Morgan, the Shuswap’s snowblower-pushing dog, has added another skill to her repertoire.
Diving under a boat to rescue someone trapped has earned top-dog status for the seven-year-old Newfoundland dog.
With comments including “Wow!!! Beautiful! Good job! and Nice” on her official scoresheet, Morgan from Sunnybrae passed The Newfoundland Club of America’s Water Test at the Pacific Northwest Newfoundland Club trials near Portland, Oregon.
Owned by Dean and Grace Edwards, Morgan has attained the highest level of water training available in North America.
Three years ago Morgan, who opens the fridge for her owners, snowblows the driveway and puts empty tins into a bin, attempted the water test in Washington State. She made it through the entire series of six tests but one.
The task that eluded her was diving under a boat to rescue a trapped “victim,” something she accomplished in Portland earlier this fall. Morgan has the distinction of being the first dog to acomplish the underwater rescue at the Pacific Northwest trials.
“That was a tough one, getting her to go underneath the three-man rubber boat. They flip it over, she has to swim out 75 feet, go underneath, pull the person out and bring them in (to shore),” Dean says. “I started training the wrong way so she got scared.”
Dean then settled on a method that involved two people lifting up the boat and, over a two-month period, slowly lowering it to the water until Morgan got more comfortable with the process.
Before the big underwater task in September, Morgan successfully carried out the other parts of the test.
In the first task, she was required to swim 75 feet out to a boat, find a rope and tow the boat to shore. Next, she accomplished a three-man rescue in which she had to swim out 150 feet, collect one person located 75 feet straight ahead of her, then collect two more people located on either side of her but 100 feet from shore, and swim back to her handler’s boat, towing all three of her “victims.”
In an unconscious victim simulation, Morgan, without knowing the location, had to first find her victim, gently grab them and pull them 75 feet to shore.
Other tests included swimming out to a boat located 100 feet offshore, retrieving a 125-foot line and delivering it to a steward onshore, and another that involved swimming out 75 feet to a boat, finding two people located out-of-view on the other side of the boat and bringing them safely to shore.
If that sounds like a lot of hard work, Morgan also happily completed the first level of a draft test in Portland, pulling a cart through different obstacles, and all three levels of the “trick test” that includes a scent test, barking on command and more.
“She really had fun and got lots of cookies, and oh yeah, they know when they have done a good job,” laughs Dean. “We go through quite a few treats; she’s very food motivated.”
Successful underwater rescue accomplished and the test completed, the 125-pound Morgan emerged from the water to enthusiastic applause, and went to each of her admirers as if to accept their accolades, says Grace, looking fondly at the large, affable dog.
And what does the wonder dog do now she has achieved the pinnacle in water trials?
“She hangs about and has a good time at the park,” says Dean, noting he plans to begin obedience training with her soon. “She’s just about ready to retire, but she still wants to do stuff and hopefully she’ll stay healthy.
Finished their landscaping business for the season, the couple are enjoying being at home with their canine companions, which also include six-year-old Bernese mountain dog, Georgia, and two Nova Scotia duck tollers.
Georgia has passed some trials and while she sometimes gets jealous of Morgan, she’s not quite so keen on learning.
And as the season of snow approaches, Dean is quite sure Morgan will again push him out of the way to get her paws on the snowblower.
“We try to keep her busy; if she’s bored, she’ll bring us something from the fridge. She seems to know what you want when you’re asking for it,” Dean laughs, noting he and Grace are getting a new fridge and wondering how long it will take Morgan to figure out how to open it. “She grabs the vacuum cleaner too, but that’s the chore least liked by humans and dogs.”
On the community outreach beat, Morgan will go to the high school in December to provide stress relief to students through the St. John’s Therapy Dog program. And, closer to Christmas, she will make an appearance at Mt. Ida Mews.
“We hooked her up to a wagon and went to all the rooms handing out presents,” says Dean. “People really liked it; it makes their day and the caregivers.”