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The Fan Hitch, Journal of the Inuit Sled Dog International, is published four times a year. It is available at no cost online at: http://thefanhitch.org.
Print subscriptions: in Canada $20.00, in USA $23.00, elsewhere $32.00 per year, postage included. All prices are in Canadian dollars. Make checks payable in Canadian dollars only to "Mark Brazeau", and send to Mark Brazeau, Box 151 Kangiqsualujjuaq QC J0M 1N0 Canada. (Back issues are also available. Contact Sue Hamilton.)
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The Inuit Sled Dog International
The Inuit Sled Dog International (ISDI) is a consortium of enthusiasts whose goal is the preservation of this ancient arctic breed in its purest form as a working dog. The ISDI's efforts are concentrated on restoring the pure Inuit Dog to its native habitat. The ISDI's coordinators welcome to your comments and questions.
Mark and the team right after a run
by Mark Hamilton
Dogsledding is not a new form of transportation. We know that the Samoyed, Koryak, and Chukchi people of eastern Siberia north of Lake Baikal all began using dogs to pull their sleds somewhere between four and eight thousand years ago. We also know they trained their dogs to turn on command and that their sleds had brakes. So, by any definition dog sledding is an ancient form of transportation. However, since both the time and place of its inception has been established it would be inaccurate to characterize dog sledding as timeless. However, there is timelessness in elements of this activity and I find those elements a significant part of my enjoyment of dog sledding.
One of the elements which engenders timelessness is that dog sledding is a year-round outdoor activity. Even in months when actual sledding is impossible we still need to care for and work with our dogs. Involvement is never further than the next chore away. That results in us being outdoors a lot. In daylight and darkness, in good weather and bad, we find ourselves outdoors with our dogs, feeding, socializing, exercising, and just hanging around with them. And they are all activities that require we provide as much time as needed. The mere passage of time has nothing to do with whether or not they have been completed.
Training is another element rooted in timelessness. Even before we take our first training run we take whatever time is necessary to train our dogs to calmly stand to be harnessed, to stand at the ready, to not mouth or chew harnesses or tug-lines. Once training runs begin we concentrate on teaching the whole team to pull and concentrate on pulling. When a new lead dog starts to "get it" for the very first time, nobody wants to stop right there and call it a day. We take the time to ensure training is fun for our dogs and that training sessions end with fun, positive experiences for them.
Whether traveling out on the ice or through woodlands dog sledding isn't a "precision watch synchronized to the Atomic Clock" type of experience. Phrases like, "We'll get there today." or, "We should be there sometime tomorrow." are reasonable things to think and say. A calendar is just as useful as a watch for such dog sledding activities. While dog sledding there is time to enjoy the sights and sounds of the trip, as well as the company of our team. As we travel the actual time drifts by going mostly unnoticed.
Dog sledding is special for us. Above and below the tree line we love dog sledding. We have the opportunity to be outside a lot throughout the year. We have the opportunity to work cooperatively at a task with another species, at a task that both we and our teammates enjoy. It's relaxing, invigorating and rejuvenating. Even a short training run is enough for us to feel as relaxed and happy as having been on vacation.
There is at least one additional element of timelessness for us, we recognize we provide a small contribution toward the continuation the tradition of dog sledding. Dog sledding won’t end with us, we’ve helped carry it forward for others in the future. The best part of that is that we've had so much fun making that small contribution.