From the Editor: A Virtual Fan Hitch
Inuit Sled Dogs Achieve Distinguished Visibility
Sledge Dog Memorial Fund Update
New Resource of Polar Exploration Images
In Passing: Remembering Kevin Walton
Book Review: Huskies/My Friends, the Huskies
Evolutionary Changes in Domesticated Dogs:
The Broken Covenant of the Wild, Part 2
Comparative Behavior Studies in The Netherlands
In the News
Canadian Animal Assistance Team's
2009 Northern Clinics
The Chinook Project's Early Start on Veterinary Clinics
IMHO: Why Inuit Dogs?
Mark and the A-team photo: Hamilton
Why Inuit Dogs?
by Mark Hamilton
Please note: all that follows is personal to us, and it is not offered as a model or example for others.
We try to be very careful to avoid putting our dogs into situations where we feel their presence may result in them being treated exploitatively by other people. So we usually find our schedule to be "already filled" when asked to do a presentation where the invitation includes, "and could you bring a couple of your dogs along?" We don't want to do presentations where the crowd may see it as an opportunity to treat our dogs as if they're part of a petting zoo.
But there are other requests for presentations which we usually make our best effort to accept. Usually these come from schools, nature centers and libraries. Late winter this year we filled two such invitations. It is the subject matter covered in the pre-event publicity interviews with the media that brings me to writing this now.
The Inuit Sled Dog as a working animal was and is shaped by the harsh requirements of life in the polar region. It has evolved into a breed that enthusiastically works in all arctic weather conditions. It seems to be genetically programmed to survive even in conditions of privation. The dogs are intelligent and clever. They express enjoyment in their work and their lives. I've found them to be brave, reliable, honest and to have seemingly boundless enthusiasm for everything they do. I love this breed and frankly find it difficult to imagine myself with any other breed of dog.
But reality is that most of the Inuit Dog's finest attributes are of little or no value when living the easy life this far south of the tree line. The Inuit Dog's legendary endurance under difficult circumstances goes largely unchallenged at 41.78º north here in Connecticut. We don't have polar bears down here, which pretty much obviates our need for keeping a bear dog close at hand. Yes, we have black bears, but generally they can be chased off if you just bang a couple of pot lids together.
On the other hand, the Inuit Dog's equally legendary enjoyment of a good brawl among themselves and their ability to take advantage of humans incapable of projecting a leadership aura is not diminished in any way by living so far south of the tree line. What becomes apparent as a result of the dogs being here are the number of people living close at hand who are incapable of understanding the breed's behavior (i.e. we live among people who have embraced a Disney-like world view).
So, when the issue of our owning Inuit Dogs is subjected to balance sheet-type inquiries by a member of the media, given where we live, pretty quickly the question, "Well, then why have them?" comes up. And it's more than just people in the media who ask these questions. The truth is not a lot of questions, probably well less than half, are answered based on a balance sheet approach. My problem is that when asked to respond such a question, I seldom think to state, "That's not a fair question!"
One of the unfair things about such interview questions is that the balance sheet approach usually creates an artificially small range of positive and negative factors. It also presupposes that their balance sheet approach is appropriate to answering the question of why we have Inuit Dogs. It assumes that having Inuit Dogs must be a rational choice on our part. Well, maybe I don't appreciate being placed in the position of having to demonstrate that I'm rational. Or maybe their asking actually demonstrates their belief that it isn't rational to have more than a dog or two. So why must it be a rational choice? Why can't they accept our owning Inuit Dogs as just a choice? It needn't be any different from deciding what to have for lunch, a choice.
But mostly I just don't want to go into the topic of why we have Inuit Dogs. Not with reporters or the idly curious anyway, because I don't trust them to understand. It never seems to make sense to these people. The dogs we have, the dogs we love, their presence physically attaches us to places, people and events that we treasure. The dogs are the key, the dogs are the link, and the dogs are the point. That's a whole lot more than a beer mug with "Souvenir of Atlantic City" printed on it, but I risk most all people leaving the interview with just that impression when I try to explain this to them. But that's the way it is, and I know you'll understand.