"It's not my fault I'm so big and strong. I don't even exercise or anything." -- Fezzik in The Princess Bride
Last updated December 20, 2000
Sadly, Fezzik died of non-Hodgkins lymphoma, or a cancer of the lymph nodes, on December 4th after a long and valient fight against the disease. He lived until he was 12 years and three months old, which is ancient for Newfoundlands. He was brave, good, and always patient with his treatments and with us. He will be sorely missed. We asked everyone to eat an ice cream cone in his memory, if they wanted to have their own private memorial; and, for those that wished to, we asked that they all send us their favorite stories. These stories will be compiled and linked to the end of this page, along with his puppy stories, which is as far as I got when I initially built this page. So come back to see how other people saw him and how he touched other lives.
My dog's name is Fezzik. He's a 110 lb Newfoundland dog, who is actually rather small for a Newf, as they average somewhere around 150 lbs, and were built for water rescue. He was named after the giant in The Princess Bride, because that Fezzik was big, black, friendly, and was simply and utterly big. His AKA registration was Princess Buttercup's Fezzik.
Most people ask us, "Did you mean to get a dog that's *that* big?"
"You mean there are people that *don't* plan when they get a dog that's going to be that big? Aiiiieeee..."
We got him because when John was a little boy, his family used to go with another family to the Oregon Coast, and every day the kids would go and spend the day at the beach and at sunset, they'd go back to the campsite for dinner. One sunset, John looked up and saw a little girl sitting on the top of this dune with this leash in her hand that went up... and up... and up to this massive, proud darkness of a dog sitting over and behind her, obviously protecting her and sharing the enjoyment of the sunset with her. That dog was a Newfoundland dog, and since John never had a dog as a child, he kinda wanted one and knew that, if he could and I was willing, it would be a Newf.
Newfoundland dogs are built and bred for water rescue. So they're very patient dogs, and very, very friendly dogs. They're the second worst breed of all dog breeds for guard dogs. They naturally want to play with everyone and everything. They have soft mouths and are natural water dogs, with thick, water-proof fur and webbed paws, and so can be used as retrievers, if you can get them interested enough to retrieve. Fezzik's idea of a game of fetch is for us to throw the ball for another dog, the other dog goes chasing the ball and he runs after the other dog, wanting to play with the living creature rather than the boring toy. We also haven't invested any time in making fetch more *fun* for Fezzik than that, so that may well be why that is.
They are excellent with children, and Fezzik has often shown patience for our neice and nephew in situations that I would have had fits in. And Fezzik can be trusted with an entire litter of 3 week old kittens and he shows entirely protective, gentle and caretaker instincts for them. The vet that let them keep him company said that he was despondent when the kittens were given to their new home. There are reasons why the Darlings had a Newfoundland, Nana, as the nurse-dog of their children.
One thing is that with their size, they can terrify people with their size even when they're entirely friendly, especially if they're untrained. Be sure to do at least basic obediance training, puppy classes at the very least. Politeness does a *lot* for a Newf's lovability. The very, very basics that have to be taught are for the dog to not go up on anyone, that the dog not chew on people even in fun, and that doorways are for people, first. It's also helpful to teach them at a young age that food comes from you and is yours to dispense and, eventually also to take away. It'll save hassle in the long run. Also leash manners are *very* important to teach a puppy while they're young and not left until they're over 140 pounds and can put you on your butt without even really thinking too much about it.
When Fezzik was only 60 pounds and a 6 month old puppy, he put me on my butt on ice just because he wanted to go visit with another dog. Full-grown at 2-years-old, he was tied to a bleacher during a soccer game with climbing test rope, and when he wanted to go meet another dog, he pulled the entire five-tier bleacher and four people on it nearly two feet. They get to be strong dogs, but if you teach them as puppies that a leash means 'business' then, like the baby elephant that grows up into an adult that believes a chain will always hold them, Newfoundlands can be perfectly polite and voice controllable on a leash.
Even when they want to play.
