Edition: Imaged and distributed
by the IPL students of the Ulluriaq School,
Journal of the Inuit Sled Dog International,
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Inuit Sled Dog International
Sled Dog International (ISDI)
is a consortium of enthusiasts whose goal is the
preservation of this
arctic breed in its purest form as a working dog.
The ISDI's efforts
concentrated on restoring the pure Inuit Dog to
its native habitat. The
ISDI's coordinators welcome to your comments and
Featured Inuit Dog Owner:
Jim Ryder lives year ‘round in the village of LaPointe on Madeline Island,
located off the north coast of Wisconsin, about 90 miles east of Superior/Duluth.
A part of the Apostle Islands National Lake Shore Park, Madeline Island
is the only one inhabited by people.
How long have you owned sled dogs and have they always been freighting
"This winter 1999-2000 will be my 5th year running dogs here on Madeline
Island and on Lake Superior. Yes, I have always had the expedition type
dogs. Slow, strong and they can pull all day long."
How have you found the ISD’s temperament interfaces with your
public exposure and needs?
"Because I run a touring business with my dogs, they get lots of contact
with the public and that help socialize them. If there are any problems
with a dog and people that dog is eliminated from the team. I have had
to do that with one dog in five years. Because these dogs are slow they
work well for my tour business."
Did you build your career around your dogs or were they an extension
of what you do for a living?
"Both, my lodging and real estate business are very seasonal, so the
dog sled business is a natural in the winter. My guest's can stay here
at the Island Inn and leave by dog team from the front door. If they really
like the Island I can sell them property here on the island."
Like all of us you have a need to make a living, how do you manage
the competing needs for time vis a vis your dogs?
"My situation works well, in the summer time I am busy 7 days a week
for about 100 days, the last big day after labor day is Apple Fest, (the
first week-end in October) That is the time of year when the dogs are laying
around taking life easy. I do take them for walks occasionally. I can let
fifteen of them loose and walk in the woods behind my house with them.
The total number of dogs I own is eighteen. Three dogs came to me as adults
so I do not let them loose. The winter time is slow for selling real estate
so I have time to run the dogs."
What do you find the most satisfying in your “doggie” experience
and what would you most like to change?
"The most satisfying experience for me is leaving from my dog
yard with my dogs hooked up to the sled and being out on Lake Superior
in less than a mile. The ice freezes differently every year so it is always
an adventure out on the big lake. The part I like the best is the winter
storms. I went out in most of our major storms this passed winter. We have
christmas trees placed in a straight line from the main land to the island,(3
miles) last winter I was out more than once when all I could see was 3
or 4 trees because of the blowing smow. If you have never been in a white
out with a team of dogs it is an adventure you will remember. What I would
like to change most is the length of the winter season, (add five weeks.)"
Tell us a little about your husbandry practices. How do
you house you dogs and what do you feed them? How does their working diet
differ from their off season diet?
"My dogs are fed once a day at night. I have dog houses (the blue plastic
barrels) The dogs are all different in that, some of them never go into
their houses others go in after they eat each night. I have my dogs on
chains, with a large pail of fresh water near each dog at all times. I
feed a dry commercial dog food, the higher grade in the winter and a maintenance
grade in the summer. In the winter I also fed beef and fat during
the 20 degrees below zero times and when I am on a long trip."
What do you do with your dogs in the off season?
"Feed them, water them and occansionally I take them for walks. The
walks consist of turning fifteen of them loose and walking in the woods
from my house out back on the trails they run in the winter. Our walks
last a couple of hours. I have taken them in the dog truck to a place on
the island where they can run the shore line and wade in the water."
Your gang line is not the usual tandem hitch. Could you
please describe it?
"The advantage of running on Lake Superior is the wide open spaces.
The fan hitch is practical when you have vast areas of open space like
the arctic or Lake Superior. My hitch is a modified fan hitch. Four dogs
across the back in wheel position, two just in front of them in team position,
two more in front of the team dogs in point, and one or two dogs in lead."
Have you found any other “unique and personal” solutions in your
"This is a related issue. One school of thought is to start dogs as
soon as possible the other side says do not even put a dog in harness until
it is two years old. What I do is start the dogs early, from the day they
are born, breathing on them, imprinting and bonding from the start. At
four weeks old I take them on the sled in a kennel, they hear the sounds,
feel the sled and smell there surroundings out on the ice or in the forest.
At eight or nine weeks they are running behind the sled, because the big
dogs are slow the little ones can keep up easily. By the time they are
put into harness they have many trail miles on theire paws!"
Please give us an overview of your training regimen.
"The training that the dogs receive from the time they are born until
they are in harness helps them deal with situations that may come up when
they are on the trail working. I take the dogs out for 4 plus hours each
time they go in harness, usually 6 or 8 hours each time we are out. I am
able to get out with my guests on the week ends and then I try to get out
by myself a few days during the week.
What are some of the interesting trips you have taken with your team.
Two trips come to mind: One trip was a four night five day trip from
my house, here on Madelined Island, to York Island the first night, then
Devils Island the second night, onto Outer Island the third night, the
last night out I camped on Michigan Island, arriving back home the fifth
day. This was an 85 mile solo trip that included temps to 26 degrees below
zero, rough shove ice that took two hours to travel a quarter mile, running
the dogs along the open water forty miles out on Lake Superior heading
toward Outer Island from Devils Island. That trip convinced me to start
my dog sled tour business and show people what beauty there is out here
in the winter time."
"The second trip was my Hudson Bay trip, the end of March/April 1999,
from Churchill to Gillam 300+ miles by dog team. This trip included cold,
warm, wind, sunny days, snowy days, polar bear sighting, open runs on Hudson
Bay and trail running back to Gillam, 75 miles from the Hudson Bay coast."
What are your feelings on the future of the Inuit Dog?
"I feel the Inuit Dog will have a bright future. The answer to the
problem is education/awareness. Joe Reddington started the Iditarod to
preserve the sled dog after snow mobiles came into their own. Many of the
villages that had teams for everyday use forgot about the sled dog when
the snow mobiles came to their villages. The success that Joe's dream had
accomplished was not even imaginable when he started. Now comes the Inuit
Dog! With the dedication that is being put forth from the people that want
to see this breed thrive as a working dog, I am very optimistic that the
Inuit dog has a bright future. With the information age here, the
education/awareness part of the solution can be accomplished."
"Thank you for asking me to be interviewed! If anyone has comments or
questions please call or e-mail me."