It has now been a year since our company had to declare bankruptcy. At the beginning of June last year, the bankruptcy estate was auctioned off. I still remember exactly how Johanna, Mona, and I sat in the garden and had to watch the buyers as they gradually carried everything from the property. I can still remember the feeling of anger, worry, uncertainty, sadness, and sheer horror. Back then, many people said to us that there is something positive in everything negative. I admit I couldn’t quite believe it. But now, in retrospect, all I can say is that you were right.
The last year has influenced us all a lot – there is certainly no one that the corona crisis has not challenged in any way. Somehow, this collective feeling of uncertainty and change has helped me to cope with our challenges. Without the help of loved ones all over the world, we would not have survived this difficult time so well.
I can’t say it enough!
Without your support, we would not have been able to keep, feed or care for our sled dogs. I am forever grateful to you.
Back on track again
Since May we are able to finance the basic dog care again on our own. A wonderful feeling!
Johanna works with a project for the development of nature tourism in our community and I work independently with assignments in the field of design and marketing. We will have a secure foundation by the end of the year and that gives us strength and confidence. We have a lot of ideas for the future!
Our original goal of taking part in the Norwegian sled dog race, the Finnmarkslöpet, has not changed. On the contrary, the past few months have made it even clearer to us how important life with sled dogs is to us. Yes, we want to take part in this long-distance sled dog race and do our best. Only the schedule has changed. We postponed the plan for a year. We are now planning the start for March 2023.
The past year has challenged us, tested us, and made us stronger and more determined in the end.
What do the dogs say about the past months?
The dogs are arguably the big winners of the last few months! They have never had so much attention from me, Johanna, and dear helpers! In the summers we usually toured through Scandinavia with guests. No problem with 24 hours of sunlight, but not so much time for the dogs like during winter season. Since we were not busy with guests the dogs got most of our attention.
And we got delicious food for the dogs, a real feast! Salmon from Norway, summer pate from Sweden, tasty dry food, fresh fish from the lake, delicious elk bones from local hunters, chew bones and pig ears from Germany, beef fat from a local farmer, fresh eggs, and much, much more. It couldn’t have been better for them! The dogs enjoyed the donations, that´s for sure 😊.
After a very cold May, June turned out be be a very warm month. When the temperatures climb over 20 degrees, the dogs get lazy and look forward to a shady spot. And of course to their daily playing time. In smaller groups, all dogs can be in the playground or the garden for at least an hour every day, but often much longer. There they can play, run, romp, be social – simply be dogs.
Some of the dogs, for example, Blizzard, Flash, and Rubin are crazy about ball games. Playing together is a great way to challenge them mentally. Some also like to go swimming. Since we live right by the lake, the dogs can cool off in the water on hot days. Quite luxury!
We enjoy long hikes through the woods, following unfamiliar paths, and exploring new areas. Always looking for new training paths for autumn and winter.
Our goal remains the same
The planning for participation in the long Finnmarkslöpet over 1200 kilometers had already started in 2017. By then I had already participated in the shorter Finnmarkslöpet over 500 kilometers and the Bergebylöpet for the second time, as well as several smaller sled dog races. I had learned a lot and the goal became clearer and clearer. I want to compete in the longest sled dog race in Europe with my dog team.
The decision to set up our kennel to take part in the long Finnmarkslöpet also meant that we needed more dogs. The racing team will consist of 14 dogs at the starting line. To secure this number, we want to have at least 20 dogs in training. In 2018 it was clear that some of our older dogs would soon be retiring. Therefore we planned two puppy litters in 2018 and 16 puppies were born.
It was already clear then that we could not keep all of the 16 puppies or all potential racing dogs to be able to keep the kennel size as small as possible. To be able to take care of every dog individually. We wanted to wait about 2 years and see how each dog would develop, how they fit into the team and how much they enjoy the longer training runs.
We had not determined how many dogs we would choose after these two years. Our optimal idea at the moment is a kennel with about 25 dogs. We also include our dogs in retirement in this number. They have their place with us and stay as long as they are healthy and happy. So it was clear that we would reduce the racing team by 3 to 5 dogs. We wanted to make the exact number depends on the development of the individual dogs and of course on whether we would find suitable new homes, which in my opinion is often the greatest challenge.
Which dogs did we choose?
I always try to help each dog to develop to its full potential. I want them to feel balanced and happy in our kennel. We have a racing dog team that is trained for sled dog races. And we have our seniors who enjoy a leisurely life of walking and running around freely.
