Salka is in a leage all of her own. Her mother (Perla) is a “Labrador/Icelandic Sheepdog” and her father is a “Labrador/Border Collie”. When I met her she was only two months old, and I found her through an advertisement. A family nearby had taken her but she turned out to be to much for them and their two small children.
Their ad described her as a Labrador/Border Collie and that was just what I was looking for. Lucky for Salka and me they forgot to mention the “Icelandic Sheepdog” as I wouldn’t have taken her had I known of that gene. Today, three years later, I cannot imagine my pack without this amazing dog.
I myself simply met her, at their home, took her home and immediately she was mine. She was of course nervous to come with me out to the car. She had only left her mommy four days earlier. Now she was swept away from her new home into yet another. Not only a fresh and new home but there she was greeted by a pack of Káta and Ljúfur.
She didn’t seem to mind at all. Within a day she had discovered the kitchen area, the garden area, every room in the house and learnt to go out with us in the wild. We soon found out her love for food – a trait with every Labrador – her determination along with her great capacity for love and healing powers guided by uncommon sensitivity.
I mention determination her, as it was a joy to watch her with the two gronw up dogs. Ljúfur and Káta are used to the outdoors and quite athletic. Every now and then they would break out in a chase, followed by a small furry black dot scurrying in the field determined to catch up. Today they cannot easily outrun her.
It was obvious to Salka who she belonged to: Ljúfur. He couldn’t be anywhere without her. If he took a nap she slept almost on top of him. Where ever he went, she went. She simply loved and adored that big sweet Sheffer dog. Her favorite place in the world was curled up between his front and aft legs when he slept. When we were on leash-walk around the neighborhood she had to sniff everything he sniffed.
For me it was interesting to watch how a second dog in the pack immediately chose the other dog as a leader. I chose to observe and be content. Ljúfur was mine and Salka was his. I noticed however that if I took Salka out on her own she wiggled her tail more vividly, as if she was proud to be taken out by “the man” in the group. I have observed that this is common with dogs who live in a pack owned by one person. Actually I use this trait in my training.
As with other things which I have learnt from my pack and continue to learn, I have begun to shed many teachings of dog training and pick up new one directly from my pack.
When Salka was six months old I introduced her to SAR training. As she was still growing and maturing her exersices where more a dabble than not. In fact she amazed me with her quick and deep intellect. As half here genes are Labrador Retriever she is playful, strong and wittie. The quarter Border Collie has given her great intellect and work attitude and her Icelandic Sheepdog gene has made her unique: stubborn and stubborn. She is simply amazing. Two traits did she get from her Icelandic Sheepdog: the roundy tail and two extra claws on her hindlegs.
In training she has never let me down. She loves the work and is very adapt at regular search and rescue in hilly areas. She was quick to master tracking skills and it was easy to teach her to use both barking and jumping technique to let her leader know when she has found the figurant (the person posing for lost person). As can be expected from Border/Labrador, the intellect and work attitude is excellent. As can be expected from the Husky related Icelandic the stubborn soul needs some ironing out …
Salka is my only dog which dislikes the cold. As much as she loves the snow her fur is very thin and she gets easily cold. My sister gave her woolen frock to use in winter though she finds it uncomfortable but well she can appreciate the warm wool in snowy and cold winters.
It never ceases to amaze me how finely tuned her sensitivity is when someone is hurt in the house. Even if her owner is pshycologically hurt she knows of it and comes to lick the wounded area. If it is a physical pain she seems to know where it is and tends to it, if it is emotional she licks the chest. You can count on one thing, if something ails you Salka will know it and try to heal it.
As for obedience training, Salka leaves something to be desired. She knows commands like “heel” and she is quite willing to do it. But her nose is aware if there is a treat in your pocket and if you’re fooling her she sees no point in obeying! As for simple and necessary things like “in the car” when leaving the outdoors and heading home, she alwasy has to think carefully before obeying, and as she knows that this is necessity she’s simply letting you know that she is “a person, with a mind, and with feelings”, she’ll do it for you but only since you ask.
