In This Issue....
From the Editor:
Looking back, looking ahead
Featured Inuit Dog
Owner: Sandy Hagan
Inuit Sled Dog
The Great Arctic
In the News
A Time to Remember
Inuit Dog Thesis
15th Anniversary Edition
and Not Hearing
Review: Delivering the Goods
IMHO: A Few Thoughts
about the Final Report on the Dog Slaughters
Edition: Imaged and distributed
by the IPL students of the Ulluriaq School,
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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
Sandy Hagan with his first ISD, the irrepressible
red bitch Qidtlak (image as submitted by owner)
Photo: Nancy Russell
Stacy, Minnesota, U.S.A.
TFH: How long have you owned sled
S.H.: I have been owned by one or more sled dogs for over thirty
years. Presently, I am owned by a total of nineteen sled dogs. Three Alaskan
huskies, two Alaskan-ISD crosses (hand-me-downs as older dogs), three Alaskan
Malamute-ISD crosses (an accidental breeding), five Alaskan Malamutes and
TFH: What breed(s) did you start
S.H.: My daughter chose the Malamutes on a breed finding trip
to the library.
TFH: What were you thinking when
you considered getting ISDs? Why did you want to try them?
S.H.: I wasn't thinking, obviously. Seriously, I had reached
a learning point after many years where I could get my Malamutes to almost
work as a team, and I was very intrigued by ISDs. I was very curious about
a dog that had been taken from a working environment and not a show environment.
It was a breed I knew precious little about but enough that I thought they
should be good working dogs and compliment my Mal team. Again, it was my
daughter many years after the breed finding trip to the library that sent
me the information on the available Inuit Dogs.
TFH: So, you are one of several
mushers who started out with Alaskan Malamutes and then decided to take
on Inuit Dogs. What were your expectations about raising, keeping and working
ISDs after owning Malamutes for so long?
S.H.: My expectations weren't as much a factor, save one, as
my appreciation of the northern breeds and what they were capable of. Although
I do have three Alaskan huskies and am very impressed with what they can
do, I consider Mals and Inuit Dogs to be real dogs. Before I got my first
ISD I did have one strange question that I haven't told anyone about nor
can I really explain why I had it. Here it is: I wondered if, considering
the background and how these dogs might've been kept, they would show any
affection for humans. Yup, I'll admit I'm not too bright.
Is Qidtlak merely resting her head or is she also reminding
Balto who's in
TFH: What are your impressions
of the two breeds' differences? Do you find the ISDs more or less challenging?
If so in what way?
S.H.: My thoughts on the two breeds are that they are very similar.
One similarity is that both breeds like to fight. It has been my observation
that the Mals will fight longer with more of a kill mindset but the ISDs
are smarter and will fight primarily to assert dominance, and it's usually
over fairly quickly. Obviously, this is not always true. The ISDs are more
vocal. Or, I should say, were more vocal. It seems they have convinced
the entire kennel to be extremely vocal and to scream whenever someone
or something moves. Bless those ISDs. Both breeds can be excellent pullers.
My feeling is that Mals have been in the show ring too long and some of
the work ethic has gone by the wayside. That's not to say that there aren't
good working Mals around. I know of many and I have had and still have
some exceptional working Mals. Some breeders do very well at keeping the
work ethic in their Mals. Both breeds seem to enjoy eating and, as you
know, that's an understatement.
I find both breeds very challenging. Both breeds are very smart and
are oriented toward self-preservation. It has taken them a long time to
teach me (and I still sometimes forget) that I get better results from
the team as a whole by keeping myself in a good mood and not letting their
squabbles reduce me to being angry and making their fights even worse.
Both breeds are truly amazing animals. They have an immense amount of stamina
and can endure extreme circumstances. They can have a fight, be bloodied,
get right back into position beside the dog they just fought with and continue
pulling as if nothing happened. Man, I wish I could get over things that
TFH: Unlike some mushers who started
out with Alaskan Malamutes, you have not 'abandoned' that breed. Why?
S.H.: I stuck with Mals because I have had some exceptional
working Mals. I have a ten-year-old now that can keep up, his tugline tight,
with the team this year and this is the fastest team I've had. Time will
tell if he can keep it up but he looks very good now.
