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The End of the Beginning: The First Five Years of Veterinary Services in Baker Lake, Nunavut
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IMHO: Finding Purpose in Retirement
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The Fan Hitch, Journal of the Inuit Sled Dog, is published four times a year. It is available at no cost online at: http://thefanhitch.org.
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This site is dedicated to the Inuit Dog as well as related Inuit culture and traditions. It is also home to The Fan Hitch, Journal of the Inuit Sled Dog.
Amaruq, female, (L) and Puggiq, male (R) brought to Connecticut from
a traditional team in Pond Inlet, Nunavut in 1996 thoroughly loved their
new life below the tree line. photo: Hamilton
Finding Purpose in Retirement
by Mark Hamilton
Romulus and Monkey live together in the kennel. They came to us on the same flight but from two different owners in Iqaluit. Romulus had been a boss-dog during his working life whereas Monkey was a team dog. They both settled in here quickly. Perhaps in Romulus’s case it was because he now had a girl to live with plus lots of access to us. On the other hand, Monkey took a quick survey of the kennel population, identified the dominant bitch and then concentrated her social efforts on having good relations with all the “boys” in the kennel while trying to assert dominance over the third female in our kennel, Piqatik.
Romulus exhibits no indications of any further need to work in harness. He appears quite content to live with a girl, eat a couple of times a day and hang out with “his” people. He likes to get as close to us as possible.
Monkey has a very bright, sassy demeanor. Although she didn’t thrive on the long days in harness that expedition travel required of her she takes great delight in free running at top speed in the back yard or the exercise pen. When the dominant bitch in the kennel died Monkey put herself forward to lay claim to the title.
Piqatik, also an arctic retiree, came down to live with us a couple of years after we received one of her male puppies, Pakaq. The two now live together and find much enjoyment roughhousing and otherwise annoying each other. Piqatik is very sweet and kind of a suck up…until she feels the need to attempt to rip off the side of her son’s face.
Henson, our most recent arctic retiree, has been with us for a little over a year now. During that time we’ve enjoyed observing those behavioral changes that reflected his immersing himself into his new lifestyle. This past spring he debuted several new behaviors that reflect his interest in both play and purpose. He discovered we had a number of hard rubber chew toys lying around in the backyard and set about sampling them all to determine which were his favorites. He also decided he enjoyed hanging out in the backyard with us more than he liked going out into the exercise pen with one of “the girls” (which required us to train him to go out there just because we asked). Finally, he decided to respect the status of the two other boss dogs living in the kennel and instead concentrate his efforts on “educating” the subordinate males.
All of our arctic retirees, past or present, have embraced their new lifestyle once they arrived here. They’ve sought to explore it as well as find their place in it. At the same time they’ve all sought to find new purpose in their post-working sled dog lives. Some have enjoyed working on our recreational teams while others have signaled that, while willing to go along and work in harness, they no longer felt the need to do it. But whether our retiree dogs have embraced continued work in harness or not, all have sought out new activities to put purpose in their lives.
There may be a lesson in that for we Inuit Dog fans who live south of the tree line. The tree line and our position relative to it is terribly important when it comes to Inuit Dogs. Part of what makes the dogs what they are is the influence of the hard, remorseless, relentless demands arctic life and weather put on them. Dogs have to be good just to survive and even then dogs perish just because they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The further south of the tree line we live the more unlikely it is that our dogs will be challenged in the same measure…and we haven’t even yet discussed the effect of access to modern, 24/7 veterinary care.
This means for us to behave responsibly relative to the best interests of the Inuit Dog we can be fans and admirers, but we can’t ethically have a kennel full of dogs and make puppies. But there is still a way for us to have purpose and that is by taking in arctic retirees. Our dogs have all expressed great delight in their new lives. All the dogs we’ve acquired came from owners who loved and prized their dogs. They wanted them to have an opportunity to extend their life spans and enjoy the balance of their lives in less demanding circumstances. The dogs have all been wonderful. If I’ve also just described you and your interests, why don’t you consider adopting a couple of arctic retirees and experience this special joy yourself?