I was fortunate to spend some time living in the far north of Sweden, in the land of the Sami people.
In that part of the world the reindeer run free in the forests and mountains and the reindeer dogs are used to herd them.
The Swedish Lapphund is a spitz breed, on the small side of medium size. As companions to the Sami people, the dogs have been indigenous to the area for thousands of years.
These dogs have a thick double coat with dark coloring which makes them stand out against the snow and their high voices can be heard for a long distance. The Sami people also have a high tinge to their voices and traditionally wear brightly accented dark colors for the same reason.
The herders have a way of communicating with their dogs by shouting a single tone and oscillating their hand in front of their mouth. This creates a sound which the dog can recognize as unique to their master. There are also special commands used, a “dog language” as part of the Sami language.
These dogs are a part of the family but they are not pets. They are intelligent animals who make a lot of their own decisions as they work the reindeer.
The Sami families who have reindeer lead lives that are tuned in to the rhythms of nature in a remote and spirited part of the world. They work hard and long in a rugged outdoors. They have an ancient traditions which give them an understanding of, and deep love for, the harsh environment in which they live.
There are three dog breeds that are historically considered Sami reindeer herding dogs. In addition to the Swedish Lapphund there are also the Laponian Herder and the Finnish Lapphund. These three originated from the original Laponian dog.
The above photo of Benno waiting on a snow scooter was taken at noon on one of the winter days when the sun never cleared the horizon and there were only a couple of hours of light. The environment in the north is cold and demanding but the dogs are happy because they are made for living in such a place. They enjoy having a job to do. These dogs need to be able to run, and although they bark a lot as part of their job when working with the reindeer they are quiet and well-mannered in the home.
This is how I crossed Norway and Sweden into Finland, on a reindeer drive. Yes, it was extremely bumpy! Part of my job was to hang on to the little yellow dog so he didn’t fall from the sledge.
I helped to herd the reindeer by using skis and also by driving a snow scooter. But when I tried to ride behind someone else on a scooter I twice caused scooters to flip! Nobody wanted me to ride with them. : )
“Hey, you! Off the bed!”
Love Always to my dear friend Manne and family, and all my friends in Sápmi who gave me so much and made my experiences there possible.