Table of Contents
Featured Inuit Dog Owner: Ken MacRury, Part 2
Page from the Behaviour Notebook: Death and Transfiguration
The Qitdlarssuaq Chronicles, Part 4
ISDI letter to the Editor of Mushing Magazine
Inuit Dog Thesis International Sales
Update: Traveling Dog Exhibit
Product Review: The Original Zipper Rescue Kit®
Janice Howls: PETAphiles
IMHO: Means, Motive and Opportunity
Index to The Fan Hitch, Volume 5
Navigating This Site
Death and Transfiguration
by Sue Hamilton
Aged eleven-and-a-half years, Amaruq died after a six-month illness. Puggiq, eleven years old, was devoted to her. Not comfortable indoors, he nonetheless was willing to join her there for periods of time where she preferred to be, either in the den or the cool basement. When the weather was nice, they stayed out in the pen with their pack mates, Qiniliq, a two-year old intact male, and Aqsaq, Amaruq's seven-year -old spayed daughter. They were generally respectful of her, although Qiniliq liked to tease her just to hear her bark annoyingly at him and one time he knocked her down in an attempt to take her food. Puggiq came to her rescue and t-boned the lad with such force the younger dog tumbled to the ground. The brash youngster never tried that again.
Qiniliq was actively submissive to and highly respectful of Puggiq, falling at the senior dog's feet and rolling onto his back or submissively licking Puggiq's lips and nuzzling his muzzle to stimulate a response. Qiniliq would love to rank one step above Aqsaq who, without skipping a beat, assumed herself to be second in line upon her mother's death. He showed her respect only when he thought he could not avoid her fury, a consequence of his attempts to boss her. On the morning of Amaruq's last day, when she was in the basement, Puggiq, assisted by Aqsaq, delivered a beating to Qiniliq. Later that afternoon, after we put Amaruq to sleep, Aqsaq initiated an attack on Qiniliq, this time with Puggiq rushing in to assist. The following morning Qiniliq was once again attacked with no apparent-to-us provocation. And after that, Puggiq continued to growl menacingly at the now terrified younger male. While there was no physical damage, mentally Qiniliq became a basket case. As near as we could figure out, Qiniliq must have thought that without Amaruq, this was the moment to challenge Puggiq's authority (why he chose the very day Amaruq died - even though she was absent from the pack on previous recent occasions - will remain a great mystery), figuring he would have Aqsaq's support. It became abundantly clear to Qiniliq that he incorrectly sized up the situation and for the next week, while his group was turned out in the back yard for exercise, he ran from the other two and onto the deck and into a chair from which he would not budge, eschewing his usual activities of playing with toys and Aqsaq and sucking up to Puggiq, whom he now gave a wide berth. That the social activity in Puggiq's pack was so drastically changed, albeit for only about a week, commencing on the day Amaruq died, we took to indicate just what a huge social force she was in that group, despite how sick she was.
Puggiq clearly missed his companion. They were the remaining two of the three dogs brought from Pond Inlet in 1996, and had been best friends for many years, ever since the passing of Puggiq's original mate, Tiriganiaq. The day after Amaruq died, we let Puggiq in the house. He went no further than the kitchen, looked this way and that, and then asked to be let outside. A few days later, he asked to come in whereupon he toured the first floor and then the basement, stopping to check out all four of the pens to see if Amaruq was in one of them. The next day he again asked to come in. This time he did not bother to look around, but instead sought to be very near to us for attention. Obviously feeling his friend's loss, Puggiq's desire for social contact had overcome his uneasiness with being inside a building.
The social structure in Puggiq's pack slowly returned to normal and Qiniliq became once again actively solicitous and submissive to Puggiq and to a lesser degree to Aqsaq. Once, when I had Aqsaq on her side on the deck for some grooming and Qiniliq thought he could take advantage of her, Puggiq moved in and roared at him. We took this as a sign of Puggiq's feeling that he and Aqsaq ought to be more aligned. This was to be very important because it would have been only a matter of time before Qiniliq challenged Puggiq again and again. It appeared that Aqsaq never would accept playing second fiddle to Qiniliq, and that she would continue to side with Puggiq and be successful in helping the senior dog survive these challenges. If she ever perceived Qiniliq's possible success, she may have decided to switch allegiances and a bloody coup would have been the likely the outcome.
When this article was being prepared for The Fan Hitch, it was written primarily in the present tense. Tragically, that all changed on a late Sunday August evening, not one month after Amaruq's passing, when Puggiq, active and playful with Aqsaq and Qiniliq at 8:00 PM, collapsed at 10:00 PM and had to be euthanized, the victim of a silent hemangiosarcoma, a cancer that ruptured with absolutely no warning, causing massive internal bleeding. If the sudden departure of our beloved dog was crushing and incomprehensible to us, the abrupt disappearance (due to something other than social defeat) of the boss dog was unfathomable to Qiniliq. (Aqsaq appeared to be unfazed.) He was, and still is to some extent, a rudderless ship. There is no boss for him to perform his highly stylized and ritualized submissive posturing to, no boss who would playfully grab him by the throat. Of course, that act was far more than play, but it was done with a benevolence that Aqsaq did not practice when she did it. In the absence of his omnipotent boss dog it was logical that Qiniliq should move up socially. On the other hand, in a pack of two, with the other dog of a disposition described as "butter not melting in her mouth", any attempt to climb the social ladder proved fruitless. This is especially frustrating for Qiniliq because he has never fully accepted Aqsaq has his superior. His only shot at dominance, appearing for the very first time ever, came a few days after Puggiq's untimely passing. Qiniliq proceeded to mount Aqsaq with accompanying pelvic thrusts. Spayed as a maiden bitch, Aqsaq did not appreciate this act. On the receiving end of her fury, Qiniliq's attempts rapidly diminished to a couple of efforts while she stood with her head in our lap receiving attention. But as soon as Qiniliq realized he was to get no assistance from us to control the bitch's head and snapping teeth, the behavior was permanently extinguished. Qiniliq's conduct with us changed as well. He began trying to submit to us the way he did to Puggiq, getting to our faces, licking submissively and trying to (gently) mouth our lower jaw in an attempt to get us to grab the top of his muzzle in our mouth. We are proving to be poor replacements for the type of leadership only a good boss dog can show to a young dog like this.
Qiniliq would fancy himself king had he subjects to rule. How good a boss dog he might become is anybody's guess. We would like to think that the fine example Puggiq set would not be lost on the youngster. Although he enjoys roughhousing with Aqsaq, Qiniliq resents, as demonstrated by his squeaky little voice, when she pummels him for overstepping the limits she has set for him. Currently his only outlet is to deliberately annoy Goofy, which he does regularly by baiting this boss of a different pack through the fence. While Qiniliq is wary of Goofy, almost to the point of being terrified when they are out in the back yard together, the younger dog returns to boldness with the safety of the fence between them.
"Help" for Qiniliq may turn out to be the arrival this autumn of a male pup. Once we determine that the new recruit is sturdy enough to survive full time in his new pack, Qiniliq can finally feel socially superior to another canid. It is yet to be determined, however, if Aqsaq will decide to claim possession of the pup and how that may affect the relationship between the two males. Aqsaq has always been something of a wild card. We can't predict exactly how she will fit herself into this new equation, what role she will allow Qiniliq to play and, as the pup matures, how the social dynamics of this reconstituted pack will evolve. Thinking back to that unexpected Sunday evening, with the once vibrant then suddenly lifeless Puggiq clutched in our arms, we should perhaps learn not to make any predictions about the future.