Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The dog days

Eventful weekend. On Saturday we took a 4 hour road trip to visit some of my family. Thatcher came along and loved it. He's an angel in the car, besides the dirt and drool he spreads all over the backseat. His favorite position is to squeeze his head onto the armrest between the driver and front passenger seats. He has to be as utterly close to us as possible. When he was younger, he would often climb onto my lap up front. I have no idea why we allowed this, but he was little and cute back then. So occasionally he'll still try to clamber up front, not realizing that he's no longer the 20 lb ball of fur he used to be. It definitely has made people driving next to us do a double-take, when they see this huge black dog squeezed onto my lap and all hunched over in the passenger seat. 

Rainbow on the car ride home
When we arrived at my family's, Thatcher got to run around and play with their two puppies. By run around and play with, I mean he followed them around hopefully while they pretended he didn't exist.  They are a four-month-old brother and sister pair who have never been separated from each other. They literally live in their own little world. They would start wrestling, and Thatcher would gleefully race over to them and try to get in on the action. But they would just ignore him. Poor fellow.

Yesterday we "discovered" an amazing dog park. It's seven acres of woods and trails right along the river. Swimming + tromping through woods + lots of other dogs = Thatcher in heaven. Sometimes I feel bad for him, because he tries to play with other dogs and they don't always want anything to do with this big, goofy giant. He's too slow to have a chance at fetch with the retrievers, too large to play wrestle with the rambunctious dogs, too oblivious to pick up signals when another dog is feeling threatened by him. He still loves it though. A person there was throwing a tennis ball into the river for his lab to fetch. Thatch beat the lab to the ball once, but then the ball disappeared. We were all looking around for it, before we realized that it was hiding in Thatcher's mouth for the last five minutes.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Oh, the drool

One thing that people who are unfamiliar with Newfies complain about is the drool. There is no denying that they drool. Quite a lot. However, one misconception is that Newfies drool all the time. And this is slightly exaggerated. With Thatcher, we have learned that there are specific times you'll want to stay out of arm's reach of him.
  1. After any form of vigorous exercise. Well, really after any type of exercise or physical activity. Walks, playing fetch, etc. This causes him to heat up and pant for about an hour. During this time, long strings of drool can be found covering his jowls, extra neck skin and even his front legs.
  2. After he is finished eating or drinking. Anything. One habit we should have never allowed is drinking from the toilet. Yes, many many people find it really disgusting. But to be honest, it's extremely convenient for a dog whose daily intake of water can be equated to that of a small elephant or horse. It's nearly impossible to keep his water dish full, especially when we're gone all day. So Thatcher has always just helped himself to toilet water. I promise, we keep our toilets very clean. The only downside of this is that if we forget to keep the lids up, they will be soaked. Which is really fun when you're not paying attention and run in to use the bathroom. Also, this makes his drool extra gross. It's always right after he's drinking a gallon of toilet water that he'll walk over to you and shake, causing drool to be flung all over us and the walls.
  3. When he is begging for human food. Which is pretty much any time any person eats any food item. If you let him, he'll sit about an inch from you and just stare intently with sad eyes. As minutes tick by, the drool increases more and more. So soon he'll have strands of drool hanging down that nearly touch the ground. Therefore, I've trained him to lie down when he begs instead. This at least protects your feet from becoming covered in drool.
In a nutshell, Newfies drool. But it really isn't the worst thing in the world. You just have to learn when to avoid it. I wouldn't say that I don't notice it, but it definitely doesn't gross me out like it used to.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Water dog?

We went canoing this weekend on a river up north. Bringing Thatcher is really more of a hassle than anything, but he loves water so much that we can't bear to leave him behind. As you can imagine, a large dog and a small canoe has disastrous potential. So instead of worrying about tipping every time Thatcher decides to shift his weight in one direction or another, we always tie two canoes together to help keep more balanced. The problem with this is that Thatcher can never decide which canoe he enjoys riding in more. So he'll climb back and forth, bringing us within an inch of being dumped into the water each time.

