The Fan Hitch Volume 1, Number 3, January 1999

Newsletter of the Inuit Sled Dog

Table of Contents

From the Editor
Dreams & Passions!
The Media: I said that!?!
A Chat about Breeding: Gait
Inuit Dogs on the Web
Behavioral Notebook: Getting Personal
Janice Howls: Big Dogs are Here to Stay
IMHO: On Being Doggie

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              Editor: Sue Hamilton
              Webmaster: Mark Hamilton
The Fan Hitch Website and Publications of the Inuit Sled Dog– the quarterly Journal (retired in 2018) and PostScript – are dedicated to the aboriginal landrace traditional Inuit Sled Dog as well as related Inuit culture and traditions. 

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In My Humble Opinion: On Being Doggie

by Mark Hamilton

This isn't what I started out to write. But Polly Mahoney's dog Jessie died of lymphosarcoma and this is what took shape. Jessie was a sweet dog from what I knew of him. He was of G'wichen lineage and Polly reported he was an average worker. He was young, too. She brought Jessie to the November 1998 Snow Walkers' Rendezvous in Vermont, along with her dogsledding demonstration team, even though he was officially retired at that point. He was just along to enjoy the outing.

During her "Introduction to Dog Sledding" presentation, Polly briefly explained to everyone why Jessie was there, then went on with her talk and ultimately drove off with her team pulling her on an ATV. After she left I was visiting with Jessie when another attendee, who hadn't heard Polly's explanation, came over and asked me why he wasn't running. I briefly explained and the return comment was something like, "Oh, that's terrible". Well, the person I was talking to couldn't understood my response, that actually Jessie was having a pretty good time just then, and once again the difference between being "doggie" and not was in the forefront of my mind.

Somewhere along the path to being "doggie" we realize we're going to face a huge variety of dog situations, some great, others lousy. When the lousy situations occur it is our responsibility to see to it that the animal's final days aren't unnecessarily miserable. Polly and Kevin's behavior with Jessie was a common one. They indulged the dog. We're talking special privileges time: lots of house time, promotion to house dog status if he wanted it, lot's of extra handling, access to a more varied diet, inclusion as the "traveling around dog" if it was found enjoyable. Those kinds of things. Rules of discipline can be relaxed when your not faced with a likelihood of future behavioral problems.

Here's a simple truth: people who aren't "doggie" don't think the way we do. In a similar situation our "non-doggie" friends might do the same sort of things, but their motivation is to make themselves feel better about the impending separation.

For the "doggie" the whole objective is for the dog know its loved and special and, for as long as possible, having a great time. Our actions are based on the dog's perception of reality not our own.

Here's still another side to the "doggie/non-doggie" thing. I probably shouldn't have been surprised by this one, but still it did come as a major thunderbolt to me. This one is age related. I'm approaching my mid-fifties and I've never made a secret of my interest in retirement. Now, friends, acquaintances and business associates are starting to inquire as to my timing and plans (I wish I knew about the timing, but plans I've got).

One question I've heard with distressing frequency is, "What are you going to do with the dogs when you retire". At first, not thinking about the implications of the question, I'd earnestly state, "Spend a lot more time with them". That response generally provoked a incredulous counter response along the lines of, "You mean you're going to keep them?" Boy, if that isn't a fundamental difference between being "doggie" and not I can't imagine what is. I mean really, what do they expect I'm going to do, dump the lot of 'em at the pound, buy golf clubs and move to Florida?

Here's a simple observation: people who aren't "doggie" are totally unable to relate to the fact that a bunch of dogs connect me to virtually everyone and everything of meaning to me. Of course I can't make that statement without a couple of qualifiers: there's family, that's outside the dog thing as are work/business acquaintances. Family is a very unique/universal situation, not what I'm talking about here. Now as to the work/business acquaintances, let me ask you a question. How may of the people you deal with in your work, many on a daily basis, do you expect will really stay in touch with you after retirement, even if you make a sincere effort? Yeah, same for me.

"Well sure, but time and distance" your thinking. I'll agree, that's a factor, but more important is the fact that what we have in common with our work acquaintances is, well, the work. When you take that away, you tell me, what's left? Now with the dog's it's different. That's because the dogs are actually a part of who we are, what we are. You don't retire from being "doggie", even if at some point you don't have a dog. Our "doggie" connections therefore are far more permanent. We are truly connected.

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