Monday, September 26, 2011

Charity Dennington & Katie and Louie

Who is in the photo at right?

That's me, Charity Dennington, with 4-year-old Newfoundland Dog, Katie, on the day she first qualified in Advanced Rally Obedience. You can tell we were both quite proud of ourselves.

I am a purchasing manager and database programmer, but my main passion is my family which besides Katie includes my husband, Gary; our 3-year-old Newfoundland, Louie; and our daughter Natalie who we are adopting from China later this year.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We are just relaxing at home on a nice Saturday morning.

What's brewing?

Hawaiian Kona coffee, black.

Any treats for you or Katie and Louie on this occasion?

Salmon treats for Katie & Louie, Newman's Own Organic Chocolate/Chocolate Sandwich Cookies for me.

How were you and the dogs united?

Katie and Louie came from some amazing Newfoundland breeders in Cabot, Arkansas: Wilbon Newfoundlands. We have become good friends with them over the last five years and have learned a lot from them about this complex breed. Since we live close to Cabot we were able to visit the litters about once a week after the puppies were born. We wanted to get the sweetest pups of the litters and we seem to have succeeded. In both cases, Katie and Louie picked us as much as we picked them. In Katie's case it was love at first sight. However, when I heard that Louie at the age of 2 weeks old managed to climb over the wall and escape his puppy enclosure I told Gary we had to steer clear of that one because he was going to be trouble. By the time Louie was 5 weeks old though we saw that we really had no choice in the matter. Even the breeders were calling him Louie at that young age because it was apparent that he was the sweetest, cuddliest pup of the bunch just like we had requested. Louie has gotten into a few scrapes over the years, but mostly he is an eager-to-please boy.

When Louie came home at the age of 10 weeks Katie was 18 months old - still a puppy herself. She matured overnight though when she got a little brother to nurture. Katie is the best big sister ever (although her "little" brother now outweighs her by 20 pounds).

How did they get their names?

Katie is named after my favorite fictional character. Her full name is Wilbon's Katie Scarlett O'Hara.

Louie is registered as Wilbon's What a Wonderful World - He is named after my favorite jazz musician, Mr. Armstrong.

Any aliases?

Katie Sue & Louie Lou, pumpkin, sweetie, honey, tiny little puppy dog, kookoo, booboo…just about any endearment you can think of.

Do Katie and Louie have a favorite place to go for walk?

Any park-like setting is always a hit. If there is water it's even better. The very best days are when the temperature is below freezing and the ground is covered with beautiful snow.

Squirrel, postman, cat…?

Katie and Louie would love to be friends with them all, but all three are usually afraid of giant Newfs. They have met a couple of brave kitties nose-to-nose and thought they were really cool.

Squeaky-toy, tennis ball, stick?

Katie loves her water dumbbell. It is the only thing she will retrieve. Katie also adores tennis balls. She has a knack for finding balls that were left behind by other dogs when we go out on our walks. When she finds one she carries it home and adds it to her ever growing collection.

Louie likes anything that Katie has. As soon as she loses interest so does he.

What is each dog's best quality?

Louie is the sweetest dog I have ever known. Katie is very sweet also, but Louie has her beat in this department. Both Newfs are certified therapy dogs and regularly visit Hospice patients, kids at Easter Seals, nursing home residents and elementary school students (see picture of Louie giving a kiss to a second grader). Louie is truly a gentle giant. He has brought joy to hundreds of people during the last few years. He just loves giving love.

Once when we visited a special needs classroom Louie and a little boy we'll call J bonded immediately. J talked non stop to Louie. His teachers were stunned because they said J rarely speaks. Another time we were at a Hospice center and Louie approached a patient and gave her a gentle kiss. The lady had difficultly speaking, but her sparkling eyes told me she enjoyed the encounter. Before we left the building we stopped by to see her one more time and Louie gave her a few more kisses. She struggled to speak, but managed to say "Those were the best kisses I've had in my whole life". Louie just has a profound effect on people and we feel lucky to receive daily doses of therapy from him ourselves.

Katie's best quality is her protective nature. She makes friends quickly. Once you are her friend she considers it her job to protect you from all dangers. She has a photographic memory which she uses to catalog everything in our home and quite a few objects around our neighborhood. If she sees something new she peruses it to see if it might be a potential hazard. If she deems it to be dangerous she will warn you about it and try to steer you clear of it. From the age of five months old she has put herself between us and danger. Thankfully we have a word that I can use to quickly let her know that a particular object is actually quite safe - like that oddly shaped sprinkler that the neighbor down the street put on his lawn. I guess Katie thought it was going to attack us.

When Katie was still a pup she thought the diving board was dangerous. Here is a video showing Katie's concern for her Dad: First she tried to block him, then she verbally chastised him to try to stop him and after he jumped she ran to make sure he was OK.

If Katie and Louie could change one thing about you, what would it be?

I would quit my job and spend all my time with them.

If Hollywood made a movie in which Katie and Louie could talk, who should do their voices?

Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan because they are good-natured, funny, cute and smart.

Visit the Welcome to the Happy Haus blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

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