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Memory: Highlight

I was once again on a hunting trip with my dog Pinni, in the Koiravaara terrain in Sotkamo, Northern Finland. I had left my vehicle to the other end of a forest trail, where the road formed a loop. We had already travelled for several hours towards south. Pinni had shortly barked up at black grouses a few times, but the birds had been very shy and had not stayed in the tree. The gun I was carrying on my back started to feel a bit heavy and I was getting tired of walking. I had already turned around and started to walk back, towards the car. I noticed from the tracker that the road was quite close, and decided to walk the remaining distance to the car on the road instead of the forest. There was still just over a kilometre left to walk.

I walked the road for a while. Then I heard distant barking next to the forested hill behind me. I looked at the tracker and noticed that the sound was coming from Pinni. There was a 750 metre walk back to the dog. I moved a little closer – the barking was clearer than before and had become more continuous and frequent. I started pondering whether the dog was barking at a bird or some other animal. Then I remembered my son-in-law telling me about a litter of capercailzies he had ran into in the same area, and the decision was clear – the dog must be barking at a capercailzie, at least a female one. A thought about the animal being a squirrel flew across my mind, but I felt that the possibility of the target being something other than a bird was very small.

I started walking towards the dog with new vigour. Her barking was still continuous and rapid. It took me more than half an hour to approach, and of course I had to move more carefully the closer I got, otherwise the capercailzie would flee. I approached the spot very carefully, and finally, in the top of a pine tree between two sturdy spruces was the oblong target with a furry tail – a SQUIRREL. I commanded the dog away, pointed the direction for her and started walking.

Pinni was not very eager to stop barking, but finally obeyed. We left the target to the forest and went back towards the car. Not once did it cross my mind that I had made the wrong call by checking which target the dog had barked at – it could have also been the desired one. Barking at squirrels is, unfortunately, written very strongly in the genes of the Finnish Spitz, and is not easily erased.

The trip to the forest was done for the day, and we drove to a hunting cottage to cook sausages over an open fire. We may not have caught anything that day, but at least I got to spend the day outdoors with the greatest dog in the world.

In Kajaani 15.3.2016

In the main picture: Pinni, first dog from the left. Picture: Hannu Huttu