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O'Zone Fidji ("Laika")

Laika was born on March 20th, 2007. She spend the first weeks of her life with her siblings in their mothers good care at her breeders home in Vantaa, Finland. There were six puppies in her litter. Two black males, two black females and two brown females.

The morning I received a text message saying the litter had been born and all were doing quite well was an unforgettable moment. The desire to have a second dog had grown constantly and at the time we had decided on looking for a doberman rather than a second Belgian Shepherd. That would have been the alternative.

We first met Laika and her siblings when they were three and a half weeks old. What will forever remain unforgotten is the vigour in these tiny little puppies. They were energetic, bouncy, fur balls with very sharp teeth! We knew, that we needed to find a puppy who would not only have the character traits we were looking for but who would also be a good match for Henna. I had a slight preference for a black female, but, really, if a brown female had been a perfect match that would have been ok with me. Fairly soon I was pretty sure the little black female with the small markings and no collar would be a very good match for our family. It was the puppy who was very convinced my toes were for chewing and socks needed to be removed from the toe. She was not the most "cuddly" puppy, but she was curious, independent and not scared of anything. She liked people, although she seemed to feel that there are other, at least as important, things in life. In many ways she was the puppy of my dreams - and that was obvious even at this very young age.

Her entire life we were quite sure that she thinks she is at least half human and much less dog than others of her species and to her mind most humans are probably pretty stupid. We would joke that provided we put a chair, cutlery and a plate at the table for her the most natural think to her mind would be to sit down and join us for a meal. Of course - we never did that.

Her mind worked by a simple philosophy: if you respect me I will respect you. If she felt she is not respected she will be the most stubborn and uncooperative dog imaginable. I think if she were a human she would lean back on the couch, cross her arms and give you a very calm and determined: "No. I don't think I will do that." Consequently turn around and take a nap.

In many ways Laika is the exact opposite of Henna. For example she would not usually work for play and if she decided not to work one day then she would not work, or at least would work in a way that it was completely obvious she didi not feel like it. End of story. In fact, she had very little play drive and generally felt sleeping was a very nice alternative to working. She may work for food, but only if it was something she felt she might be intrigued by today. And what convinced her to work today might not be what is very appealing tomorrow. I have wondered many, many times, if she would have had a somewhat different attitude in a different family. I'm sure she would have been somewhat better, if the circumstances sourrounding her would have been a bit different. But that is water under the bridge,... as they say...

Until her death the would not retrieve anything unless she felt it made sense to retrieve, for example when something fell out of my pocket (I have no idea in how far it is just my inability to train her and in how far it is her decision she will not do that come what may, but she was defiantely not a "natural retriever" who enjoyed retrieving). But to her mind there was absolutely no point in bringing back a toy a person has just thrown. If they threw it they no longer wanted it. Right? And if they then remember they actually still do want it then they better go and get it themselves! That should teach them not to throw around with stuff they may still need! 

Laika could track like a dream. She could find anything under even the most adverse conditions.  However, Laika being who she was she would only track whenever she felt like it (and, thankfully, she did feel like it most of the time). For example finding food in the forrest is all well and good, except sometimes she just isn't hungry. And, come on, if people are hiding in the forrest they should be well able to find their way back out, right? Laika was a very weird girl in many ways, but she did understand that it made me happy when she did it well and would be all exuberant with joy she could do something to make me happy because she was in a mood that she wanted to make me happy. When she was in that kind of mood then she did not need any reward. One thing is she would do long tracking trails if they are challenging enough to her, but she would not do the easy tasks. I do have to admit I feel sympathy for that and this habit of hers made me laugh so often I think she didn't take easy tasks seriously anymore. I think as a child I had somewhat similar views on certain school work.

Laika had no desire to obey in the common sense of the term. I think when that was handed out before birth she must have been hiding somewhere - and hiding good! She would obey if a command made sense to her. She thought it made perfect sense when I told her to get off my bed, because I want to sleep there or change the sheets or whatever. But if I told her to get off and then didn't do anything in my bed she would give me a sidewards look and get back on. I think if she could she would have sighed and shaken her head at the infinite idiocy of human beings. Obedience for the sake of obeying was something that made very little sense in her mind I think. Some days she really did enjoy it though and on those days she was a dream to work with.

