Sweetbay Announces Its 1000th title!

Ellis and Judi Adler started their breeding program with specific goals in mind. Since Newfoundlands were plagued with orthopedic issues, the Adlers wanted to improve the soundness in their chosen breed. That was the crucial goal. But they were also having fun training their dogs, and they wanted to inspire others to experience the joy of training and exhibiting. Newfoundlands are versatile, and the Adlers envisioned Sweetbay owners earning a variety of titles. That would be a fine achievement for any kennel.

One hundred titles was a high mountain to climb. Most kennels never come anywhere near that number. But Sweetbay dogs are bred for work. They love to work. The Adlers produced and placed puppies very carefully, and – one by one - . those titles began to pile up. That goal (of 100 titles) was met in 1984, ten years after they began breeding. So the Adlers set the bar a bit higher. And then higher. And then higher still. Neither can remember who first spoke the impossible thought: “Do you think we’d ever reach a thousand?” Well, in January of 2012, Lois Apfel and her Sweetbay girl Neela earned the one-thousandth title. It is an amazing accomplishment for a small kennel in Oregon – but no more amazing than the dog and her owner. The Adlers would like to share a bit of their story.

Lois and Neela

First, you need to know Lois turned seventy-seven in May, 2012. The most ardent Newfie fanciers usually give up owning Newfs long before this, switching to the little guys like papillons and pugs and poms. Not Lois. Second, Lois earned that one-thousandth title in agility, a sport that demands the utmost in speed and athleticism. The typical agility competitor is several decades younger and almost always works a border collie or an aussie. Certainly not a Newfoundland!

But then, Lois is far from your typical owner/handler. She has always loved dogs, yet came late to Newfies. The first dog she remembers, a bulldog, slept beside Lois’s crib and tolerated her poking toddler fingers. Other family dogs followed. A terrier (who pulled a gleeful roller-skating Lois down the streets until a rather spectacular crash put the kibosh on that fun game). A black miniature poodle (who ate everything in the house that wasn’t nailed down). A cocker/terrier mix (who was a master escape artist and could usually be found miles away). No one in Lois’s family knew or cared about training; the dogs pretty much did as they liked.

It wasn’t until Lois reached middle age that dog training caught her attention. At the time, she was competing with her horse “TG” in hunter/jumper classes. She and TG were meant for each other. Lois was already a grandmother, and TG came up for sale (and at an affordable price) because he was “too old for competition.”

During her horse years, Lois acquired a Rhodesian ridgeback named Sunny. Lois knew she needed an obedient dog, and Sunny was amenable to training. At the time, Lois’s daughter was competing in obedience, so Lois began training her ridgeback as well (although they never entered trials). Then a new sport appeared on the horizon: agility. She and Sunny gave it a try. The sport was exciting and challenging, and they did well, but Lois chose not to compete.

If you ask Lois what prompted her to get into Newfoundlands, she will chuckle as she relates the tale. It seems a group of Newfie owners were training their dogs for another relatively new sport: water rescue. One of the folks put out an S.O.S. They needed volunteers to swim out and pretend to drown. Lois is always happy to help others. She showed up, week after week, with her ridgeback in tow. The Newfie training looked like fun, so Lois began teaching the ridgeback the various water tasks in her own time. Sunny could swim, and enjoyed the exercises but she wasn’t a Newfoundland. Watching the Newfoundlands work in the water, Lois found herself drawn to this amazing breed.

Lois did her research, took her time, and acquired her first Newfie puppy, a Sweetbay male she named Cimi, in 1995. By now, Lois knew that Newfs were very versatile, and she and Cimi happily embraced many training venues.


The very first title Lois ever earned was a CGC on Cimi. She had no intention of ever having an unruly dog like those in her childhood, and this was her way of proving it to herself. The first competitive title Lois earned was a TD – a tracking dog title – on Cimi. That’s exactly what you’d expect of Lois, that she would fall in love with a rare sport, not to mention one that takes enormous commitment. But tracking appealed to Lois for all sorts of reasons. As Lois says, “I love that tracking takes place outdoors. It’s a very active sport. And, best of all, it allows the dog to work in its own way. Tracking has unlimited variables, and it is never boring. I love to watch a dog figure out each new situation.”

Lois introduced Cimi to a wide variety of dog activities. Along with tracking, Cimi did water rescue, obedience, draft (carting), and musical freestyle, as well as therapy work. Lois also did agility with Cimi, primarily out of perversity. Agility was a new sport, and everyone said the giant breeds couldn’t do it. The necessary skills came naturally to a border collie, not a dog three times its height and weight. Conventional wisdom was that a Newf couldn’t even fit in a tunnel, let alone race through one. In addition, no one knew how to train a giant breed. So Lois and her friends began teaching agility classes for the unconventional breeds. Among their first students were a Great Dane and a bulldog.

Lois enjoyed doing agility with Cimi, but it was clear that that was not his strong suit. But Lois’s second Newfoundland, Sweetbay’s Lyric, was born to be an agility dog. She and Lois made a great team, competing against (and frequently beating) the fastest border collies and Aussies.


Cimi and Lyric contributed quite a few titles to the growing Sweetbay tally. But it was Neela, Lois’s third (and current) Newf, who was in the right trial at the right time, and brought in that 1000th title.And yes, it was in agility. With Lois handling her.


Chat with Lois about training and competing, and she’ll quietly share her feelings. “I was never competitive, and I’m still not. It’s the training that’s fun for me, watching a dog catch on and give back what you ask. I do compete, because earning the title lets me prove to myself that I can do it. “When I go to an agility trial, I am well aware that the high-competitive people think I’m crazy to still be competing at my age. They think I’m even crazier to be doing it with a Newfoundland. But I didn’t have the time when I was younger. I do have the time now. And it’s true that I can’t run nearly as fast as my dog. That just means I have to train differently. When other people bring up my age, I just tell them, ‘I may not be able to run fast, but I’m still out there.’”