Table of Contents
Editorial: Defining the Inuit Sled Dog
Featured Inuit Dog Owner: Sylvia Feder
All the Wrong Reasons
Last Trip of the Century to the North Pole
Bering Bridge Expedition - 10 Years Later
Ways of the North
Behavioral Notebook: Watching TV
Poem: Standing Invitation
Video Review: Dog of the Midnight Sun
Janice Howls: Observations
In My Humble Opinion: Work, et. al.
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
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Featured Inuit Dog Owner:
We present to you Sylvia Feder. Sylvia is a paramedic for King County Medic One in Seattle/King County Washington. In her "spare time" she is a volunteer for her local animal shelter/humane society where she assists with a program that helps people with HIV/AIDS keep their pets. In addition to her mushing talents, Sylvia is a skilled artist whose work graces the title page of the Fan Hitch in the form of our new logo, and elsewhere in the newsletter from time to time. Thank you, Sylvia, for your special touch.
When did you become interested in Inuit dogs?
Almost 20 years ago, when I was in college, I worked at the school's museum (Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology) and spent some time cataloging and examining the skulls from the dog collection. Many of these were collected during explorations that took place in the early 1900s, but since most of the skulls themselves were from archaeological sites, their ages varied considerably. I was struck by the similarity of the skulls from the arctic, and the differences between those skulls and dog skulls from other areas. About that time, I became intrigued with the idea of going to the arctic to learn more about the dogs, and I finally was able to get an internship with a park in Alaska. From there, I heard about Earl and Natalie Norris and was lucky enough to work as a handler at their kennel, working with their Inuit dogs, for two winters.
When did you get your own dogs?
My first dog was unplanned! I spent a summer in Greenland about 12 years ago, taking a class in arctic biology through the University of Copenhagen, and doing a study on Inuit dog behavior. I was given a female pup, Niya, by a family living in the small town of Qeqertarssuaq on Disko Island. I have her still, although she is now retired from working. She has been through many adventures with me! After returning to Alaska, pup in tow, Natalie Norris and I drove from their home in Willow (including spending the night sleeping in her pickup truck!), to Whitehorse, Yukon Territories , where I bought two males -- a pup and an
adult-- from Bill and Mildred Thompson. Taku and Kiva were an integral part of my little sled dog team until their deaths two years ago. At that time, I bought a 6 month old female pup, Iluk, who now runs lead in my team, from the Hamiltons in Connecticut. Behind her in wheel are two males, Thule, from the Dupre's in Minnesota, and Astro, from the Muellers in B.C. Canada.
Who are the people who have influenced you with regards to owning and running Inuit dogs?
My main preceptors as far as learning to run dogs have been Earl and Natalie Norris, and Mary Shields. I did run Inuit dogs at the Norris's, but also spent time with their many Siberians. Earl and Natalie, and their dogs, introduced me to sledding; from them, I gained an appreciation of a good working dog ethic, as well as knowledge of proper sled dog conformation, movement, and attitude. From Mary, I learned a thousand tricks for running and training dogs, winter camping, and living in rural Fairbanks. Genevieve, though we have never met, has been a constant phone, letter, and now email confidant for many years, sharing Inuit dog stories, advice, and mishaps. I count these all as very dear friends.
What are your plans for your dogs or your kennel?
I have a young, wild, inexperienced team right now, so my main goal at the moment is to get them settled down to working. I try to expose them to all sorts of situations. I run them on snow, on gravel, on sand, with a sled, cart, on my bike, or just for hikes off leash in the woods. I don't plan to breed. Although I dream someday of raising a litter that would become my next team, that won't happen in the foreseeable future. Living as I do on the outskirts of Seattle, Washington, I am constrained in the number of dogs that I can keep. But that's OK. I truly do enjoy owning, working with, and running my little team.
Editor's note: Sylvia and her team have participated for several years in the Oregon Dune Mushers' Mail Run where her skill and fearlessness was recently demonstrated as she clutched the wheel of her sand cart with one hand while vidoetaping herself and her dogs hurtling down the steep dunes!