The seniors show us very clearly when they no longer want to be part of the racing team. They then slowly get retired and can continue on short runs as a teacher for the young ones. The exit of an older dog is usually fluent and natural. We don’t have a statutory sled dog retirement age 😊
However, if a younger dog falls off the racing team – there are various reasons for this – then we can rarely do justice to this dog. The activity of the seniors is not enough for the young dog and the training in the racing team is too much. Such a dog would need its own training because she or he has a lot of energy, wants to work and run. Often such a dog becomes unhappy, stressed, and frustrated when he sees the other dogs training and he or she is not part of the team.
Storm, the powerful pulling machine
One such dog is our Storm, for example. She’s a really good sled dog. But she didn’t put up with the training sessions with the racing team as easily as the other dogs. It took her a lot more energy. Unfortunately, I don’t know exactly why. I suspect it is her gait combined with the fact that she works incredibly intensely and has never learned to save her energy.
In the last 2 years I have tested a lot with her, different training options, joint and muscle treatments, mental training, and much more. Ultimately, I understood that her limits are reached earlier than those of the other dogs in the team. I decided to take her off the racing team and find a new home for her.
In general, Storm is a very relaxed dog. She is easy to deal with, likes to run free, and is crazy about balls. She is very curious and social with other dogs. So her new home should be someone who is active and wants to take Storm with on every adventure.
Will Storm move to southern Germany?
Vanessa contacted me at the end of last winter. She was currently working in a sled dog kennel in northern Sweden and wanted to take a husky with her back to Germany. She had long wanted an active companion. I told her about Storm and asked her to come and see Storm on the way back to Germany.
Vanessa stayed a few days to get a feel for Storm. I also wanted to get to know Vanessa a little better before we made up our minds. It was immediately clear that Storm is a great fit for Vanessa and that Vanessa can offer Storm a wonderful life. After just one day it was decided and a few days later Vanessa drove to Germany – with Storm on the back seat.
Storm was of course a bit irritated the first few days. After all, she had spent her entire life in our kennel. But her curiosity was great and from the beginning, she enjoyed the walks and excursions with Vanessa. Vanessa sent us pictures and videos. It was easy to see how well Storm was doing – and that Vanessa spoiled her. 🙂
Storm now lives very contentedly in southern Germany near the Alps.
Vanessa send us some lines about her life with Storm and sent pictures. I like to share them with you:
”Storm has settled in wonderfully in the Bavarian countryside. She loves to jump into mouse holes on the dirt roads and watch deer and rabbits. When we are not out and about, be it hiking, the dog school, by the lake, or simply in the garden, then she lies asleep in my bed or her basket. She also runs great without a leash, which I have now tested while hiking in Austria and it worked out perfectly, due to the cold May she was even able to romp around in the snow a lot towards the summit.”
Opal, the sensible big guy
The second dog movin to a new home is Opal. He is one of the 16 puppies from 2018. Opal is a wonderful husky and one of Johanna’s favorite dogs, so the decision was even more difficult for me. Opal is reliable, energetic, not too crazy, he has great fur, great paws, and always a good appetite. Nothing speaks against him. But sometimes I have to listen to my gut instinct. For the last 2 years, I just had the feeling that he wasn’t made for a 1200 kilometer race. Of course, I can’t say that for sure, he’s still too young for that.
During training, I noticed that compared to the other dogs, he did not work as effortlessly and was more exhausted than his siblings (just a tiny little bit…). Sure, he’s a big dog and only 2.5 years old. That could change because large dogs often take longer in their athletic development. But the decision to reduce our kennel after 2 years is important. Important so that we can do 100% justice to the remaining dogs. Important so that the team becomes a unit and I can design the training in such a way that everyone feels comfortable and can develop.
Finding a new home for a dog like Opal is not difficult in itself. He is a great sled dog and has a lot of potentials. He’s a happy husky, social with other dogs, and just always in a good mood. I hoped to find a home for him where he could become part of a sled dog team – preferably the new hero in the team 😊
Little dog paradise in southern Sweden
Jens, a friend from southern Sweden, told me that he would like to have another dog for his small sled dog team. He already has 5 dogs, 3 of them are from us. Sugar, Yuko, and Idi had already found a new home with him in recent years. Jens lives with his family in southern Sweden on a small hill, surrounded by a lot of forests. A real dog paradise! Sugar has become Jen’s best and most reliable lead dog and accomplice. Idi is his invisible power machine. Everything always runs smoothly with her and she never has any problems. And Yuko has become the king of the kennel, energetic and confident.
Jens and I talked a lot about Opal. It is always difficult to choose a dog that you have never seen before. But Corona made traveling difficult and Jens decided to add Opal to his team. In May I planned to visit my family in Germany. So I took Opal with me and stopped at Jens place.
