MECHANICSBURG — Dull's Tree Farm looked as much like a dog show venue as a Christmas tree farm last Sunday as hundreds of Newfoundland dogs and other breeds turned out for the 15th annual Newfie Day.
The event is organized by South Central Newfoundland Rescue and drew a couple hundred of the gentle giants, along with countless golden retrievers, Australian shepherds, Bernese mountain dogs, black and yellow Labrador retrievers, collies, border collies and other breeds.
Virginia Davis, co-chair of the Newfie rescue organization, said they have members from Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky but expected dogs from other states as well.
Newfies trained to pull carts were pressed into service, hauling freshly cut trees from the fields for a donation, while others were designated as greeters, happily accepting petting and praise from hundreds of families out to shop for their 2018 Christmas tree.
“I love that they let us come,” Davis said. “This is my favorite day of the year. If this doesn't give you the Christmas spirit, nothing will.”
Newfie Day at Dull's Tree Farm is the organization’s only fundraising event, she said.
Newfoundland dogs are ideally suited for such events, she said, noting that they are the only breed with “sweetness of temperament” written into the American Kennel Club breed standard.
The dogs were bred in Canada as shipboard working dogs that specialized in water rescues. They are born swimmers with partially webbed feet and are strong enough to save a grown man from drowning. A male Newfoundland can weigh up to 150 pounds and stand 28 inches tall at the shoulder. Females are typically 100 to 120 pounds. The colors can be black, black-and-white, brown and gray.
Greg and Jill Williams were among the first to arrive, hauling their 140-pound Newfie Vader from their home in Smithfield, Ky. This was his fourth trip to Newfie Day and the third for pulling tree carts.
“He's a sweetheart,” said Jill, strapping a festive red-and-white cap on Vader's head and explaining that she and her husband are the dog's second owners. “He was owned by a couple whose kids were grown and gone and he was all alone much of the time and he was grieving. He's a certified therapy dog and we just love him to pieces,” she said.
“This is typically our largest crowd day,” said tree farm owner Tom Dull. “We have people who come just to see the dogs.”
Dull said he had a crew of more than 70 people working Sunday processing trees, selling concessions, making wreaths in the wreath shop and helping out in countless other ways.
Rainy weather Saturday made for muddy parking, but it didn't keep people away. A couple hundred tree-hunters and dog owners were queued up at the gate by the noon opening time and a steady stream of cars, pickup trucks and SUVs extended more than a half-mile from the foot of the driveway, down Blubaugh Road and then south on Indiana 39 to the bridge over Sugar Creek by 12:30 p.m.
Dull's Tree farm is open through Dec. 21, as trees remain:
9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays
noon to 6 p.m. Sundays
3-6 p.m. Monday-Friday