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Chandra's Blog


Entries in cry it out (2)


Weekly Dog Blog -- Sampson, 8 weeks

Age: 8 weeks 

Weight: 20.4 lbs


Yesterday, Sampson turned 8 weeks old and already he feels like a member of the family. After a whirlwind week of sleeping on the floor in strange positions, being chewed on in the dark, rising at dawn, over-caffeinating in the afternoons, peppered with bouts of blinding cuteness and much gallumphing about, it feels like he has always been here, guiding us with his puppy ways.




Lesson #1 -- Appreciate the dawn: 

I am not being sarcastic here. J and I have never been able to let our children 'cry it out'; why would we listen to the horrible yips and yelps coming from the kitchen when our hairy baby woke up lonely? So there has been some sleeplessness. We all take shifts sleeping with Sampson in his cozy spot in the kitchen. 

Max takes the midnight tour of duty with Sampson



When he gets up for the day, as early as 4:50 am as the birds are just thinking about trying out their morning chirps, I do too.  We go outside and putter, pull weeds in the garden, take out the compost, feed the cats and water the vegetables. The world is quiet and we have had the good fortune to see a doe and fawn, a red-headed woodpecker and a fox heading home. 

I had forgotten how much I cherish early rising, how many things can be done before all the little towheads stagger out of their beds demanding bacon and hugs. And much like a human baby, Sampson often comes back in for an early morning snooze, which means I get some writing time with a faithful dog at my feet--something that's been missing for too long. sleeping after a swim 

LESSON #2 -- Be present:

I don't mean this in the 'burn your patchouli stick and fold yourself into full lotus and breathe in some chi', but in the 'this puppy has grown 4.5 lbs in a week and will be a full-on dog by Christmas' way. Enjoy who he is right now. Lie on the floor with him. Coax everyone out on another lap of our evening walk (bonus: Sampson sleeps better when he's tuckered out!)Evening walk Watch with amazement and joy as he pounces on the clover flowers or discovers the tangy zip of onion grass. 

I had an idea to take a weekly photo with Sampson and the same, standard object to show his growth. I picked a tennis ball, since he was frolicking and mauling one at the time before I remembered that in a very short space of time, a tennis ball will disappear in his cavernous jaws. (Jonah used to treat the boys' baseballs as gobstoppers, crunched into nothing.) Nevertheless, here's your NOW photo of Sampson.A boy and his ball


For his part, Sampson keeps me present and on my toes in the more practical way--if I lose sight of the now, lose my awareness of my surroundings, stop watching his every toddling, snuffling move, he brings me right back by peeing on the floor. (Today's score? Me: 4, Sampson: 6) Some days are better than others.

It is also very difficult for me to report these infractions to J without feeling like Parker Posey's, yuppie, therapy-attending, neurotic-Wiemaraner-owning character in "Best in Show",  without using words like 'pee-pee' and 'poopie'.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, there's something waiting to be added to your Netflix queue now. 

House training has been a challenge, compounded by the fact that we don't have a big dog around to show him the way. My boys have offered to pee outside for him, but I just don't think it's the same, cross-species. 


The message for my family? Lesson #3: Appreciate Mom's Cooking

"How come Sampson gets fed before any of us?" one of my boy's wailed when they woke up to see him chin-deep in his bowl, crunching away.

In part, this is because Sampson appreciates what I make. He sits politely as I poach his egg, maybe just the slightest wriggle of eager anticipation, smiling his canine grin. There's no, "When are we going to get some real food from the store?" or "Why do you have to bake our bread!" or "This smells like throw up!" or "This again?!" Sampson eats the same meal of puppy chow and poached egg with gusto every day. Of course, just like my human children, there is some snacking between meals... 

Busted in the snack cupboard!
BUSTED in the snack cupboard


$40 in Petsmart chew toys have got nothing on toilet paper rolls, the pool bag, Max's red Keens, two pairs of my flip-flops, the feathered cat fishing rod, and a certain pink squeaky bath toy.  Here, cross-species works just fine. Sampson will 'play' with any and all objects left out, testing them with his little needle-sharp puppy teeth.



"Something shiny just went over the trench!"

The redirect is a staple of parenting. What can be more attractive than poking your sister, teasing your brother, or in Sampson's case, following after a pack of small compadres, the littlest of which wears ruffled and flouncing fabrics that just beg for a nip? How can we tempt you to put your energy and impulses elsewhere?

Outside, Piper has learned to Beauty and the (petite) Beastcarry a chew toy in hand and when he nips at her flanks, she's an expert at the art of distraction.  I think she'll make an excellent mother. 