However - in general her attitude to work, thunderstorms, cyclists and any other things that other dogs may get into a tizzy about was: "There is a lot to be done! - So let's take a nap and wait for this to pass." With age she developed a pretty laid back character, even though she still got her wild episodes where she firmly believes she is really a puppy still. Even the morning of her death she had one of those episodes.

Very frequently people have told me that "you don't talk in full sentences with dogs". Well, that is basically true, but in Laika's case it was a good idea to ignore this general advice, because she took meaning from the tone of voice and that requires full sentences. Commands for Laika had to contain a clear command at either the beginning or end of the sentence if you wanted to have any chance of having her do what she was told. If she felt there is no urgency to do something she did not want to do she wouldn't. She would make up her mind on whether or not to obey based on the sentiment she could hear from the voice and her current own mood. She really did not want to annoy me or anyone else she cared about and wanted us to be happy. But at the same time she requests we do not annoy her either and make sure she could stay happy as well. 

She was resistant to just about any advice on how to train dogs. I have had a trainer stand in front of me laughing saying "I have no idea how to train a dog like THAT!" And we have had good fun when a very experienced trainer tried to show me how to train her. She felt that was a pretty boring comedy show and decided to go about important things - like eating sheep poo. I have long since accepted, that she is happy as she is and there is no point to "force" her into any dog sport activities. Since I made that decision I think both of us are much happier with our life together. Maybe some dogs need to work, but Laika first and foremost needed to busy herself with things that make sense to her.

To Laika's mind all four-legged-creatures are "some kind of dog". That includes sheep, cats, hedgehogs, foxes, cows, rabbits, deer, mice and just about any other creature she ever came across. Unfortunately for her sheep do not understand that. Nor do most cats. Or hedgehogs. When we first moved to Germany a little lamb used to come into our garden. Laika was the most caring mother she could have been for this adoptive child. Why she was not allowed to look after her "child's" well-being in the sheep herd was totally beyond her comprehension though. She thought it was perfectly acceptable to jump the fence and play with the lambs. I think some of the lambs actually liked that. But the owner of the sheep did not.

I think Laika had no single aggressive streak to her personality. I have not seen her react aggressively towards any person even once in her life. She was friendly with all people, even though she has "misread the breed standard". She was not reserved with strangers, I think to her strangers were for the most part some atmospheric disturbances - they make air so thick you cannot walk through it anymore. She did not mind children, wild children, elderly people, disabled people, people acting strange. To her they were all the same. Non existant, unless you could not help but acknowledge them. Then she was noncommital and friendly. It would never have crossed her mind to react with aggression when her tail or ears were pulled. She wpuld just step aside. It was not so much the case that she could not imagine people might want to do her harm. She was only very convinced if they do want to do harm she would know it in good time and until then there is no point in reacting.

Laika is in many ways the most wonderful dog I can imagine. She was rock solid, had nerves of steel, not scared of anything (except she is a bit apprehensive with other dogs - she has been bitten way too many times), loved to watch new-years fireworks, would never harm anyone without a good reason and had no strong desire to pick fights with other dogs. She thought there was no point in fighting if other dogs are generally so stupid you could use your brains to get what you wanted and do not have to worry about all the dominance stuff.

The only time she was known to have shown a streak of dominant personality was when a seven month old tried to dominate her. She then recalled all the things Henna had taught her at some point and made it clear - beyond any doubt - that this was inacceptable. At the same time, when put to the test, she could sometimes remember that she was a big dog and she did have a very strong desire to guard and protect. But she would never get into a tizzy over nothing. Nor did she understand why she should defend anyone against a pretend-attack. Very stupid idea, really. Makes you wonder what strange ideas people come up with. I would not have minded a little less temperament though. And, of course, some will to work and willignness to be motivated would have been a nice addition to the package - but I guess you cannot have it all! And she really was wonderful just as she was.

I think every house needs a good soul, and in my home this good soul was Laika leaving a large void where her good natured nonsense and kindness used to be. 

When she had accepted someone as friend and family she was the most loyal and kind dog I can imagine. She was not a typical "one-person-dog" though. She was more of a family dog who liked and respected everyone about equally well within the family.

I will be forever grateful that Outi let us take home this noble dog with the kind soul. She was a much loved and loyal friend who will foreever stay in my heart. She earned her special place in my memories forever.

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