I have just returned from an amazing trip to Finland. The land of 24 hour daylight, reindeer and of course, Finnish Lapphunds. This was an opportunity to meet Finnish Lapphund breeders, watch Lappies working and see as many dogs as possible. I really wanted to see what was happening in the breed in their country of origin. As a new breeder, my goal was to really cement in my mind the type I like. I certainly achieved my goal and in the process got to see some really lovely dogs.
I arrived first and was tasked with picking up the hire care before Jacq's arrival. We then
headed off on the wrong/right side of the road to stay the night with Anne Ahola and Janne Makela. Anne and Janne used to live in Queensland and have a Lappie from Jacq. When they returned to Finland, so did Myrre. Anne took us for a walk through a beautiful nature reserve on the edge of Helsinki, where we and the dogs could swim in the lake. Given the heat, as Finland melted its way through the hottest summer on record, the cool water was a welcome relief.
The next morning we went to catch up with Johanna Ollila, who owns Fleur's great-uncle Eppu (Int Ch Fin Ch Lumiturpa Eppu) and an Eppu son. It was a real honour to meet this grand old man, who has had such an impact on the breed, both in and out of Finland. Johanna also gave us a tour of the amazing university veterinary facility she works at. So much state of the art equipment for small animals and horses.
From there we travelled to Hartola to spend the next 24 hours at the Lappalaiskoirat Ry’s Summer Camp. Here we were able to watch so many Lappies in workshops for agility, obedience and Rally O. It was also the first time I saw a Lapponian Herder in the flesh. What an awesome breed.
Later that evening we were asked by the club to give a casual talk about Finnish Lapphunds in Australia. People were keen to know about the number of dogs and breeders, as well as how they cope with the weather.
We started the day at the Summer Camp, by going to a workshop for a sport only held in Scandinavian countries. Loosely translated to 'Search & Rescue', it is based on air scenting (dogs loose points for tracking). An area of approximately 300m x 300m is measured out and several people are asked to move all over this area, laying many scents to prevent the dogs from tracking.Three people then hide somewhere within this area. As the dog moves up through the levels they must find between 1-3 of the people. The dog is released and they have a set amount of time to locate the people and must bark to indicate they have found someone. In the early levels a straightforward bark is fine, later it is 10 barks and then finally they must bark continuously until their handler and the judge gets to them.The power and agility required of the dogs is amazing. The Finnish forest floor is covered in deep, spongy moss-like undergrowth, which they bound through.
After lunch we headed up to Kuopio, where three days of shows were being held. That afternoon we got to meet Meiju Ronkainen & Tiina Soininen. Meiju owns Fleur's sire, Zeke (Fin Ch Rus Ch Dagolas Naavaparta) and it was an absolute pleasure to meet him in person. Such a beautiful boy, with a lovely nature.
Our first dog show. We attended day two of the Sawo trio of shows - the All Breed Nordic Dog Show. With 40 rings and held on a horse racing track, it was certainly different to an Australian show. This was my first time to see Lapponian Herders in the ring. Best of Breed went to a Lumiturpa bred dog. Then onto Suomenlapinkoira (Finnish Lapponian Dogs). Dog Challenge and Best of Breed was Peikkovuoren Lakupekka, who went on to win Best in Group 2nd. Best Opposite Sex was Expected Stephanie. Junior of breed was Hippusen Dalventaika and Veteran of breed Peikkovuoren Wanda.
This morning we made the first of our many kennel visits. We were warmly welcomed by Kirsti Pelkonen of Tassutuvan Kennel. Kirsti has a beautiful home in the most gorgeous location. Her dogs have equally beautiful kennels and yard to run around in. We thoroughly enjoyed playing with her 5 week old puppies and the traditional Finnish blueberry dessert she made!
A quick stop in at the show just to watch Lappies. This time Peikkovuoren Caesar was Best of Breed with Expected Daim Best Opposite Sex. Straight after breed judging we hit the road again and headed to Oulu for the night.
This marked the start of the most intense and most awesome part of our time in Finland. We began by picking up Petra Palukka (Cantavia Kennels) who would be our travel companion and guide for the next three days. Our first stop was Kennel Savumerkin. Sanna Vettenranta is consistently breeding some really beautiful lappies. We were fortunate to see a number of dogs bred by her during our time in Lapland. We also visited Kaija Kantojarvi (Kennel Duvvakan) and Sonja Hoffman (Kennel Henshaw).
