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
John Senter during the 2000 Oregon Dune
Mushers' Mail Run Senter photo
Points of View
...from John Senter, Oregon (USA)
Prior to 'discovering' the Inuit Sled Dog (ISD), I was running a small team malamutes. I am a recreational musher, not a racer. I had a good relationship with a working and show malamute kennel and could count on acquiring high quality pups from them as the opportunity arose. However, I had always wondered about the relationship between malamutes and 'Eskimo' dogs. I had also thought that perhaps the native dogs from the arctic might well be more hardy due to the environment in which they live. The few articles I had read on these dogs and the Yellowknife project lead me to believe that they were extremely rare and difficult to handle, so I pursued it no further.
Then, two things happened. First, I met Sylvia Feder in 1994. She had a very impressive three dog team of ISDs. A friendship was struck. Second, in 1996, Sylvia put me in touch with Mark and Sue Hamilton and, in due course, I received my first ISD, Ashe, a female from the Hamilton's 'A' litter. A few months later, I received Bering, a male from their 'B' litter. Since then, I've added Smokey, an ISD/Alaskan cross and my leader from the Capistrants in Wisconsin (USA), Shadow from Jeff Dinsdale of Quesnel, British Columbia (Canada) , Stormy from Scott and Terry Miller of Minnesota (USA), and most recently Raven from Donald Mearns of Pangnirtung on Baffin Island (Nunavut, CANADA). Ashe, sadly, is deceased, but Bering is in his prime and a powerful worker.
Impressions, similarities, differences
My first impression was that the ISD could well be another malamute. I still think there were more similarities than differences. As I got to know Ashe and Bering, they really didn't throw me too many curves when I integrated them into the malamute team. In essence, I treated them pretty much the same as I would have any malamute. In working these dogs, I found that they were very enthusiastic from the beginning. Most of the malamutes I had were good workers, but could sometimes be obstinate. This has not been an issue with the ISDs. I believe they are born knowing their jobs and wanting to work. It only remains for the musher to train them.
I had never been a great trainer of lead dogs. However, I decided to train Ashe to lead, mainly because she was young and the most likely prospect. It wasn't so much training as simply showing her what you wanted. She would then pretty much have it down. She could really have spoiled me. Bering, on the other hand, is a terrific team dog, but was not a good, focused leader.
The primary differences between my malamutes and my ISDs were the latter's'
heightened need to socialize with the other dogs and the need for specific
high quality foods. With the need for socialization and establish a hierarchy
came a certain propensity to fight, something the mal breeder had warned
me about years ago. Mark and Sue had also warned me that this would
be an issue, because Inuit Sled Dogs live to dominate each other. In my
personal experience, it has all been true, up to a point. But I don't think
it was any worse than with some malamutes I'd owned over the years, which
were always good for a brawl. These days I still get the occasional fight,
but the dogs have lots of contact with each other and the result is that
fighting is infrequent
I was informed by the Hamiltons that ISDs needed a certain quality of food [free of phytate-rich wheat or oats] to maintain good health, due to their primitive digestive system. High quality food is not just desirable, it is imperative. Malamutes likewise need high quality food, but could endure a lesser quality food now and then. Happily, I was already feeding a good quality food at the time and have simply continued providing that food. I have, however, become more cognizant of the ingredients of the different foods and what to watch out for.
Future -- preaching to the choir
It is exciting to be involved with Inuit Sled Dogs. We are in a position
to preserve and protect these rare and wonderful dogs, so it's up
to us to keep focused on certain issues. First, we must remember where
these dogs come from. We must honor and respect the Arctic people
who live there and survive by using these dogs. We must refrain from
any breeding that will detract from the working qualities and abilities
of these dogs. We should keep focused on working these dogs, to whatever
degree the owner is able. These dogs deserve no less than this.
...and from Kathy Schmidt, Ohio (USA)
October 19 2001
To all people,
This is my answer to Janice Dougherty's (Who Belongs in the the ISDI, Volume 3 Number 4, August 2001).... The people in your photos driving teams... keep these dogs in the hands of mushers!
I've had malamutes all of my life... I've bred some really good sled dogs... and at 56 still keep my sled dog genetics alive... but also realize that 65 years of AKC registration have ruined my breed... wimpy, bad temperaments... lousy sled dogs... poor type... on and on and on. The only way to keep ISDs alive and healthy is to keep them in the hands of the people using them [as sled dogs].