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It Really Isn’t New— the Newf and Therapy Work

by Mary Jane Spackman, Historian
reprinted from NewfTide 1Q 2009

Today, Therapy Dog International (TDI) is a common avenue pursued by many Newfoundland owners who desire to share not only their love for the breed, but the attributes of our breed. Our breed is a natural as a therapy dog—be it the small child with learning or physical disabilities or the elderly person dealing with the merciless onslaught of age.

Twenty-five years ago, Hannah Hayman, a well-known Newfoundland breeder, owner and exhibitor, who bred under the name of Ebunyzar, wrote an article for Newf Tide entitled, “Try It—You’ll Like It—guarantees by Hannah Hayman.” Her story focused on the Newf in therapy dog work and her own venture into the realm of therapy, which began with her first Newfoundland, BarKen’s Ebunyzar, CD. In fact, Eb was the first Newfoundland to be registered by Therapy Dog, International when it was organized in 1980.

As Hannah related in her story, she focused on how society was discovering the value of therapy dogs. Hannah wrote, “In our highly mechanized, competitive, impersonal society, we often overlook the real value of dogs in our lives. Children as well as the elderly seem to profit when dogs are introduced into their surroundings. Countless incidents can be told that show the importance of dogs to individuals….” Hannah also wrote about many experiences working with Eb and other Newfs of hers. She once encountered a child who was terrified of dogs, due to the use of an aggressive dog to discipline him, but after working with Eb, the child was desensitized from his extreme panic whenever he would even see a dog.

Newfoundland Therapy Dog

This painting of Hannah’s Eb with an elderly woman still hangs in the Village Veterinary Hospital in Wampsville, New York, near Hannah’s former home.

Another story dealt with Witch, VN Ch. Ebunyzar’s Water Witch, UD, WRD, DD, one of the first three Newfoundlands to achieve the Versatile Newfoundland award. Witch and Hannah were visiting a nursing home and Witch approached an elderly gentleman, who sat crumpled in his wheel chair. The dog pressed her cold nose against his face, and Hannah was ready to pull her away when he awoke, smiled, and said he was hungry. The behavior may not have seemed so startling except the staff told Hannah that the man had been unresponsive for the better part of a week, withdrawn and refusing to eat. The simple touch of a cold nose did what a human could not.

Newfoundland Therapy Dog

Hannah enjoys a moment with Tang and children. On the back of the photo, Hannah wrote, “July 1986. Am/Can Ch. Ebunyzar’s Salty Tang, DD. Retired from the breed ring but still working like a good Newf.” (photo provided by Anne McPhilmy)

Hannah closed her article with words that still serve today. “Therapy dogs are here to stay. And, what breed is better able to assess our moods and our needs, and cuddle just a little closer, than our own Newfoundland dogs! Never was the saying more apropos: ‘Courage without Ferocity and all the virtues of man without his vices.’ Come give a little, get involved!”

Today I think Hannah would be well pleased by the path our Newfs are traveling with their owners; they are involved.




reprinted from 1Q NewfTide 2009 pp 11- 21






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