Local dog a stand-in for mascot, wins over fans

By Mary Ann Albright, Columbian Staff Reporter


Updated: December 31, 2010, 11:36 AM


Whether it’s in the local Columbia Credit Union, at a Dairy Queen drive-thru or on the Lewis & Clark College football field, Buddy makes friends wherever he goes.

He’s hard to miss. His personality is outsized, and his stature is even bigger. When the 152-pound Newfoundland encountered a miniature pony once at the Vancouver Farmers Market, the two stood nose-to-nose.

But Buddy, 4½, is a “gentle giant,” his Orchards owners say. And he’s become a bit of a celebrity.

In the spring of 2008, the Lewis & Clark Pioneers, the Portland college’s athletics department, decided its new mascot would be a Newfoundland named Pio. The school does not have a Newfoundland, though, so it reached out to the community to find dogs who could fill in for Pio.

Neither of Buddy’s owners, Katie Kramer and Pete Forgey, attended Lewis & Clark, but they heard about the call for dogs through the Pacific Northwest Newfoundland Club. They brought Buddy to a school event, and he was invited back to lead the football team onto the field at homecoming.

Since then, Buddy has been a fixture on campus, typically visiting about once a month. In addition to attending athletics events, he poses for photos with graduating seniors and was even the model for a life-sized “Pio” sculpture created by Northwest artist Georgia Gerber.

The bronze sculpture, which can be found in the foyer of the Pamplin Sports Center on campus, was unveiled this fall. Buddy attended the dedication and sat patiently next to his bronzed double for pictures.

There are a few Newfoundlands that stand in for Pio, but Buddy is “overwhelmingly popular,” said Monica Baker, Lewis & Clark’s assistant director of athletic development. He, Kramer and Forgey “are kind of our go-to folks.”

Buddy is featured in a YouTube holiday video from Lewis & Clark that as of Wednesday had garnered 1,287 views. This fall, he appeared with the football team on a KGW NewsChannel 8 “Out & About with Drew Carney” segment.

Even walking around campus, Buddy is swarmed by students who miss pets they’ve left at home.

“People love him. He’s just the most calm, docile, loving creature,” Baker said.

‘Meant to be’

Only by a twist of fate did Buddy wind up living in Orchards and playing a key role on the Lewis & Clark campus.

Kramer and Forgey knew they wanted a Newfoundland when they traveled to British Columbia to meet a breeder there. If they clicked with the breeder, they planned to get on a waiting list for the next litter.

Kramer and Forgey immediately felt a connection to Buddy, great-grandson of Josh, the Newfoundland who won the Westminster Dog Show in 2004.

“Buddy kind of picked us out,” said Forgey, a teacher at Canyon Creek Middle School in Washougal. “When we arrived, he was the one there to greet us at the gate.”

But all the puppies in the current litter were spoken for, including Buddy, who was going to a family in Montreal.

They put themselves on the breeder’s waiting list and headed home. Then the breeder called. Buddy’s Montreal family had changed its mind and he was still in need of a home.

“It was meant to be,” said Kramer, an independent insurance agent.

Hard at work

Buddy is Kramer’s third Newfoundland. The first was a rescue she adopted about 28 years ago. She’d only had small dogs up until that point, but once she had her first Newfoundland, Kramer was hooked.

“They’re just so loving,” she said. “They’re so gentle, and they take joy in giving back and interacting with people.”

Newfoundlands are working dogs and very social creatures, so they’re happiest when they’re with people and have jobs to do, Kramer said.

Buddy certainly stays busy, with a social calendar to put many people’s to shame.

His days begin at 4:45 a.m. with a 30-minute walk with Forgey. Buddy loves these jaunts so much that hearing the word “walk” gets him barking and jangling the bells on his red-and-green holiday collar.

Later in the morning, he heads to work at Kramer Insurance Group in Vancouver, where he spends the day lying at Kramer’s feet and socializing with clients.

“He’s my assistant,” she said.

Buddy tags along with Kramer on trips to the Columbia Credit Union on Fourth Plain Boulevard, where he knows he’ll get treats from the tellers if he sweetly rests his chin on the counter.

“The bank loves him,” Kramer said.

Dog breed key in N.W. history

Choosing a Newfoundland as a mascot made historical sense for the Pioneers, Lewis & Clark College’s athletics teams.

A Newfoundland named Seaman came on the expedition to the Northwest that his owner, Meriwether Lewis, led along with William Clark in the early 1800s. According to Lewis & Clark College’s website, citing a journal kept by Corps of Discovery member John Ordway, Seaman played a key role on the expedition.

Seaman hunted and retrieved game and barked to warn the men of nearby buffalo and grizzly bears. He is credited with saving several lives. Seaman was captured by the Chinooks at one point, but was rescued by expedition members.

In addition to their historical significance, the traits of Newfoundlands are in keeping with the values of the Lewis & Clark athletics department.

“This breed embodies all the qualities we were looking for in an athletics mark. Newfoundlands are strong, heroic, loyal, proud, dignified, courageous, happy, and fun,” the website says.

To learn more about Pio, the Lewis & Clark Pioneers’ mascot, go to http://legacy.lclark.edu/~sports/MISC/newlogomain.htm.

— Mary Ann Albright

Buddy also comes along on drive-thru trips to Arby’s or Dairy Queen. He doesn’t get much in the way of people food, but ice cream is his weakness. He is allowed his own soft-serve cone at Dairy Queen. “He inhales it,” Kramer said. He’s also a fan of Sheridan’s Frozen Custard.

But aside from the occasional frozen treat, Buddy typically adheres to an all-meat diet. He eats one pound of raw ground meat a day. The menu includes venison, buffalo, rabbit, quail, pheasant, chicken and turkey. He also devours two raw chicken backs each day.

“He eats better than we do,” Forgey joked.

Buddy needs all that protein to fuel his training regimen.

In September of 2009, he received his Newfoundland Club of America Water Dog title. Forgey and Aloha, Ore., trainer Cheryl Dondino worked with Buddy for three summers, teaching him to perform tasks such as retrieving a bumper, towing a boat and swimming calmly with a handler.

Next summer, Buddy will try to earn a Canadian Water Dog title, as well as the Water Rescue Dog title from the Newfoundland Club of America.

About two months ago, Buddy also started working with Dondino on carting, a type of draft work in which a dog dons a harness, is hitched to a cart, and then pulls the cart. The dog must be able to move forward and backward, turn and haul freight.

“He liked it right off the bat,” Dondino said.

Volunteer work

Kramer and Forgey hope Buddy will earn his Draft Dog certification in May. That is a distinction the Newfoundland Club of America awards to dogs accomplished at pulling a cart or wagon. At that point, Buddy would be ready to offer rides at children’s hospitals and camps for sick youths.

Buddy already has done some volunteer work. Last spring, he visited a fourth-grade classroom in Portland where students were learning about Seaman, a Newfoundland that traveled with Meriwether Lewis and William Clark on their expedition to explore the Northwest in the early 1800s.

Kramer and Forgey plan to take Buddy back into schools for more Lewis and Clark lessons, but they have other projects in mind for him, as well.

They would like their dog to participate in Rotary Club of Vancouver’s “lunch buddy” program, where volunteer mentors go into local schools once a week to eat with students. Kramer’s previous Newfoundland, Lance, did this, and she loved seeing how the pooch helped kids open up and brightened their days. She thinks this is something Buddy would be good at, too.

“It’s a really rewarding experience,” Kramer said. “To see the difference that it can make with children is tremendous.”

Mary Ann Albright: maryann.albright@columbian.com, 360-735-4507.