Saturday, October 17, 2009

Lapland - it ain't pretty all the time folks!

I took these two beautiful photographs, on the 8th October. It was the day after our Fluffy died. It was a beautiful day and I found myself thinking it was a gift, serving as a reminder that life goes on...

However, I thought I would show you the flip side! This is the yucky season part 1.. the part two is at the start of spring...on the other side of snow time.

As you can see it has been foggy, icy, melty, misty, slidey, slippy, sloppy, wet and yucky! (Pretty much matches how I have been feeling of late I guess!) *THANK YOU ALSO TO EVERYONE WHO HAS SENT ME MESSAGES OF CONDOLENCE ABOUT FLUFFY, VIA THE BLOG OR PRIVATELY - IT WAS MUCH APPRECIATED. LOVE YOU ALL....*

Nice huh?

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Snowy, Fluffy sadness

Wednesday brought much sadness into our home, as we lost our darling dog Fluffy, who was a much loved member of our family. She was 11 years old and had been suffering from cancer of her leg for some time. She was the most beautiful and unusual of souls, a family protector and loving, affectionate friend to the end.

It was during the early summer when we noticed there was something wrong with her paw. The local vet gave her three courses of antibiotics. The first helped, but then it got worse and the vet said that Fluffy would need to have a toe amputated. So we saw another vet in Rovaniemi who performed the procedure and took samples for testing. We had to wait a few weeks for that to come back, as it had to go to Germany of all places - and when it did, it confirmed our worst fears - that our sweet Fluffy had cancer. The vet explained that the type of cancer she had was likely to reoccur in the area of the original site, but it would not move to internal organs. He suggested a total leg amputation or putting her to sleep as an option.

Fluffy just after her op.

The latter was an absolute no-no. We discussed the amputation, but felt that it was such a radical move when she was aging. We wondered if she would cope and decided that she would. We booked the appointment for the operation, but by the time it came to be, Fluffy had three other sites of cancer on her leg and the worst had appeared - literally overnight - on her shoulder. This made it absolutely impossible to remove the leg, as the cancer was so invasive there already.

Again we were offered the option of putting her to sleep, but at that point she was not in pain and was still Fluffy, playing, eating, drinking, going for walks - albeit more slowly. We just couldn't do it to her. In most respects she was still normal.

Fluffy loved the snow, being half Samoyed she was just made for it, with deep, dense, luxurious hair and when we moved to Finland, she delighted in it. We hoped that she would continue to live long enough to see her favourite element of snow once more, but at the time that seemed almost impossible.

Then my Mother told me of someone in my home town who had been using Manuka Honey from New Zealand for their dog and whilst very expensive, we decided to give this a go - anything was worth trying for our Fluffy. It is made by bees that feed on the flowers of the Manuka bush - the New Zealand Tea Tree which is related to the Australian Melaleuca tea tree. Manuka honey therefore has anti-bacterial properties. It can be used as a topical antibiotic and antifungal for wounds that fail to close. Instead of buying ready made cream, we bought 'Spirits Bay' plastic jars of Manuka Honey from the UK and Mum posted it to us. Each jar was £28 and had a UMF (Unique Manuka Factor) of 20. Here is a site that will explain this fantastic helper from Mother Nature - there are three reviews worth reading.

We applied the Manuka Honey to Fluffys cancer sores and to the bumps that were under the surface and bandaged her up. She also thoroughly enjoyed eating it daily. We also gave a little bit to Dexter, our Husky, so he didn't feel left out. It worked. Gradually the largest sore on her shoulder closed up. Amazing. It certainly perked her up and helped her. We knew we were fighting a losing battle though, after all this was cancer. The big, dark, horrid b**st**d of C.

She bore her illness with dignity, she was an excellent patient, putting up with washings and dressings and having to wear a Tshirt over it all. Although her walks with her beloved Daddy and brother were getting shorter all the time, once in a while she would do the whole long walk and still thoroughly enjoyed it. She still ate and drank as normal. She was still relatively happy in herself.

We discussed several times as a family, that in the event of her pain becoming too great that we would have to give her the final ultimate gift of release. No matter how hard that was. The vet had said that this type of cancer can, with effort on the part of the human, be handled quite well, but would in all likeliness suddenly change.

