As if from nowhere, Lawrence Frey conjured a cloth to wipe away the strings of drool that slicked the red-brown fur of his 150-pound dog, Joker. He wasn’t the only Newfoundland owner at the 22nd annual Seaman’s Day event to have a drool rag on hand.
Pete Forgey’s Newfoundland Buddy wore a bib, but it was mostly for show: Forgey still had a black golf towel hanging from his belt.
“Buddy can throw drool 20 feet,” Forgey said.
Newfoundland owners and their dogs stormed Fort Clatsop at the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park on Wednesday in honor of the 34th member of the Corps of Discovery: Seaman, Meriwether Lewis’ Newfoundland dog.
It’s been nearly 210 years since Lewis, William Clark and the 31 other members of the corps wintered at the fort with their canine companion on their expedition to explore the West.
Seaman served as a stalwart defender. In once instance, he herded a charging bull buffalo away from where many members of the corps slept, one of many stories told by Ranger Sally Freeman at the event.
Freeman said Seaman likely was smaller and less fluffy than modern Newfoundlands. Instead of a shiny black coat like most of the dogs at the fort Wednesday, he was probably white with dark patches.
In his diary, Lewis complained of fleas from elk hides while they stayed at the fort, so Seaman may have had to endure fleas as well, even if he appreciated the diet of elk meat more than his humans and didn’t mind the cold as much.
“The fort probably smelled like wet dog,” Freeman said.
Buddy stood in for Seaman during Freeman’s first talk, gathering bark chips in his thick fur while his owner looked on.
Buddy might not be as famous as Seaman, but he’s got his share of accomplishments. He’s the furry mascot for Lewis and Clark College and is trained for water rescue. Buddy will be 9 in two weeks.
Face painting, floppy ears
Children had their faces painted at the visitor center so that they looked like dogs and wore floppy ears made of paper. Warrenton resident Lauri Dowell held the leash of her 5-year-old dog Mikayla near the face-painting station.
“Kids can climb on them and they don’t care,” Dowell said.
As long as they get attention, she added.
Mikayla has her share of quirks. For instance, she won’t walk on linoleum or hardwood floors. In Dowell’s home, the hardwood floors are covered with carpet runners so Mikayla can get around. Otherwise, she’s trapped.
Mikayla is very relaxed, but Dowell’s other Newfoundland, Abbee, is unusually hyper.
Dowell can’t imagine how her own dogs could have made the trip Seaman did.
“These dogs, I can’t imagine them walking that far,” she said. “It’s hard to get them to walk.”
Mikayla has knee problems and recently had surgery. Wednesday, she wore a special harness that allows her owner to lift her from the shoulders and the waist when needed.
She’s not the only one with problems. During the Meet the Newfoundland Dogs session, owners shared that one of the downsides is the dogs can have joint problems. Also, their life expectancy is about 10 years.
Shed a lot
Beyond health issues, owners told the audience the dogs create messes, shed a lot and draw attention wherever they go. But even these supposed “cons” were described with fondness.
“Do you have a saddle for it? How much does it weigh?” Susan Hook recounted questions asked time and time again while she’s had a Newfoundland.
Ralph Plantz, owner of 7-year-old Newfoundland Samson, always keeps the vacuum handy.
“Got it out when he was a puppy and haven’t put it away yet,” he said.
Forgey has owned Newfoundlands for 18 years. That’s 18 years of hair.
“It could probably fill a classroom,” he said.
The Newfoundland owners’ affection for their dogs came out in their stories.
“I have had Newfoundlands fall asleep and start snoring on my leg,” Frey said.
And Frey’s Newfoundland Joker has another admirer: Frey’s other dog, a pug-Chihuahua mix named Jester.
“Jester just loves Joker to death,” he said.
And he chuckled as he talked about Joker’s pursuit of pets.
“With human females, he seeks them out,” he said. Joker knows they’ll give him lots of attention, he added.
Dowell said Mikayla will place herself between people she loves and whatever is upsetting them.
“When my kids grew up and moved out, I got a Newfoundland,” she said. “I’d have a lot more, but my husband says ‘no.’”
Buddy, like the other fluffy Newfoundlands, sought out the shade during the talk in the afternoon.
Forgey takes good care of Buddy, gauging his mood and comfort after an exciting and busy day.
Besides being under Forgey’s watchful eye, Buddy’s on a strict, all meat diet, even if it’s not elk like Seaman ate.
“He eats better than I do,” he said.
And for treats? Buddy gets dried cod skins, and he loves them.