Although the grouse was the smallest game the Norsemen hunted, it was also the game that the Norsemen had the greatest respect for. Bear, wolf and wolverine did not frighten the Norsemen the slightest bit. The Norsemen were brave and strong men and women, who were used to fight for their survival and the big beasts of prey were just another common obstacle in their daily struggle to live another day. The Norsemen's only weakness was actually that they were highly superstitious! And hence they to some extent feared the grouse!
Up here in the Finnmarka the seasons of the year are not like in any other place on the earth. In the summer the day is 6 months long and the sun never sets. In the winter the night is 6 months long and the sun hardly ever goes up. The winter is dark as in a coal mine, all day long. However, from time to time during the winter there is a very mysterious light in the sky. It is called the Northern Light. A high up in the atmosphere long, giant and spooky wave of a ghost-like green light in different shades moves slowly back and forth over the sky. Looking at this ghostly spectacle in the - 40C cold midwinter night, while wolfs are howling and owls are hooting at a distance, and not having seen the sun for several months, can make the most sane man believe in all kinds of superhuman powers.
And believe in strange things they did. They believed in trolls, elves, ogres and hobgoblins. They believed in the small people living underground and only coming up to surface for short periods during the summer. They also believed in Tor, Balder, Njord, Tyr, Brage, Heimdal, Hoder, Vidar, Vale, Ulf and Forsele. These dudes were their Gods - the Asa Gods. Asa was their religion in those days and without examining it in detail we can just conclude that the Norsemen had so much to believe in so they hardly knew for sure what to believe in!
Hence the beautiful, mysterious, vivid grouse that was the Arctic survival expert, that could not think less of a -50C snowstorm than it bothered about quantum mechanics, and apparently could use only air and snow as a nutrition during harsh conditions, confused the Norsemen to hesitate whether this elusive bird was a God or just another game... or perhaps something between? So they were cautious and made the effort to kill a few of them only for great ceremonial feasts, making sure to sacrifice some of the catch back to the Gods. The grouse had therefore a high religious and social position in the Norsemen's territory and was viewed upon almost like one of their Asa Gods... although with some hesitation.
This state of things went on for thousands of years until one day, only 150 years ago; a strong wind blew across the northern Atlantic Ocean. On the British islands it was so strong so it ripped houses apart and took with it whatever there was in the houses. Furniture, clothes, kitchenware, dogs and cats, men and women, as well as children, were by the wind pulled out of their houses and beds and whirling in the wind thrown around the entire county, sometimes ending up in the next one, and it all was a huge calamity all together.
It is said that one poor ragamuffin lady on the Orkney islands was carried by the wind all the way to Kensington Palace in London, while the regent King William IV was blown out to the North sea and drowned. When the storm settled and the mayhem was cleared up, this poor lady found that she had been mistaken for Georg III's daughter and successor Victoria, and found herself now crowned to Queen Victoria to replace the unfortunate William! We do not know if this is an entirely true story, or just another fairy tale, but at least it tells us something about the magnitude of the storm.
However, something else of great importance for the Norsemen - and of undisputable truth - happened in the same storm. On a manorial estate in an English village a big kennel holding hundreds of dogs was torn to pieces by the storm. Most of the dogs were blown into a nearby dense forest were they could seek shelter, except for a dog and a bitch that were lifted to the sky by the wind. Their name was Dash and Moll and while lifted to the clouds by the wind they hang on to each other by biting each other's tails. They whirled around like in a giant cloth drier (that in fact was not invented yet) and drifted north towards the sea. Then the wind started to calm down, they started to fall and were about to meet the same fate as King William, to drown in the North Sea. When falling faster and faster in the dark night they bite even harder to each other's tail's, closed their eyes and prepared to die.
Then suddenly the fall stopped in midair as they tumbled into a large wooden box that was riding among the clouds, far above the water!
You see - this storm raged during the night between the Christmas evening and the Boxing Day morning. Santa Claus had just finished distributing the Christmas gifts around the world. He and his empty sledge, drawn by 24 reindeers with a red nose were on their way home to Finnmarka were the Norsemen lived. Dash and Moll had by a great miracle fallen into Santa's empty sledge and saved their lives in this odd and miraculous way. Santa, a big, fat fellow with a large, white beard, a thick, red fur coat and a matching fur cap was sitting in the front on the driver's bench and heard the thud and felt to vibration in the sledge as the dogs fell into it. He turned his head; saw the two from the rain soaking wet, and from the horrendous experience wrought up pair of setters. Santa raised an eyebrow, perhaps both of them, unable to immediately understand what he actually saw on the floor of his sledge. After a few seconds he, however, recovered from his surprise, cleared his throat and spoke to the dogs:
- Nasty bit of heavy weather chaps, isn't it? Who are you and where do you come from, doggies? Good looking doggies you are! I have not seen doggies like you before, except in British homes, you must have been blown away from England, haven't you?
