My name is Taika, and every night I have the same dream.
I am in the midst of a gentle snowfall, surrounded by forest. In the far distance I hear a pack of howling wolves. As I wander through the snow, I feel a deep yearning for home, but don’t know where that is.
Then I wake up.
Taika means ‘magic’ in Finnish, and this is the name I have been given by the people who now give me a home.
My breed, known as Samoyed, has always been connected to the dwellers of the far north. Our origins go back over a thousand years. In fact, we are one of the oldest dog breeds on Earth, closely related to wolves. We were bred by the Samoyed people, indigenous nomadic reindeer herders. At first, we helped them hunt reindeer, and then, over time, our focus shifted to herding.
Every year we help guide the herds across the tundra and through the forests in a great migration to the shores of the Arctic Ocean. During the long winter nights our thick fur served not only to keep us warm but allowed us to help keep our people warm, sleeping together in traditional yurts.
I live now in Helsinki, Finland- not as far North as my ancestors lived, but still in the northern part of the world. Here, life is less arduous.
I am a puppy, only eight weeks old, so my life revolves primarily around play and sleep.
As soon as I awaken in the morning I begin to play. After a short while, I lay down on the wooden floor and close my eyes. After breakfast, I play some more. Play, sleep. Play, sleep. My people know I also need to relieve myself, so they take me outside into the snow every hour – where I play some more.
I particularly enjoy hopping about. Everything is fresh and curious. A swaying tree twig, a snowball, a broken piece of ice. Everything offers possibility to my imagination.
The children are a bit cautious around me- as my teeth are quite sharp and still growing. Thus I have an endless desire to gnaw on something. Hands, wrists, feet, ankles- these are quite appealing. But everyone in the family- adults and children- keep letting me know that it is better to chew on the many animal toys they provide, rather than on furniture or humans.
Their primary teaching tactic is distraction. As soon as I begin stalking a foot or an exposed ankle, I find a dangling stuffed alligator or dragon in front of me. These I attack with relish, exhibiting a fierce exuberance, grabbing the neck of the gator or wings of the dragon with my powerful jaws, shaking all resistance out of them.
I am now triumphant, carrying the conquered stuffed animal around the living room with immense satisfaction. Shifting away from gnawing on forbidden items is often met with a clamoring of praise from the humans as well, increasing my pleasure.
Before going to sleep tonight, I will think on my ancestors. The great reindeer herds migrating across endless tundra, kept together by the urging of the herd dogs. Chunks of grilled salmon tossed to the pack after a long day of running. Romping with the children, running with the pack. At night, cuddling together in a yurt beneath the ever-shifting, mysterious northern lights.
I am Taika, and tonight I will dream again.