The great American author extols the virtues of a Newfoundland dubbed as the “gentle giant”. Reu Rivera is one lucky guy who owns a Newfoundland. “I named it Kobe after Kobe Bryant. I’m an avid fan of this basketball legend,” he explains. Reu is one of the many dog lovers in the Pet Party at SM Bacoor, actually a friend of the event organizer. People of all ages mill around Kobe for selfies and groufies, which gamely poses for posterity.

It is so gentle even kids pat it and stroke its thick and straight black coat. “It is safe for children,” says the 36-year-old entrepreneur who is into computer business. But he cautions that though Newfoundlands are child-friendly, small kids can get accidentally leaned on and knocked down.

“I adopted Kobe from a dog breeder friend. Normally it will fetch like R130,000 for a puppy,” he says. Kobe is just one year and four months. Newfoundland dogs can weigh up to 143 pounds or more in full maturity. The largest on record weighed 260 pounds and measured over 6 feet from nose to tail, ranking it among the largest of dog breeds. Its life span is from eight to ten years. It shares many characteristics of mountain dog breeds, such as the Great Pyrenees.

Kobe’s forefathers can be traced to the Dominion of Newfoundland, now part of Canada, where fishermen use them as working dogs, pulling fishnets and hauling carts and other equipment. Newfoundlands are also called Newfs or Newfies. They are known for their giant size, intelligence, tremendous strength, calm dispositions, and loyalty.

Nothing beats these wonderful dogs as they excel at water rescue and lifesaving because of their muscular build, thick double coat, webbed feet, and innate swimming abilities. Their extremely large bones give it mass, while its musculature gives it the power it needs to take rough ocean waves and powerful tides.

These dogs have huge lung capacity for swimming extremely long distances and a thick, oily, and waterproof double coat which protects them from the chilly icy waters. In the water, the dog’s massive paws give it maximum propulsion. Interestingly, the swimming stroke is not an ordinary dog paddle. Unlike other dogs, the Newfoundland moves its limbs in a down-out motion giving more power to every stroke, according to Wikipedia.

As proof of this amazing aqua-dog’s ability at water rescue, a historical anecdote from Wikipedia tells of an unnamed Newfoundland credited for saving Napoleon Bonaparte in 1815. During his famous escape from exile on the island of Elba, rough seas knocked Napoleon overboard. A fisherman’s dog jumped into the sea and kept Napoleon afloat until he could reach safety.

“Curiously, Kobe seldom barks and cannot be a guard dog. It’s not territorial. Yes, it’s not cheap to maintain Kobe, with the usual expenses for dog food, vitamins, vet visits, etc. It likes to stay in our air-conditioned room.

“Kobe is a hearty eater, which is normal for a big dog. He just won a prize in the eating contest portion,” Reu laughs. He continues, “I have three English bulldogs but Kobe is quite special. I’m not fond of cats. Sorry, no offense to feline lovers, but I can’t appreciate them. There’s no bonding unlike with dogs, especially with a Newfoundland like Kobe.”

“Actually, when I got Kobe, its coat was uneven but now it’s growing beautifully. The double coat makes the dog hard to groom and also causes a lot of shedding to occur. I have to build its confidence though. It still has this fear of people and it easily panics when startled,” he says.

According to YourPurebredPuppy.com, the Breed Standard of the US says that, “Sweetness of temperament is the hallmark of the Newfoundland; this is the most important single characteristic of the breed.” This sweetness of temperament is typified by Kobe, the gentle giant as it struts on the stage with its proud owner amid the admiring audience.

 

This appeared in Animal Scene magazine’s August 2018 issue.