Finally, LESSON #6 -- Time your rewards

In an attempt to be expedient, to quickly reinforce the positive of going to the bathroom outside, I whipped out a dog treat while poor Samps was still mid-crouch, throwing the deuce. Misunderstanding what I wanted from him, (we've been practicing 'sit' a lot this week), Sampson promptly sat. Right in it. 

We love our Newfoundlands for their gentle nature, not their intellect.

Stay tuned next week to see if Sampson has learned to sleep through the night yet... 


Monday Musing--Jonah Jones Hoffman, 2001-2011

On Saturday night we received the heartbreaking news that Jonah, our beloved dog of nearly a decade had died. Despite the efforts of our petsitter and dear friend Beth, Jonah suffered canine bloat. This is typical of larger breeds, and the risk factors increase in older dogs. Jonah was a Newfoundland, weighing in at 175 and just a month shy of his tenth birthday, so while we knew that big dogs=big hearts and shorter life spans, this day was not so so far off, we didn't expect it now. The heartbreak is compounded by our not being there to see him out, to love him as he went and thank him for being the perfect family dog. I don't look forward to going home at the end of the week and seeing his footprints in the snow he loved to frolic in, but no slobbery, exuberant Joey greeting. 

Today's musings are photos and words in honor of Jonah. 



Jonah came to us from a farm in South Dakota at eight weeks old, already tipping the scale at a whopping twenty-eight pounds. I remember flying back with him at my feet in an undersized cat carrier, the worst turbulence I've ever experienced in a tiny prop plane. I was five queasy months pregnant with our first son, bent over trying to soothe him as the poor puppy threw up all over himself and my shoes. On a layover in Ohio, I bathed him in the airport restroom sink and fluffed him up with the automatic hand dryer in anticipation of meeting his father and his furry canine brother, Dakota, my Newf of nine years.

Although I have many memories of Joey's puppy months, like our month at the shore where he used his lower jaw as a shovel to ingest as much sand and shells as possible, this blurry photo (LEFT) is the one of the only I have of our early months. This is in part because he was quickly eclipsed by the arrival of our son Hayden and all his medical challenges and long stays at the hospital. Fortunately, Jonah had the distraction of harassing Dakota. The puppy that we thought would bring so much life back to our beloved elderstatesman ended up being a torment and Dakota often rolled his long-suffering eyes at me like, "What have you done with my golden years?" Still, in typical Newfy tolerance and patience, Dakota took Joey under his wing and trained him in the ways of being our family's dog. 


We ended up with three male Newfs during Hayden's first year; my father's Big Dog (aka "Piggy) came to live with us as well. The white satin edges of Hayden's baby bassinet were quickly a dingy brown from where these fellows rested their jowls and gazed in adoringly on their baby. The lone time I tried sleep training, tried to let Hayden 'cry it out', I had three dogs anxiously herding me to the bassinet like, "LADY! You can't hear the baby crying?!"

Hayden adored his dogs. "Guh", accompanied by an emphatic slapping of thigh, the ASL sign for dog, was his first word.

Meanwhile, Jonah was taking his Newfy training seriously, learning about from Dakota about the important sense of entitlement. Dakota had already staked his claim on the leather couches, so for Jonah, this meant leaping up to sleep between us at night. I love the photo, taken after Hayden returned from a surgery (BELOW), because it reminds me of a time when "family bed" had a whole new meaning.

 As he grew, I worried that Jonah's bed-leaping was dangerous. A 175 lb dog landing on a child could be tragic, but Jonah always knew exactly where his baby was and as the years went by, he understood that his human siblings slept up between us now; he took his place stretched out at the foot, warming our feet. 







In 2003, Big Dog moved to Costa Rica with my father and we lost Dakota--big dog, big heart. We also moved out of the house on Alnwick that both boys first called home and prepared to build our future home on a lot with some land and a stream and pond for mucking. Our Christmas card that year (bottom right) was Jonah and Hayden, pictured down by that stream.


We were also expecting a baby, another little brother for them both. Not long after Max was born, we moved into our new house and Jonah stopped climbing stairs, where the master bed is. He quickly found someone to keep him company at night on the main floor:

These were the years when we watched a lot of "Teletubbies", the PBS show with the vacuum- character called the Noo-Noo, who had a long nose hose attachment for cleaning up messes. 

We called Jonah our Noo-Noo for his ability to lie just under the baby chair or kids' table and get a full meal out of whatever fell. I love this photo of Max gleefully spoon-feeding Joey:

Jonah was also clever enough to take advantage of his height--just right to nose up to an outdoor table. In the photo below, you see we are all distracted with the blissful image of GG holding our brand new baby Piper at a Mother's Day brunch. What you might not notice is that behind her, Jonah is making his way toward the spread: plates of bacon and waffles. 