I have tried much to work with her stubbornness but progressed slowly. Though “in the car” when heading from home to the outdoors, she is as obedient as any Border Collie. Now it isn’t that she dislikes to learn commands and do them: she is a really quick study, faster than most. It simply has to have a point for her. Another trait she has is timing. For example she understands “lie down” and she’ll do it. Then she counts for 1.5 milliseconds and leaps up again, wagging her tail, jumping at you as if to say: “you see – I did it – I did it”. Salka is one happy passionate dog.
Teaching her to retreat to her cage was no problem. But staying there with you gone was another matter. She would litterally and quite passionately tear any lining and soft mattress to shreds, every time. When she matured nearing the age of three this slowed down a bit but still you can expect her to tear something if left alone to long. Not to damage mind you, she is simply very sensitive and passionate for you to come back or for her to go and find you.
By accident, when she had just reached the age of two, Ljúfur got her pregnant. I had intended to have the vet give her the morning after pill the following morning. That morning I had a powerful dream where I saw four puppies and heard a voice saying: “These will make the next German Shepherd breed in Iceland.” I didn’t leave for the vet.
In fact she did have six puppies, four of them looked like their father and two of them like a mixture of “Labrador/German Shepherd”. All of them were healthy and beautiful and all of them found nice homes. I still miss two of them and would have kept them, but living in town has limits.
I mentioned how Salka loved Ljúfur while she was growing up. Of course that hasn’t changed – he still is her big teddy bear. He allows her to grab almost anything from his mouth whether bones or toys, not fresh meat though.
When she finished her teens around 18 months old she grew up and decided all by herself that I was her leader. I had never worried that she saw Ljúfur as her leader, I didn’t care and was more curious to watch and learn from my small pack than to interfere to much.
Quite suddenly she made up her mind all her own. If I was watching TV she wanted to nap in my lap. When I went to bed she found her way to my pillow or even tried to replace it. As all my dogs know that my bed is “invite only”, so does she, but I have given up: It is useless to command her out of bed 20 times before I fall asleep. Besides her cuddles warm my heart.
There are many things which make Salka a unique dog to me. The first would be that I wouldn’t have rang that day had I known her full lineage. Be it the will of God.
She is the hardes working litter keeper I have ever seen, and a perfect mother. She worked so hard cleaning her puppies and keeping the floors clean after them. Many times while the puppies where growing I saw a puppie make scene and as I was standing up moving towards it to clean, Salka would leap up and clean it up faster than any bitch I’ve seen. As it happens that Birta had moved in with us at that time she helped but more on that at a later time.
She is also the only dog which I have failed to teach not to be afraid of fireworks. She is conviced that they are out to get her and there is now way for her stubborn sensitivity to “deny that existence of ghosts”. As she has trained me to love her for the dog she is I simply make sure every new-years-eve that she has a well covered shelter in a back room that time of the year. I have trained other dogs “to like the fireworks” and I have excellent track record in that area, Salka is simply unique.
I mentioned how she likes to shred any soft stuff in a cage if she is left alone at home. As I always keep my dogs in cages if they are left alone – for their own safety – and they are all cool with it. But not Salka.
The day she gave birth to her puppies, I had to leave her alone for an hour or so. I had to shop for some things and I knew – both from a dream the night before and from her behaviour – that her puppies would come that night. So I kept her free in my bedroom while my other dogs where in cages. When I came back home my bed wasn’t exactly as I’d have liked. Thank goodness that she only shredded lining and not mattresses. But she wasn’t trying to destroy anything – she was simply preparing for the litter. That day I prepared a box for her and everything went fine.
The following weeks I learnt something new. As I always make up my bed in the morning – even when living single – I discovered that sometimes she would do anything to uncover my bed and single out her favorite pillow: my pillow. Since then I usually leave that pillow free on the bed – and instead she leaves my bed tidy.