Oh dear! - Said Moll - Thanks for saving our lives! My name is Moll and my friend is called Dash. We are English setters and we were sleeping in Mr. Edward Laveracks kennel when the storm hit us. It was not an easy moment. One second we were sleeping deeply and the next second the roof from the kennel was torn away by the wind and the next thing we knew the wind had hit us and the only thing we could do was to bite to each other's tails to try to stay together. We are married, you know, the way dogs are married a few weeks each year and then they are just friends the rest of the year. I think I am pregnant and now I already worry for my puppies. Where do they now find a warm home to be born and raised in?
Santa got a big, friendly grin on his face. During his nearly 1900 year long career he had seen and experienced both this and that, he use to help people and animals the same, for him they were not different from each other in that respect. He bent back, reached in under the driver's seat with one hand, pulled out a huge reindeer fur coat and gave it to the dogs.
- Do not worry, you beautiful doggies! Roll into this coat, get warm and go to sleep. When you wake up you will be far north in a land called Finnmarka, where I and my family lives. There is my wife Santa Mama and then a few hundred pucks that work in my workshop making toys to the entire world's children. Although it is dark and cold there, this time of the year, our house is warm and roomy. Mama will spoil you with love and food and help you take care of your puppies. I am rather sure that she takes so much care of your puppies so she forgets to feed me, but I do not mind. Taking you back to the by the storm ruined England would do you no good right now. If you want to go back after all, then you can come with me when I go for my next Christmas trip in about a year from now.
Then he turned towards his reindeers, whipped their backs with the reins and shouted: Tally-ho my dear reindeer! Tally-ho! Now we have to hurry home and show these guests of honor to Santa Mama! Tally- ho! Tally-ho!
Dash and Moll shone from gratitude, rolled tightly together deep inside the huge coat and fell into sleep. They dreamed they were flying, flying for real for the first time in their career as birddogs. So they were! You see, even if they are called "bird-dogs" they can only fly in their dreams!
Early next morning they woke up as the sledge rattled and bounced a couple of times on the ground, then it came slowly to a standstill in the darkness, halfway buried in a big snowdrift near a group of houses with lights in their windows. Santa stood up from his driver's bench, stretched his legs and looked smiling down on the dogs and apologized:
- Good morning my friends! I am terribly sorry for this rough landing! I never get used to these blind landings in the dark midwinter and the pucks have not yet managed to develop a reliable instrument landing system for me. Anyway, you look OK so no one was hurt and that is most important of all. Now, to your feet, we are going into my house now and Santa Mama should be waiting there with a hearty, warm breakfast to welcome us. She does not yet know about her new guest so she will be both surprised and delighted to see what I brought home with me. The name of this village is by the way Suoidnesullolattu but you do not have to learn to pronounce it since no one knows how to do it! Santa laughed at his own joke and started to trudge in the snow towards the house.
Dash and Moll crawled out of their warm reindeer coat and all around them, in the faint light from the windows of the houses; they saw deep drifts of snow and then even more snow. They had seen snow in England, yes, but only of a few inches thickness and it never had lasted for more than a few days or a week. There was a cleared path to the house but before getting onto it they several times almost sank to their neck in the loose snow. And it was very cold, it had never been this cold in England and the snow stuck to their coat and made it heavy and uncomfortable. Dash looked up to Santa and asked:
- Is it always was like this in Suo.... I mean Finnmarka?
- No, - said Santa - this is the worst time of the year. In a little more than a month we will see the sun again and after that everything gets better and warmer every day. The summer is something entirely different but I will tell about that later. If Molly is going to give birth to puppies soon, then they are of the right age when it is time for them to explore the world in the spring. It will be fine by then!
As Santa and the dogs makes their way to the house we have to stop the tale-telling for a while and explain a few things. This is necessary if we want the tale to progress in the direction that every to working-setters addicted reader prefers.
