We go by minibus to the dog kennel. It is quite a mild temperature in Kiruna, around -16 degrees. During the car journey we get to hear more about the company, how everything started to how it is today. When we arrive down in Jukkasjärvi and turn into the small road towards our final destination Oinakka, we travel through a really lovely winter landscape. When we arrive at the kennel and jump out of the car we are instantly met by the cold. It is a lot colder down here than in Kiruna, around -25 degrees, even though it only 17 km from Kiruna. We get to meet our guide Hanna who together with Ulf shows us around the kennel. They have around 60 huskies at the kennel and it is large and spacious. At each enclosure a name plate hangs with the dog’s name. When we walk past the dogs they come forward to say hello. They are so cute so we must of course greet every single one!
We also get to meet the next generation. Small, eager puppies who are soon fully trained sled dogs. After a meet-and-greet, we move on to the changing room where we change into warm overalls, shoes and mittens provided by the company.
After we are done changing we go outside again and it is already much brighter out there. Hanna has started harnessing the dogs. My colleague Gun-Britt keeps a watchful eye on the lead huskies while Hanna picks up the rest of the husky team. I myself mostly run around taking pictures and cuddle with the dogs. When they are harnessed, we notice how they get very excited, they are howling and just waiting to run. We take a seat on the sled and Hanna, who is behind us, gives the command. The huskies are pulling away and it instantly becomes silent. We only hear the sledge against the ground and the dogs breathing.
We go up a small hill. When we round the corner, we are met by the most amazing view which looks like it was taken from a fairy tale world. Although this is something we see every winter, it is just as magical every time. The horizon shines in an ice-cold pink color, the moon is so large and close to us that it feels like you can touch it. A true arctic winter landscape. Indescribable. We travel through the forest, which is sometimes a bit ”jumpy”, because snowmobiles also drives here. My colleague said it felt like moguls. But a little bit of action just adds to the experience. The sledge creak, but we sit safely and comfortably on the reindeer skin. While we are rushing forward in pleasant speed, the guide tells us about the dogs and how it works when you put together a team and what position the dog gets in the team and why. Sometimes she pauses the story to shout “left” or “right”. The dogs follow her commands without problems. It’s actually pretty cool.
After a while we come out on a marsh. The temperature drops sharply and the cold bites our cheeks. The hair, eyebrows and eyelashes are chalk white by frost. What happened to the scarf that I should have packed this morning? When we have been driving for a while and rounded a few corners, we see the majestic sun peeking out at the horizon. It is bright and burning orange. Some attempts at photos are made, but the fingers freeze faster than you would think as soon as you remove them from the gloves. Eventually we arrive at a small cottage in the middle of the forest.
Hanna takes care of the dogs and Ulf who has driven out in advance with the snowmobile meets us and shows us into the heat. Inside the cabin, the fire crackles and the soup is being prepared, but the frost crystals on the windows reminds us of the cold outside. We are served a delicious soup and a sandwich, which was a warm delight after the slightly chilly journey. While we eat, we hear how one of the dogs “Dunder” speaks to himself out there. A real chatter box that one. Here I also realize that my mobile phone has died on me due to the cold. If I had been a little smarter then I might have kept it closer to my body. My DSLR is also frozen and the camera lens is frost-covered so I couldn’t take as many pictures as I had hoped for.
After good food and nice conversations we go out again to the dogs to go home. Once at the kennel again, we get to feed the dogs. We also thank them for a nice trip with a little bit of cuddling. We change to our own clothes and jump into the minibus again to go back to the office.
This is what I call a really good start to the day. Imagine if all days could look like this. Although we were only gone for a few hours, it really felt like a true arctic dogsled adventure.