At every party and outdoor BBQ, friends and family learned one of the cardinal rules of the Hoffman house:



Lord Byron said this about his Newfoundland Boatswain:

Beauty without Vanity,
Strength without Insolence,
Courage without Ferocity,
And all the Virtues of Man without his Vices. 




Typical of Newfies, Jonah exhibited endless patience. He put up with kids coming over who thought he was a pony and they could ride him. He didn't mind the goats and their antics, or the kittens and their tail swatting, and he let our babies crawl all over him, mauling him and poke-poking his paws.


But even a Newf's tolerance was put to the test when we brought home Sophie, a kitten who immediately claimed her as "his". The first time I came home and saw them out in the yard, Jonah stretched out with Sophie sprawled across his front paws, I thought he had killed her, worried how I was going to hustle the kids past this brutal scene. But then they both picked up their heads, and went right back to canoodling, Sophie rubbing under his chin gratefully. 

(I worry about Sophie wonder how she is taking the loss of her constant couch companion.)

When Sophie's kittens were born, Jonah became nanny, flicking his tail over the couch for them to attack, all while feigning disinterest. 



With his massive size and manly bark, Jonah could certainly intimidate and there was many a deliveryman who laid on his horn rather than get out and face a dog like Joe. But many friends have stories of coming by to drop off items and being met with nothing more than a snore from the couch or at best a raised eyebrow and tail thumping welcome. What I mean by watchdog is that Jonah took care to watch out for his children, endlessly. Wherever they went, he went also. Out by the trampoline? He'd lie down at the ladder, barking if things got too rough. On walks he was careful to gently herd them away from pond and road.

  It is little wonder that the original Nana in Peter Pan was a Newfoundland, not a St. Bernard as portrayed by Walt Disney.





To Hayden, Max and Piper, Jonah was simply ubiquitous, a constant on walks and swims, fishing trips and sledding, ever-present and watchful of his children. 









(LEFT) Jon and Piper show off the outdoor-on-a-cold-day-in-early-spring version of the Jonah Pillow and (RIGHT) our friend Ben demonstrates the indoor, full-body model.






 With his lion-like head, glossy coat, size and excellent conformation, Jonah exemplified the physical traits of the Newfoundland.

He loved water, especially wading and drinking from the pond or stream. This gave his breath an uncanny, fishy smell. Jon often called it "Seafood Surprise".

It could be so bad that once, one of Piper's sensitive-sniffered playmates caught a whiff and promptly threw up.

 Jonah was also slobbery and sheddy, and tracked in water and mud. In the winter, he loved the snow, would spend hours out rolling in it or just cooling himself on a snowdrift. The photo below is the one I send to people whenever they tell me they want a dog just like ours. 

I remind them that this comes to your door all winter long and asks with soulful brown eyes to be let in. So you get towels and mats, and go to work on him, making sure to get the ice balls out from between his webbed toes, only to have him barking to go out in it again five minutes later. 








 Newfs are truly a labor of love, but nobody can deny their inherent beauty, and Jonah, more than any Newf, exemplified the classic, regal nature of the breed.  




It is true that Jonah was handsome, gentle and warm to cuddle with, that he loved and was ever vigilant of his children and his beloved feline Sophie, that he was tolerant of the goats and the other cats and children, but there has never been any question about whose Jonah was:


Just as Dakota was my dog, the dog who went to college and Spain and the Caribbean with me, whose spoiled baby status and naughtiness was unparalleled, Jonah has been Jonathan's from the beginning. Jonah loved us all, but Jonathan was his person.

He waited every day for Jon to come home and then was never farther than a few feet from him, often lolling his head lovingly in his favorite human's lap. He loved hanging out around the table or grill for spoiling and treats, and following Jon around the property and flopping at his feet, exposing his belly for a good rubbing.

I think sometimes about how Jonah cared for us during the workdays, the way he was so vigilant with the children, keeping them in line and safe, how he always kept me company on walks and gardening. I wonder if this was him trying to be a stand-in for Jon, taking care of his family, to make his master proud. 





This final photo is one of my favorites, taken last month by our friend Beth. It was dawn, one of Jonah's many walkabouts up through the fields to visit her dog, his best canine friend, Heike. Beth was the one who tried to revive Jonah, to keep him with us a little longer, and when she couldn't do that, she wrapped him in a blanket, and stroked his head and said goodbye with five kisses, one for each of us. 

Jonah, you are missed by many. 



"The average dog has one request to all humankind. Love me." --Helen Exley