The story started several thousands of years ago. Although the social and economic progress of this northern society was to start with extremely slow, it had at this point in time developed so that the Norsemen now lived in log houses instead of stone caves, they had some small agriculture and instead of bows and arrows and spears they now used black powder shotguns and rifles for hunting. The spear, however, was not entirely forgotten. It was used by the hardiest and bravest of the Norsemen to kill wolf and bear. The reason is that it was easier to carry than the behemoth black powder rifles of those days, and contrary to the old time rifles it was always and immediately ready for use; in hell, in snow and in rainstorms. Since it took great skill and courage to kill a bear with a spear, it would also increase the social status of the hunter who used it with success. The shotgun of those days had, however, by the Englishmen been developed in to a rather agile and handy weapon for small game. It was manufactured all over the Europe and imported even to the Finnmarka, but only the gun - not that traditional way of using it in its country of origin, England. Without going into an endless variety of other details we can just notice that one of the most important ingredients of hunting with shotguns - the pointing birddog - was missing. That said, we can now return to the tale and see how this lack of the most necessary accessory was solved.
When Santa Claus stepped inside the door to the house with two beautiful dogs at his feet, Santa Mama was at the stove cooking porridge and frying reindeer-bacon. When she heard the noise from the door she turned around with a big wooden spoon in her hand, which she used for stirring the porridge pot. She started to welcome Santa Claus:
- So nice to have you back dear... Then her mouth fell open and she stood silent for a short moment, like not believing her eyes. - Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God - where did you find those wonderful, wonderful dogs?
Then Mama rushed forward, dropping the spoon on the floor and without giving Santa a second look she went down on her knees to greet the now very confused dogs to the house. Now Santa also kneeled for the first time to examine his finds more closely. The dogs had never been treated this way at home in England. Mr. Laverack had of course been friendly, mildly loving and respectful towards them, and had given them a stroke on the back or a pat on the head and some friendly words now and then, but he had never totally lost control of himself at the sight of any dog. These people were so different - but in a pleasant way! So they just sat down on their bottoms as Mr. Laverack had told them to do in hot situations - like flushing red grouse. While they stroke and patted the dogs Santa started to explain the stormy story and he also said:
- Mama! These are the English Setters that I have many times seen in British homes. They are often treated like family members, they can lie in the sofa or even in the bed, but if their family tells about them, they always tell about how fantastic they are on the moors and how good they are at finding their red grouse! As you know I never have the time to ask in detail what they do on the moor, and the Englishmen of course take it for granted that I know everything about something that is so important for them. So I really do not know in detail how they are used, but since we also have grouse right outside of our house, I guess when the sun comes back, that these dogs will show us. Anyway, they are very friendly and sagacious dogs and even more beautiful. I promised them that they can ride back to England with me next Christmas, if they like. We must now make their life as comfortable as we possibly can so that they want to stay forever.... and by the way, Moll says she is pregnant!
(Please note that only Santa Claus can verbally communicate with animals, not even his wife has the ability)
When learning that Moll is pregnant Mama goes nuts out of enthusiasm, as most women always do, and within second's she starts to worry about Moll's and Dash earthly needs. First she fetches a towel and rubs to dogs completely dry. Then she scoop up porridge and reindeer bacon in bowls and serve the dogs, and finally she makes sure that they have a separate bowl with fresh water to drink from. Now she sits down on a chair and watches the dogs as they eat. She really admires them and makes small sounds of delight now and then. They eat very neatly, as most setters do. They do not mess up the floor around the bowl like Labradors or Spaniels or GWP's but behave like Ladies and Sir's of high rank. That is the way they are fostered to do in the noble families in Britain. Santa Mama squeezes and twists her hands out of pure joy and Santa Claus starts to understand that his importance in the house has from now on a different, lower status. With a sight and a jealous glance at the dogs he goes to the stove to for the first time in a thousand years help himself from the pots and fry pans. What a loss!
-Well, Santa thinks, what must be must be! I could have been much worse of. I could have had some gorillas or warthogs from the London Zoo to drop down into my sledge. Better this way, much better! By the way, I have anyway always wanted a dog or two in the house. Maybe not as charming as these ones, that seem to totally occupy Mama's attention and twist her head, but I guess she calms down after a few days and start to treat us equally. Yes, I am sure she will...
