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
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Ordering Ken MacRury's Thesis
Our comprehensive list of resources
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The Ways of the North
by Geneviève Montcombroux
Sometime in January, the village of Kangirsuk, Nunavik (Northern Quebec), became the center of the world's attention for a few inglorious weeks. It was time for the dog catchers to get rid of the problem dogs roaming the settlement. These dogs are a mix of whatever dogs happened to be loose, with remnants of Inuit Sled Dog blood in them. These unowned and unwanted dogs end up forming dangerous running packs. That's when the authorities intervene and every year shoot dogs.
Don't think that situation is unique to northern communities. Right here in civilized Manitoba, stray dogs of every breed form packs. They attack cattle and wildlife as well as threaten the safety of children. Sometimes in winter, Natural Resources officers locate a pack and shoot them. They are feral and cannot be taken to a shelter for adoption. Such dogs may have been abandoned by city folks who wanted to go on vacation, got divorced, or any other reason why people tire of dogs. Or the dogs could be farm dogs run off to raise puppies in the wilds. However, no one in Manitoba (and that must also be true of other areas) screamed in horror at the killing of the dogs, like an overly concerned citizen did in Kangirsuk. A newcomer in the North, that young person who decided to take on the fight against a custom that has been in existence since the Inuit were moved into settlements.
The moment anyone appeals to people's sympathy over the question of dogs, wallets open. The Montreal Society agreed to take six dogs - two adults and four pups - at a cost of $4,000 Cdn. Monies came from the World Society for the Protection of Animals, and from private sources. What are six dogs when the thirty or so left behind were killed, anyway? But it wasn't a simple and straightforward shooting. The horrified young person saw dogs that were just wounded, and cried about the cruelty. Did the individuals in charge of killing the dogs shoot for pleasure? Did it give them a thrill when they only wounded a dog? I doubt it, but that's only my personal opinion. It could be their aim was impaired by howls of protest coming from the young person and the media calls, which had begun to flowing in.
The Montreal Humane Society got in touch with me, and I advised them about nutrition and handling, as well as sending them a copy of The Canadian Inuit Dog; Canada's Heritage. The outcome was that they agreed not to 'save' any more dogs from the villages of Northern Quebec, but they would support a spay and neuter campaign. At that point, let's mention the Inuit did not appreciate meddling in their affairs. Others apparently eagerly awaited the arrival of a vet to spay/neuter their dogs - pets that is. No one talked about of spaying/neutering the strays.
Dutifully, a veterinary team went up to Kangirsuk, courtesy of the WSPA. They spayed and neutered 19 dogs and vaccinated a few more. The whole operation was declared a success. So much so that by May 19, our young person was sending eight puppies down to the vet, who donated her and her assistant's time, to be put up for adoption.
This part of the episode is closed. We can question why such a situation arose. A long time ago, white people, attempted to transform a perfectly balanced Inuit society into a northern replica of their own. For obvious reasons, working sled dogs didn't fit into that equation. If a few things were good, far too many were not.