief upon his master’s grave.”

To end this post, I conclude with “Epitaph to a Dog”, written by the poet Lord Byron, thought by some historians to be one of the most moving tributes ever written. The poem is inscribed on the tombstone of Boatswain, a Newfoundland owned by Lord Byron. Boatswain’s grave and marker are larger than Byron’s own.

Epitaph to a Dog
by Lord Byron
Near this Spot
are deposited the Remains of one
who possessed Beauty without Vanity,
Strength without Insolence,
Courage without Ferocity,
and all the virtues of Man without his Vices.

This praise, which would be unmeaning Flattery
if inscribed over human Ashes,
is but a just tribute to the Memory of
Boatswain, a Dog
who was born in Newfoundland May 1803
and died at Newstead Nov. 18th, 1808

When some proud Son of Man returns to Earth,
Unknown to Glory, but upheld by Birth,
The sculptor’s art exhausts the pomp of woe,
And storied urns record who rests below.
When all is done, upon the Tomb is seen,
Not what he was, but what he should have been.
But the poor Dog, in life the firmest friend,
The first to welcome, foremost to defend,
Whose honest heart is still his Master’s own,
Who labours, fights, lives, breathes for him alone,
Unhonoured falls, unnoticed all his worth,
Denied in heaven the Soul he held on earth –
While man, vain insect! hopes to be forgiven,
And claims himself a sole exclusive heaven.

Oh man! thou feeble tenant of an hour,
Debased by slavery, or corrupt by power –
Who knows thee well, must quit thee with disgust,
Degraded mass of animated dust!
Thy love is lust, thy friendship all a cheat,
Thy tongue hypocrisy, thy heart deceit!
By nature vile, ennobled but by name,
Each kindred brute might bid thee blush for shame.
Ye, who behold perchance this simple urn,
Pass on – it honours none you wish to mourn.
To mark a friend’s remains these stones arise;
I never knew but one — and here he lies.

Statue of Seaman, the Newfoundland owned by Merriweather Lewis, outside custom house in Cairo, Illinois

Statue of Seaman, the Newfoundland owned by Merriweather Lewis, outside custom house in Cairo, Illinois

About Pat Camalliere

Pat is a writer of historical mysteries. She lives in Lemont, Illinois.
This entry was posted in General History and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *