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Daily Astorian: Oregonians Praise An Early Settler — Lewis' Dog


Owners drooled over their Newfoundland companions Wednesday during Fort Clatsop’s 18th annual Seaman’s Day at Lewis and Clark National Historical Park.

“He’s like the perfect date - he likes long walks on the beach, is always happy to see me and is incredibly loyal,” said Leska Emerald Adams of Oregon City about her Newfoundland dog, Orka.

Capt. Meriwether Lewis likely deemed his Newfoundland, Seamen, the 34th member of the Corps of Discovery, a suitable companion, watchdog and diplomat for many of the same reasons that Newfoundland pet owners are still adoring the gentle giants today.

Loyal to Lewis

“They are such close companions, it’s hard to go anywhere in the house or backyard without her on my heels,” one owner said of her Newfoundland.

It was likely unnerving for Lewis to know that Seaman would not stray too far while en route.

“I can’t turn around in the house without tripping over one of them,” Anna Plantz of Seaside said. “The breed is very loyal, and I am sure Lewis knew that.”

Critters as companions

“They are incredibly loving and affectionate animals,” said Matt Jeffers of Gresham about his five rescued Newfoundlands, three of which were named after music icons Lil’ Kim, Dr. Dre and Quincy Jones. “I wouldn’t take $1 million for any one of them.”

Jeffers, a bachelor, purchased a 15-passenger van and removed its four rows of seating so that each pooch could enjoy its own air conditioning vent. He takes his entire gang everywhere — except for to Lowes — where the store manager kindly asked that he just bring one along with him when he visits.

Many Newfoundland owners are willing to go out on a limb to accommodate these furry beasts into their home.

Adams, 54, has found Orka, who is a service dog, to be accommodating of her needs.

Four and a half years ago, Adams was in autistic regression and received a doctor’s note for a service dog. When Orka arrived from Belgium, she helped by fetching Adams’ puke pail and eventually, with her keen sense of direction, she taught Adams how to walk again.

Now, the two enjoy outings together. Hiking, kayaking, winter sports and pulling Adams in a cart to the grocery store are among some of their favorites.

“When you have autism, people can sense that there is something wrong with you and don’t want to do anything with you, so it’s a lonely existence,” Adams said. “He gives me the freedom to do whatever I want even though I have autism — nobody notices that I’m socially a dork because they are too busy concentrating on him.”

Valiant watchdog

According to Katie Kramer, who has two Newfoundlands, one of whom is known as Lewis & Clark College’s mascot “Pio,” says Newfoundlands are instinctually protective. In the 1800s, she noted, many families used Newfoundlands as nannies for this reason, as seen in the tale “Peter Pan.”

“Although they look really mellow, they are alert and ready in an instant,” Elise Ghilieri, of Lake Oswego, said. “The breed has a strong stamina. Newfoundlands are such a hearty dog and have a natural propensity to be next to water. This was exactly what Lewis was looking for in order to make it 1,000-plus miles.”

Lewis’ journal never indicated there was a need for Seaman to rescue a man overboard, however a Newfoundland’s anatomy is ideal for water rescue — webbed paws, barrel chest and loose mouth for breathing in water. In fact, many of the owners sharing at Seaman’s Day talked about their Newfoundland’s progress in water-rescue certification.

According to an entry in Lewis’ journal on May 29, 1805, Seaman, did save the 33 men from a buffalo bull that would have charged into their leather teepee.

Although the massive canines are known for their ability to destroy a hardwood floor in a matter of seconds, eat an ungodly amount of food, create profuse flooger — or flying drool — and conveniently position their 100-plus pound bodies on your feet despite your liking, to their human companions, these friendly monsters are loyal and irreplaceable.

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