Taking my turn swimming with Thatcher
And the water is a whole other issue. Thatcher adores swimming in the river. For about 40 seconds. Then he wants to be lifted back into the canoe. Which is nearly impossible when we're in deep water. Once we find a sand bank and get him back into the boat, literally about 6 minutes pass before he's whining to get back in the water. Must have inherited his indecisiveness from me. And this is the really sad part. Instead of having to hoist Thatcher back into the canoe every few minutes, one of us jumps in the water with him and swims with him. By swim with him, I mean carry him while swimming. He will hold perfectly still, not even try to help and paddle, while you support his weight and keep him afloat. He's a great swimmer and could probably swim miles without any trouble. We've obviously succeeded in raising him to be a good manipulator.

On our way home after a long day on the water
It was a fun trip though. Gorgeous weather, lots of sun (and sunburn). When we got to the landing to load up, Thatcher had a jolly time running around and saying hello to every living creature that came along. An enormous group of a couple dozen tubers got to the landing right after us, and Thatcher dove right back into the river to swim out and see if everyone was ok. At least he's not shy. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Bathtub boy

When Thatcher was a little guy, I used to plop him into the bathtub after our morning walks. This was not a punishment, much to the contrary. He's always been infatuated with water. Plus thick black fur makes hot weather slightly unbearable. So on those muggy 90 degree mornings, Thatcher and I would make a quick loop around the block for exercise. When we got home to our apartment, I'd fill up the bathtub with a couple of inches of water and he would lay there for 10 or 15 minutes until he cooled back down. I have videos of this. Our 10 week old little bear cub impatiently pawing at the bathtub, waiting for me to lift him up and into it.

Apparently he has remained quite fond of bathtubs. Throughout the past year, we've occasionally come across muddy paw prints in the tub. We were slightly puzzled, but thought maybe Thatcher was looking for water from the faucet or something. The mystery was solved the other morning, when I waltzed into the bathroom to find Thatcher nonchalantly napping in the tub. It completely startled me and made me jump. But he glanced up, saw it was me, and went right back to sleep. As if it's a perfectly normal place to be dozing. Yeah, I'm the crazy one.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Meet Thatcher

Thatcher is our first love. He's our sweet, goofy, 2-year-old Newfie. Still a puppy in so many ways, minus most of the destruction he caused in his first year. Many a plant, shoe, toy, sweater and book met Thatcher the hard way. By hard way, I mean they were completely shredded. He particularly loved to chew any of my shoes with heels; we think maybe the pointy heel part reminded him of sticks. He was also fond of our indoor plants, and there were countless days when we came home from work to a living room that bore more resemblance to a dirt hut.

Those days are mostly in past, besides the occasional pieces of garbage or frozen bunny head he sneaks into the house to enjoy (the bunny head really happened). Now he's just a big cuddly boy who loves chasing tennis balls and killing anything with a squeaker. His favorite game is what we call "Gimme that." Insert the name of any object (stick, ball, toy, etc.) at the end of that phrase, and it becomes his mission to keep that object away from your hands at all cost. For example, say "Gimme that bone," and he will instantly start prancing around the room carrying his giant bone in his mouth, waiting for you to try and snatch it from him.

One of his other hobbies is pretending he is a lap dog. He is actually quite small for a Newfie, weighing in at about 115 lbs. But he is still big enough that it feels like he's going to crush my lungs when he lies on top of me. He's learned that that's one of the most effective ways to wake me up in the morning. It's a delight. He doesn't ever seem that big to us, since we see him every day. But judging from number of times we've heard the comment, "You should get a saddle for him!" and by the terrified eyes of non-dog-lovers when we approach their vicinity, he's larger than your average dog.

What Thatcher doesn't know yet it that he's getting a brother. Our new Newfie boy was born about a week ago. If all goes well, we'll bring him home in September. I'm not sure how sane this decision is, but we'll roll with it. Even if it means losing another few pairs of shoes.