Table of Contents
Featured Inuit Dog Owners: Jill and Daniel Pinkwater
Never Let Go: A Pedestrian Experience
Points of View: John Senter; Kathy Schmidt
When a Fight Isn't a Fight
Arctic Brucellosis Update
High Arctic Mushing: Part 1
Book Review: Uncle Boris in the Yukon
Page from a Behaviour Notebook: Do Dogs Have Emotions?
IMHO: Dog Sled Racing vs. Sled Dog Racing
Jill, Daniel and a young Lulu Kathy McLaughlin photo
Featured Inuit Dog Owners:
Jill and Daniel Pinkwater
Let's get it out into the open immediately. Yes, Lulu, who came to the states from Arctic Canada (inside her mother, Amaraq), is our "pet". She wasn't going to be a "pet". The predictions about how she would turn out physically were right on the mark. But Lulu flunked her puppy behaviour test. Many parts of it. The verdict was that this seemingly perfect ISD would turn out to be too shy, too nervous, too non-assertive, too unpredictable to be either on a team or live in a normal kennel. Perhaps in the practical and unsentimental arctic that evaluation would have resulted in Lulu becoming a pair of mittens -- but Lulu was in Connecticut, in Sue and Mark Hamilton's kennel.
Sue and Mark thought for maybe five seconds and did the next best thing -- they sold her to us.
We are Jill and Daniel Pinkwater, artists and writers, who live and work at home in New York state (USA), were once dog trainers, wrote a dog raising and training book, Superpuppy which is still in print after twenty-four years (and is about to be re-issued, updated, with Lulu on the cover), live in the country, have a half acre hilly, fenced dog run and have been involved with northern dogs (mostly malamutes) for approximately thirty-one years. We are not mushers.
We had already met the arctic pack at the Hamiltons. It was the end of summer and the dogs were a scraggly lot -- one female pregnant and out of coat, the other nursing and looking as if giant moths had attacked her fur, and Puggiq, the male, so happy that his feet hardly ever touched the ground. And we met the litter of six female puppies. Later, after both litters were progressing nicely, we went to Connecticut to pick a puppy. I spent time with Lulu. We bonded. Sue asked me to please pick another puppy -- one that was not destined to be a great sled dog. I said no thanks. Then, a couple of weeks later, Lulu flunked the puppy test.
I like to think Lulu failed on purpose so she could come live with us.
Lulu was the love of the house from the minute she arrived. She was twelve weeks old -- and "two tiles big" when sleeping (as measured on our kitchen floor). At the time, we had Jacques, a beloved, old, not too bright Akita/Shepherd who was slowly fading away, and Maxine, a neurotic but very smart and energetic Labrador retriever. Both were rescued as adults from our local pound. We also had one ancient Icelandic Horse and many cats.
The first animal Lulu met was Lokkur, the horse. I thought he was going to nuzzle her but instead, he took her entire muzzle into his mouth. Lulu didn't even flinch. Lokkur let go of her, sniffed her whole body and went back to eating hay. It must have been some kind of secret interspecies arctic greeting because the two of them remained good friends until the day Lokkur died last year.
Five minutes after she was in the house, Lulu planted herself between Jacques and Maxine. From there she met the cats. For the first year of her life, whenever she felt insecure, Lulu would get between the two big dogs. She also spent a whole lot of time with me -- there was hardly a minute when she wasn't at my side -- and the big dogs at hers. The space around me was very crowded.
Maxine channeled all of her Labrador energy into being Lulu's mommy and Lulu spent a fair amount of her energy playing up to Jacques. Lulu, not having anything but a few thousand years of genetic memory to go by, decided that Jacques, the only big male dog around, was pack leader. She treated him accordingly -- kissing up, flirting, deferring. At first, Jacques was very confused. He had absolutely no idea what was going on. It took a couple of weeks but we watched as it slowly dawned on Jacques. HE WAS THE MAN! Suddenly he was young again. Jacques had been getting ready to die. Instead, he had three extra years of vigorous, completely happy life.
Maxine helped with Lulu's training. If Lulu made a house-soiling mistake, Maxine hollered until I showed up to take care of it. If Lulu chased a cat, Maxine "told on her". If Lulu stole a book to chew, Maxine came and got me. She also ran around several times a day with Lulu until both of them were too tired to stay awake. Lulu was completely house trained in a few weeks. She was the least destructive puppy we had ever raised (one shoe, the binding on two books and a paper towel or two from the garbage.)
Our dogs are usually with us. We take them everywhere we can in the car. Lulu is obedience trained. She's extremely smart, having learned the entire basic routine quickly. But she sees no point to it. Our first Malamute, Juno, was a bossy goof who, in her youth, was beating German Shepherds and Dobermans and Shelties at their own game in fun obedience matches in New Jersey. Lulu never reached Juno's level of training or even a stage where boredom could possibly set in. She's totally indifferent to the things obedience training requires of a dog -- all that marching and sitting and staying on command. Who needs it? A walk in the park is for greeting people and dogs - all of them. It would be rude not to say hello no matter how many times you've seen a person that day.
