Welcoming a New Powder Hound to the Mountain Pack

ULLR THE SNOW GOD / DOG

He's called Ullr, after the Norse God of Snow, and Patron Saint of Skiers, so let's hope our new mountain pup brings us epic snow next winter in Serre Chevalier...

Anyone who skis with us or reads our blogs will know about the Style Altitude mascots, our two Jack Russells, Kiki and Beanie. They are known as the Rando Chiens, who are, we believe, the only ski touring Jack Russells in the world, coming up the mountain with us - and down on their four paws (although sometimes on powder days, Beanie, will grab a lift in a backpack as her longer fur can get mightily matted with snowballs). Check here if you want to know about skiing with dogs.

But, although she was ski touring with us in April, Kiki is slowing up, well, she is 12 years old. And she now enjoys leisurely strolls and prefers catching zeds, napping on the sofa, to running up mountains and trying to catch marmots. So we'd been on the lookout for a Jack Russell litter but with the Covid crisis, the right pup has been hard to find let alone afford. In fact, our daughters paid £1500 for a Jack in the UK, in February (she's very cute but way too small for ski touring).

And, then our friend Tina here in Serre Chevalier announced that her dog, Lucky, was having pups.

A PURE 'BORSKI'

Lucky is ginger with white markings and looks like an Aussie Border Collie. She is the most chilled dog on the planet. Nothing fazes her and she takes ski touring in her loping stride. So having one of her pups was a no-brainer. However, no one is quite sure who is the dad. Could be the Husky up the road in Le Bez, could be a black and white Border Collie, could be one of the typical hybrid mountain dogs that are a mix of Husky/Collie/German Shepherd. So, yes, he's more mountain mutt than pedigree anything, at four months looking like a  'pure' Borski (Border Collie and Husky). 

We picked our puppy up at the end of May at 10 weeks old and called him Ullr after the Norse God of Snow, Patron Saint of Skiers, the son of Sif and stepson of Thor described as 'cold-loving, bow-wielding Ullr (pronounced Oool-er), an expert skater, skier and hunter who would glide around the world and cover the land with snow'. So here's hoping he's a good omen for this winter.

LICKY CHARM

He was the same size as the Jacks (main image) and, indeed, two months later, still thinks he is one and can fit under chairs. But he now towers over the Jacks and frequently gets stuck. He's one of the sweetest natured puppies I've ever known. He licks the Jacks' ears and drags his cushions out of his night cage for them to lie on during the day (I know, probably just a coincidence that he takes them out and they sack out on top). He's low maintenance, his toys consist of a stick of wood, a plastic bottle, a plant pot and one of Gav's old socks. He chews these out on the patio all day long, occasionally grinding his teeth on a chair leg indoors but he'll stop instantly when given a firm 'no', and look mortified.

Ullr doesn't bite or nip us like many a pup, instead he enjoys nothing more than to lick our feet, which is like having a rather slobbery reflexology session. Even the vet in Briancon was charmed by his calm nature, as he rolled on his back to have his tummy tickled on her examination table. But he then had a pee on the floor, which slightly blotted his copybook - and the pristine tiles.

THE STEALTH VOMER

So OK he's not the perfect puppy. Ullr's worst trait is an inability to travel in the van. He's nicknamed 'the stealth vomer' because of his tendency to vomit when you least expect it (and don't have his 'sick bowl' at the ready).

He has boundless energy, which we have to keep somewhat bottled as in not taking him for long walks or runs until he's older. The adage is five minutes for every month so, at four months, he should only be getting 20 minutes exercise a day. He gets more like an hour but it's a walk at Kiki's pace while he hoons around leaping on grasshoppers.

Ullr is super strong, athletic and has a coat that looks like it'll develop into a lighter (colour and texture) version of a Border Collie's, perfect for warmth in the winter while not getting weighed down with snow.  And he's super easy to train as in will turn cartwheels for a dog treat and has been walking off the lead since the second day we had him. So we have high hopes for this powder hound.

But he won't be ski touring properly until 2022-2023 though we may start him with a few gentle trips next spring. Watch this space / ski blog.