One major negative for the Giant breeds is that they don't live very long. Fezzik's now 11 and a half, getting to be an old man, the average lifespan for a Newf is ten years. He's likely going to last longer as the breeders that bred him bred for smaller, more agile dogs, and we've worked real hard to keep him active and lean, putting less strain and stress on both his joints and his heart. If you're looking for a puppy be very sure that there isn't a history of hip dysplacia, as the breed is prone to have it and suffer badly because of their size.
He's a very social dog, very outgoing, and when we threw his tenth birthday party, there were more than ninty people that showed up. This is in complete contrast to my own birthday party, where I only invited two other people. Fezzik had a great time at his birthday party, meandering about, getting fed all kinds of junk food, getting petted by everyone and anyone, and he got a pile of birthday presents. He's still working on all the bones. And he loved the ice cream. We'll probably be throwing him one each year he gets older, as he doesn't have all that many years left, and it's worth celebrating each one.
Here's the gratuatously huge picture of him. It is amusing to note that I (the human being next to the Big Dog) am nearly six feet tall when I don't slouch too much. Yes, he really is that big. For those who have read Emma Bull's The War of the Oaks, when she was shown that picture at a Fourth Street Fantasy Fair, she said, "Yes! That's him!" without any off-hand references to the Phouka whatsoever. She also said that the slightly spiky hairdo was just like him.
Fezzik, on the whole, is a very polite dog, but not a very obediant dog. He has quite the imagination, personality, and a very mobile and expressive face. Here are a few of his cooler faces. There are quite a few stories that we tell about him. In many ways, like most other pets, he's become a very integral and important part of our life and is a part of our family, so nearly everything I have done in the last decade has had some element of him in it. That makes it hard, sometimes, to seperate stories about him from stories about me. But I'll try to put at least a few of our favorites here.
Added on May 3, 2000
Fezzik has been diagnosed with lymphoma, a fairly common canine cancer that is of the lymph system and lymph nodes. He's been healthy and happy since the move to Colorado, as the dry climate really has helped his knees and joints. The diagnosis happened nearly as a fluke, as we'd brought him into the vet's for a limp he had that just wasn't going away after a week. The limp turned out to be cured simply by washing his foot every morning and putting an antibacterial salve on it; but the lymphoma had us very shocked for a while.
We learned, however, that it was actually good, dumb luck that allowed us to know that it was happening so early. Turns out that lymphoma can make a dog feel awful and sick in only four to six weeks, and if we hadn't found it we would have thought he'd just died of old age as the only real symptoms, besides a swelling of all the peripheral lymph nodes (which, I think, nearly no non-professional vet knows exist where they do), is that the dog slows down, gets tired much more quickly, and finally has a systemic internal failure after the cancer gets into all the major organs.
With the extra time and warning, however, there is a local doctor that specializes in chemotherapy for dogs. She's put him on the series and he's three weeks into it an he's recovered a lot of energy that we hadn't really realized he'd lost! He seems to be healthy, happy and doing well. In just the first three days of treatment his swollen lymph nodes softened and went down. Which has been good in and of itself. He's had no bad side effect, no loss of appetite, and no hair loss whatsoever. He's been really happy and doing really well on the runs with the local dogs we get together with on Sundays on Marshell Mesa (an open space in Boulder that allows off-leash dogs).
The odds the vet gave were that, of all the dogs she puts through the series, 85% of them go into remission for an average of a year, of those, 25% get cured completely. Also, it turns out that lymphoma in older dogs is actually milder and slower acting than lymphoma in younger dogs. The vet has seen younger dogs literally eaten up by the disease, it happens so fast. So Fezzik has that on his side as well. Finally, she said that he looks like he's in great shape, looks six-years-old when he's nearly twelve, and the good physical shape should help him as well in the chemo fight.
It's been all a very odd emotional whirlwind. First very sad that he had to have it at all, but then glad of the time we got and the opportunity we got to do something for him for it. We've done what we can and he seems to have a good chance with this. I guess it really is important to know that cancer really isn't a death sentence in and of itself. We'll just fight for more good, happy and healthy days as long as it stays so.
And treasure each and every one of them. Probably fill in more of the stories here as well as we remember more and more of his pretty remarkable life. So check back as you like.