There has been a progression for many, many years from one Newf to another as it attains a state of maturity within our home, a phase where their presence becomes radiant and their stature among the other residents transforms without awareness or effort into that of a quiet leader and role model, even to their people.  For Banker, he learned this position from a very early age, as the only Newf in the household at that time.  He was a pleasant-mannered, good-humored, quiet personality, very engaging, and the Self-appointed Social Program Director.  When Parker had to take over this role, he was “quaking in his boots”.  The dependence that we develop on their presence is only completely recognizable when they are no longer here, and this is true for other Newfs as well as humans.  But Parker evolved into this stature also.  He learned how to navigate the communication systems and how to manage his “pack” to make every day a better day.  Weekends became his favorite time to spend with his people, and the weekends began with Fridays, “Happy Fridays”, and eventually with pre-Fridays (Thursday evenings). On Saturday mornings, he would lie in the kitchen in a place where he was less likely to be asked to move, as Greg prepared breakfast, with a smile that radiated from a presence much larger than himself.

When it was Jade’s turn, navigating the communications was a difficult change.  She had depended on Parker to lead the parade and communicate what the Newfoundlands wanted, so that we would all have a good time.  Slowly she progressed, learning how to make those requests by herself successfully.  Humans observed, as Jade tends to be very subtle, and as we learned to read her signals, she also transformed into this stature.  Now I see Jade lying in the tiny kitchen floor in the cabin, choosing that spot and a lying position where we can still open the right cabinet doors and the refrigerator door and still access the sink and the range.  This has been a larger challenge with Banner’s exercise pen set up in front of the sofa and encroaching into the kitchen area, but for the human willing to step across a Newf, it still works out most of the time.  This is our process for my morning cup of coffee, then she stays nearby as I have “coffee time” on the sofa.  She lies next to me in the sapce of about 32″ x 36″ while I type and Banner snoozes.  And she has mastered that expression of inner glow through her smile.

It is the most wonderful experience of any day, to see her smile like that.  For Jade, this occurs more in the evenings while Greg cooks dinner and the closeness of the pod magnifies her joy.  Her smile is complete, and it is a perfect fit for her mood.  It is an automatic portrayal of a condition of contentment, peace, happiness and completely lacking in any form of concern.  It is rooted in love and warmth to a degree few humans achieve.  Jade is another quiet leader, with presence.

Newfoundlands who are well-cared for members of their home tend to retain their puppy-like traits, in my experience, something I particularly enjoy about them.  Jade is enjoying the coming of cool weather, and outside her exuberance can take over, another automatic portrayal of her joy.  When Jade was little, she and her littermate loved to play.  I stood in the window watching those two, playing chase, coming together like two complementary figures in a video game, then a few moments later coming apart and playing chase again.  They did this over and over and over.  I don’t recall seing those two being still at any time.  Jade still loves to play.  She looks for good candidates, but there aren’t many her size, so lately her attentions have been directed to Greg.  She approaches with a look of daring humor, running, dancing, spinning and boxing.  Greg says humorously that “she wants to ruff me up” – softly, as is her intent.  It is a bit daunting to see.  She carefully selects who she invites to play, but her longing to play is clear.  She has tried inviting her bud Sylvia (cat) to play, but Sylvia looks quietly terrified and navigates cautiously to the nearest area of protection.  Jade doesn’t demand, but she does a play bow to invite, to which Sylvia’s response in cat body language is, “You’ve got to be kidding!”  Banner was a different story.  Banner was the one who was daunting to Jade.  She was wild, fast and unpredictable and more than once pulled a torpedo maneuver hitting Jade broadside at high speed.  So, when Banner was on-leash, Jade would invite or instigate play, but when Banner was off-leash, Jade was looking over her shoulder, and jumping about what may launch at her out of the corner of her eye or from the next shadow.  Jade has tried engaging me in play, but I don’t outweigh her by much, and that isn’t muscle!  So I try to make it fun for her, but she observes that I’m probably not a good candidate either.  Greg is the best fit in our pod as a playmate, and that is only for light fun, not as a full-contact body sport, but it is enough to give her some enjoyment, and giving enjoyment to such a soft personality is rewarding to all of us.  From the time they are little, we encourage interaction and play, with good manners – it’s not “all about the win”, and for Jade, it was always “all about the fun”.

