Lundehunds, Norwegian Dogs (February 2009)

At our February 20, 2009, meeting, Karon Plasha told us about one of Norway’s best-kept secrets, the ‘puffin dogs’ (there are about 1500 in the world). This is a rare and unique breed of dog, which is not only the cutest dogs you’ll ever meet, they have the personalities to match.

They are a primitive breed, which means people didn’t mix and match traits to develop them, but rather they developed specialized characteristics to meet the demands of the climate and terrain of the Lofoten islands, which is the only location they were found.

The most noticeable trait that differs from most dogs is while most dogs have 4 toes; the Lundehund has 6 toes on each foot, sometimes 7 or even 8. These are functioning toes rather than dewclaws. Most of these toes have an extra joint so they can curl their toes much like people do their fingers.

Their specialized feet gave them better traction on snow and ice and were better for climbing the steep fjords to catch the puffin birds, which are their namesake. The local farmers domesticated the dogs when they realized the dogs were much better at catching the birds than they were. They depended on the birds for food and the warmth the down and feathers provided for their homes and for trade.

These dogs have had many tragedies which has brought their numbers down significantly sometimes to the single digits on three separate known occasions, 1) when Germany invaded and brought distemper to the islands; 2) when the puffin birds were added to the endangered species list and a bounty was put on the head of each wild dog – they didn’t realize at the time the dogs were more endangered than the birds and; 3) when distemper hit again in the 60’s the numbers fell down to 6 known surviving.

The specialized feet is only one of many unique features of the Lundehund, we learned more about their many other abilities like putting their heads back onto their backs or stretching their arms out to their sides; and why they needed these traits for survival.

A big hug for the stars of our show at the February meeting: Loki, Sif and Kaylee, Norwegian Lundehunds. Karon and Mike Plasha, who own Loki and Sif, were joined by Chris Bull and his son Eric Suter-Bull and their rescue dog Kaylee (brought from Florida by Karon).

About Karon Fosaaen Plasha

Karon Plasha and lodge member Mr. Bull with two purebred Lundehunds.

Karon was born in Jacksonville, Florida, and graduated from high school there. She is the daughter of Knute and Dolores (Woods) Fosaaen, who were born in North Dakota and Alabama, respectively.

Knute’s parents emigrated to USA from Norway. His father was Knut Knutson Fosså, born at Fosså, Hjelmeland, Rogaland near Skifton and Knutsvik. He emigrated to Boston, Massachusetts, in 1890. The younger Knute’s mother was Anne (Brodal) Fosså, born at Skjåk øvre farm, Skjåk parish, Oppland. She emigrated to New York City in 1905. Karon's family in Florida are active members of "Gateway to Florida," the Sons of Norway lodge in Jacksonville.

After high school Karon attended junior colleges in Florida and Virginia, and took a job as a pharmacy technician, later entered U.S. government service first as a secretary and then as a computer programmer in the U.S. Department of the Treasury, where she has been employed for 25 years. Her hobbies and leisure activities include crafts, scrapbooking and camping.

For the past 5 years she and her husband, Michael Plasha, have been involved with the Norwegian Lundehund, having first heard of the breed in the April 2004 "Viking" magazine. Their first Lundehund is Loki, and they soon expanded their home with Sif and Rex, an adult rescue. This past year they also took in three rescue Lundies from Florida, which they nurtured back to health and placed in their new homes in Maryland and Colorado.

Karon is one of nine siblings (4 girls, 5 boys). She has a twin, Sharon, in Florida , and sisters, Susie and Debra (Debra is Youth Director in our Lodge).

Karon joined Washington Lodge in 1998, and currently serves as chair of the (Cultural Center) Design and Use Committee. She has chaired the annual Cultural Center Cleanup Day. Karon has served as Lodge Marshall and helps with hospitality and transportation at Lodge meetings.

For the past 5 years she and her husband, Michael Plasha, have been involved with caring for homeless Norwegian Lundehund dogs. They house them and seek out people who will adopt them, traveling as far as Florida and Colorado to deliver the dogs to their new homes.