The Fan Hitch Volume 6, Number 4, September 2004

Journal of the Inuit Sled Dog International

Table of Contents

Editorial: Looking for Inuit Dogs Past and Present
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F.I.D.O.: Jan Erik and Barbro  Engebretsen
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First Camping Adventure with Greenland Dogs
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The Breeding and Maintenance of Sledge Dogs, Part II
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A Cut Above the Rest
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In the News
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Book Reviews:
Hunting Laika Breeds of Russia
Primitive Breeds - Perfect Dogs
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 IMHO: Waiting for Godot?
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Index to Volume 6


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Editor's/Publisher's Statement
Editor-in-Chief: Sue Hamilton
Webmaster: Mark Hamilton
Print Edition: Imaged and distributed by the IPL students of the Ulluriaq School, Kangiqsualujjuaq, Nunavik
The Fan Hitch, Journal of the Inuit Sled Dog International, is published four times a year. It is available at no cost online at: http://thefanhitch.org.

Print subscriptions: in Canada $20.00, in USA $23.00, elsewhere $32.00 per year, postage included. All prices are in Canadian dollars. Make checks payable in Canadian dollars only to "Mark Brazeau", and send to Mark Brazeau, Box 151 Kangiqsualujjuaq QC J0M 1N0 Canada. (Back issues are also available. Contact Sue Hamilton.)


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welcomes your letters, stories, comments and suggestions. The editorial staff reserves the right to edit submissions used for publication.


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The Inuit Sled Dog International

The Inuit Sled Dog International (ISDI) is a consortium of enthusiasts whose goal is the preservation of this ancient arctic breed in its purest form as a working dog. The ISDI's efforts are concentrated on restoring the pure Inuit Dog to its native habitat. The ISDI's coordinators welcome to your comments and questions.

ISDI Coordinator Canada:
Geneviève Montcombroux, Box 206, Inwood, MB R0C 1P0; gmontcombroux@gmail.com
ISDI Coordinator USA:
Sue Hamilton, 55 Town Line Road, Harwinton, CT 06791, mail@thefanhitch.org

Goofy and Mark on rock              Hamilton photo

A Cut Above the Rest

by Sue Hamilton

It has been over a decade since my first hands-on experience with Inuit Sled Dogs. That may be no more a blip in time compared to many, but it has been long enough to teach me lots and plenty long enough to make it clear there is lots yet to know and experience. 

It did not take long at all to figure out that there was a world of difference between Alaskan Malamutes and Inuit Dogs. I may have heard it from others or read about it in accounts of polar travel, but there's nothing like having "assumed the position" behind teams of both breeds to discover the truth for oneself. But over the past several years I have come to believe that there is a gap as well between the Inuit Dogs who grew up in my kennel and those whom I refer to as the "Arctic Veterans", conceived, born, raised and who spent the majority of their working lives as traditional Inuit Dogs in the Canadian high arctic. This is not so much a difference in performance, as near as I can tell, but in attitude, carriage, how they related to me and to the other dogs I own, maybe, too, how they even felt about themselves  - if that emotion could be ascribed to dogs.

I am trying to figure out if my perception is real or just a figment of my warped imagination, sort of like the desperate kitty rescued from the dumpster seems to be more grateful to be alive than a pure bred variety born into the comfort and security of a warm spot by the fireplace. To my knowledge no one has ever designed and carried out a study to scientifically determine if animals that have endured hardship express in some way more "gratitude" toward their owners than those who have had it easy. In the case of Inuit Dogs, one would have to assume that they perceive their life as a working dog is hard. And one would further presume that the dogs can differentiate between a hard life and otherwise. Therein lies my uncertainty. Perhaps my impression that the "Arctic Veterans" were different from the other Inuit Dogs in my kennel is based solely on my anthropomorphizing their life experiences before and after coming to live here in Connecticut, quantifying that comparison way beyond which the dog can, if at all.

I had only four veterans. Two of those were littermates and three came from the same team. There were two females and two males. Both previous owners raised, maintained in a traditional manner and worked the dogs with the highest of standards. The dogs were well cared for and well treated. Just because they lived in an extremely harsh climate for much of the year, just because the were not fed twice a day every day, just because they did not have the option of dog houses, just because they were not turned out of a safe and secure pen twice a day every day to socialize, just because arctic miles in harness were hugely more challenging… should these and other "just becauses" make them seem to me so different from my other dogs? Or is my perception based on my parents having told me, "Kids today just don't appreciate what they have because they didn't grow up during a world wide depression and several major wars."

These veterans were very special to me. I considered them more as partners than subordinates. And I swear they shared that opinion, too. Based on their life experience and "wisdom", I relied on them both on the trail and at home.  They were both serious as well as extremely good-natured, extremely self-confident and self-assured. For those of you familiar with Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, these dogs always knew "where their towel was".  And they appeared to appreciate every day more than those untested ruffians they lived with.

Tiriganiaq, Amaruq, Puggiq and Goofy: they're all gone now. And maybe it is their absence that has made me even more aware of this incongruity between them and the others. Sometimes it seems as if I no longer have Inuit Dogs, which is, of course, not true. But the passing of these extraordinary dogs marked the end of an era for me.

Whether or not this is a real perception or a product of my imagination, at least it gave me an even greater appreciation of the Inuit Sled Dog, what challenges and extremes it is capable of enduring and how well it can adapt with magnificent dignity and grace.

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