Monday, 30 March 2015

Days 8 and 9 - Our Final Weekend in Turku, Finland

Our stay in Finland ended at the weekend in memorable style with visits to two of Finland’s big dog shows in Turku, where Osa afforded a prestigious honour at Sunday’s speciality lapphund competition. After being paraded before chief judge Saara Sampakoski (Shacal Kennel), Osa and Mark were given a special plate and rosette, which signified the spirit of Finland and that Osa possessed all the characteristics and qualities that traditional breeders in Lapland strive for. It was an unexpected accolade and one, we are informed, that is not freely awarded. It left Four Men pretty chuffed, especially Jeffo, Osa’s owner.

Osa may not be a towering brute like some of his male counterparts here but what we do know now is that he has an enviable striking, well-portioned head that has dawn attention from the day we arrived. It was one of the first comments made from renowned Finnish breeders Matti Takanen and Riita Takalo from the Lumiturpa Kennel, who bred Osa’s influential grandfather, Norri, and with who we had such a wonderful time with on Friday. It was great to discover that, looks wise, Osa and Norri had plenty in common.

Osa also caught up with another one of Norri's grandsons at the show, Lumiturpa Eppu, they were very pleased to met!

I think our pint-sized hero was feeling the effects of a long week - and he was not the only one. On our final day’s shoot, we were all feeling a little jaded but mightily content that we had pulled off an ambitious project and could now share it with everyone. If this trip has proved anything, it is people’s love of dogs and how they can transform lives simply by just being there or, in our new friend Anna Pasanen’s case, instrumental in helping her cope on a day-to-day basis in a wheelchair. The boys all admit to a new perspective on how dogs should be raised. 

Jeffo concedes that if he had Osa’s life all over again he may have approached it differently after seeing the example set in Finland for these hardy, lovely breed. There is no doubt, given the evidence on show, that Osa would have thrived much better in a completely natural environment than in the, so called domesticated bliss that he has lived in all of his life. “I didn’t realise all this when I got him - I just loved the breed’s characteristics without maybe fully taking in the dog’s very best interests and ideal conditions,” he says. “This was a real eye-opener and maybe people need to weigh up a lot more when buying a lappie. Maybe I’d do it differently next time round, who knows?”

Jukka Kuusisto, a Finn who helped introduce the first lappie to the UK and who attended Sunday’s show, agrees wholeheartedly that this breed is much better outdoors in the elements than curled up in front of an indoor heater. Even dog owner James Gore, who fell in love with the reindeer dogs here, says it has given him a different outlook. “I’d love to get one but whether I can provide the life it really needs to thrive is another thing” he says.

It was no coincidence that the best night’s sleep Osa had was on a freezing cold night in the van when he slept alongside Jeffo, with the three boys huddled in the upstairs tent. Unfortunately, the boys could no stand it, so it was the only time the campervan was properly used.

We also attended the international breed show on Saturday (only 53 lapis attended this one compared to 166 on Sunday) and it was a bonus to be able to take Osa in. But there were hiccups on both days - and, yes, Jeffo was at the heart of them. On the first day, he forgot to take Osa’s passport, which was needed to get him through a vet inspection and, the very next day, Jeffo forgot the worming tablet, which must be administered between one and five days in front of a vet before a dog is allowed to return to the UK. By this stage, though, we were used to things going astray, so nothing new there!

While the hard work for three guys and Osa is finished, it is just beginning for our editor Isaac. Still, we're all confident that we've come away with some great footage, some great knowledge and some even better memories; and we hope that everyone has enjoyed what we have accomplished. It was no easy trip but pulling it off has been so rewarding.

First thing Monday morning we are back on the ferry from Turku to Stockholm, we will then make our 18 hour drive to Calais and board the Euro Tunnel and soon after will be back in the UK - getting some well deserved sleep... without Mike's ridiculously loud snoring! 

We would have never been able to do this without the help of Nina Lahin, who acted as our translator and main organiser for us here, we have so much to thank her for... especially her patience! We also absolutely loved meeting Matti and Riita and all of the people at the Finnish Lapphund Club of Great Britain (Liz Mowatt, Osa’s breeder, and Toni Jackson among them) who chipped in to make this a reality. We offer our sincere thanks and gratitude to you all. Also a big thanks Mandy, Nigel and Tasha, the owners of Ellie, Osa’s full sister from the 2001 litter, for letting us visit them on the UK leg of filming.

Anyhow, this is the Four Men and a Dog team signing off now! Thanks again to everyone for all of the support, please continue to follow us for regular updates on how the editing process is going and to see how Osa is doing. 