TFH: How is your kennel set up?
What do you feed? Do you alter your dogs' diet seasonally?
S.H.: My kennel consists of eleven runs and a fenced exercise
area. The runs are 6 ft x 24 ft (1.6 m x 7.3 m) and the exercise area is
100 ft x 100 ft (30.5 m x 30.5 m). The dogs get rotated into the exercise
yard. Each run has one house big enough to house two dogs. The idea being,
if you want to stay warm and dry, you'll have to try to get along. I don't
use stake-outs only because we're not in an area that I'd be comfortable
with using them. I feed National Performance (http://www.nationaldogfood.com/www/performance.html)
kibble year around and supplement with meat during training/sledding season.
The dogs get a small amount of fat or meat as a reward at the end of a
Sandy driving a small team during a Minnesota Malamute
TFH: Do you favor a particular
kind of harness? If so, why?
S.H.: I'm not as particular about harnesses as I probably should
be. I use several types. I do watch each dog closely to be sure that no
harness restricts breathing and that the neck opening isn't so large that
it will pull against what I call the dog's shoulders. I equate it to carrying
a yoke with two pails of water on my shoulders. If the yoke is too big,
my shoulders would get tired and hurt in a hurry. If the yoke went around
my neck and pulled back, would it choke me? I do have some of the new,
short shoulder harnesses that I am going to try this season.
TFH: Describe your training program
for novice dogs and for your dogs in general at the beginning of the running
season. Has owning Inuit Dogs changed your training methods?
S.H.: If the dog is a year old, it gets harnessed, hitched,
and away we go. My youngest dog, an ISD appropriately named Hambone, was
just thrown in and away he went. He likes to make his mark but he's learning
that's not always a real good idea. He's a loose screw but he's a super
dog. Lead dogs-in-training get put with an established leader usually without
a neckline. I should add that they've run point for some time before moving
TFH: What kind of sledding to you
S.H.: In the past, I have done mostly recreational sledding
with occasional camping trips. I have recently retired and may do more
camping. On rare occasions, we enter a race. When we do, we usually get
a comment from the starting line handlers who restrain the dogs as we go
to the start line that goes something like, "Man, these dogs must have
had Cheerios for breakfast!" or, "Those are real dogs." I really just enjoy
being out with the dogs whatever we do. They amaze me, make me laugh, frustrate
me, teach me, and keep me busy in many ways.
TFH: Now that you own Inuit Dogs
do you find yourself doing things that you previously didnÝt do
and are there things that you don't do now that you used to do (and this
applies to non-sledding activities as well)?
S.H.: I think that it's not just being owned by ISDs that has
me doing things that I previously didn't, it's having the opportunity to
work with critters that are naturally willing to work and enjoy it. I do
much more sledding and training than I thought I'd ever do and I'm probably
in better shape mentally and physically because of the dogs. Well, physically
anyway. One thing we still do but not as much as we used to is downhill
skiing. We don't travel as much as we used to but that may change at least
in the summer.
I honestly think that having Inuit Dogs has made sledding easier. They
seem to come by the pulling ethic naturally. However, they don't come by
the listening and obeying quite as naturally. They want to please but they
also sometimes seem to have their own agenda. I'm certainly glad I was
fortunate enough to have ISDs as part of my life.
TFH: Has owning Inuit Dogs impacted
you in ways you would not have predicted?
S.H.: Yes. It has helped me appreciate some of what I've read
about life as it was and is in the Arctic, it's harshness and how humans
and animals adapt to and cope with the arctic's extremes. To this day I
am constantly amazed by the dogs and their ability to work and stay warm
on very little. I have to feed my Alaskans more food per body mass to keep
them in working condition. I am amazed by the ISDs insistence on sleeping
on the snow or roofs of their houses when they have an insulated (not heated)
floor they can sleep on in what we consider to be frigid weather here at
-20║F to -30║F (-29║C to -34║C).
Who would have thought reading Jack London's "Call of the Wild" way
back in junior high school would've nudged me in this direction?
Nimka (l) and Qidtlak (r) out on the Sacco cart