The Fan Hitch Volume 14, Number 3, June 2012

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

Editorial: A dog for all seasons

The Fan Hitch Web and Journal Updates

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The Doggy Men Goes Digital

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Tumivut: Healthy Diet for Dogs

Qimmivut (Our Dogs)

Media Review: Nunavut Quest: Race Across Baffin Update

The Chinook Project Returns to Labrador


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Editor: Sue Hamilton
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A Dog for All Seasons

To this day I am perplexed by our Inuit Dogs' reactions to the onset of Spring. That cold nip in the air is essentially gone, the snow has disappeared and that promising "smell" of an incoming snow storm so often palpable to humans and animals is definitely gone, replaced by the aroma of bare earth warming up in the increasing power of the sun's rays. The musty odor of tons of decaying leaves, long removed from around the house and kennel, is supplanted by the fragrance of tender new grass, especially after its first mowing. Trees and shrubs begin to gently rustle courtesy of their new leaves, replacing the sound of unobstructed Fall and Winter wind whistling and howling through bare branches.

Our dogs always get maniacal with the arrival of the first cold of Fall and the approaching Winter. But they also seem to get especially happy again (maybe not as much as in late September though) as Spring arrives. They run hysterically around the fenced in back yard. Sometimes they get especially crabby with each other. Disconcertingly to us, they stretch out in their pens, wearing full winter coats, choosing to bake in direct sunlight for a while before seeking refuge under the 80% shade cloth covering half of each run. And most of all they absolutely adore sprawling out on the lawn, scrubbing their muzzles very hard into the grass, rolling from side-to-side on their backs! Every time I see this happening it reminds me of returning home from our third trip to Pond Inlet with our first three Inuit Dogs – a male and two very pregnant sisters.

It was a traumatic (for us humans anyhow) adventure from "up island" back south to the Ottawa airport where we had parked our truck. The dogs were held back in Pond from the first leg of our flight due to a medivac. They finally arrived in Iqaluit late in the afternoon, but our scheduled flight to Ottawa had long since left. The overnight delay for next afternoon’s departure left us with plenty of time on our hands and a desire to keep the dogs uncrated for as much of that time as possible. When I tied Puggiq, the male, to a hanger door at the airport (for a reason that now escapes me) and walked a few yards away, he quickly slashed the leash with his teeth and began wandering around in the open space surrounded by utility buildings. While we knew this dog well (and he us) from two previous year's journeys out on the ice, this time he was out of his element entirely, untethered and desperately looking around for something. Stung with abject terror, I knelt down and as cheerily as my shaking voice could muster, I called out to him, "Puggiq, COME!" I guess someone taught him a bit of English because that's exactly what he did, right to me!

We didn't arrive in Ottawa until after dark the next evening and we didn't get to our hotel, the old Southway Inn when it had more open space before their major expansion, until after 9 PM, having first been to a nearby veterinary clinic for physical exams and health certificates we thought were needed to cross into the States. Mark and I were staggeringly tired, but the dogs were excited, despite the nearly 50 degree F increase in temperature, by the major change in their environment: the smells, the vastly different surfaces, the darkness and those tall organic things we call trees.

Puggiq was the happiest dog we have ever known. Almost nothing could put him in a foul mood. One of the few times he got angry happened a week before his sudden and totally unexpected death (due to a ruptured hemangiosarcoma) years later when out of nowhere, he beat the crap out of a juvenile male in his group who absolutely adored him. He never punctured his young disciple, but covered him in saliva and "washed" him in fear for his very life. Totally unprovoked it seemed to us. But on this, his first night in the South, Puggiq was high on life and sucking in every new experience with enthusiasm. On his first "potty walk" I brought him to the hotel's unfenced dog exercise yard while Mark parked the truck. Puggiq wandered in the big grassy area, nose to the ground, vigorously inhaling all the new aromas. He dragged me over to a tall thing with arms sweeping to the ground – a mature conifer of some sort. Puggiq’s reaction was priceless! He seemed to lock his legs at the knees while he keeled over onto a mass of lower branches and then began scrubbing wildly on his back. The halogen street lamps lit up with an eerie blue-white glow a mile-wide toothy grin from underneath his jet black muzzle!

This remains an enduring image I think on every single time I witness one of our Inuit Dogs flopping on the new Spring grass in our back yard. Whether sensing a change of venue or a change in seasons, Inuit Dogs' indomitable spirits shine brilliantly! With the bulk of Summer looming very much ahead of us, we humans will quickly wilt under the heat and humidity. But with the help of shade cloth, the swamp cooler, huge fans blowing across the floor of the pens and frequent water bucket changes, the dogs always seem to muster a cheerful attitude, ready to take on Fall whenever it arrives.

Wishing you smooth ice and narrow leads,

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