Banner was waiting for her turn to go out with enthusiasm, even though she had been out 30 minutes earlier. The weather has been noticeably cooler, and any opportunity to go outside held promise. She was standing in the doorway of the bedroom, and I noticed that she was moving oddly on one rear leg, and she made a sound as she walked: clomp-thump, clomp-thump, clomp-thump.

My black Hoka slides were left beside the bed, on the other side of the room. We share a lot of things, and I have accused the Newfs over the years of trying to wear my shoes, but now, if I had any curiosity, I know her shoe size and style preference. Had the color been anything but black, it would have been obvious sooner. About then, Greg came in and she gave him a demonstration.

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Banner LOVES driving to the park and around town, or taking road trips. She watches out the windows with enthusiasm, like a kid going to a theme park, even when we take the same path or mostly the same path every day. As I stop at an intersection, I catch her watching through the windshield and wonder if she has figured out that green means go, or that red means Stop, most of the time. If that were the case, I think there would be more noise from the back seat passenger. And I think she would be barking for me to turn left or right, or perhaps it doesn’t matter as much to her as simply the going and the visual entertainment – what’s new here or there, is that black dog another Newf, who let the cat out, etc. On the other hand, if you pass the regular turn for where we park at the park, you will hear about it. And since there has been road construction on one side, we have had to take detours, to the sounds of a worried Newf. She thinks humans need a certain amount of supervision.

Today I left without her (GASP!) to meet Greg for breakfast. I saved a piece of bacon to take home, due penance in such a situation (being in an area of food without the Newf). As I stood outside waiting, there were two young men talking in front of me. One was encouraging the other to listen to a video about something. Being a good listener, I kept listening. The speaker caught onto that and continued his testimony. He said something about people in the 60s turning to Jesus because no one else wanted them. Then he had my full attention. Here was someone whose history lesson, no doubt through church or church school, informed him in a way that allowed him to view the social movement of that time with sympathy, but under a highly focused filter. Preachers are driven to use examples to support their preferred interpretations in order to get the message across that they want others to hear. I felt like calling him out and mentioning that World War I began as a religious war, but managed to get to the truck without interjecting. Sometimes an interjection is wise, sometimes it cements beliefs in the wrong way. But I wish people, of any age, would choose carefully who they listen to. Bias may not be fully avoidable, but it is an intellectual compromise that leads to social problems.

I’m always telling my Newfs that Listening is Very Important. Somehow they seem to need little coaching on who they listen to, except for that obnoxious drama-enthusiastic terrier mix. It’s easy to see how reinforcement occurs when she behaves badly and Banner excitedly goes in to reward her for her drama. (Amen!)

Disclaimer: not all religious leaders or followers are driven toward misconceptions, and those who are probably listened to somebody else.

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Following the flash-flood rains this weekend, the morning was cool. Banner and I left for town about 9 a.m., late for a usual summer walk but enjoying the approaching fall in the weather.

The streets near the park have been under construction for a couple of months, so every trip to the park requires a detour, different every week or two. I’ve been navigating the side streets and alleys, touring the neighborhoods. Formal detours have been abandoned here. We have watched as the process unfolds, trying to understand the goals. First, one side of the street was dug up. Then yellow gas line was buried. This occurred in several areas around town. That wasn’t yet the end of the project. Next, the street was recovered with concrete, but the barriers were left in place. Metal pipe was brought out, laid in 20′ sections on top of the road. Eventually, this was placed on supports, all the same height of about 18-24″, then welded together and coated. A plug with a loop was welded on the west side. An opening remained next to the intersection. It looked like the crew was preparing to slide this under this intersection rather than tear up that part of the road. This seemed wise, given that traffic in this area was nearly constant. However, moving the pipe down at an angle without breaking the welds looked precarious. Since we walk almost every day, I’m hoping not to miss this event.

Today, after all of the rains, the workers on the west side of the intersection were vacuuming the red clay mud out of that opening. That could be an all-day effort.