All of the Best,

Michael, James, Isaac, Mark and of course, Osa.

Please make sure to Subscribe to this blog, as we will be updating our adventures along the way. And make sure to Like our Facebook page to see regular posts!

Please visit www.dogsfortedisabled to see the charity that we are supporting. And if you would like to donate to the Dogs for the Disabled charity, then please visit 

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Day 7 - Ekenas back to Turku

Can you vividly remember the first time you made love? Jeffo point blank refused to answer that in case he incriminated himself and dishonoured the girl in tow many years ago. But on Friday he was happy someone did (in the case of Osa’s heritage). Four men got down to the nitty gritty on Friday when they visited Lumiturpa Kennel, where’s Osa’s family tree started.

The kennel is owned by Matti Takanen and Riitta Takalo, who know a thing or two about breeding lapis after having been in the business since 1980. Not just lapis but reindeer dogs and German spitz, too. They are originally from Lapland and their location just outside Karjaa in Finland.

Anyhow, Jeffo was stunned when they took him to the exact spot where Osa’s grandmother, Echo, was mated with Finland’s champion Norri. It was a cold, snowy night when they looked outside, catching Norri doing the business way back in 2000, this would lead to the birth of Osa’s old man Tuukka. It was the first time that a bitch of any breed had been mated abroad under the pet passport scheme, introduced in the UK. So Osa has a slice of history of his side.

This was a real eye opener to us all. Osa has been a pampered pooch all his life, but here were robust, extremely well looked after lappies, relishing life in a rural setting that they were bred for. These dogs are made for temperatures exceeding minis 15C and the contrast between lifestyles was stark.
The visit was tinged with sadness as Matti and Riitta are still getting over the death of Lumiturpa Api, a son of Norri, who died on his 15th birthday a week ago. Norri, himself, died in tragic circumstances in 2006 when a fire ravaged the family’s log cabin and claimed the lives of four dogs. 

Bringing Osa to Finland to trace his family tree had been a goal of Jeff’s for years and he was chuffed to hear from Matti that the point-sized Osa had similarities to his beloved Norri. “He’s handsome,” Riitta said, and Jeffo later said: “If they can’t ever say that about me, I’m happy they can about him.” All the boys fell in love with the litter of lapis and reindeer dogs. “I’m not joking but I want to take this reindeer pup home now - I’m fixated,” said James. 

Another highlight was Osa, a grandson, meeting Norri’s granddaughters, Oikku and Hassu, who are also 13 years old. To cap off the day there was first-rate coffee and some of the best donuts we have had on tour… Mike was extremely happy! 

While we have had a few hiccups on the road, days like these make up for it in bucket loads. Watch this space…

Please make sure to Subscribe to this blog, as we will be updating our adventures along the way. And make sure to Like our Facebook page to see regular posts!

Please visit www.dogsfortedisabled to see the charity that we are supporting. And if you would like to donate to the Dogs for the Disabled charity, then please visit 

Day 6 Turku to Helsinki to Ekenas

Can Father Christmas ever arrive looking in need of a good feed and without his customary white beard. Yes, if you have Jeffo on your side. Things go wrong for him so many times times that he feels the need to splash the cash to get out of trouble. And we can say just about that here without putting him in the pig’s mire because his girlfriend Sarah (the one he sacrificed a skiing trip for to go on this whacky trip) is not on Facebook. The big worry for him is that his good mate Alfie Muiro, who only joined Facebook to follow this trip, is one of the biggest mouths in the north and could easily do so.
Today we all awoke in a pretty swish four-star hotel because our Aussie leader again couldn’t line us up with a campsite. And a blessing, too, because Finland is still mightily cold at this time of the year and none of us had any inclination to stay a second night in the camper - even with a hot-air heater.
Jeffo papered over the cracks again with a first-class breakfast to get us motivated for another day shoot. If his girl Sarah hasn’t got a clue just yet, we also had the choice of a sauna, swim, back massage, toe rub, facial and a wax. Everyone bypassed a wax except for Mike… His back is now as smooth as a baby’s bum!

On a serious note, Thursday showed us just how valuable dogs can be to people in need. Our charity on this trip is Dogs for the Disabled and we met Finn Anna Pasanen, an inspirational woman who has made every post a winner since she was paralysed in a car accident in 2003.

It was amazing to see how she relies on her 11-year-old labrador Nella and how she is an integral part of getting assistance dogs for those recuperating from spina injuries at the Vilidia unit in Helsinki.

