Yes, you read that right: Zombies. If you’re wondering what zombies have to do with breeding Newfoundlands, there’s a connection, but it’s a bit of a shaggy dog story.
It all started with the Lewis and Clark expedition. Meriwether Lewis’s Newfoundland Seaman famously accompanied them on the journey west, but as they headed back east to St. Louis, he disappears from their journals. No one knows what happened to him – he simply disappears from history. It is the biggest mystery of the Newfoundland world.
Judi’s granddaughter turned four in 2013. Her two favorite things were Newfoundlands – and zombies. (She still loves them both.) One day when they were talking about Seaman and the uncertainty surrounding his death, the thought bubbled up: “Maybe Seaman turned into … a zombie!”
Judi likes to knit. Not the usual clothing, but quirky stuff. On a whim, she designed and knitted a zombie doll for her granddaughter to play with. But that one knitted zombie opened the floodgates into a creative and addictive undertaking. To date, she’s knitted over two dozen varieties of zombies, and the list keeps growing. The zombies have been embraced by the unconventional folks, who snap them up for themselves or for never-to-be-forgotten gifts. “Could you make me a _____ zombie?” starts Judi off on another creative design.
And of course there’s a Meriwether Lewis zombie, and a Seaman zombie to go with him. Because that seems an entirely reasonable explanation of that gallant dog’s disappearance. The pair is definitely not your usual Newfoundland collectible!
At the request of her local library’s children’s librarian, Judi arranged a zombie scene in their entry’s glass-fronted alcove. It ran the week before Halloween, and the kids loved it. But it was the adults who were the most enamored. Over and over, they’d walk into the library, glance at the alcove – and stop dead. Then they would come over, get closer, and peer in. Ten minutes later, they’d still be there – grinning, reading each gravestone’s epitaph, and trying to figure out how those crazy dolls were made.
The zombies are around fourteen to eighteen inches tall. Each is assembled with Velcro and snaps, so you can rip a head, arm or leg off if the spirit moves you. They’re pretty macabre, with scars and dangling eyeballs and open wounds. Some have brains that fall out or intestines that drag on the ground. (Little girls who love zombies love “grisly.”) Each zombie comes in its own shoebox “coffin,” complete with tombstone and epitaph.
The Zombie Baby
Poor thing! Imagine her shock when she discovered she was a zombie baby! She’s wearing pink felt shoes and knitted baby sweater and diapers – the clothes of course are removable, the better to appreciate her various gashes and scars. The zombie baby has been the most popular gift at several baby showers – as the giver points out, the mother-to-be’s own baby will be a precious sweetheart compared to this horror!
The Biker Zombie
Believe it or not, this zombie biker was commissioned by a bride-to-be, who wanted a one-of-a-kind, never-to-be-forgotten gift for her husband-to-be. She told me that what he loved most – besides her, of course – was riding his motorcycle with his pals– and the biker zombie was born. He’s missing an eye; one arm ends in a bloody stump; the rest is nothing but skeleton, and he has scars and wounds aplenty all over his body. There’s a biker emblem on a chain around his neck, his raggedy long hair is tied back with a scruffy bandana, and his black vest sports his biker insignia. When he’s feeling especially full of himself, he can take off that black vest to reveal a stylized, screaming eagle tattoo on his back.
The Fortune Teller Zombie
Now, you’d think a fortune teller would be able to see what was coming, and avoid becoming a zombie, but no such luck. This portly psychic sports a red velvet and cotton dress, a belted apron, and a lace shawl, as well as an iconic headscarf. Hoop earrings and far too much jewelry complete the look.
The Hula Girl Zombie
This tropical zombie girl was the top prize at a quirky Hawaiian-themed treasure hunt party. Aside from her fierce expression (and a bloody right arm and armpit-to-hip sutured scar), she looks quite lovely! Her floral bra-halter compliments her slinky skirt, and those tangerine sandals and matching floral lei add the perfect final touch.
The Zombie Mime
There’s something a little unnerving about being accosted by a street mime. The second those hands start fluttering, trying to escape the glass box he’s in – or his feet start thumping, climbing that invisible staircase – well, as Judi maintains, “What can I say. They just creep me out.” And thus, the zombie mime was born. Judi dressed him, of course, in the traditional striped sailor shirt and red bandana, plus a black beret atop his mop of brassy curls.
