The Fan Hitch Volume 12, Number 1, December 2009

Journal of the Inuit Sled Dog
In This Issue....

From the Editor 

Fan Mail

In the News

Evolutionary Changes in Domesticated Dogs:
The Broken Covenant of the Wild, Part 4

An Examination of Traditional Knowledge:
The Case of the Inuit Sled Dog, Part 1

Greenland Dogs of the Eiger Glacier

Boss Dogs and Lead Dogs

Tip: Parka Packing

IMHO: Two "New" Dogs

Navigating This Site

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

Talk to The Fan Hitch

The Fan Hitch home page

ISDI home page

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:

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.)

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

Contents of The Fan Hitch are protected by international copyright laws. No photo, drawing or text may be reproduced in any form without written consent. Webmasters please note: written consent is necessary before linking this site to yours! Please forward requests to Sue Hamilton, 55 Town Line Rd., Harwinton, Connecticut  06791, USA or

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;
ISDI Coordinator USA:
Sue Hamilton, 55 Town Line Road, Harwinton, CT 06791,

Enjoying shade from the summer's sun and some "face" time.
                                                                  Photo: Hamilton

Two "New" Dogs

by Mark Hamilton

A while back, Sue and I were talking about the dogs in our kennel and decided we had room for another dog or two. Further, it seemed to us when we considered the age distribution of our then kennel population that we really needed adult dogs, not puppies. With regard to our two dog teams, we needed another female. Whereas in terms of kennel management another male dog would be welcomed. Our preference for the "new" dogs was that they be arctic "retirees".

Certainly there are enough dog teams in the North that, if you can be patient, "retirees" will become available. In our case Monkey, a female, and Romulus, a male, came from two different teams and owners. There was a fair amount of coordination with regard to the timing required to get both dogs onto the same plane out of the Arctic to Ottawa. Flights into and out of the North are always more subject to the possibility of weather and logistical delays than other flights, so flexibility had to be built into the planning. Romulus and Monkey's flight was not on time, but it wasn't delayed until the next day either – close enough, though. We had to cancel our reservations for the night at a motel in New York State we no longer had the time to drive to, and find another place to stay with the dogs. Good news, the Southway Inn, just a couple miles from the airport, is still dog friendly.

Early the next morning we went to the airline's freight office and arranged for return shipment for the crates Romulus and Monkey traveled in during their flight south. Then we began the eight-and-a-half-hour drive home. The border crossing was reasonably quick and painless. We had the dogs' rabies certificates and papers transferring their ownership. Both dogs settled into the drive well and we stopped every couple of hours to give them a little time out of the car.

Experiencing a rest stop and serious highway traffic
on the way to their new  home below the treeline.

                                               Photo: Hamilton

Although the dogs only met each other at the airport for their flight down south, they were comfortable enough with each other's presence to put them into the same pen when we got home. That evening they happily ate their dinner and there was no howling or whimpering overnight or in the morning as they waited for us to come out and join them and the rest of the dogs. From the moment these two arrived, they never looked back. Both dogs act like they've been with us their whole lives.

There are certain "marker events" that Sue and I like to watch for with our arctic "retirees". We like to know when they will realize they can invest energy in pure play that they initiate, when they discover that the odd things lying about in our backyard are in fact toys that can be fun to play with; and we like to watch their first experience with a leaf pile. Within a month of her arrival, Monkey had taken to running in the back yard with a toy in her mouth. Romulus, a boss dog, even now seldom sees the need to run just for the sake of running. When he is in our presence he works on his relationship with us, and enjoys every moment of the attention he gets. Walking past us while dragging his body against our legs is more his style. But after a couple of months he began exploring the various toys in the yard and selecting the ones he believed he could destroy. Our preference is for toys that, while the dogs believe they can destroy, are in fact much too durable for easy demolition. Fortunately there are a few toys available meeting those criteria.

Come fall we began the annual task of leaf raking and removal. On our first opportunity we built a large leaf pile about 10 feet (3m) in diameter and 4 feet (1.2m) tall out in the big exercise pen. As soon as it was ready, we turned Romulus and Monkey out into this area. That big lump in the spot they had always known to be flat was sufficient to gain their immediate attention. They ran over and then walked around it, but beyond that the only other thing they could think to do was pee on it. When it was apparent that was as far as they were going to go with the pile, I walked over and shuffled through it making lots of leaf noise. Both dogs found that interesting and walked deeper into the pile and began shoving their heads deep down amid the leaves. That was progress but there is so much more they could do with a leaf pile that I decided to sit down and sink into it. This drew them deeper into the pile and provoked some play behavior. Finally, I lay back and it was then when Romulus and Monkey realized just how much fun a leaf pile could be.

"Ah, so this is a leaf pile"                Photo: Hamilton

This is the fourth time Sue and I have brought arctic "retirees" home. Goofy, our second, and Romulus had been boss dogs at the time of their retirement. Fiddich was a team dog. All of the boys have lived with females once down here and enjoyed their attention as well as ours. We may refer to the adult dogs we bring back to Connecticut as "retirees", but this may be misleading. For lack of a better descriptive, we use the word to mean that the dogs have been "retired" from arctic weather and work to a less challenging climate, lifestyle and not so demanding sledding activity. By no means have they lost their exuberance or desire to be working dogs. Monkey, about four years-old, is now about the same age as our first three "retirees", sisters Amaruq and Tiriganiaq and Puggiq, a male, were when we brought them down from Pond Inlet in 1996. Monkey runs just for the pure joy of it, just as hard and as fast as she can. She also likes to get in-your-face, sniff your eyes or bury her muzzle in your ear. She leaps straight up and down and is very interactive with us. Romulus, eight years-old, is more laid back and loves to be close but is always eager and ready to become involved in whatever's going on.

Our experience with arctic "retirees" has been excellent and we recommend them to those of you with room, time and commitment for a dog or two. You get a dog that's fully trained, although you may have to teach it commands in your language. You get a dog that will work at having a relationship with you. You get a dog whose former owner thought so much of it that they wanted to find it a new home. As I said before, if you can do it, we highly recommend it.

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