In their own sleeping room Mama makes a comfortable bed for Moll and Dash at the foot end of their own bed. Mama wonders how far Molly`s pregnancy has progressed. It does not show yet in any way. She recons that it might be two weeks or three, perhaps. If so, the birth will take place in early or mid- February. In Mars the puppies could start to have short outings in the sunshine.
-Yes, it is a perfect time for a bitch to give birth! As soon as we get some light from the sun we may also see what the dogs do with the grouse. Maybe they are much better with them than the Norsemen hunters. They have modern guns now for moose and reindeer and caper and hares and polar fox, but they can only hunt grouse with the old, Stone Age snares. The small but vigilant willow grouse and then the very elusive and for hunters tantalizing ptarmigan are the most demanding game we have, it seems. They are almost like the small ones under the ground. We know they are there, but no one has ever managed to pinpoint them. Maybe that is what the English dogs do; maybe they can pinpoint them for the hunters to shoot? I wish Santa was more interested in hunting. He likes to eat copious amounts of game for dinner but he does not much to get the game into the kitchen. We must hire Norsemen to hunt for us! Santa is a kind man, very kind, but lazy at home. He tells the pucks to do all the practical things but the pucks do not hunt. Yes, a little bit lazy he is!
Moll and Dash settles into the family. The house is warm and cosy, Santa and his wife Mama are calm and secure people, very warm and compassionate towards the dogs. The pucks that now and then visit the house are a bit noisy and very curious about the dogs and like to play with them for a while. Mama usually limits the playing to short moments since she cares about Moll's pregnancy.
Outside the house it is still very dark and cold but one day not long after their arrival they experience something they recognize from the British islands - the weather can change very rapidly! During one night the wind changes direction to south-westerly, increases in force and brings in warm, humid air from the Atlantic Ocean. Measured as the crow flies the sea is not that far away at all, and hence the warm Gulf-stream that sweeps northward along the Norsemen lands coastline has a dominating effect on the climate even at this distance from the shore. The warm breeze from the sea starts to melt the surface of the snow for several days in a row. Then the wind changes direction, the sky clears from the clouds and the nights again become very cold.
Now the wet surface of the snow freezes into a thick crust, strong enough for even the reindeer to walk on. Hence the dogs find when they have to go outside for their toilet business, that the crust of the snow is as easy to run on as a bare mountain rock in England! They start to make wider and wider excursions around the houses and soon they find scent that resembles that from the red grouse in England! They take a point and investigate the warm body scent carefully. Then they start to, by cautiously advancing on point, investigate the escape distance of these birds that are new to them. They cannot see them in the darkness but they can hear when they flush. Sometimes the dogs can feel a very faint scent from the birds but it is difficult to localize. It feels like it is coming from under the snow! So they start to dig in the snow and now a whole area around them explodes in a cascade of white grouse and snow. In the faint light of the stars and sometimes from the moon they can see the silhouettes from 15, maybe 20 white grouse that flutter away, and they hear their frightened cackle - a sound that is impossible to describe in words or by imitating. Dash and Moll learn more and more about these mysterious birds, which can be either on the snow or under it, and you never know for sure where to find them a particular day. In a controlled and self-restrained British manner they with a stiff upper lip calmly conclude their new experiences: Interesting!
By the time the sun again starts to show its pretty face above the horizon, and a few hours of decent daylight occurs, Moll's belly starts to grow bigger and bigger. Her tits have also got a more pronounced shape and mentally she becomes a bit more self-occupied than before. Dash has an inherited sensibility to know that bitches in this state should be treated with outmost politeness and respect and adjusts his behavior accordingly. Santa Mama is in both a jolly and tending mood and gives Moll the best care she can. She tries to feel over Molly's belly to get a hint of how many puppies there could be, but that of course is impossible. It has to be anybody's guess. What she knows from the local Lapland dogs, that she has some experience of, she expects Moll to start to find a good place for giving birth, separate from the sleeping bed she shares with Dash. So she finds a large wooden box with low sides, lines it with the softest reindeer fur she can find and pushes it into the darkest corner of their bed room. Then she starts to invite Moll to the box, to make her comfortable with it. Moll soon accepts the box - after all she has now gained full confidence in Mama's ideas and offers. Now that Moll has accepted the box she also denies Dash access to it. Dash can come close - but not too close. If he does come too close a low growl from Moll stops him at a distance of Moll's preference.