The two, Jens and Opal, got on equally well and the rest of the family welcomed Opal happily. Opal was feeling good. He only found the other dogs a bit scary at first, but that soon changed. After a few days, Opal was accepted into the pack and Jens took him to the first training rounds together with the other dogs. Jens was very satisfied and you can see Opal’s joy in each of the pictures. Here are a few impressions from the first few days.
Jens plans to drive the entire Fjäll chain with his sled dog team next winter, the so-called Vita Bandet over approximately 1300 kilometers. Maybe we’ll meet in a snow-covered mountain hut in March next year?
Finn, the big baby
The third in the group became our Finn, whom we also like to call Finny-boy. Finn was born in 2016. Three years ago we discovered that he has a problem with his back. The vet found he was missing a vertebra. It doesn’t have to be a problem. But in combination with his size, the weight of 31 kg, and the intensive training, it became a problem for him. He could suddenly be in pain and it was clear that he couldn’t stay in the racing team.
In the last 3 years, we have tried to find out which activities and in what intensity they are good for him. When the pain sets in, when it becomes more or less and what suits him. Long walks, often free running, are good for him. Pulling in front of a bike or kick bike is also okay, as long as you build up the muscles slowly and don’t drive too long. Running in deep snow and pulling hard in front of the sled is not working for Finn.
At first, we thought he could stay at our place. He would become our house dog and we would do easier training with him. That went well in the beginning, especially since our dog handlers Zoe and Svenja took good care of him. They took responsibility for Finn while they were with us and taught him to walk on a leash and also to learn to pull independently in front of the bike. But unfortunately, Zoe and Svenja couldn´t stay forever… 😊 and we had to realize that Johanna and I couldn’t give Finn the same attention.
Not every dog enjoys life in a bigger kennel
In the kennel, Finn was more of an outsider from the start. He is very sensitive and he got sometimes mopped by the other dogs. It could happen that Finn no longer dared to go to his hut or to eat his food as soon as a dog, two dog yards away, looked or barked at him. Then he didn’t dare to move anymore. There were only a few combinations in the kennel in which he felt comfortable. It became more and more clear that he was very happy to be our house dog, but did not feel comfortable in the kennel. He loved walking with us, playing in the garden, and having his dog bed in the house to sleep on. I started thinking about a new home for him.
In conversation with my family, it came up that my sister had been imagining taking in a dog from us for a long time. Until now, she always thought of a senior who deserved extra attention and a place on the couch in old age. When the subject fell on Finn, we thought together about whether Finn could become a good farm dog and whether Hanna and Kris would have the opportunity to give him the amount of attention and activation he needed. Even if he can´t be part of the racing team Finn is still a young sled dog with lots of energy, curiosity, and enthusiasm. Would he enjoy life without the other dogs?
Finn stays in the family
We decided to give it a try. I took him with me when I went to see my family. My sister had prepared everything for him and was very much looking forward to seeing him. At first, Finn was a bit cautious and also exhausted from the trip. There were many new impressions and everything had to be processed first.
However, he quickly felt safe around my sister. We took many walks in the surrounding woods and I was impressed with how calm and serene he was on the leash. In my parents’ large riding arena, Finn could run free, which he loved a lot and it didn’t take long until he was free running in the fields, felt safe, and listened to my sister well.
Hanna and her boyfriend Kris had come up with rules for life with Finn, including that he was not allowed on the sofa. I thought, let’s see how long it stays that way 😊
As expected, Finn quickly convinced them with his charm and love that cuddling on the sofa is much more comfortable than on the floor 😊
Finn has conquered his new home, found peace and security, and gets the attention he deserves. I am incredibly happy. This summer the three of them have planned a trip to the Baltic Sea, to long dog beaches – Finn will love it!
Good-byes can be nice
I was able to go home with a good feeling. With the nice feeling that Finn, Opal and Storm have found a great new home.
We regularly receive pictures and films of all three dogs from their new owners. It’s nice to see them all so happy. I get tears in my eyes every time!
It is never easy to choose a dog that will leave us and it is always difficult to say goodbye. It is important for us to find the best possible place for the selected dogs. Every dog is different, so choosing the right new home is important. In no case do we want the dog to be passed around and change homes several times. If it doesn’t work out in the new home, we will take the dog back to us. That is a condition that we make.
The three new homes of Storm, Opal, and Finn fit wonderfully. The dogs are happy, the new owners are happy and that makes us happy. So in the end good-byes can be nice too. A move is still pending for this year, but there is still time until autumn for this farewell. After that, I look forward to a time without goodbyes, too many days with a lot of everyday dog life, cuddling, training, and everything that belongs to life with our sled dogs.