I've been very quiet with the news over the last couple of months, largely because I've spent a large portion of it overseas on a long Nordic summer holiday. While a good part of that was spent being a regular tourist, I did spend about 10 days in Finland, travelling with Rachael Holloway of Zuleika Finnish Lapphunds, seeing plenty of lappies, catching up with friends and experience the beauty of Lapland in summer - homeland of our beautiful dogs.
Our first visit, of course, was to see my lovely Myrre (Armahani Crystal Ciegus CD RN JD HT), one of Emmi and Louis' pups, who moved to Finland when her owners returned there several years ago. I haven't seen her since she was an 8 week old pup, so it was wonderful to see her, and enjoy some lovely time with Anne and Janne - including a summer walk and lake swim in a nearby nature reserve, and snacking on typical Finnish summer snacks of berries and fresh peas with some evening beers.
The morning we headed into Helsinki to catch up and have lunch with Johanna Ollila, who raised Emmi for me all those years ago. It was such a pleasure to see her again, but even more special was getting to cuddle after eleven years, Emmi's brother Eppu again. With these two being 13 now, I know it is likely the last time I will get to see him and it was such a beautiful moment for me.
Rachael and I then started our travel north, firstly heading to the Lappalaiskoirat Ry’s (Lapphund Club of Finland) Summer Camp in Hartola. We'd been invited to spend the first afternoon, evening and second morning at the camp, before we needed to head off again, and what an amazing experience it was. Firstly getting to watch a range of Lappies and Lapponian Herders workshopping in agility, rally-o (and yes, it seems I can still follow the signs even when they are in Finnish LOL) and obedience. Then having a Finnish BBQ in the evening, where we were asked to talk a little about lappies in Australia. In the morning, we ventured off into the woods to watch some training in search and rescue, a sport quite particular to the Nordic countries and their physical environment. The dogs are required to air scent (tracking is a no no), of lead, and at quite a speed, through some fairly intense terrain, to find people. It's a fairly fast, furious and tough sport (although with a fair amount of set up time) and the dogs simply love it. It really was an amazing experience seeing a little of the summer camp and I can't thank Tiina Morri enough for organising it for us. As a extra special treat, completely unexpectedly I found out that Viksalan Condor, who I have semen from, was attending, so I finally got to meet this sweet and crazy boy. Thanks to Seila for realising who I was and hunting me down!
In the afternoon we headed off further north to Kuopio, where a three day international show weekend was being held. There we were met by Meiju Ronkainen and Tiina Soininen to finally meet Zeke, the handsome sire to our Iolite litter, and his adorable son Vintio. The next morning we were up bright and early to make it to the Sawo show in time for plenty of shopping before breed judging. We watched the Lapponian Herder judging first, prior to Finnish Lapphund judging. A fantastic experience to see so many lappies in the ring, many of whom we'd seen photos of but never in the flesh. We spent a lovely day and evening meeting up with Taina Friman and mixing it with the Peikkovuoren crew and their dogs.
The next morning saw us visiting Kirsti Pelkonen atTassutuvan Kennel, where we got to cuddle some adorably 5 week old puppies. Then another meeting with Meija and her other boys, before returning to the Sawo show again, seeing a few different Lappies and catching up with Juuli Tarvainen from Expected Kennels. It was then time to hit the road again for the long drive to Oulu where we met up with Petra Palukka of Cantavia Kennels to discuss out plans for the next few days.
And what a few days it was! We can never thank Petra enough for a simply amazing trip. We travelled up to Lapland, touring around visiting breeders and owners of Lapphunds, seeing some of the beautiful sights to get a better idea of the environment where our dogs come from, experiencing some herding training in action, feeding some reindeer, visiting "the real" Santa to ask for puppies for Christmas, and learning oh so much more about our breed. Even our accommodation was an amazing part of the experience - the first night at a reindeer farm, the second on a ski resort next to absolutely spectacular Isokuru Gorge, and the third at the very lovely Artic Treehouse Hotel in Rovaniemi, including a special final dinner together.
