Mackenzie Makatche gets asked a lot of the same questions over and over again. They mainly involve queries about the size of her house, dog hair, dog food and her sanity.
Makatche is a dog mom to nine massive Newfoundlands and she documents their mostly laid-back exploits to the delight of nearly 40,000 followers on her Newf Crew Instagram account.
"The most common questions I get asked are 'Is that a bear?' (nope) 'How big is your house?' (I wouldn't call it big but we have plenty of space) and 'Are you crazy?' (obviously)," Makatche tells MNN.
Growing up with the breed
Makatche and her puppy posse live in Glenn Mills, Pennsylvania, a community about 25 miles west of Philadelphia. Her love for the breed started pretty much at birth.
"I grew up with our family's first Newfoundland. He was about a year older than me and died when he was 13. My parents were initially attracted to the breed because they wanted a dog that was good with kids and similar to a Lab."
Makatche's parents bred Cavalier King Charles spaniels when she was younger and introduced her to the process and she fell in love. Later, she became enamored with the Newfoundland breed. Of the nine dogs she has now, three of them have been with her since they were born.
"We never have and still don't intend to breed often, only when we have time to properly raise a litter," Makatche says. "The crew has expanded gradually over the past nine years as my mom fell more and more in love with the breed."
As more fluffy, four-footed residents began to move in, Makatche decided to start an Instagram specifically to post adorable photos.
"I really didn't have any intentions other than sharing pictures of my dog for anyone who cared to see. I was in college and knew most of the people who knew me personally didn't care to see daily dog pictures on my personal account."
Starting a therapy team
Makatche's mom, Diedre, confided that she wanted to start a therapy program with the dogs, and new puppy Belle was the perfect way to start. Right around then, in the fall of 2016, Diedre was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer.
"While my mom was sick, we attended training classes together. I would push her wheelchair and hold the leash and we would do the activities as a team," Makatche says.
Her mom passed away in April 2018, and Makatche is continuing the therapy training in her honor.
"My personal goal is to become a speech language pathologist working with young children and include the therapy-trained Newfs in my work life as well," she says. "Dogs, especially Newfs, have a special way with children and I could certainly see a child opening up to one of them even if they struggle to communicate with an adult."
The Newf crew
Makatche's Newf Crew now includes Guinness, Duncan, Storm, Murphy, Coeli, Skyy, Aisling, Oliver and Belle. Three of them have completed therapy training and two are in the process.
"Once I have them all trained, I intend to start a nonprofit to have the crew seen as a legitimate therapy team and hopefully be invited into places," Makatche says.
At home, the dogs get along famously, sleeping, playing and posing for photos.
"As a breed, Newfoundlands are the epitome of 'gentle giants.' They are so intuitive, it is crazy," she says. "They generally are very laid back but can have their moments. I think the reason we are able to have them all together and get along is because they grow up together."
All the dogs love their crates and will find refuge in there when they need a break from their canine buddies. That's where most of them will sleep, although Makatche will rotate them so they each get a chance to sleep with her.
Food, hair and drool
The dogs weigh between 100 and 145 pounds each. They go through a little less than 70 pounds (about two big bags) of dog food each week.
No surprise that people often ask about dog hair. When you have nine big, floofy dogs in the house, it can be an issue.
"Newfoundlands blow their coat about twice a year. Right now happens to be shedding season so I use a forced air blower to help get all the dead undercoat out. When they shed it tends to clump up in the corners of our home so we can scoop it up and throw it out. Their hair doesn't have the barbs on it that some coats do which makes it stick to furniture and clothing so that makes things a little easier."
There's also the issue of drool.
"They definitely slobber, though some more than others. The things that make them drool the most are heat or anticipating treats. As you can guess, training class is prime drool time."
And training is how she gets so many dogs to pose for those impressive group photos.
"I start at an early age teaching them to sit and stay. It's tough when they're in a group, there's usually at least one that hops up or gets distracted. Sometimes taking a group pictures helps get the little ones to learn how to sit because if the adults aren't getting up, the ones that are still learning will stay put too. I never intentionally trained for the purpose of taking pictures; it just sort of happened."