In all this fuss Santa Claus and Dash soon feel like they have been put aside and neglected by the female task force! The pucks are not anymore allowed to be noisy when they come to the house and they are not allowed to even look at Moll, lot less attempt to play with her. From now on peace and quiet and security must rule around Moll!
We can now swiftly move on a few, short steps forward in time. Getting entangled in all the happenings, fuss, confusions and feelings prior to a birth of any kind, man or beast the same, would require that an entire book is written. This is not intended to be a book. It should be either a "saga" or a "tale". The difference between a "saga" and a "tale" is that a "saga" does not need to include anything of truth, while a "tale" often includes a lot of truth but rarely consists entirely of truth. Should someone investigate the contents of this story, he or she will find lot of different truths in particular details and hence it must be more of a tale than a saga. However, what both of them have in common is that they must be relatively short. Let us hence try to keep this as short as possible - but not shorter!
In early February Moll gives an uncomplicated birth to 11 healthy puppies, 5 dog puppies and 6 bitch puppies. The puppies are now 6 weeks old, this is already in Mars when the days are bright again and the sun gives a considerable amount of warmth. The snow cover is now very thick, consisting of several layers of crust with powder like snow between, formed by several colder and warmer periods with snowfall between them. The grouse can hence not dig into the snow that easily but can be found squatting under the dwarf birch trees or right out on open snow covered areas.
Now that all the fuss with the new-born puppies is over, the new way of life with all the dogs and puppies around is established, and the winter has given way for the spring, Santa Claus has once again reclaimed some of his position as the head of the house. At least he thinks so and in the end that is what matters to him. In reality Mama has persuaded him to become a bit more interested in grouse hunting. He is the only one who can talk to Moll and Dash and they hold secrets about effective grouse hunting, secrets that no one has even dreamed of before up here in the north. The bright sun that shines over the vast expanses of snow, with the dwarf birch branches sticking up here and there, the white slopes, valleys, rocks and mountain tops and creates a dreamlike scenery, enlightens Santa enough to drag himself out of his bed or rocking chair and decide that the winters vacation is over for this time. Usually he now starts to ice fishing for the kitchen, but when he is stressed by Mama to learn about grouse hunting from the dogs, he instead sends a couple of his pucks out on the ice of the lakes with the order to keep the kitchen supplied with fresh fish until further notice.
So Santa follows Dash and Moll and the eleven, six week old puppies out on their first longer outing. He sees how the parents slowly lead their puppies into the patches of dwarf birch that are shattered around the hilly landscape. The cold breezes on his face indicate that the dogs always, as much as possible, move into the wind. Then he sees how Moll suddenly stiffens up and in a moment turns into a statue with the tail at an angle towards the sky and one front paw lifted up under her elbow. Her nose points at a particular spot in the terrain and Santa can see how incredibly focused she is now. She is beautiful like Santa has never seen her before!
The so far rather unorganized and ever playing puppies see this transformation of their mother and like at a given signal they too stiffen up behind her. One of them sneaks forward a few steps, another one follows and this goes on until all of them have moved passed their mother. She does nothing about it, but her stance relaxes a bit in anticipation of what is to come. Dash has sat down on the snow crust behind his family and watches the spectacle, full of amusement.
To Santa it is now clear that something special is going on here. He can see how excited the puppies are and how they all concentrate on one single spot in the terrain under the dwarf birch branches and twigs. They must perceive something that is alien to him. He cannot see anything particular, he cannot hear anything unusual and everything seems to be as it always has been. He must ask Dash what on earth is going on.
Dash walks cautiously up to Santa and starts to explain with a whispering voice.
- Moll and the puppies smell the scent of grouse that are somewhere under the birch twigs. I can smell the scent too but I am not close enough to accurately pinpoint the location of these birds at this distance. However, I can sense that there are many birds hidden. They all have an individual fragrance and from this distance I can make a guess that there are at least 7 or 8 of them, maybe a few more. It is easier to make an accurate prediction when one is closer to them. If some of them have been resting for a while they will not emit any scent at all. Hence it is better to hunt them during the times of the day when they eat and have to move around and hence spread their scent all over the landscape. In England Moll and me and the other dogs always had a party of men behind us, including Mr. Laverack, carrying long, black thunder-sticks. When we found grouse and had located them precisely we pointed - the way Moll does right now - the direction to the grouse so that the men with the sticks knew where they are. Then Mr. Laverack walked up to our side and the other men spread out to the left and the right with their sticks ready in front of them. Then Mr. Laverack told me to "Get them Dash! - Get them Moll - Get them Belle" or whoever other dog I had with me. Now we rushed forward toward the scent source and often a whole covey of red grouse sprang up and flew away. It was a spectacle every time! The most eager of the men started to shoot immediately with their sticks and often missed, or if they hit they blew the bird to pieces. However, most other men had the nerves to let the birds fly a distance before they shot at them, so they came down in one piece and were neat to fetch for us dogs, something we had to do when the men could not find all of the shot birds. It was not unusual for us to go home in the evening with 50 or 60 brace of grouse, a good day. In fact we always had a stick-less man or two for the sole purpose to carry the shot birds. This is a lot of fun but you do not seem to know anything about this sport up here in Suo... I mean; Finnmarka!
