by Roger Powell


As I lay awake in bed the other night, Zaagi snored lightly and Nokomis’ stomach gurgled, chortled, popped, wheezed and whined.  My mind wandered to the sounds that Newfies make.  Newfies make the regular sounds.  They bark and growl and whine.  And they sometimes howl.  My mind did not dwell on these sounds.

Skwonk-skwonk-skwonk-skwonk-skwonk!  A Newf leans against my bed as she scratches, shaking the whole bed, perhaps the whole room, making every joint in the bed squeak.  The noise and shaking prevents sleep, if I have been asleep, or prevents reading, if I have been reading.  It prevents everything except thinking about the noise and that the whole world is shaking.  The scratching goes on forever.  A firm “Nokomis” has no affect.  The solution is to be patient, and wait.

Snnffa-snnffa-snnffa-snnffa . . .  I lean over to tie my shoe and Zaagi puts her nose in the middle of my face and sniffs, hard.  I hear the same sound when I return home from having visited a friend who has a dog.  Dog noses, running up and down my legs, soak in the scents from the other dog.  I bring many scents home on my clothes, scents from the black bears that I study, scents from small mammals that I live-trap with my Mammalogy class, and scents from the weasels that I study.  No scents lead to such vacuum cleaner interest as the scent of another dog on my legs.

Hhaargrgrgrgrgrgrgrg-hhaargrgrgrgrgrgrgrg-hhaargrgrgrgrgrgrgrg.  Newfs are champions at snoring.  Consie’s and my bed has a hollow, wooden box, open at the underside, instead of a box spring.  Kaloosit would slide under the bed regularly and then snore up a storm in the echo chamber.  Some people pay money for bed vibrators but they are people who do not own Newfs who snore under their beds.  Kwasind slept downstairs in the kitchen.  With my feet on the floor in the bedroom while Kwasind snored in the kitchen, I could feel the whole house vibrate.

Shlfloppida-shlfloppida-shlfloppida-shlfloppida-shlfloppida.  When any dog shakes, the moving skin and hair makes sound.  When the dog has floppy ears, the sound acquires an extra floppida-floppida-floppida from the ears hitting the sides of the dog’s head.  But when a Newfie with big, sloppy flews shakes his head, the sound takes on new character.  Unfortunately, the sound never captures the visual grace of the long stringer of slobber wrapping itself three times around the Newf’s muzzle.
ABuurrrppp.  Why does Zaagi sit by me at the dining room table, gaze lovingly into my eyes, and burp?  Why has every dog we have owned done this?  They get no positive reinforcement from me for this trick.  Are they practicing for when visitors come?

AMo-o-o-o-aaauuurrrr-aaauuurrrr-aaauuurrrr-aaauuurrrr! Newfies howl well, when they choose.  Milakokia would bow when she wanted something and draw out a “Wwraaauuuuoo-oo-oo-oo” that bordered between a happy moaning sound and a howl.  When Kaloosit was in heat and Kwasind pined for her on the other side of whatever door separated them, the sound he made was other-worldly.  We likened the sound to a sick cow mooing.  Since Kwasind died, I have never heard such a sound again.  Maybe that is a good thing.

Huh-hu-huh-hu-huh-hu-huh-hu-huh-hu-huh-hu-huh-hu-huh-hu-huh-hu-huh-hu . . .  A Newf who is concerned has quieter, more tightly controlled pants than a dog who has been exercising.  After running and fetching or swimming hard, a Newf pants heavily, tongue lolled to one side.  Slowly the panting declines and stops.  But a concerned Newf pants a pant to keep going for a long time because a Newf’s concerns can last a long time.  This pant is shallow and quick and only the tip of the Newf’s tongue shows.  When Kati came to live with us, we were her fifth home in the 19 months of her life.  Kati panted the entire first year she lived with us, not able to let down her guard and believe we were her home forever.  I woke up the night she stopped panting.

Thwock-thwock-thwock-thwock-thwock-thwock.  This is a happy sound.  I hear it when I come in the front door and Nokomis’ tail beats against the book shelf by the steps and Zaagi’s tail hammers the iron railing by the stairs.  I hear it, tail against the dining room table, when I hold a dog biscuit.  I hear it in the woods, tail against a tree, as I load logs onto the toboggan to be hauled to the wood shed.  I hear it every morning, tail against the cedar chest, as Nokomis gives me morning kisses.  I plan to hear this sound every day for the rest of my life.

Whatever sounds your Newfie makes, give her a noisy hug from me.


reprinted from NewfTide 2000