There was an item on the TV this evening about Newfoundland dogs. I’ve always had a special regard for these amazing animals. Bred as working dogs originally in the east coast Canadian Province of Newfoundland their characteristics of water resistant coats and large webbed paws make them wonderful swimmers.
They actually don’t swim by the more usual doggie paddle but use a stroke much more akin to a human front crawl. In Newfoundland, fisherman would use them to swim out and bring their nets in, they also have a great propensity for water rescue and have saved countless lives over the years, one of them being Napolean Bonaparte no less. One Newfoundland dog was recorded as saving 92 lives from a single distressed ship off Newfoundland in the early 20th century. In more recent times the breed has been used as a therapy dog for people with mental health problems.
Classed as Giant dogs, they can often grow to approximately 150lbs and some have been known to grow to over 200libs. One particularly famous owner from the past was romantic poet, Lord Byron whose best friend he named ‘Boatswain’. Boatswain is interred at Byron’s former ancestral home, Newstead Abbey in Nottinghamshire. A monument stands there still with an epitaph by Byron which begins:
Near this Spot
are deposited the Remains of one
who possessed Beauty without Vanity,
Strength without Insolence,
Courage without Ferosity,
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 November 18th 1808.
A fine and loving epitaph for any of these noble animals.