To see how Nella aided Anna in her day-to-day life was touching and rammed home the importance of these dogs. Nella can open doors, push the number of a lift floor with her nose, is on hand to pick up anything that Anna drops, can help her take off her jumper and can also pull her up ramps. 
Maybe Osa could have been trained to do the same thing - but God knows how many treats that would have taken.

Moving on, we still hadn’t found a place to stay that night and, I kid you not, we ran into more problems. The plan was to stay in Helsinki but, after eating there Jeffo had a bright idea. “Let’s get out of this joint and get a hotel closer to where we are going to film tomorrow,” he said.
The boys bought it so away we went towards Karjaa. And while we were not full of optimism, our hopes were faintly raised with his assertiveness. 

We lobbed up at just before 11pm after being informed by a petrol station attendant that there would definitely be at least one hotel open but it was an all too familiar story. It was a ghost town, the only thing missing was tumbleweed in the main streets. The hotel looked vacant and no-one answered the call button. We drive for 10 minutes and finally spotted two girls in the street, who must have wondered what was in store when we pulled up in our colourful Wicked camper with the words ‘Assassins do it from behind’ embalmed on the back. 

They told us the next best bet was heading 15 minutes away to a place called Ekenas. So we did, arriving there to find a similar scenario until two old-aged pensions (mot quite Jeffo’s age) were hailed down and pout us in the right direction. Fifty yards down the road we found somewhere and they cashed in on Jeffo’s desperation. “I thought I’d be out in the street tonight,” Jeffo told the receptionist.

“That will be 200 euros for two rooms, with extra for the dog,” she said. After another 10 minutes finding the room, four men were just about out for the count. The rooms weren’t flash and maybe it was a little ungrateful of us to accuse Jeffo of being ‘walked all over’ by a dozen women wearing stilettos.

“There’s always tomorrow, Jeffo,” James quipped. And with that we settled in. In hindsight it could have been worse!

Please make sure to Subscribe to this blog, as we will be updating our adventures along the way. And make sure to Like our Facebook page to see regular posts!

Please visit www.dogsfortedisabled to see the charity that we are supporting. And if you would like to donate to the Dogs for the Disabled charity, then please visit 

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Day 5 - Exploring Turku, Finland

It was Wednesday morning - the crack of dawn - the birds were chirping, the sun was bright, and the boys were frozen stiff! The previous night was the first time that we had actually slept in the camper… And it was an extremely rough night! Not only was it a tight squeeze (thanks to Mike) but it was unbearably cold! But, we had been living likes kings the previous nights, so we decided to suck it up and make the most of being up exceptionally early. The boys geared up, Jeffo and Osa got suited and booted and we took a stroll to the the local beach to really soak up the scenery. 

We really began to appreciate just how beautiful this place is. Within 100 yards of our lovely campsite, we were walking along a majestic coast, lined with woods. Osa suddenly thought he was a a pup again, bounding along the sand and through the trees. It was great to see. Everywhere he goes he draws attention and a smile, even a country where Lapphunds are the national dog.

He’s a true pro, too. He’s always up for a snap and has got to be one of the most photogenic dogs strolling around anywhere. His face just lights up a camera and when you look at him for a split second you forgot all you problems and begin to smile along with him. That’s dogs for you: they give their love unconditionally with no strings attached and make people’s day; day after day after day.

After doing a little bit of exploring, the crew  editing and updating our social media in the immaculate Turku library we set off and explored this wonderful place, which used to be the old Finnish capital. According to the locals, it’s the place to find out what Finns are all about. 

Four Men have still not come across too many dogs, but Osa did cross swords with Zorro, a rather cute Jack Russell cross bred in a city store called, Heirol. 

After freezing our socks off in the camper van the previous night, Jeff booked us into a rather swish hotel in the city centre, with Osa’s four-star room looking like a presidential suite, Osa had his own special bed and a bag full of treats… He slept like a little hibernating bear. So, when we initially set off for this trip we believed that it was going to be a really rough trip, where we were roughing it hard for 2 weeks in a very cramped van… however, this current situation was quite the opposite… we were leaving like absolute ROCK STARS! Plasma TV’s, expensive dinning and impeccable beds… What more could you ask for? The boys took full advantage of the facilities, too, with Jimmy, Isaac and Michael heading for straight for the sauna and swim before hitting the beers… This is the life!

We have a busy day ahead of us tomorrow, including a meeting with Finn Anna Pasanen in Helsinki. She is one of the many people in the world who rely on dogs for day-to-day assistance,  something which is extremely important to us, and something which we hope will raise awareness for our great charity Dogs fort the Disabled. 

Stay tuned. Finland, Finland, Finland, as Monty Python sang. It’s the place we all want to be at the moment.

