Tianja's arctic love and training pack of 85 husky sled dogs


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Categories: Life Stories

Photographer Brice Portolano‘s project No Signal is all about documenting the lives of people who have chosen to live “off-the-grid.” 

The essay, titled “Arctic Love,” follows a young Finnish woman namedTinja who, after 6 years studying Biology in southern Finland, decided to leave the urban comforts of the city, move up north, and raise sled dogs.

Tinja is a young Finnish woman living 180 miles from the nearest town. In 2008, after 6 years in southern Finland studying biology, she decided to leave the city and go back to the wilderness to raise sled dogs.

It's -35 degrees on this day of January, nothing unusual for Tinja who grew up in the arctic weather. Like every morning, she goes around the cages of her husky farm to clean up and feed her 85 dogs. Today, the sun is coming back after 40 days of polar night. Fortunately during that period, the frequent northern lights and the full moon brightly reflect on the snow covered landscapes of northern Finland. For 2 years now, she has been sharing her daily life with Alex, a former professional skier who now works as a race musher.

A group of tourists has just left and the farm slowly goes back to the calm and quiet pace Tinja likes so much. Several times throughout the day, the dogs howl all toegether as a social behavior, just like a wolf pack. Some of the dogs actually are wolf dogs, meaning one of their parents or grandparents was a wolf. These ones need more attention than the others as they can easily become wild again.

Tinja's husky farm is off the grid: she cooks and heats with a wood stove, lights, her home with candles and has to break the ice of the river every morning to get her water with a bucket. Inside her house is also a sauna where not only does she wash herself, but also does the dishes and her laundry.

Despite the many emails she receives each week, she's not looking for commercial profit:

"I like being on my own with my dogs and horses. I think being alone is the most peaceful way of life there is. All this has come out of my love of animals. I didn't set up a dogsledding business for commercial reasons. It's about my own love of nature and living out here in the wild."

Deeply in love with nature and animals, she finds her inspiration in the arctic wilderness:
"I don't want material things. Nature provides all I need."

Now her days consist of taking care of and training a pack of 85 husky sled dogs, starting her days in -35°F (-37°C) weather and spending days on end in darkness during the polar night with her partner, a former professionalskiier named Alex.

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