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The Fan Hitch, Journal of the Inuit Sled Dog, is published four times a year. It is available at no cost online at: http://thefanhitch.org.
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Qimmiq thoroughly enjoying her final winter. Photo: Hamilton
by Mark Hamilton
We keep dog brushes and combs outside in a handy location so that we are always prepared to help the dogs through their "spring" shedding season, which in our case can take place anytime between April and November. We also keep a small covered trash can in the same area so that undercoat can be quickly disposed rather than having it drifting around the backyard and decorating various plantings. Our older dogs don't shed as early in the season or as quickly as our younger dogs, so we're brushing and combing them when they are the only dogs in need of grooming. Certainly not in all cases, but sometimes we also save what we believe will be a particular dog's last sheds. Such was the case with our long-time leader and self-appointed "queen of the kennel" Qimmiq, whom we lost in 2011, her fifteenth year.
While the idea of a number of bags of a dog's undercoat still carrying that dog's aroma being kept stored in a closet probably isn’t all that repellent to many dog owners, in practical terms you really do need to find a use or purpose for that fur. Last fall we took our bags of "Meeqi's" fur to In Sheep's Clothing, a knitting supply store. The owner also spins natural fibers and makes knitted items for sale in her shop. She agreed not only to spin that wooly undercoat into yarn, but also to do only minimal washing so that it would retain Meeqi's aroma. Further, she would knit us each a pair of custom mitten liners.
As she processed the fur, from carding to spinning to knitting, it was used just as it came raw out of the bag rather than sorting it into it's various colors so it could be used to knit a pattern. We considered that an excellent decision as we feel the natural finish of our mittens are very much in keeping with Meeqi's agouti appearance. Our mitten liners are very warm, warmer than any ragg wool or acrylic pile liners we have. With use the inside surface of our mitten liners have felted producing a nice, smooth surface against our hands. Best of all, we have only to hold them near our faces to catch the scent of an old friend with whom we spent so many pleasurable hours and years, outside and in the snow, driving down forested trails.
While that would be enough for us, there is still more. The aroma emanating from our mitten liners is not just noticed by our dogs, it has an identity they recognize. When they lived together, Romulus treated Meeqi like royalty and he loved her. The first time we wore our mitten liners around him he immediately came to our hands and pressed his face against them. And he kept on sniffing and pressing his face against them, refusing to have any interest in anything else. Qiniliq and Sunny both spent much time happily wagging their tails and sniffing at the mitten liners. Meeqi always considered these two dogs as her boys. Pakaq immediately pulled one of the mittens off my hand and endeavored to run away with it. Pakaq had been Meeqi's understudy, running at double lead along side her. Like the boys, bitches Piqatik and Monkey also recognized the aroma on our mitten liners and neither was especially happy. Alpha bitch "Meeqi" treated the other girls with disdain and they knew it. Piqatik turned her head away from the liners and refused to look at them again while Monkey, who assumed Meeqi's social status in the kennel after the older bitch's departure, immediately began flea biting at the mittens.
We still have a number of skeins of Meeqi's fur so the knitting is continuing. Sue now has a hat and his-and-her fingerless gloves are next. They too will be warm, both for our hands and our minds.