So many people to thank for opening up their homes for us to meet their lappies: Sanna Vettenranta (Savumerkin Kennel), Kaija Kantojarvi (Duvvakan Kennel), Sonja Hoffman (Henshaw Kennel), Miina Mäntyranta-Mustonen (Poikkikorvan Kennel and Saajo Reindeer Farm), Anne-Mari Kovalainen (Puolukkamaan Kennel and Reindeer Farm), Niina Laamanen (Pippurimuorin Kennel), Anu Mehtälä (Suventaian Kennel), Leila Hämäläinen and Susanna Holmqvist, Paula Smirnoff (Kanervatunturin Kennel), Minna-Mari Posti & Jessica Aschberg, Jessica Aschberg, Heidi Ranta (Taigahaun Kennel), Satu & Risto Oinas (Paukapää Kennel), Jenna Sergejeff (Taikalumon Kennel) and Merja Koivuluoma. Such an amazing and generous group of people.
After returning to Oulu from Lapland we sadly said goodbye to Petra for our flight back to Helsinki. There we continued our mileage, making visits to Jukka at Lecibsin Kennels and Matti & Riitta at Lumiturpa Kennels.
And then it was time to leave, flying out the next morning to Amsterdam, for the World Dog Show. This was the first WDS I have attended and it was dizzying to be sure. Aside from serious shopping to die from, the amount of dogs and rings makes it so enormous. We walked miles it seems, through an enormous exhibition centre, in order to find the right ring. There we met up with plenty of lappie friends from around the world (and a bunch of travelling Australians), before settling in to watch breed judging. General specials was in the main arena and just had to be seen to be believed. Music, light shows, lots of pomp and ceremony, I've really not seen a dog show quite like it. I will admit to getting a little bit of the giggles at one stage. Highlight certainly was getting to cheer (along with the seeming millions of other Aussies who were there) the Australian Afghan Hound in the BIS lineup! The tyranny of distance (and the enormous costs and complicated quarantine laws involved) means that there are very few Australian dogs who ever get to compete at the World Dog Show, so seeing one do that well was a pretty inspiring moment.
Of course my holiday wasn't over, even if the "lappie component" of it was. While I said goodbye to Rachael, I set off with friends Cherelle and Alicia to be "normal" tourists for the rest of my trip. We spent the next four weeks travelling through Norway, Sweden, Denmark and the Faroe Islands, before enjoying several days in Vietnam while heading for home.
It has been a fabulous time, felt like far longer than the 6 weeks it was, and so many highlights I couldn't even begin to start, but it is lovely to be home with Emmi, Louis and Baby again.
Of course, the Armahani kids haven't been idle while I've been away, even if I did miss most of their news here. While I'm sure to miss a couple, Solo (Ch Armahani Iolite Into (AI) ET WPD), Slinky (Ch Armahani Iolite Ihana (AI) ET HT JC WPD), and Lumi (Grand Ch Armahani Diamond Davvir (AI) CD RA ADX JDX ADO GD SPD ET WPD ) all earned their Working Pack Dog titles, while Solo & Slinky also earned their Endurance Test, Slinky her Herding Test title, and Lumi earned his Strategic Pairs Dog title. Young Leevi (Armahani Kunzite Kuutamo (AI) RN) got his first Rally Advanced quallie with an awesome score and a first place, as well as passing his Herding Instinct Certificate. His sister Piper (Ch Armahani Kunzite Kruunu (AI)) was reserve bitch challenge at the Adelaide Royal Show. And while I was still travelling around, Benni (Ch Armahani Heliodorr Hulivili (AI) ET) and Rachael earned his fifth Best in Group. We've also had a couple of good health results come through with Piper's hips coming back as 4/4 and elbows 0/0 and Flicka (Ch Armahani Goldstone Ginttal (AI)) clearing her eye certificate. Thank you to all of the very busy and wonderful owners.
Now to get used to "normal life" again.