Jade is now 7, and this spring she had pyometra and had to be spayed.  It was a drain on her health.  She lost 20 lbs., and recovery was slow.  She is “easy on the eyes”, with excellent structure, a pleasant demeanor, a lovely head and a fabulous coat.  When females are spayed, sometimes they begin growing a lot of undercoat, and since her coat had been so nice, I had been apprehensive about this change.  An unusual trait in her coat is that, even though it was thick, she didn’t shed in the form of a short-term turnover of undercoat as many or most do.  Until last fall, there was little evidence that she even lost undercoat.  But last fall, she shed her entire undercoat, or about 80-90% of it, within two or three days!  She went from plush to naked, and it was a strange feeling to suddenly be hugging a  naked Newf, with all topcoat and no cushion.  This spring, several weeks after her spay, the same thing happened.  Once the coat started coming out, she became very warm and uncomfortable, so it had to be removed quickly.  At the first sign of dead coat slipping out, I took her to the bathing station, gave her a cold-water bath and blew out coat with the high-speed drier, and more coat, and more coat.  When the loose undercoat stopped coming off with the dryer, we took a break, until the next morning.  Then we went back to the bathing station and blew out another round of coat, and then she was naked again.  That time she lost her undercoat even faster than she had in the previous fall.  In these situations it releases so quickly that combing is not an efficient way to remove the loose undercoat.  By bathing with cold water, her heat burden is reduced, and the water adds weight to the undercoat being released so that it is easily blown off.  Then you are left standing in a sea of soft, black clouds.

I needed to be out of town for a few days and was concerned that she was approaching this point again.  An undercoat rake removed relatively little undercoat, but as she walked past the sofa for the previous few days, undercoat had been sticking, which indicated that a change was in process.  Between taking care of Banner, who had TPLO surgery two weeks earlier, and preparing for travel, I ran out of time to give her a bath, but left instructions with Greg that the moment he saw undercoat releasing, to take her to the bathing station and give her a cold-water bath.  Now that she is having trouble with laryngeal paralysis, keeping her cool is imperative, and the mass shed appears to generate a temperature spike.

Jade’s shedding patterns are different from any other Newf I’ve had.  Some have had coat turnovers, but over the course of a week or two.  Most didn’t have a major coat turnover, but the undercoat could be combed out, or kept combed out, with an undercoat rake during a grooming session.

Since her spay, she has been slowly growing more undercoat, and the parts that grow in length are growing in length faster.  Her coat is very full and there has not been further indication of a major coat change.  Perhaps this is the new form, post-spay, and perhaps the shedding pattern is returning to normal (for Jade) or perhaps it is still to come.  By appearance, she is like the recent lunar eclipse, where she looks much larger than she actually is, and she is a big girl to start with.  A 200 lb. Mastiff standing next to her would look smaller.  Her coat is thick, with an unusual amount of undercoat, but also with a good amount of topcoat.  It is a firm matrix, similar to a “Firm” pillow.  When I returned, Greg had given her a bath, and she was looking radiant, with her coat in its fullest appearance.  Last night, as he was making dinner, the Angel hair pasta slipped out of the package as he was pulling it out of an upper cabinet, above where Jade was lying, and the pasta sprayed downward like arrows.  Banner began grabbing pieces to eat, as if snacks had fallen from heaven, and Jade laid still, not even feeling the pasta, which had impaled her coat and was radiating as if she had an encounter with a porcupine.  The tips didn’t travel through to her skin.  Unlike Banner, she looked at what was in front of her quizzically, and didn’t seem to realize that she was wearing quite a bit of it, like some wild new hairstyle!

This visual will be among the cache of memories that she is building, along with that smile, similar to Parker’s, when all is right with the world and there is no disruption to the sense of peace and happiness.  The baton is hers now, and once again I am impressed, and humbled, with the capacity of a Newfoundland to understand and to represent those traits that we love in this breed, with an inspiring kindness and gentleness, that we would wish for all of humanity.

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