And so it did. Wednesday morning we woke to find Fluffy in a lot of pain. We gave her her normal painkiller. Then another, yet still she was unable to find a peaceful spot. My husband called me at lunchtime to discuss the situation.

Around lunchtime the snow started. Well, actually it was a blizzard. By the time I came home from work, we had several centimetres of snow, at least 25. I knew it was for Fluffy.

I took her outside into the front garden and she buried her face into the snow and just wanted to lay there. She was so pleased to see the snow! We had managed to get her from this summer to snow time, I was so pleased about that - for her.

By the time I got home she had just had her fourth painkiller and we were by that time concerned that it would also be causing her stomach pain. She looked so sad, something she had not presented previously. She was dragging her leg, whereas before she had been able to put weight on it slightly.

I knew. I said it was time. Our youngest son (Fluffys best friend) was adamant.. no, not yet. Our elder son thought that she might be having an off day and be better the day after, as had happened once before. My husband was unsure of which way to go, but we knew this day was different. With each minute he was thinking more and more as I was - hard as it was. We discussed the fact that because Fluffy had had more medicine than usual, that we were nearly out of fact just two left... and we doubted that the vet would prescribe more if she saw her. Finally, with much sadness, we all agreed and called the vet.

We had previously arranged with Annukka our vet, that when and if the time came, that she would come to our home, rather than us have to take Fluffy to that 'scary place' that she didn't like. We would rather that she left this world from the comfort of her loving home, with all her normal things around her.

We all kissed and hugged her and gave our tear filled goodbyes and I asked Fluffy for forgiveness. She was anaesthetized (as it is done prior to any operation) - this we asked for - to save her from any further pain, then, when she was fully asleep, the vet euthanized her.

God, we were so upset... naturally we still are. Its taken me a few days to get my head straight enough to do this blog for her. We always will be sad and upset about her passing, as Fluffy was special. Our younger son especially has taken it very hard as Fluffy has been his best friend and confidante since he was five or six years old. They were like twin souls and he is naturally left bereft and empty. I feel so much for him. We are all feeling it, going through a gamut of emotions, the worst of all being guilt - but his pain is so sad and nothing can help it, for his Fluffy is gone and he misses her so much.

Many may not understand this kind of loss. I make no apology for it. For I, We, loved our dog - we adored her. She was more than a dog. She was our friend who was like a human, just wearing furry fluffy clothes. She was one of us, she was family. We are less of a family without her and the world is a worse place without her.

The last photo that I took of Fluffy was quite rightly, with her beloved best friend.

Fluffy was buried the following day at the local pet cemetery. Our son refused all offers of help and carried her across the deep snow and then laid her down into her final resting place, then covered her over with the prepared soil. We left special candles on her grave. So gut wrenchingly sad.

This is a compilation of Fluffy photographs....

Goodbye our darling girl. RIP forever baby. Sleep well, be whole again. Wait for us on the Rainbow Bridge.

(With thanks to Anita for this wonderful Rainbow Bridge link): It takes a while to load, but is certainly worth viewing.

This is how we would like to remember her. Beautiful, Elegant, Snowy, Fluffy.

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Monday, October 5, 2009

And so it starts.... SNOW!

This was my view this morning.

Apparently there were about ten centimetres of snow in Rovaniemi. This photograph of the Arctic Circle Santa Village webcam.

It is a little earlier this year than last... when it arrived on the 27th October... but as usual, I don't expect it to be permanent yet.

So... now for our winter tyres!

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Sunday, October 4, 2009

October means Moose hunting starts....

I probably will upset the applecart here, but this is one part of living in Finland that I do not feel in tune with. I just do not like it - so wouldn't ever take part in it. I am not a born hunter, I don't even like to kill spiders... mosquitoes is about the only creature that can 'get it' from me.

So, my viewpoint is somewhat different to those all around me. I was not brought up in this environment, it was not drilled into me to be a hunter, use a gun, a knife or whatever.

There are varying hunting seasons throughout Finland, for bears, birds and moose etc.. and last weekend the moose hunting season started. It should last until the end of the year, but daylight will be limited by then, so most is going on right now. Moose can be incredibly huge beasts, beautiful, majestic and regal, but do cause an awful lot of car accidents each year with even the slightest of encounter generally writing off a vehicle - if not the passengers inside it. I myself remember that the moose was here before the car and that a car should go slower with drivers more observant, but nevertheless, this is one of the main reasons that are given to justify the hunts. If I were to hit a moose, I certainly wouldnt blame it, as I believe that it is I who is in it's territory, not the other way around - it has every right to be there. Another given cause is the deforestation that these herbivores generate. I think they just have to eat to survive.