And then there's stealing. All dogs will steal food if given the opportunity. Almost all dogs can be taught not to do this. Lulu is a true ISD in this respect. There is no way to etch onto her brain the concept that stealing food is wrong. You can see her thinking (she actually yawns when she's thinking, probably to get more oxygen to her brain cells) "Not steal cat food? Ridiculous! Next time I'll just be faster." Survival equals food in Lulu's genetic memory. She is first generation pet and, in her case, the last. She is spayed.
In case you wonder how this cushy pet life affects Lulu as an ISD, let me assure you that she has all her hunting instincts intact. A couple of years ago Lulu insisted on sleeping outside for the entire night rather than inside on the sofa. Okay, okay, I know here is where the snorting and guffawing and knee slapping come. Some of you who are less inclined to laugh might be annoyed -- you're grousing under your breath that we've made this dog into a powder puff. A furry wuss. Our feeling is -- at least she's not mittens. And she has air conditioning in the summer. Anyway, that night al fresco, Lulu caught a rabbit in the dog run. She skinned it part way, ate the innards, dug herself a shelter in the side of the hill and was a completely happy ISD in the morning. Then, to assert herself further, she came into the house and jumped Maxine -- bit her under the eye and through a leg. We punished her, putting her in isolation, the thing she hates the most. Maxine went to the vet. Lulu screamed for an hour as only an ISD can scream. I was hoping she'd give herself laryngitis. No such luck. Then Maxine did the perfect thing. She came home from the vet and, for the first time in their lives together, she refused to forgive Lulu. It went on for hours. Maxine kept turning her back on the arctic sweetie. Lulu fell into a deep, if temporary, depression. Their next fight took place when we weren't home. We returned to find Lulu limping and Maxine sleeping happily. Maxine had placed her bite carefully. Now they would have exact matching scars. That was the last evidence we had of Lulu aggressing on Maxine.
Our greatest point of vigilance has been our cats. From day one we have not let Lulu chase a cat. There is constant reinforcement of the rule that cats are not food. Putting teeth on cats is forbidden. Showing teeth to cats is forbidden. Some of our cats have actively liked Lulu. None has seemed afraid of her. One huge black cat is her sworn enemy. Lulu and Bramwell have periodic face offs but always it is Lulu who backs down. She's very smart.
Lulu loves children with her entire being -- but I don't think I would ever trust her to be alone with a child. This despite the fact that when she meets a small child, she sits down so she won't knock the child over, wags her tail furiously and talks. Never the less, there is an edge to this dog and I never want to experiment with it. Lulu loves all people. She has her special friends -- a doctor we know, her vet. And she has Daniel, who is her supreme pack leader and love, although he complains that Lulu spends ninety percent of her time near me.
Lulu likes watching television. She has favorite programs -- most of them have animals as primary characters. If it's an animal who can talk (she likes the Disney channel), especially a dog, she goes into a trance studying it. Lulu is nuts about Steve Irwin, the lunatic who goes around the world picking up snakes and alligators. Lulu likes television shows with wolves -- and seems to recognize wolves she's seen before -- and she LOVES actual dog shows on television -- particularly agility trials. Lulu also likes kid cartoons very much. For a while she had a crush on a Tellytubby. Go figure.
It was Lulu's ability to watch television and make sense of it that prompted Daniel to teach her to read. She learned sit, down and speak. She reads the words from flash cards and then does what the card tells her to. Lulu will do this for anyone she likes as long as she knows there's a food treat when she's finished. It doesn't matter what order she's shown the cards. The key is the treat. Without it, Lulu goes on strike. Lulu, being a dog, doesn't see the point of reading for reading's sake.
A year ago Maxine was diagnosed by our vet with a terminal illness. She is still with us though, old, fairly robust and not intending to die soon. We are carefully considering what kind of dog to get as a companion for us and Lulu when Maxine moves on. Should we get a puppy? Will Lulu be able to raise it or will she view it as a rival? We know that whatever we get will be a male. Lulu does better with male dogs. It will not be another ISD even though raising and living with Lulu has been an experience I would not have traded for a million dollars. Watching her move around the dog run at top speed, appearing to float above the ground like some magical, arctic spirit, can make one's heart sing on the grimmest of days.
We tell everyone who admires Lulu (which is just about everyone she meets) that sled dogs, although beautiful and, for the most part loving, are hard-headed, difficult to train and have breed specific problems -- both health and personality. Then we launch into why, above all sled dogs, ISDs should never be pets.
I am sitting at my computer watching Lulu sleep on her favorite sofa. She just walked over here, leaned on me (the ISD official hug) for a moment and then staggered back to the soft place, not seeming to wake up for a second. I love her. Daniel loves her. Maxine loves her. We are content.