The Fan Hitch Volume 10, Number 3, June 2008

Journal of the Inuit Sled Dog

In This Issue....

From the Editor: The Fan Hitch... Enhanced

F.I.D.O.: Andrew Maher and Julia Landry

Fan Mail

In the News

Out on the Ice: Three Days with ISDs in North Greenland

Two Friends, Fourteen Dogs…One Quest!

The Nunavut Quest’s 10th Anniversary Run

BAS Vignette: Lampwick Harnesses

Sledge Dog Memorial Fund Update

CAAT’s 2008 Northern Schedule

The Chinook Project Returns to Kimmirut

Product Review Update: Double Driver Sled

IMHO: On Feral Cats and Inuit Sled Dogs

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Index of articles by subject

Index of back issues by volume number

Search The Fan Hitch

Articles to download and print

Ordering Ken MacRury's Thesis

Our comprehensive list of resources

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Editor: Sue Hamilton
Webmaster: Mark Hamilton
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On the trail on James Bay              Photo: Pirani

Two Friends, Fourteen Dogs... One Quest!

by  Ludovic Pirani

Translation by
Geneviève Montcombroux

It is now almost ten years since the start of my love affair with the Inuit Dog. Ourko was my first, the pioneer, the silent witness to all my fabulous adventures. But above all, he’s my friend. Then came Quinzee, a magnificent female who joined the ranks of our little family. From her I had, in quick succession, two litters. Slowly but surely my team was formed.

Thanks to the wise advice of fellow breeders and like-minded friends, I grew to understand the dogs. None of this was free of mistakes, but I endeavor not to make the same mistake twice.

Soon, we became a team of nine and started work in winter tourism outfitting, involving our overseas clients in adventure tours and a quest for a more elemental experience. Season after season, the dogs and I devoured kilometers of trail. I developed a keen appreciation for the enormous capacity of these Inuit Dogs – never tired and always hungry. The heavier the load, the greater their enthusiasm. A sacred bond established itself between them and me.

Several years later, thanks to a long and rigorous period of selection, I arrived at fourteen dogs. My team was complete. I knew just how courageous, fearless and willing my dogs were. And how ready for a scrap, too! I imagined myself in command of a fine ship. On this score I was sorely mistaken.

Finished were the daily excursions around the house. We also decided that it would be best for us to decrease the number of tourists per outing, accepting only one or two people at a time.  This would give us the time to enjoy more life with our family and dogs and to plan more trips! The time had come to leave the well-marked trails. The dogs and I needed to find our way through uncharted territory, to test the solidarity of the team and our reliance on one another. We no longer wanted to sail always in sight of the coast. We wanted to launch ourselves on the high seas, to pit ourselves against the winds and the tides and discover new lands. In short, to discover ourselves. My vessel and its crew were ready. But was I?

Ludo (l) and his partner Christophe Piquand  (r)
                                                               Photo: Pirani

James Bay in February. That was what lay ahead for us. Were we crazy? Yes, maybe a little.

I soon discovered that my team was not as experienced or as disciplined as I'd imagined. To my amazement, I found myself in charge of an unruly band of pirates. The only law that existed was that of the pack. On this expedition the dogs showed their true nature and the immense solidarity that existed among them. Believe me, there’s no place for any dog unwilling to work and even less for those not up to the physical demands. Yet, this was the kind of team I came to prefer. You ought to have heard them express their pleasure when, day in and day out, they leaned into their harnesses to pull the heavily-laden sled. Never once did they baulk at their task, even when the going got rough. Dogs and man suffered together. But thanks to this unique form of transport I was able to experience the sumptuous landscapes and sunsets that defy description. I discovered the pristine quality of winter.

For three weeks this was "home" for the two adventurers
 and their dogs,                                                 Photo: Pirani

I also encountered some remarkable people among the Cree. The entire population of the settlement of Eastman turned out to welcome me. They came to see the dogs and wish me well. Several among them stared at us with barely concealed feelings of nostalgia. In the middle of nowhere I met Roy, a Cree trapper and his family. Their eyes lit up at the sight of my dogs. We shook hands and everyone talked. There was no need to speak the other’s language to be understood.

When I look at my dogs today, stretched out in the sun beside the house, I can’t help remembering those long days on the trail, with the temperatures dipping to as low as -47ºC (-53º F). The dogs were obliged to break trail through deep powder. They are indeed worthy of their noble ancestors. In those hostile surroundings, I finally came face to face with the legendary Law of the North.

Tomorrow, I will depart on other journeys, but I will never relinquish my dogs for any other breed in the world. I understand exactly why the Inuit and polar explorers favor these dogs above all others. My Inuit Dogs have enabled me to travel back in time. Thanks to them, I have had the privilege of gliding over the frozen expanse of these ancestral lands. As a result, I respect and admire even more this breed known as the Inuit Dog.

Thank you, dogs.

Break time                       Photo: Pirani
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