I recently had a discussion with someone I work with, about hunting and found out quite a few interesting things - which were also somewhat horrifying - to me at least. In Sodankylä alone, there will be approximately 700 of these creatures killed. These are taken by groups of hunters that have banded together and each group gets a quota allowance from the government. My colleagues group can take 13 adults and 3 babies. I have to say that this made me quite sad. I had no idea that they took so many, or the young, even though I appreciate that they are not an endangered species in any way shape or form.

I asked how they knew how many there were to which they said that a helicopter flies over and does a general head count in a particular zone and generalises a figure. ( Now, in the five years that I have been here, I have only seen ONE moose, so my belief is that there are not as many out there as they think.. but what do I know?? That is just my feeling, my opinion. The moose that I was lucky enough to see, was lovely. I didn't have my camera available to take a picture, nor would I probably have had time to take a photo, but it was just entering the forest on the same side of the road as our car, one morning on the way to work. I was so delighted to see it...although the same might not be said for it seeing me! LOL... We stopped the car, to watch it. It moved slowly and beautifully into the forest and then stopped. It stood there watching us, probably wondering what we were doing. It was not that old.. but it was so, so lovely to see. I hope it makes it through the winter!

I was concerned that as Moose have just the one offspring annually, or two if they are lucky, that the population might be getting smaller. What happens if they shoot more females than males or vice versa? I understand that these gentle giants actually have very few predators, save for man. Sure the bear or a wolf might get involved occasionally, but really man is their main enemy. Do we have the right to 'balance nature'? Surely, it would only take a virus in their population one year and the numbers could suffer dramatically. I think that if the hunters were not allowed to hunt them, there would be a riot! It is just so natural for them to hunt here.. it is second nature - since the stone age Moose have been here - as you can see in the cave drawings.

A moose reaches maturity between four to five years of age and is aging by ten. If it is lucky it will make it to the age of 20 and I dont know that many make it that far, some not making it past their first year of course and after their first year alive they are very cautious, naturally, of mankind.

The hunting groups themselves, are very well organised, have to be fully trained, with an examination course and then licensed annually. Overall of Finland this year there were 51519.5 licences supplied and 10484.5 in Lapland. They wear bright red clothing in the forest for personal safety and thankfully, the rules are quite tough too - you cant just go out and start blasting away. Dogs are specially kept for hunting here and most dogs are living outside the home in cages all year round, rather than as pets. These dogs live for the hunt season and roam to find the creature, barking furiously when they find it - to alert the hunters.

From what Ive been told, just one person in a hunting group takes the shot, the person who has the best line up and view and can take the shot with the least stress to the animal - which I am thankful for at least, although occasionally the animal will run and the shot will not be clean. They also use moose hunting towers to shoot from.

The Moose is gutted in the forest, drained of blood and taken on a quad bike or similar to a small log cabin in the forest, where they disect its flesh and share the kill between the group. Moose is said to be similar to beef, but tastes more like buffalo apparently and it's very lean.

In 2008, 57,097 was the amount of Moose taken. (

One of the popular comic strips in the newspaper here is Helge - a moose who worries and is followed around by some amusing hunters. Recently the cartoons have been very apt. The TV news showed the police out in the forest checking up on hunters, asking to see their licences. It seemed that many did not have their permits on them as they had to report immediately to the station to provide them. The first comic strip relates to this and I found it quite humorous! Click the image to view them larger.

Man: "Moose hunting season starts tomorrow. I have got everything ready in good time - let me think: gun, ammunition, forestry knife, axe, rucksack, toilet paper, matches, radiophone - everything is packed. Good! Now I can sleep with a good mind. Goodnight!"
Wife: "Hunting licence?"
Man: Image infers a - 'Gulp!'

Dog: "Wow! Fresh tracks and they come more and more!" (ROFL!!!!!)

Hide Moosey hide is my message!

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All content, unless otherwise noted, is © ArcticRainbow and may not be reproduced in any form without express permission from the author, except for credited links directly to articles or to the main site. (I don't bite...just ask!) :D