Our final visit for the day was to Minna Mantyranta-Mustonen (Kennel Poikkikorvan)'s reindeer farm, Saajo. We were invited to accompany some dogs on a training herd, where the dogs move a herd of sheep along a road, into the forest and back again. Minna and Niina use this technique to introduce dogs to herding well before they place the dogs in the pen to work the sheep. The star was a young puppy, who was allowed to do his own thing, but showed a lot of natural instinct. I really learned a lot about how Lappies work. Looks like Fleur and I might try and work our way up to Course C!
Since we were still up talking, we went for a nice 2am walk down by the lake to take in the all night light. It was just magical, with the moon on one side, the sun on the horizon on the other and a mist across the lake. The next morning I got to meet some reindeer up close and personal. These are two 'pets', as all reindeer are out loose in the forest during Summer. It is in Autumn that they are rounded up and brought in. Increasingly, dogs are being used again for this.
During the day we visited Niina Laamanen (Kennel Pippurimuorin), Anu Mehtala (Kennel Suventaian), Leila Hamalainen and Susanna Holmqvist.
We started the day with a hike into and through Isokuru Gorge. Whilst this is a visibly stunning
part of Lapland, it turned out Petra had an ulterior motive to take us there. Down in the gorge, with the steep sides going straight up on either side, Petra reminded us that this landscape is in our dogs' DNA. This is the land they were bred to work. Seeing it first hand has certainly given me a greater understanding of the proportions required to work effectively in the Lapland landscape.
From there we visited Paula Smirnoff (Kennel Kanervatunturin). Paula is still relatively new is showing and breeding, but has some really lovely dogs and is a natural handler. She is certainly someone to keep an eye on.
Then to Minna-Mari Posti's for Jacq to see Hiidenlahden Tiko in the flesh. And what a handsome man Tiko is, though Minna-Mari joked that he is now the grumpy old man of the house. Minna-Mari and her partner, Jessica, have a few breeds, most of which I had never heard of and certainly had never seen. A highlight was the Czechoslovakian Wolf Dog.
For our final night with Petra and in Lapland, we lived it up in the Arctic Treehouse accommodation. This place was beautiful and would be even more stunning in winter.
On our way out of Lapland and back to Oulu, we of course visited a few more kennels: Heidi Ranta (Kennel Taigahaun), Satu & Risto Oinas (Kennel Paukapaa), Jenna Sergejeff (Kennel Taikalumon) and Merja Koivuluoma.
Thank you so much to Petra Palukka, who had organised all of these kennel visits for us. It was truly amazing and we certainly couldn't have done it without you!
For our last day in Helsinki we notched up a lazy 600km in the hire car driving to Lecibsin and Lumiturpa. First to Jukka's, where he showed us some of the sires we know well including Suoritus, Kaapro and Kasakka.
Then to Lumiturpa for Jacq to see Matti and Riitta. They are still breeding beautiful dogs, with truly lovely temperaments.
Despite having driven 600km AND having to get up at 5am the next morning, we headed into Helsinki CBD for a 6 course degustation menu, with matching wines. It can't really be 1am?
And just like that, our Finland adventure was over. An early flight to Amsterdam, where we met up with Charelle Latta and Alicia Brooks, settled into our house boat accommodation and went for an explore.
World Dog Show 2018 - Amsterdam
Forget the dogs, the shopping is where it is at here! I seriously thought I had died and gone to dog show shopping heaven. It was great to meet Nicola Mumford of Kezang Show Bows and Accessories...can't wait for my little something that is coming!
Off to the ring 36/70 to watch Lappie breed judging. Here it was lovely to meet Elaine Short, owner of Benni's sire: UK Ch Fin Ch Int Ch Glenchess Revontuli.
It was also great to see some of the Lappies
from outside of Finland, including Britain, The Netherlands, France and Italy. Best of Breed was Lapinlumon Ilo.
From the Lappie ring we went and got our spot at the General Special ring. Wow! What a spectacle. First we watched the World Junior Handlers' Final. Well done to the Australian representative, who finished third. Then we watched some classes 'of the day' and best in groups before the big finale. I can honestly say I have never seen a laser light show with techno music before the judging of Best in Show before.
Another highlight of the day was to see the Australian Afghan: Aust Supreme Ch Alaqadar Rigoletto out there for Best in Show, having won the Sighthound group.
After a few too many Heinekens, it was out for a traditional dutch meal and back to the boat.
My last day away and absolutely nothing 'doggie' to report. We did a beautiful canal cruise through Amsterdam and then out for one last meal...Little Collins - a Melbourne/Amsterdam fusion restaurant!
I said my farewells to Jacq, Charelle and Alicia, who are currently in Norway and will continue through Scandinavia. I can't thank Jacq enough for inviting me to come to Finland with her and then continuing to mention even after I firstly laughed and then said 'no'. I really didn't appreciate how invaluable this would be to my vision and breeding program.