Last minute travel plans – flight from Berlin to Helsinki – for one night to watch the Finnish agility championships near Helsinki. 21 Kooikerhondjes are entered! Great!
Thankfully Henna Palmunen and her friend Pia were so kind and picked me up directly from the airport together with Henna’s beautiful male Kooikerhondje Shanti, an 8 year old champion.
For your reference, there are currently 1031 registered Kooikerhondjes living in Finland. Last year, there were 54 Kooikers competing in agility and 53 of them also participating in confirmation. This means that about 10 % of Finish Kooikerhondjes are officially competing which is a very good number.
The trial ground is at a sports field surrounded by green grassy areas where hundreds of squared tall tents are put up for the competing teams.
The sporting ground looks busy, packed with hundreds of dogs getting ready for their runs and being walked and warmed up. Many spectators are sitting and cheering on the side of the rings. I am impressed how organized the crowds of participants appear and how little supervision and signs are needed compared to dog trials in the US.
We made our way to the ring and the first dog running is Mizy (Wishdecoy Sonya Paris) .Throughout the morning, I am able to watch Pyry (Wishdecoy River Olivia), Flow (Phoenix-Shila Van Youngmuskyteira), Ela (Lentaevaen Luppakorvan Liitolikka), Bitti (Wishdecoy Phantom Nicole), Elvis (Estaika’s Elpidus), Shanti (Callitris Girello Erminia), Inka (Bullbenz Kooi Ushi Geri).
The speed, grace, motivation and bond with the handler are beautiful to watch in every single Kooiker that starts. I can see different body types and shapes (sturdy body structures with heavy bones, long legged Kooikers, tall Kooikers, slim Kooikers, little undercoat, Kooikers with lots of coat, heavy and thin earrings). What I do notice is the group of young Finnish girls and women – very fashionable dressed – that own Kooikers and are competing with their dogs. I wonder if the breed is “in fashion” in Finland?
I am lucky to meet the president of the Finnish Kooiker Club Petteri Kerminen and Jari and his successful male Kooiker Robi (Tretex Kilroy) who is part of the Board and Officers (the handler, not the dog obviously).
Vendors sell products from one of my favorite companies “Hurtta” that produces outdoor dog gear made for the cold winters in Finland. Another vendor sells performance dog equipment and high quality “bringsels”. I use those for search and rescue training in the US with our two year old female Kooiker Waterbound Amica. It is basically a loop or strap hanging from the collar which the dog will pick up and retrieve to show that he found the missing person he was sent out to search for.
The Kooikers that I had met earlier in the morning are getting ready for their run and I am probably more nervous than they are.
Another highlight is meeting Tiina Vaelimattila, the breeder from Kennel Wishdecoy, in person. She is observing critically Kooikers out of her breeding lines. Several of them are competing in agility and some came to visit but are supposed to meet potential mating partners for the future. How beautiful is that!
Rain and with that a cold wind makes it a little harder to wander around. But within seconds the Finnish people are covered in thick rain gear and their dogs buried under professional coats and the event continues. Wow, I on the other hand, from California, need to be lent a jacket and I still start shivering.
Another unique moment is meeting the 13 year old Kooiker Callitris Eleazar Celeste, an agility and show champion. His offspring apparently moved to Alaska. What a beautiful boy he still is.
At the end of the day, I am so used to seeing Kooikerhondjes everywhere I look that I am able to distinguish certain lines with the help of my friend. I start missing my own three Kooikers that stayed home.
Back at the airport, – what a coincidence – we ran into another Kooiker that had just landed with his owner from Switzerland. We found out that I did visit his breeders last September.