Please make sure to Subscribe to this blog, as we will be updating our adventures along the way. And make sure to Like our Facebook page to see regular posts!

Please visit www.dogsfortedisabled to see the charity that we are supporting. And if you would like to donate to the Dogs for the Disabled charity, then please visit 

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Day 4 - Stadsgarden, Sweden to Turku, Finland (Ferry Trip)

If Jeffo is nothing else, he is consistent. His last word on Monday night was “No worries, I’ll get you guys up in plenty of time for the ferry. We need to be up at 5.30 and on the road at 5.45 after a quick bit of breakfast.”

Wind the clock forward and it was like a Hangover film! Our ferry was leaving at 7.45am and they had advised us to be checked in and ready to go at least an hour ahead of schedule. The big snag, other than the boys suffering from a rough hangover, was that Jeffo was still operating on UK time as he had not adjusted his watch and, when he strolled into the harbour office to get checked in, the woman looked at him in exasperation. “You have got 10 minutes until the gate shuts,” she told him. “I will have to ring the gate and see if I can hold up the ferry, but I am not promising anything!”

Everyone’s adrenalin was now pumping! Jeffo jumped back into the driver’s seat and took off, faster than a Romford trap-one greyhound! We only had a short trip up the road, but this was peak hour and the traffic was jammed packedexcept the bus lane! Jeffo tore down the lane shouting and cursing. He hoped that there were no penalties like there were in the UK and, if there were, the Swedes could not give a flying rat’s backside about chasing up a disorganised foreign traveller with a hippie looking van and the direction powers of Burke and Wills (they were early explorers who perished on their travels in Australia)… 

Tensions were high in the van, the boys and Osa contemplated their fate, wondering what would happen if they missed the ferry! It was at that point that Mark almost cleaned up an old-aged pensioner at a zebra crossing. He was so focused on not getting caught by the police for being in the bus lane, and he was going so fast he didn’t see the old fella, nor did he have time to apologise to him. We finally got to the gate and again we were met by a bewildered worker from Viking (the ferry company), who shook his head in disbelief and ushered us quickly through to the queue. When we got to the ferry’s entrance we were made to wait by another unimpressed Viking worker until all the semi-trailers and cargo-bearing trucks had driven onboard… This therefore meant that we were the last car on the ferry and the last off in Turku! Good one, Jeffo! 

However, things improved aboard. The boys had a decent cabin and therefore a nice place to rest their heads to recover from their hangover, so all was forgiven. “I could spend a week on this ship,” said an excited Isaac. “Look at this scenery!” Jimmy and Michael “These views are amazing, just the sort of shots we have been waiting for!” After the boys spent time soaking up the scenery, they decided it was time from them to fill up their bellies. Michael and Jimmy tucked into what they called their “first decent meal on tour!” They capped it off with a fat-churning chocolate moose with a creamy top and a ripe cherry… “Perfection” said Mike! 

Osa was also taking in the sights as well as drawing plenty of interest aboard; constantly being patted by fellow tourists, who exclaimed “What a beautiful looking dog”... The way we are chewing up the dosh on this trip, we may have to start charging people for getting their picture with him!

Meanwhile, Mark was negotiating potential camping sites for Turku with the bemused staff, who doubted whether any would be open… especially not in -minus weather! Jeffo said he could "put his house on everything finally going sweetly", but anyone who backed most of his racing tips at the Express over the years may have something to say about that! He was due a winner and, blow us all down with a feather, the man delivered. We got a campsite just outside of Turku - and a very picturesque one at that, for once we were finally getting to use the camper van!

However, after setting up the upstairs tent room (which the 3 boys slept in) and lowering the seats for Jeff and Osa, there were more setbacks. Firstly, the set-up of the van was instructed to take around 2 minutes… 40 minutes later we were still nowhere near!... Maybe it was due to our unsatisfied stomachs, maybe due to the lack of light... I think that the most reasonable excuse is due to the stupidity of ‘Four Idiots and A Dog!’ Then, after our sleeping arrangements were set-up, it was time for dinner. Four freezing cold tins of Heinz Spaghetti had to be consumed after the small stove ran out of gas after just a few minutes. “Why didn’t you check the gas before we left,” asked Jimmy. “You’ve done it again!”... Mark refused to eat the ‘slop’, however, the boys powered through and managed to clear the lot… A lot of that was down to Mike, who shut his eyes and pretended that it was a Burger King. In desperation, Jimmy tried one of Osa’s expensive dog biscuits, which were alleged to contain 100 per cent chicken… to his surprise, Jimmy really liked them.

