Take a dog for a walk. Sounds like a grand idea. Except In Reykjavík, it hasn’t always been an easy thing to do. Dogs were illegal within the city limits since 1924, although they are now permitted with an expensive permit in tow.
The licensing system allows the monitoring of vaccinations, worming and micro-chipping. There are also regulations on having dog on a collar and leash, etc.
This whole license thing is relatively new; before that, dogs were outlawed, as they were seen as working animals, capable of spreading disease rather than cute little pooches kept as pets.
I learn all this from my new friend, Þorleifur. Þorleifur, who works for something to do with promoting Iceland, regularly takes his Icelandic Sheepdog, Mosi, for a walk.
Here is the great thing though: Þorleifur and Mosi frequently invite people to join them for their walks around Reykjavík.
I’m all too keen to go, despite the trace elements of last night’s beer still hurtling around my system, and the snow having turned to thick ice underfoot. I still reckon it might be fun.
I meet Þorleifur and Mosi just off Sæbraut, or rather the narrow footpath that runs alongside it on the outskirts of Reykjavík.
Þorleifur hands me the leash to which Mosi is attached and we are off. Or rather we would be if Mosi didn’t have the propensity to mark his territory at every available opportunity.
Dogs have a rough time of it within Reykjavík’s city limits. Strictly controlled is an understatement, and makes England’s new micro-chipping policy look feeble.
Permits have to state exactly who owns the dog and where they reside. If the building is an apartment block, other apartment residents have to agree to the dog residing there.
The dog owner themselves need not one, but two referees when making an application for a permit, and I’m guessing here, I bet they are not cheap. Any previous violations of dog permits are likely to render the application as rejected.
I can actually see the sense of some of this legislation; keeping people safe from dangerous dogs, limiting any anti-social behavior by dogs and their owners, etc, but it must be a bureaucratic nightmare, surely?
The wind is blowing in off the sea, and making the clouds race quickly over the city. I adopt a slightly slower walk on account of the slippery ice beneath my feet, and to ensure I don’t embarrass myself in front of either Þorleifur or Mosi.
Mosi, though, is keen to see me fail and frequently gives me a good sharp tug on the leash to see if he can get me off balance.
Mosi is light brown, with—not unlike myself—some grey around his ears. He has blonde around his back and eyes, a white stripe over his nose and the typical Icelandic Sheepdog tail, which curls upwards on to his back. He is short and squat, but powerful. Mosi is clearly intelligent and very agile.
I am told that the breed is not dissimilar to the Shetland Sheepdog or the Welsh Corgi. Either way, Mosi isn’t bothered, and becomes frustrated with Þorleifur and I waffling on about dogs, instead preferring to look out across the sea to Mount Esja, which is partially covered in icing sugar snow.
Þorleifur takes the opportunity to show me some extra claws on Mosi’s legs, which some people say are used for walking through snow drifts. Mosi takes the opportunity to show me his doleful, wide eyes, and I spend a few minutes stroking him. I get the feeling that I am being used.
We continue to walk down Sæbraut, and I can see Harpa, the new music hall, in the distance. To our left I can see Hallgrímskirkja, the Reykjavík landmark church, up on the hill, and as we keep walking the Viking ship statue Sólfar (Sun Voyager) sits on a plinth covered in snow against its own perfect back drop.
We stop for a few photos, and even Mosi poses for the camera with a toothy grin, before spotting another dog in the distance and running off at full pelt, leaving me to feel the true power of this hardy breed by nearly having my left shoulder dislocated.
We walk to Harpa, and its bubble-like windows. Here, I bid Þorleifur and Mosi goodbye. I have enjoyed meeting Þorleifur, and even more so, Mosi.
Mosi is a cute little pooch, and even more importantly, a fine specimen of an Icelandic Sheepdog. Iceland should be proud of its eponymous breed.
I’m glad Mosi can live his life here now in Reykjavík. As we part ways, Þorleifur tells me that Mosi has pups all over the world; they are exported. I take his number. It might just come in useful.
Edward Hancox – [email protected]