A dog's life in northern Sweden

When Jennifer Claywood moved from America to northern Sweden, she was shocked by the locals' seemingly practical attitude to dogs. She thought they saw them more as tools than pets. But, after she bought a puppy, her perspective completely changed.

Do northern Swedes really have totally different attitudes to dogs than Americans?

Do northern Swedes really have totally different attitudes to dogs than Americans?

Foto: Simon Hastegård

Engelska2023-12-04 09:00
Det här är en krönika. Åsikterna i texten är skribentens egna.

When I moved to Sweden, I had a dog named Cole. I wasn’t going to make the move without him, so I brought him all the way from Florida to Skellefteå, Sweden. 

And so began my strange experience of having a pet dog in northern Sweden. On walks, on at least two separate occasions, people asked me if I had sheep. Because I had a dog. Another asked me if I was a hunter. And if my dog hunted with me. I found these questions strange, as in Florida, the first assumption would be that a dog was a pet. 

After Cole had been here a couple of years, we decided to get a puppy. Here, I couldn’t find a dog shelter, so searched on Blocket. I was surprised to learn that while mutts were not as expensive as pedigree dogs, they still cost quite a bit more than I was expecting to pay. In the US, it wasn’t uncommon to find ads which said, “Free to a good home.”

We found a puppy that was available and went to see it. It’s hard to go look at a puppy and not buy it, so we ended up bringing her home. 

Going through this process taught me a lot about dogs in Swedish society. 

You can’t buy dogs in a pet store. Breeders, or unlucky dog owners who hadn’t meant to be breeders, have to go through an expensive process of bringing puppies to a vet to get them chipped and have their first vaccinations. Dogs can’t be left alone for more than 6 hours. If dogs are left inside, they have to have access to a window to see outside. They can’t be left in a crate or cage unless for medical reasons. 

From my interactions with locals, I thought that dogs were seen more as tools than companions. But all the animal rights laws surrounding their birth and continued care seemed to show a great deal of respect and love for them. 

Then we had an emergency. Our lovely pup, a few months old, swallowed a plastic ball. She was sick. I made several frantic phone calls and this led me to a man on the other end of the phone line who told me that the only thing he could do was to come by and kill the dog for me. 

We ended up going to an emergency veterinarian in Luleå.

Meanwhile, Cole was getting older. When he was close to death, we took him to a vet in Skellefteå. I was expecting a sedative that would calm him and give us some time with him before the concoction took his life.

Instead, there was a single injection, and he was gone within seconds. 

The attitude toward death here is different from what I experienced in the US, but that’s a topic for another time. 

This column was originally published at norran.se/english, the English part om norran.se.