Montag, 27. Januar 2014

day no. 8/9 - I want to break free

Erä-susi Huskiyfarm, -6°C snow in the summer..?

Well…where shall I begin? Some busy days lay behind me. Information overload…So than let’s start from the very beginning:

After a for me sleepless night we started yesterday (25.01) at 8 o’ clock with watering the dogs. They are given water enriched with a little bit of meat every 2nd or 3rd day depending on the temperature. When it’s warmer like in these days they need more than on cold days. Afterwards they have to stay calm for at least 2 hours. If we would harness them immediately and let them work they stomachs would probably rebel. So the first thing which is done on a ‘water-day’ is to serve them their drink. Then we start cleaning the cages and feed reindeers. Watering and cleaning takes about 2 hours if you have a team of 6-8 people.
That day we had to prepare 8 sleighs for 15 customers who booked a 20 km trip. When they were about to come back we already started to prepare the next 54 dogs, dealing at the same time with the other 48 arriving dogs. It was just wow! Harnessing dogs is quite stressy. They are really excited, jump around and most of them would start run as soon as you open the cage doors even without the harness and sledge. They are unstoppable, if you let them. Especially the bigger ones have no problem with jerking you; they are really strong and can’t wait at all. These dogs have a lot of power, even the smaller ones! When you have chosen the right dog, got it finally out of its fence without freeing its cage mates, too, found a fitting harness and identified its place in the team, then you have to clamp it on its place in front of the sledge. I guess there might be a certain technique or just a lot of practice to not be totally exhausted after just 3 dogs…It seems that I’m actually the only one who is kind of really shattered afterwards. I’m always happy when they finally start running and I can take breath. It’s obvious that I really need to learn all the names. If you just have to get them out of their fences it is quite ok, because some clever guy had nailed boards with the names of the inhabitants over door of each fence. But it becomes much more complicated when I have to put the dogs back after their run. Unfortunately the dogs don’t speak to me telling me their names and their cage. I still need help, but it gets better day by day. My teammates help me out and show me the right dog and the fitting house, but it doesn’t work out always really well, because the dogs are sooo loud that nobody understands anything-no matter if spoken in Finnish, English or even German. Most of the times I just guess…

That's how happy dogs look like!

The dogs are perfectly matched in their teams. Every team consists of 6 dogs clamped in couples at 3 points on a metallic wire pulling one sledge together.  The strongest dogs are situated in the back directly in front of the sledge. They have to do most of the work. The couple in the middle keeps up the speed and the front couple leads. Not every dog is a born leader. Just the most clever, brave and assertive dogs can handle the front position. Nevertheless one team can have more than one leader pulling in another position, as far as all of them accept the leading dog in the front position as what he is: the leader. During the training in autumn the trainers figure out how it works best testing the dogs in different positions with different partners and integrating the puppies from the last year. The youngsters are trained by their human trainers, but they learn a lot from the older dogs, too. When the puppies are about half a year old they have to move out from their mother’s fence. According to their nature they get matched with older dogs. Shy puppies get a very brave, socializing fence mate and the more excited or nervous ones are coupled with a calm dog in order to tranquilize them a bit. The mother dog starts to run again about 2 month after she has given birth. Normally the litter is about 4-6 whelps.
The first safari was a nightmare: one epileptic seizure, a snowmobile which didn’t work as it was supposed to do, dogs giving up in middle of the track and had to be lifted in the sledge…But finally everyone arrived more or less save and sound.

In this whirl some dogs moved out. They were brought to the 250 km far Rokua, where the other farm is located. In these days it is the point of departure for 5-days Safaris.( I would give a lot for trying it myself! Unfortunately I could never afford a trip like this).That’s why some of the best teams were put in transport boxes which were already mounted on the pick-up truck and filled with straw. I guess a box is about 120 x 50 x 50 cm and has a hole at the front side to guarantee fresh air. The dogs put their noses through the holes when somebody passes-it looks so funny! They see their world with their noses…I’m not sure how good they actually see with their eyes. In any case their noses are fantastic. (I’m wondering how it is to experience your surroundings just by the sense of smell.)

 My own dogs always had problems if they had to go by car. But as it seems these huskies have a more resistant stomach then mine. Getting them in the boxes wasn’t a big problem although dealing with the tight boxes is nothing which was especially trained before. The youngsters just learn it by watching how the older, respected dogs go first.

Finally 2 hours later then the days before, around 17 o’ clock everything was done! It was already dark. I cannot remember when I have been so incredibly tired. But my day finished actually even later. I had my first meeting with Mr. Wolf, the big boss.

And I grabbed the chance to fill my already quite empty fridge. Working makes hungry! I eat at least the double of what I would eat studying.

Today (26.01) was supposed to be a quiet day. That’s why we were just three girls, doing all the necessary cleaning, feeding and drinking coffee.  Coffee seems to be the elixir of life of the team. The first action arriving at the farm is often to switch on the coffee machine. No day without at least 3 coffee breaks .They drink incredibly much coffee a day! But actually this coffee is not really strong. I’m sure my Italians wouldn’ t even call it cafè. Just while I’m writing these lines I heard this little question I already learned to love: “Rike? Kahvi?”.  I don’t really like the Finnish coffee. So, no ‘kahvi’ for Rike, but it is so nice that they still think of me. :)

Like everything in life plans like to change quickly. Look forward to a calm day and get an exciting one: We had to free a reindeer which runs regularly through the same wire-netting fence. We had to cut its horns free from the wire which was somehow wrap around them. The problem is that it is not really safe to go just in the fence and play with its horns. The Erä-susi reindeerbulls are probably the best fed reindeers in whole Kuusamo and they are quite big compared to the reindeers I have seen so far. In any case it’s not clever to just jump over the barrier and take them by their horns. Serious injuries because of reindeer horns are rare, because the people here know how to handle them. Reindeers are really shy and startle easily.When they get scared they tend to turn fastly their heads and actually they are quite strong.We needed our combined forces and a lot of hay to free it. But I guess in the end he was more scared of us than we of him.

A red plastic piece found its way in the engine of the snowmobile and made it do really weird sounds. I was allowed to drive today…hmm…?!... But it’s ok now.

An unwelcome guest visited the farm in the afternoon. The veterinarian came in order to vaccinate the 19 puppies and check a couple of other dogs. It’s no secret that the veterinarian is not the dogs’ favourite kind of human being. The puppies hided in their dog houses, bit and whimpered, but it didn’t help. In the end everyone got its dose of vaccine. He also checked a, as he found out by an ultrasonic treatment, unfortunately pregnant she dog. The dog was taken, brought in the garage and put without showing any kind of prissiness the belly up on a desk. It took him not even 3 second to check what was to be checked.
Unfortunately not every litter can be grown up. The team tries to prevent unwanted pregnancies, but often enough the dogs are just faster. I was told that sometimes an abortion is the best and safest solution.

And the surprise of the evening: 4 puppies and her mother decided to break free and have a walk in the deep snow. These puppies are really shy and always run even further away if somebody tries to get them…

All in all the last two days were tiresomely exciting. I learned and laughed a lot, but now all I desire is my bed! ... System error…Not even the internet worked anymore.   ....Zzzzzz

Knowledge of the day: Never underestimate the power of an adult reindeer bull.
Packet soups are potentially life prolonging.
Not even in the trash container are you safe – “Rölli”(trolls) can hide just everywhere.

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