Students learning about Lewis & Clark’s newfoundland, get a visit from a fury friend

The fifth graders at New England School recently have been studying about Lewis and Clark and a focal point of the topic centered around Lewis’s Newfoundland dog named Seaman.

The fifth graders of New England Public School pose with Daisy, the newfoundland. The students were learning about Lewis and Clark’s guide dog, a newfoundland, got a visit form a teacher’s own dog of the same breed. (Courtesy Photo)

By RACHEL BOCK
For The Herald

The fifth graders at New England School recently have been studying about Lewis and Clark and a focal point of the topic centered around Lewis’s Newfoundland dog named Seaman. During the lesson about Lewis’s exceptionally large dog, fifth grade teacher Shellee Hanson mentioned Shannay Witte, another teacher at the school, and her husband Keith, who own a newfy—short for Newfoundland. Fifth grader Meagan Monke, whose grandparents are neighbors to the Witte’s, and know the dog, spoke with Shannay about their studies of  Lewis and Clark and their dog Seaman. Arrangements were then made to bring in their dog, Daisy, giving the students a real-life perspective on the breed they had been studying.

On Friday, March 31, the fifth grade class was able to meet Daisy, and learned a lot of facts about the Newfoundland dog breed.

The Newfoundlands are categorized in the working class breed, as the dogs are extremely intelligent, are very strong and hardworking. They are also very loyal and have an extremely calm demeanor.

The dogs are large in size, and have a muscular build. The breed is famous for water rescue and lifesaving, due to their webbed feet, thick water resistant double fur coat, and their exceptional swimming abilities.

Keith Witte with his newfoundland, Daisy. (Courtesy Photo)

A Newfoundland dog is born with a natural instinct to save, and with their known swimming features the dogs have been used on ships at sea to swim tow lines to shore. The giant size breed has also helped in the lumber industry to haul out logs from the forest.

The dogs weigh between 120 and 200 pounds, and from the shoulder tall average 20 to 30 inches. The double fur coat keeps their skin dry in the water and insulates them from the weather elements.  They are a very calm and loyal breed that displays gentle temperament, and they are commonly known as “the gentle giant” because of these qualities.

There isn’t a record as to why Meriwether Lewis chose a Newfoundland to join him and Clark on their expedition, but some think that it was the breed’s size, strength, and swimming abilities that may have made Lewis choose his Newfoundland who he would call Seaman.

Despite not knowing why he chose the particular breed, we know that the large dog was a vital part of the Lewis and Clark Expedition as the dog was an exceptional watchdog and hunter.

For the Witte’s, who purchased their Newfoundland from a breeder in South Dakota, they chose the giant breed dog because they have always grown up with bigger dogs and have also owned bigger dogs previously. On Valentine’s Day in 2010, their Daisy was born, and is now their beloved 178 pound pet who spends most of her time outside on their farm, following Keith around. However, her big stature doesn’t stop her from being a house dog. She always wants to be around the Witte family and they say she almost thinks of herself as being a human.

Daisy is the protector of the family, and has a favorite spot on the porch where she lays during the day—it’s of course a spot where she can watch the whole farm and protect her adored family.

She loves people, and she even loves other dogs even though at times they might find her intimidating because of her large size.

“With Daisy you don’t ever have to worry about her and people,” Shannay said. “They are gentle giants.”

Daisy is loved by all, and sometimes the mail lady will bring her a whole package of hotdogs when she stops by to drop off a package.

The fifth graders enjoyed Daisy’s visit to their classroom, they were able to pet her, look at her webbed feet, and get to see firsthand why the bread is known for their swimming abilities. The students were also able to ask the Witte’s questions, not only about Daisy, but about the Newfoundland breed. Keith Witte said that if anyone is looking for a people friendly dog, a Newfoundland is the way to go.

“They are great people dogs if that is what you’re looking for,” Keith said. “And you do not have to bend down to pet them.”

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