22 August 2012

Lesley in Finland

In early December last year Lesley, received an invitation from Henna Meriharju to go to Finland to teach Heelwork To Music.    Kath and Karen had been to the group two years previously (see Finland 2010) and although Freestyle had been popular there for some years, Heelwork was almost unknown so they introduced the Heelwork Section to the handlers on their course so it would be very interesting to see how the sport was developing now.

Lesley invited Jackie de Jong to accompany her on this trip and she happily agreed. The months soon passed and it was time to leave for Finland.

Thursday 16th August; an early start with a cup of tea at 4 30am! Chris and Jackie de Jong arrived at Lesley’s home at 5 30 am as Chris had kindly offered to drive the two to Manchester Airport for the flight to Helsinki.  All went very smoothly including the transfer from Helsinki Airport to Turku Airport where they were met by Henna.  A short drive took them to Vahto and the lovely converted barn which was to be their home for the next few days.
The converted barn, very cosy
A chance to freshen up and then a short walk to Henna’s house for dinner where they met the rest of her family and of course her two dogs, Madde, Rhodesian Ridgeback, and Takku, Cross breed of unknown origins!

After an evening spent chatting , mostly about dogs, and getting to know one another, the two retired to bed, tired but looking forward to the following day.

Friday 17th August; Henna drove Lesley and Jackie to the town of Turku and with another friend, Johanna, they spent most of the day exploring the town plus a little shopping.  The market was fascinating with a wonderful array of berries on the stalls.  Henna explained that this was the season for berry picking in Finland (the two had already tasted her scrumptious blueberry pie the night before) and they learned about “Cloudberries” which were tricky to harvest as they grew in the swamp areas of the forests! Despite the name they are a bright orange in colour and look like an orange raspberry!

Lunch was enjoyed on board a boat on the river which runs through the town, a floating restaurant, and then it was time to return home for a short rest before setting out again at 6 30pm.

The river runs through the centre of Turku
As people have to travel great distances in Finland simply to meet for training weekends, most of the handlers had arrived on the Friday evening so Henna had arranged for Lesley and Jackie to meet them and to help them gain some idea of everyone’s abilities.  Each handler had the opportunity to perform their routines and receive feedback from Lesley and Jackie.

The plan was to spend a couple of hours doing this. Four and a half hours later........!

Everyone was having so much fun and appreciating the feedback.  One thing Lesley and Jackie learned that night was that the Finnish HTM people were very modest about their abilities.  They described themselves as very inexperianced but in reality they are extremely talented, careing and lovely people!

Everyone laughed and joked together, Lesley and Jackie were suggesting ideas, trying new moves and thouroughly enjoying themselves watching each dog and handler team working.
Eventually, Lesley and Jackie  retired for the evening, again much later than origionally planned, but looking forward to working with these handlers again the following day.

Saturday 18th August;  Day One of the Training Seminar.
All dogs and handlers arrived at the venue ready to start work at 9am. All except one that is as one of the dogs who had performed beautifully the previous evening had had an accident during the night by, for some unknown reason, getting out of the window where they were staying onto the roof of the building, and then falling off the roof!  Fortunately, the dog was not badly injured, a few cuts to the back feet, but a trip to the vet and a couple of stitches were needed.

The rest of the participants spent a very enjoyable day working on moves with their dogs. Again Lesley and Jackie were struck by how keen and friendly everyone was.  All seemed to enjoy the tasks they were given and were very eager to learn more.
Lesley leads the dance session to warm up the handlers
New moves are learned
Even for the smallest members of the group
The day finished at 5 30 pm, then most of the group went back to Henna’s house for a super barbecue and lots more discussion about dogs, competitions and training.
A super picnic
It was also very nice to see the intrepid roof climbing dog had now re joined the group looking fine and sporting two pretty pink bandages on both hind paws, but otherwise unscathed. As the evening grew darker the party moved indoors to sample a lovely cake that Henna had made for the occasion.
Cake indoors as the evening grew cooler
Sunday 19th August Day Two of the Training Seminar.
The morning was spent with the handlers working on more moves, improving the movement of the dog and a few games designed to make them think about the sport from the perspective of the dog.  This caused great hilarity as the pictures show.
So what is the move you want me to do?
By jove she’s got it
The dogs seemed to see the funny side too!
Ho Ho Woof Woof
After lunch each handler had two opportunities to work on a part of their routine with everyone helping and suggesting ideas.  This was being enjoyed so much that eventually the group were in danger of upsetting the owner of the hall as they had over run the time by one hour and had to be reminded that it was time to leave!

So, final photos were taken.
Thank you speeches were made, gifts exchanged and then back to Henna’s house for a meal and, yes, Lesley and Jackie did get to taste some cloudberries as part of a delicious desert before falling into bed, tired but happy with how the day had gone.

Monday 20th August; Lesley and Jackie had a bit of a lie in as there was no need to get up until 8.30am as they were going sailing with Henna, her mother, Helena and husband, Calle.  It was a short drive to Naantali Sailing Club Marina where they were greeted by Helena and Calle and welcomed aboard.  What a wonderful way to see the islands, 70,000 around the coast of Finland, but they were heading for only one of them.
The beautiful sailing boat at the Island
Blue skies, coffee and cake and just enough wind to sail comfortably with!
The Sauna
After about an hour’s sailing they arrived at the island – what a paradise as they were the only people there. A short exploration of the cabin, sauna (obligatory to the Finnish way of life) and the forest toilets (only one scoop of wood shavings per use needed) and they started to prepare for lunch.
The forest toilet
Washing facilities
Lesley and Jackie were handed 6m long fishing poles, baited with a worm, and instructed on how to fish for their dinner! “Just wait for the pull on the line”!

In just a few minutes Lesley felt the pull on her line and caught her first fish!
Look by the side of Lesley’s jacket pocket for the one that did not get away!
It was obvious that it was not going to feed five people, but fortunately Helena and Calle had played safe and brought some fresh fish with them and soon there were suitable sizzling sounds from the barbecue. 
A picnic in paradise!
All too soon it was time to leave the island. As the wind was now against them it would have taken three hours to sail their way home so the engine was started for the return journey.

After saying their thanks, Lesley, Jackie and Henna had a walk around the old town of Naantali.
The town is very pretty and very old, and it was lovely just wandering through the streets looking at the ornate wooden buildings.

Every evening at 8pm the church doors open and a man plays a hauntingly beautiful tune on a trumpet as an “all’s well” to the town.  
The wooden houses of Naantali
A lovely end to a lovely day, one to remember.

Tuesday 21st August; The last day, a walk in the forest with Henna and her dogs, then off to the airport for the journey home.
Lesley, Henna and Jackie
Thank you “Finland” for the invitation – Lesley and Jackie had a lovely time and hope to return someday.

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