Walks in the park are often informative as well as enjoyable. This morning as we parked, a little girl around five appeared on a small purple scooter. She was wearing pink pants, a pink shirt and a pink helmet with cat ears. My first reaction was concern; what was a kid so young doing at the park by herself? Did she cross that busy road by herself? Then I thought about the parenting efforts being used in some areas to teach kids responsibility. Still, walking across that road would leave me with too much concern. She seemed fierce in her independence and was enjoying her scooter. Then she crash-landed. I watched out of the corner of my eye to be sure all would be OK without expressing concern. I expect that too much supervision isn’t good for kids who are developing independence responsibly, so you want to be prepared to help if needed but not place fear in their minds about what should be mundane. No problem – needless worry. She got right back up on the scooter and went about her joy-riding, then crash-landed again, got up, repeat. A little later, Mom, an older sister and a big shaggy dog appeared from the other side of the trail. I told her mom that if I had any concerns about female independence in this social climate, it looked like things were going to be OK. She smiled but concurred.

I am never concerned about Banner having a lack of independence. Or most of my nieces, for that matter. As it should be.

On Friday, we passed one group of people setting up at a picnic table. They watched Banner as we passed, and one lady asked, “Isn’t that a . . . Lewis and Clark dog?” I think this is a new one for Lars’ list of things Newfs have been called. It was a new one for us and it isn’t in the list on my T-shirt.

Last Friday was Food Truck Friday, but it was much too hot for a Newf. She didn’t get to go back, since that occurs in the evening. It did explain why she seemed extra eager to go for a walk that morning, but Fridays being Happy Fridays, that may have produced the extra spring in her step. All Fridays are followed by the Farmers’ Market on Saturday. We walked in the rain on Saturday. Sometimes kids are like mosquitoes – they swarm to pet. This time there was just one kid who wanted us to stop in the rain so she could pet Banner. I smiled and said, “Next weekend”. She’s a regular, so it wasn’t a one-chance opportunity.

Yesterday, one of the workers opened the truck door and asked if Banner was a show dog. I said that she wasn’t now, but that she had been shown. There are few times when I meet people who recognize her qualities, whether that is specific or abstract. Most of the time, she finds admirers with compliments. Occasionally we meet someone who doesn’t seem to appreciate sharing the space of the park with dogs. And we met one of those this morning too. But we passed a second time and he made an effort to smile. Banner tends to have that effect on people.

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Banner and I had a little conversation last week. It can be surprisingly enlightening to exchange ideas with a Newf. They can be good listeners, and they can be just as surprised by what we understand of those exchanges.

Ordinarily, they seem to telepath thoughts to us that we are just supposed to understand without verbal dialog. That probably works better between Newfs than it does between human and Newf. I resort to asking questions until there is a recognizable response, so I have to ask the right question in order to understand a request. Lately, she has had to take a medication and frequently asks to go outside. She has modified this request. Before, she would walk up and look at me, anticipating my ability to receive her thoughts, to which I would ask, sometimes getting it right with the first question, and she would affirm. Then we would go outside. Her dog door has been closed due to the heat, so she depends on me to open the round handle. (round since she can open lever handles) There is also the long-traditional wake-you-and-everything-else-up middle-of-the-night notifications. But now when she wants to go outside, she approaches and turns her head a little sideways and moves her eyeballs to point in the general direction of the door. Perhaps the additional need in expediency led her to communicate in a way that wouldn’t lead to a question and answer session.

Another new thing is that she has discovered Graham crackers as catch treats. Original Graham crackers are no longer available, at least in our area, and the cinnamon ones cause stomach irritation, but the generic honey-flavored ones have been working well. We still miss the pumpkin cookies that were discontinued, and I’m having a hard time keeping up with making ginger snaps. So when we go to bed, she gets sections of Graham crackers as catch treats. If I forget, she looks at me with a clear expression that indicates she is worried that I am forgetting something. The second or third time she did that, I looked at her and said, “Oh! We need some Graham crackers, don’t we?” [just so she would have affirmation that I “got it”, and without going through iterations of Q&A]

The look she gave me was priceless! Clearly she was astonished that after 10+ years, I was beginning to understand Newf telepathy! Unfortunately, she may be disappointed next time, as I get lucky once in a while, just as I do with Wordle, but I still don’t have the kind of telepathy that seems clearly transmitted among Newfs.

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