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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.
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In My Humble Opinion, Work et. al.
by Mark Hamilton
Remember the old saying, "I'm fascinated by work. I can sit and watch it for hours"? Well, that thought is always running through my mind when we're on the trail. You see, that's exactly what you're doing when you're a passenger on a sled or komotik. It's only recently however, that I've come to realize just how much work is a matter of the viewer's perspective.
I know this thought isn't even particularly original. Years ago I came across a similar idea written by, of all people, an automotive journalist. The writer had been out in the desert at night in a factory supplied, heavily accessorized truck. In his mind he was out four wheel drive exploring, living on the edge. Suddenly an ancient compact car loaded with half a dozen farm workers sped by and in one prescient moment the writer saw it all, while in his mind he was "really out there" the other people were merely on their way to work.
Sue and I have run headlong into this dichotomy on some of our vacations as well. We'd be out on the land, sitting in a tent, playing cribbage and our guide would ask, "What do you guys want to do tomorrow?" Our typical response of, "We don't care, whatever you want" would be countered with, "No, this is your holiday, I'm at work. You decide". See what I'm talking about here - one group of people, everyone doing the same thing, but some people are working and others aren't. Fortunately for them, our dogs don't have this problem. They don't live their lives on a "I work from 8:00 am to 5:00 PM with an hour off for lunch and two weeks vacation in the summer" basis. To me it seems that the work ethic is so much a part of their existence that they even work at their play. Check this out for yourself. The next time one is digging their own personal version of the Howe Caverns, or racing around the play area, whether pursued or in pursuit, look at the expression on the dog's face. Now in your mind compare that to the expression on their faces when they're in harness. You see the same combination of intensity and enjoyment, don't you?
On the other hand, it's just as possible that it's all completely the other way around. Maybe our dogs' work ethic is so great that their work is also their play (now that would be a reason to be envious of our dogs). Like I said earlier, it's all just a matter of the viewer's perspective.
I had occasion recently to be reviewing much of the video tape from our Canadian Arctic journeys. Hours of tape, lots of it includes dogs working, about to work, or just finished working. I can't find an unhappy dog face in any of the tapes. They enjoy their work, they're dedicated to their work, they are their work. It's truly part of their identity, what they are and what they are all about. Now examine your self here, it's probably a major part of what you admire about them as well. I know it is for me.