A furry tail version of Winter’s Tale

The thought of Nordic winters often makes people yearn for that magically white, glistening fairytale scenery from Christmas cards. But that is not nearly the whole story. With dogs in the household it can get rather muddy & messy.

New year, same old unpredictable life

Apart from the weather being very whimsical this winter, my dogs keep coming up with all kinds of new follies as the season drags on. Unpredictability is the word that best describes our life for the last month.

First Lola remodeled the living room rug and two new bed sheets by biting big holes in them. Then one evening Toto jumped on the sofa where I was working and tipped a cup of hot lemon tea all over my laptop keyboard. This weather kept me busy vacuuming & mopping the floors and washing & grooming the dogs because they always had heaps of mud or wet snow stuck to their coats after our walks. The house was a mess and so were the dogs, but they would not wear overalls - they prefer eating them.

The climate change is here, but it’s not what some people naïvely think: the good old Finland slowly warming up until it feels like a Mediterranean vacation resort all year round. No, the change now comes on a daily basis and makes it difficult for us to adjust, dogs included. I worry about the lake ice as we live right next to the water’s edge. In the past the lake would just freeze over and one could walk on the ice all winter. Now it freezes and melts back and forth and it is difficult to tell when it is strong enough to let the dogs run free on it.

You cannot even tell the season by looking out the window or checking the air temperature. One day we get loads of snow, next day it melts with pouring rain and the sun brings out the flowers. We were still finding fresh truffles on Dec 20th after two semi-heavy snowfalls and lots and lots of rain.

Animal instinct vs. chance

Lola, my youngest bitch started her second heat on December 13th. Last time, seven months ago, it triggered Rita into starting hers, too. I was sure that would happen again. Rita had all the preliminary symptoms, which all the male dogs in the neighborhood were happy to confirm. Then suddenly the weather turned very cold overnight. The temperatures dropped below -20°C for a week and Rita obviously decided to postpone our puppy plans.

Maybe her instinct told her that this is no time to take chances or risk her future babies. Yet, she seems really pleased with the flight box in our entrance hall. She takes regular naps in it while waiting for a better time to conceive. This change of scheduling may mean a better chance to find reasonably priced flights to our chosen sire in Switzerland when the moment arrives. If things had worked out the way I expected, I would have been forced to buy Business Class tickets to get a direct flight during the Holiday Season. I guess I should thank Rita for saving me some money.

Age, sex and group dynamics

In the course of all the holiday excitement two important birthdays were celebrated: my father turned 95 and Rita turned 5. It made me think how age and sex are demonstrated in our social relations.

Over the years some tension was always present at our family gatherings: there are my father’s two wives (1st and 2nd, one at a time, thank goodness), his eight daughters (myself included) and two sons plus a history of hurt feelings and misunderstandings. With dad’s age all this has changed. For his birthdays we all get together now. Wives, children, grandchildren and great grandchildren have learned to share good memories and care for each other. With ten strong women in one family there is finally no more female rivalry and we can sure get a good party going.

In the dog world rivalry is part of the group dynamics, too. It is quite interesting to see how the situation constantly varies depending on the age and sex of the dogs in a group. When Rita joined our family 5 years ago, we gave Toto his nickname ‘The Grumpy Uncle’ because of his very unwelcoming attitude towards his little niece. Their relationship since developed to being best friends and sleeping in the same bed even though Toto still tried to boss her about here and there.

After her first litter Rita took over and there is nothing Toto can do about it. As some compensation he started bossing Lola, who yielded to it easily at first and just tried to keep out of his way. Lola’s hormonal adulthood seems to be changing that now. She tells Toto off quite sharply and he suddenly accepts her as an equal pal. While Rita now chooses where she wants to sleep (which is often next to my feet in my bed), Toto and Lola cuddle up together in one of the dog beds. I feel for Toto, these bitches will soon be a handful for an aging guy with no balls.

Wet, wet, wet! Now that used to be a rock band's name, right? Lola rocks.

What you do not see in this picture is the mud. In five seconds after this situation Toto plunged into it and came out looking quite different.