Now watch what happens when the eager puppies sooner or later come too close to the birds. Moll will not move unless the birds try to escape by foot, then she will rush closer until they squat again and she takes a new point, keeping them nailed to the ground... well the snow in this case. Otherwise she will point for ages if needed - or at least until the men with the sticks have made their way up to her.
Santa and Dash started to sneak closer to Moll and the puppies, step by step. When the puppies heard their steps in the snow the tension released and they all, like in a competition, ran up towards the supposed source of the scent. Suddenly the snow exploded in a burst of white wings and cackle and 9 or 10 beautifully white and strong grouse lifted from their hide. The noise was considerable and already the pure, living, fluttering mass of the birds frightened the puppies so much so all of them stopped their race like they had hit a brick wall and a few even turned around and started to run back towards their mother. Moll had sat down out of old habit and watched with pleasure and pride her puppies to do their first flush of grouse. Dash continues to explain for Santa:
- Me and Moll will now and then take the puppies for new expeditions and they will learn everything about grouse. You know how youngsters are. We can explain things about hunting to them and they understand what we say, but they are always sure that they can do things better in their own way. Hence it is of no use to nag on them, or even explain anything to them, but to let them do their own mistakes. When they have done every conceivable mistake they start to do things the way we do them - but not earlier! This is important to remember since it saves you both time and effort when we understand that we cannot teach a dog to hunt. So do not try to train them, just take them out so that they can do self-studies about the topic that is grouse and other game birds.
Slowly Santa starts to understand that what he sees now could be of use for the Norsemen hunters. Santa gives an impression of being a rather docile man but that is a false impression. When needed he is a clever dude and can draw the right conclusions. The setters could be of use for him too! The dogs can obviously see the invisible and not only that, they can make it visible so that it can be shot and put on the dinner table! If there is something Santa understands it is delicious food and generous dinners. He and Dash walks up to Moll. The puppies, most of them anyway, investigate the potholes in the snow where the grouse had laid. They are eager and excited but also a bit confused... the scent was still there but the birds were all gone? They had not yet learned the difference between ground scent and body scent but that would come in due time.
- Moll, said Santa, kneeling at her side and stroking her back gently, what I just saw is nothing short of fantastic! How long have you been hunting grouse like this in England? How long does it take for the puppies to become fully able with the grouse? Why have we up here in Finnmarka never learned to hunt grouse this way? Can I do this if I get me a shotgun?
- Yes, Santa, you can do this too if you wish - Said Moll. We have hunted like this for hundreds of years but not with a black thunder-stick but with nets. The thunder-stick came into the picture about when Mr. Laverack started his kennel, or perhaps a few decades earlier, I am not really sure. Anyway, it is a sport of the Nobles and rich men since in England most peasants are really poor and more like slaves and cannot afford the luxury of a birddog. I do not know how it is in your country but as you have noticed we must be fed, we must have shelter, we must have exercise every day to stay fit and healthy and we must socialize with you humans in order to hunt for you... if not, we will hunt for ourselves only and you will not like that. The puppies must be given regular experience of birds by outings into the hunting grounds and it takes several years for them to learn the needed skills of a novice birddog. To become master hunters it takes them a few more years... and so on. You Santa are almost as rich as Mr. Laverack, and you have the pucks to work for you so you have a lot of leisure time to spend on dogs, if you wish. What I have seen of the Norsemen, only the hunters who really can benefit from our help, could spare the time needed on us. The others of them seem to be busy just staying alive, like in England!
Santa stood up, a bit confused. He pulled his long beard, adjusted his hat and then suggested that they collect the puppies and go home to talk to Mama. After all she was the one who first got the idea that the setters could help them in one way or another bagging the grouse.
