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A Lesson Well Learned

by Barbara Frey, Companion Newf Committee Chair

The best part of this story is the fact that the principal players are absolutely dedicated to their breed. They have gone out of their way to educate and promote the Newfoundland, and have even contributed to the restoration of the Landseer painting through their services. I know there are plenty of people out there who are as dedicated. But I find the fact that the Kargers do this only for the love of the breed an unusual and admirable trait. They are not breeders, and their Newfoundlands were not purchased as show or breeding stock. They receive no ribbons, no money, nor accolades, so the real benefit of their efforts is simply the gratification of being able to educate people about the breed they love. Their dogs have all their working titles, and the Kargers have grown by the experience of training their Newfs. The dogs have led them into a world of adventure and travel and the opportunity to meet new people. I thank them for sharing their experiences. I salute their efforts on behalf of our breed. Here’s their story.

A popular reading programs used throughout Western Pennsylvania and in many parts of the country features a story called Hugger to the Rescue. This is a true story featuring Hugger, a Newfoundland trained by Black Paws Search and Rescue. The fourth grade classes who use this reading program love the story but most students and teachers have never seen a Newfoundland. As any Newfie owner will attest, meeting a Newfie personally is the best part.


That is where Bethany and Bruce Karger of Allison Park, Pennsylvania, come in. The Kargers belong to the Penn-Ohio Newfoundland Club where Bethany is a board member and Bruce is the vice president. Their 14-year-old daughter, Jane, is also part of the team. The Karger’s two older dogs have earned NCA water and draft dog titles and the entire family, and all the dogs are therapy dog certified. Jane also recently requalified a WD and WRD, so she is no stranger to handling the Newfs.


At the request of a local elementary school, the two former teachers and owners of three Newfoundlands—Admiral, Pirate and Schooner—created a program around the Hugger story. The program features posters, search and rescue equipment, video, photos and presentations. Since none of the Kargers’ Newfies are Black Paws trained, Sam Butler of the Penn-Ohio Newfoundland Club was contacted for his expertise and stories. Sam owns Zack and Emma, the grandparent Newfs of Admiral and Pirate. Both Zack and Emma are Black Paws trained but have since retired from service. Sam was a valuable resource in creating the presentation. The first presentation was a huge success. The local newspaper featured an article with pictures. The photo was that of a grinning student with a huge Newfie tongue across his face. As a result, a lot of teachers have begun to call the Kargers and ask them to visit.
The one hour program was created with the children in mind. With her elementary school teaching background, Bethany takes the program a little further than just search and rescue. She covers the history of the Newfoundland, historical stories about Newfoundlands, water rescue and draft, and talks to the children about how to approach an unfamiliar dog and how not to be afraid of big dogs. After the presentation, Bruce brings the dogs to meet the children. The squeals of joy bring a smile to everyone’s faces.


At one school, a student asked about the dogs and their drooling, “like Beethoven in the movie.” Of course any Newfie owner has to explain about drool. And the Kargers did. One of their Newfies was extolled as being a great ear cleaner for other dogs. The kids all laughed about that! Later in the program, as many of the children came up in groups to pet and hug the dogs, several of them were holding their ears up to Pirate, the ear cleaner, to get their own ears cleaned! One little girl even said after the program that Pirate had cleaned her whole face!
At one Moon Township, Pennsylvania, elementary school the week before Thanksgiving, the children of the school brought in food for the local community food bank. The draft dogs were harnessed to their carts, went around the school and the children placed the food in to the carts. The food was delivered to the school office and donated in the school’s and dogs’ names to the food bank.


At a visit to a nursing home late last year, Admiral—the oldest of the Karger’s Newfies—was visiting a lady who was over 100 years old. While she could not see or hear well, her face lit up while petting the big dog and she almost giggled like a little girl. When Bethany saw the surprised look on the nurse in the room, she asked if Admiral’s attention to the lady was all right. The nurse said she had worked there for over a year and that was the first time she had ever seen Alice laugh or smile. Isn’t it wonderful to see a Newfie touch the heart of a person that needs to be touched.

Since the initial program, the Kargers have visited a quite a few schools, a retirement village, a Pennsylvania chapter of AARP, and several day care centers for younger children, and the calls keep coming. While no fee is charged, most of the organizations and schools have been very generous with their donations So far they have received over $150 which has been donated to the Landseer Restoration Fund. Bethany says, “My Newfs have given me so much, I just love to give a little back.” lesson

 

reprinted from NewfTide 2000

 

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