So, after an hour of setting up camp and a rather disappointing dinner, it was time to sleep…

Please make sure to Subscribe to this blog, as we will be updating our adventures along the way. And make sure to Like our Facebook page to see regular posts!

Please visit www.dogsfortedisabled to see the charity that we are supporting. And if you would like to donate to the Dogs for the Disabled charity, then please visit 

Monday, 23 March 2015

Day 3 - Astorp to Stockholm, Sweden

It’s come to the end of the third day and we STILL haven’t got to use the camper van as it was meant to! We left the quaint little village of Alstorp this morning fully intending to reach a campsite in Stockholm late afternoon that would still be open. On day one our intended campsite turned out to be a fairground that didn’t revert to tents and caravans until well into summer. Day two we simply arrived too late - the reception shut up shop at 4.30 in the afternoon. This time we were full of optimism but again were left sorely disappointed when we turned up to find that the campsite was a temporary boatyard that wouldn’t see any happy campers until well after spring! Hey, you lose some and win some... but it would be nice to deliver something more than an own goal. Things are going so far off the beaten track that we reckon if the four of us went to pick our noses, we’d all poke our eyes out! Haven’t seen that many dogs on our travels so far, maybe our stench has driven them away. Hamburg was very quite and, in Astorp, there were a few signs on the pavement and by the odd post to suggest that they were there. The one thing about Sweden is its general cleanliness; we were all impressed with the coastal scenery and the woodland views en route to Stockholm. Jimmy honed the music, Isaac honed his dance moves and Mike ensured that his tapeworms were not tapping on his rib-cage in desperation. “I can’t stand it when people buy things and don’t eat them straight away,” he quipped, as he asked Jeff whether he had planned to eat his salami roll any time soon!

Given a few pitstops, it took us just over five hours to reach our destination tonight. We ended up booking into another dog-friendly hotel (only just... thanks Mark) and we are looking forward to our 10-hour ferry trip to our dream target Finland, where it all started for Osa’s dad Tuukka. We will be hopefully meeting the Finnish family who bred Osa’s grandfather, Nori, on Thursday.  The good thing with Osa is how he perks up when he is out of the car. He bounded around like a dog half his age in a field on one of our pitstops and he is the centre of attention wherever he goes. People just can’t believe he is 13 and a half years old. Onwards and hopefully upwards. It would be nice to finally sleep in the van even though there is still a sharp chill in the air. Don’t forget we are raising money for Dogs For the Disabled so any support we can muster will go to a very worthy cause. To donate visit our JustGiving page

Please make sure to Subscribe to this blog, as we will be updating our adventures along the way. And make sure to Like our Facebook page to see regular posts!

Please visit www.dogsfortedisabled to see the charity that we are supporting. And if you would like to donate to the Dogs for the Disabled charity, then please visit 

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Day 2 - Hamburg to… somewhere just outside Malmo, Sweden?!

Complacency is never a good thing, but so far we have never been in a position to feel its surge. We arrived at the second camping ground just outside of Malmo, only to find that the reception had shut there hours earlier! We were now faced with not using out camper van properly for the second day running, meaning that we had to waste another 2 hours driving around the city, stopping at every hotel to hear the all to familiar, "no dogs allowed"! 

Mike (our Cameraman) had a lot of wind to let off, Isaac (our Editor) refused to hit a key on his keyboard, blaming it on the lack internet and charging problems and Jimmy Gore’s resemblance to Huey Lewis was taking a battering… a bad hair day for the big fella. However, on the plus side, Osa had bounced back from getting an upset tummy from a dental stick and, after initial fears that he had an accident on the mat indoors last night, it emerged that someone may have actually kicked his water bowl afterall!

Today we hit the road from Hamburg, taking a pleasant ferry from Puttgarden in Germany to Denmark. The Wicked Camper continued to chew out more gas than us four blokes and the dog. It would be great to finally get to use the van for its proper use; here’s hoping! The next stage is Stockholm, where we depart first thing on Tuesday morning to Turku in Finland. But our questions are: Does the roof tent actually work. Will the gas stove light up our lives?  Will Mike eat something healthy?  But hey, the sun was shining for most of the day and we had the pleasure of crossing the impressive 10-mile bridge linking Denmark and Sweden. Dartford Bridge? You’re kiddingGoodnight until tomorrow.

Please make sure to Subscribe to this blog, as we will be updating our adventures along the way. And make sure to Like our Facebook page to see regular posts!

Please visit www.dogsfortedisabled to see the charity that we are supporting. And if you would like to donate to the Dogs for the Disabled charity, then please visit