Santa talked to Mama about his fantastic day and what the dogs had told him. They invited Norsemen Chiefs to a dinner and talked about the new possibilities in grouse hunting. Later in the very early autumn Santa and Mama invited in hunting interested forest industry leaders, banking people, lawyers, nobles, other rich folks and even the Royal Princess and Duchess of Helsingland and her brother the Royal Prince and Duke of Wermland, to a big feast with the secret agenda to bring these setters into the discussion. The feast was a success. As the Santa's house was in the middle of the best grouse habitat the guest could sit on the terrace, sip cloudberry liqueur and herb tea and watch the setters work on grouse. They were overwhelmed by the dogs speed, style and beauty, their sharp points and clever work with the grouse that tried to escape by foot. Sometimes the dogs pressed the birds to the ground with their pure presence; sometimes they stopped the escaping birds by circling them. All the time they took care not to put too much pressure on the birds, so that they did not find it necessary to fly away from the scene. Since the guests were selected for an interest in hunting they soon agreed that this could become a new, fantastic sport for them. Some of them had been in a business matter to England, and the Princess had acquaintances there that indeed did a lot of this type of hunting and found it to be good sport. They agreed to set up a committee to swiftly analyze how to get more of these dogs to the Scandinavian Peninsula. A ship-owner who had regular traffic between Gothenburg in Sweden and Hull in England said that he will telegraph to his agent in Hull to take contact with this Mr. Laverack and arrange for a meeting with him in late September, since he was going to see the dogs and learn the way of hunting in the country of their origin. He would buy a couple of them to breed on and he urged the other guests to do likewise.
The rest is history; Santa gave some of the puppies to those guests who wanted to start right away and some to the Norsemen Chiefs who would introduce their hunters to them. This later gift to the Norsemen was a particularly successful one since the English setter soon came to be the official National Dog of Norway! Well, just at that time Norway was not a sovereign country yet but came to be so after a few decades only.
Santa and Mama kept two puppies - the bitch Cora, and the Ranger of the Moors; the latter got its name to honor the moorland that the setters had for centuries originally hunted, to the great pleasure of their owners. This dog puppy came to be the most influential stud dog in Norway and Sweden, to the great pride of Moll and Dash, Mama and Santa. Santa became a keen grouse hunter together with Moll and Dash, Cora and Ranger. "Dogging the moors", as this sport is called in England, gave Santa so much exercise so he lost half of his weight and soon looked more like starving crane than the corpulent and good-natured Santa Claus he was supposed to be. He gave up his job and retired to spend the time on the dogs only.
A fat, beer drinking and pork, goose and eel eating man with a huge beard, bad breath and sore feet from the very far south in Sweden moved up the north to replace him. He then became the prototype for the modern Santa Claus. The pucks that now had to move to his new workshop were less happy with him, but then again they had no say in the matter.
Mama was also pretty happy with the development of things, since now that Claus had retired they could as a whole family for the first time in thousand years celebrate the Christmas on the right day of the year, and not always a couple of days later than everyone else. In addition Claus had, now that he had no duties to think about and worry over, become a more vigilant man, lost his laziness and started some dawning tourist business covering the entire Lapland area. Mr. Laverack, who had deeply mourned the loss of his beloved Molly and Dash in the storm, and thought he would never see them again, was over the moon when he heard that they were well in a loving home, and in addition had made an entire nation or two into addicted hunters over his setters! He sold his kennel business to a man named Purcel Llewellin, packed his coach with guns and other hunting gear and a few of his best dogs, Fred and Belle, and traveled north to hunt the white Willow Grouse with Claus and Mama up in Finnmarka. Once there he had a very emotional welcome from Dash and Moll, Claus and Mama and then they and all the dogs went out together on the Finnmarka plains with guns and gear and tents and other stuff packed in a pulka drawn by reindeers, to hunt grouse. And if they have not yet returned they are probably still "dogging the moors" behind the highest mountains and in the deepest valleys in Finnmarka!
Today there are tens of thousands of English Setters in Scandinavia, giving pleasure and exciting sport to their owners. They have also got company of their ancient close relatives, the Gordon and Irish setters, which positively contribute to the sport and competition on the hills and lowland fields.
Footnote: The committee that was to work out how to introduce the setters into the Scandinavian hunting tradition is still working and has not yet come to any decision. Then again; who cares?