If you are familiar with recent canine history in Iceland, you have probably heard more than once that dogs were not allowed in Reykjavík until recent times. This means they are still regarded by more than a few people, especially of older generations, as dangerous disease spreaders or at any rate unfit to be in urban territory. In many cases they’re still considered nothing more than farm animals, and they don’t share the same pet status as cats. In some areas of Reykjavík there are still bans on canine transit; even where dogs are allowed, they are to be kept on the leash at all times. More than once I’ve heard both Icelanders and foreigners reach the conclusion, in the course of a discussion on the subject, that Icelanders on average are not so respectful or considerate when it comes to some species of animals, and dogs are definitely in this group.
Life is not easy for poor dogs in Iceland’s capital. Sometimes it makes one feel uncomfortable to see all those dogs constantly forced to follow rules that are alien to their nature: do not dig, do not walk here and there, do not crawl, do not sniff people’s groins and lick their faces, do not bark, do not approach other dogs on leash. Their foreign colleagues in some countries seem to be doing better than Icelandic dogs. It’s true that in most cities of the world dogs aren’t commonly allowed to go unleashed, but it’s also true that in many of these cities there are many areas where dogs are free to run and play without restrictions, while in the whole Reykjavík area, not only downtown, it’s almost impossible to find a place to let your dog be free and happy. It’s a very weird paradox, especially considering how just a few kilometers away almost total wilderness surrounds the human inhabitated territory.
In the west part of Reykjavík stretches a valley, the Elliðaárdalur, famous for recreational activities, like hiking and biking along green paths or fishing in the waters of river Elliðaá, well-known for its abundant and excellent salmon. In the proximity of river Elliðaá, at a location called Geirsnef (which is Geir’s Nose in English), Reykjavík’s canine population found its own little paradise.
Pardon my ignorance if I say I ignore what this Geir and his nose did to deserve to have a location named after them. I imagine this Geir as a sort of benign creature, partly troll and partly canine deity, with a funny protruding nose, living in a cave somewhere along the course of the salmon river. I imagine him talking to birds and wild animals, spying on people riding their bikes from his special hiding places concealed by untended hedges and bushes. I see him sitting by a fire in the darkest winter evenings, listening to the murmur of the river after the peak of salmon’s season. Well, I am sure I am completely on the wrong track. I know Geir isn’t even a very trollish name. And probably his actual nose had nothing to do with anything. Whatever the truth behind the name, Geirsnef would definitely deserve the title of canine paradise. Dogs of all breeds and ages probably won’t mind, as they do not care about noses besides their own. What really counts for them is the Nose of Geir granted them canine rights, like those of exploring any corner arousing their curiosity, sniffing each other’s rear for as long as they like and chasing one another, all without the atrocious constriction of the leash, rights that are denied to them everywhere else in Reykjavík.
Hopefully in the future more areas like the one near the salmon river will be created especially for dogs and their owners in Reykjavík. Hopefully in the future being a dog here will be easier and more fun for, well… dogs.
A small map we have created to show the location of Geirsnef can be found here.