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Qimmiq, just this past winter, demonstrating she
wasn't too old to flirt. photo: Hamilton
by Mark Hamilton
Piqatik and Monkey are now locked in a power struggle. Qimmiq, the dominant female in our kennel is gone and the two remaining females must now vie for that position. The vacuum created by the loss of the older bitch must be filled, the social structure within which the Inuit Sled Dog lives demands that.
We lost Qimmiq last month May 26th, the day after Borden, her sibling in Indiana, had died. Qimmiq was the last of the three pups we kept (and the last of the entire littler of ten) from Tiriganiaq, one of the two pregnant females we brought back from Pond Inlet almost fifteen years ago. Borden and Qimmiq were so similar in appearance and behavior and socially close to each other as pups that we had referred to them as the "Bookenders".
'Meeqi's' dominance over the other two females in our kennel would more appropriately be expressed as that of a force of nature rather than as normal canine interactions. She expressed it in everything she did and in everything she was. When engaged through the fencing by one of the other girls she didn't explode in a fury and a fence fight. Instead she got up close to the fence and barked and bounced around a little while wagging her tail happily – just egging them on, demonstrating to them that they weren't even capable of truly provoking her.
Her interactions with the male dogs in the kennel were always as a social equal. Having been a lead dog for most of her life she claimed a special relationship with every dog that had ever worked on her team. She loved working in harness and understood that the work she did as lead dog was special, different from what the other dogs did. She also knew that doing that work didn't make her special, it merely confirmed that she was special.
Romulus, our latest male arctic retiree, never worked in a team with Qimmiq, which made his relationship with her seem particularly noteworthy. Romulus was a boss dog in the Arctic. It's possible he never before interacted with a bitch with Qimmiq's bearing and attitude at any time before in his life. Romulus was absolutely captivated by her.
Qimmiq's behavior with us and around us was similar to her behavior with the other dogs. She understood she had a special relationship with us, one that was richer in access and privileges. She understood that when she worked in harness she was working with us, not for us. She was sweet and loving and playful with us. There was always a sparkle in her eyes reflecting the joy within her.
'Meeqi' lived a full life. She worked reliably at lead for twelve seasons and never forgave us for retiring her. Every time we loaded a team into the dog-truck after her retirement she expressed her desire to be taken along as well. Time never crippled her, she carried her tail happily over her back and moved effortlessly with a joyful expression on her face to the end. There was no long, slow decline for Qimmiq. Only in the last few days did the end that was approaching evidence itself.
Now that she's gone there is a hole in the social fabric up in the kennel. Monkey and Piqatik will determine how and when that hole is filled. There is also a hole in our hearts as well that is unlikely to ever be filled. Finally, there can be no denying that Qimmiq's was a life well spent.