Meriwether Lewis and his dog Seaman, Zombie-style
Newfoundland owners all know the story of Lewis and Clark’s famous trek to the Pacific – because Meriwether Lewis purposely bought, and then brought, a Newfoundland along. Seaman proved invaluable to the crew, protecting them from danger and using his hunting skills to add small mammals and assorted prairie fowl to the soup pot. Much is known of his contributions, but nothing is known of his eventual outcome; he simply disappeared from the recorded journals sometime during their return trip, when the expedition neared its conclusion. What is known is that Meriwether Lewis committed suicide not long after. However, Judi likes to think that both Lewis and his dog lived on - albeit in a significantly scarier form.
The Zumba Zombie
Judi’s friend Aylin is a fitness instructor. She teaches zumba classes. Like all zumba enthusiasts, she dresses the part. Inspired by Aylin, Judi knitted a zumba zombie. This zombie has had it rough; one foot is just bones, she nearly lost an eye, and you should see the gaping wound down her backside. But she’s still game, and in her cobalt sports bra, high-top shoe, and baggy tasseled zumba pants – not to mention her head-banded, blond-streaked, wild ebony mane - she rocks the part.
A Zombie Sheep
Here’s how it goes sometimes. Judi got a phone call from a potential customer. She had heard about Judi’s unusual art, and she wanted her to knit a zombie for her best friend’s ten-year-old daughter, as a gift. She explained that Madison was not into dolls or clothes or the usual girly things. She was into vampires and Godzilla and horror movies, and she thought what Judi did would be perfect.
Judi said she’d be happy to help. Was there anything in particular the daughter likes? Was she thinking a Godzilla zombie? Or maybe a Frankenstein’s monster zombie?
The customer said, “She’s into sheep.”
Judi was sure she’d misheard, and asked her to repeat it.
But no, she’d heard correctly. The daughter was smitten with sheep. She loved sheep more than anything. She had dozens of stuffed sheep toys. She had sheep posters, sheep pillows, sheep books. And the customer wanted to know if Judi could knit a sheep zombie. “But don’t make it soft and cuddly. It has to be mean. Make it fierce. Make it feral,” she said.
Judi said she’d be happy to try. And here’s the result.
The Zombie Nun
Portland’s main newspaper, The Oregonian, ran a flashy article about the crazy grandmother who knits zombies, and included several photos of Judi posing with her creations. (Amazing what they think is newsworthy.) Two days later, Judi got a call from one of the technicians at the veterinary clinic the Adlers frequent. “My best friend and I went through Catholic school together. It was probably our defining experience. Would it offend you if I asked you to knit a zombie nun, that I could give to her as a gift? She’s got a wild sense of humor, and I know she’d love it.” Well, heavens, why not! One zombie nun coming up. (Judi particularly liked making the ruler to tuck in the nun’s pocket – anyone who went to Catholic school still has tender knuckles – and the fact that she has very sexy underwear on under that habit.)
The Zombie Bride
Of all the zombies Judi has made, the best-seller by far has been her zombie bride. What else do you give the bride who has everything, and who is unconventional and a little bit twisted? The zombie is wearing an elegant knitted bridal gown accessorized by her fetching black suture lines, and her one remaining foot sports a lovely white satin slipper. She wears her wedding ring on a chain around her neck - because a bride whose left arm is amputated at the elbow can’t wear it on her finger.
The Zombie Goth Girl
The Zombie Mermaid
The mermaid was the most complex zombie to design. Judi wanted her to be adaptable, with legs (for her on-land life) as well as a scaly tail. The mermaid’s wild red hair is (barely) held in place by a fish-scale headband with sea-shell embellishments, and her ample bust is (barely) held in place by a filmy aqua strapless top accented with blue crystal beads. Her leggy bottom half comes with a diaphanous skirt in ocean blues, she’s wearing knitted blue slippers - and you can switch to her shiny green fins with a quick r-i-i-i-p at her velcro’d waist. Like all the zombies, she has her share of wounds and scars, including an ulnar bone protruding from her forearm. Ouch!