The Dog Blog

CLONAKILTY, IRELAND: December 1, 2013

Steve: So there we were watching The Late Late Toy Show while at a WorkAway in Ireland—I’m jumping ahead a blog post or two but bear with me—and they showed a montage of the evening’s grand prize to be given away to one lucky caller: a holiday trip to Lapland to visit Santa, see reindeer and…you guessed it…go sledding with huskies. Leah and I were instantly faking that we had something in our eyes, reduced to sniffling messes in the middle of an Irish holiday party. Good stuff. Needless to say we’ll never be over Hetta Huskies nor do we want to be, so to help deal with our separation anxiety we decided to dedicate a blog post to a few of the fur babies that made our stay so special. So without further ado and in no particular order…

This member of the Hetta Huskies team was a fixture of the guide house seeing as how he went home with us more nights than not. You see Mr. Montague is likely a permanent tenant of the “sick dog area” that live near the farm house since he has only half a tongue. That’s right…on Christmas 2010 he got his licker stuck to some metal and in his panic he ripped off half of his tongue. The vet figured he wouldn’t live with this injury but the Hetta team didn’t give up and nursed him back to health. The possible (I say probable) father of several of the ‘T’ pups, Monty has personality for days and will always be one of the first dogs that come to mind when I think of Hetta.

Uncle Nestor…the Puppy Molester? Yes, that may sound quite crude but after lead guide Tim sang a homemade jingle about this guy on our first visit to Valimaa the name stuck. With a Chewbacca-ish growl, Tio Nestor always made it known that he was excited to have you around. Unfortunately one of the guides discovered that Nestor suffers from occasional seizures and his days of pulling sleds professionally may be over. This put Nestor in the sick dog category so he became a priority for coming in at night with the guides and we enjoyed having this sweet boy in our cabin whenever possible.

This mother (Bea) and daughter (Theta) team were probably our favorite pups at the Valimaa farm. With her distinctive mask Theta won Leah’s instantly won Leah’s heart and a place on her bed. (Leah: There was something about this black and white girl from the moment I saw her, whether it was the way she jumped around like a lunatic at feeding but would then stand with her face pressed against her cage wire watching me walk away, still standing there ten minutes later, or how she would turn circles and then curl up at my feet when she slept inside at night. She loved gnawing her elk bones and stood solidly in line when harnessed, ignoring all the crazy dogs around her and never going after them. She was definitely special and I had a connection with her from the beginning). She must have learned her cuddly manners from her mother, one of the few dogs who could actually be trusted off-leash. Instead of running away to freedom Bea would rather lay on her back in search of belly rubs; luckily her personality makes up for her short legs and she is soon to be adopted by a previous American guide from New York.

Nalle, Nella and Nea (boy, girl, girl, all in different cages) were good for a crack up, as they would sit against the walls and frantically lick the wood anytime they were excited, especially around feeding time or when we were coming through with harnesses to take dogs out for training or practice runs. Their faces smashed against the planks, wet with slober as their eyes bugged out in excitement was too comical to bear and even though I didn't get pictures the mental image will never fail to bring a smile to my face.

This beautiful girl appeared our last week in Finland when she was dropped off at Valimaa by people who found her running free and thought we might want her. After some research Anna discovered that her owners had decided they didn't want to keep her anymore and turned her loose outside, while she was in heat nonetheless, knowing it was a certain death sentence since she'd either be shot on sight by reindeer herders (who erroneously think any dog resembling a husky will go after their herd) or starve in the winter snow. There's a special place in hell for cretins who do things like that, but luckily she found herself at Hetta where her massive size, stunning grey fur and dual-toned eyes instantly set her apart. She had a tendency to "sing" and while Anna and Pasi weren't sure if she'd actually run and pull, she would make a phenomenal wheel dog if so; either way, we hope she finds a place within the Hetta furry family.

This small white-furred guy could climb better than any monkey I've ever seen; indeed, our first introduction was when we noticed him literally perched on a wooden beam high above the open-roofed sick dog cages, staring down at us from about nine feet off the ground (luckily he's neutered or there would be some problems!). Once inside a fully enclosed cage, he'd resort to the same sorts of antics, like climbing the cage during feeding time to press his muzzle and paws through the wire and watch us feed the dogs in the cage that shared a wall with his. A bit shy but always deserving of regard for his climbing skills!

The so-called movie star pups of Valimaa left everyone stumped…Brando is named after Marlon Brando, duh. Balto…well he’s named after the Balto of Iditarod lore. But Brendan? The usual thought was Brendan Fraser, but come on get real. Turns out he’s named after Irish movie star Brendan Gleeson (thanks for clearing that issue up, Ciara). Names aside these guys had tons of character and were more than excited whenever they got a visit. Word is that Balto is a phenomenal cuddler and, if things work out, he may be adopted sometime soon. 

Probably one of the best lead dogs on the Hetta Huskies roster, Samu is a bit of a shy pup but he’ll nuzzle up to you on the couch when brought in for the night. He quickly garnered our attention as he often looked strikingly similar to our beloved Minger—from the markings to the way he walks on a lead, he brought back happy memories of a dog gone but never forgotten. We did our best not to play favorites with good old Samu but thankfully his winning personality deserved all the attention that he got.

These are just a few of the dogs that made our time in Lapland a dog lover’s dream; to be honest we loved all the dogs to some degree. For those interested you can check out details on all of the Hetta huskies and even peruse the list of adoptable dogs. With that I must say thank you again to all people that made our experience what it was—so thank you Anna, Pasi, Eliel, Emmanuelle, Bridget, Eve, Mona, Dave, Lonan, Tom, George, Timmy, Tim, Lorin, Doris, Eli, Evie and Sebastian. 


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