Table of Contents
Editorial: Looking to the Year 2000
Report: The North Baffin Quest
Project: Impress Your Dog
Behavioral Notebook: Tiri's Magic Carpet
ISD News from Norway
In My Humble Opinion: Cause and Effect
Janice Howls: The Spitz Group
Featured Inuit Dog Owner: Jim Ryder
Hudson's Bay Adventure
Book Review: Running North
Tiriganiaq, April 1999, © Hamilton photo
Pages from the Behavioral Notebook:
by Sue Hamilton
Tiriganiaq died on a four foot square of beige, cut pile carpet. It was in our fenced in back yard on the edge of the deck at the back of our house where in her declining weeks she would rest, watching her young adult children and their father, her mate, romp and play. These were activities that had come to be beyond her capacity to do or enjoy. It was about 14 months since the first time that, while playing with her family, she suddenly staggered and stumbled across the deck, and scared the hell out of us. Although she recovered in a few minutes, we knew in our hearts we had not seen the last of this.
She was fine for the next couple of months, until the episodes suddenly reappeared and persisted with increasing frequency and intensity. The diagnosis was insulinoma, tumors of the pancreas that created the overproduction of insulin, resulting in precipitous drops in blood sugar (glucose). Less dramatic drops in glucose levels are dealt with courtesy of the liver. Eventually, however, this organ looses its ability to respond. Profound drops in blood glucose, if not treated immediately, can lead to seizures, brain damage, coma and death.
Surgery was not an option in Tiri's case and so, because her tumors were determined to be slow growing, she was treated by diet*. And when it became apparent that she was having an "episode", we would give her simple sugars, Karo syrup, to snatch her from the jaws of death. Eventually, in order to be able to play, we had to be sure she had enough sugar (GatorAde and Karo) on board to fuel her desire to be a part of the play group.
But as the months wore on, Tiri's body wore out. Given that in her former Arctic life she had never been in a house, it was curious to see how much she desired to be inside. We couldn't even grant her that wish for, even if she didn't run around chasing the cats, the "excitement" of being inside caused her to experience an "event". So we got the idea that if we couldn't bring Tiri into the house, we could at least try to bring part of the house outside to Tiri. We decided that best smell of the indoors was the piece of beige carpet in the entrance way at the back door where we scrubbed the dirt off our feet and the house cats loved to curl up in the sunbeam filtering through the window.
This carpet we laid out on the deck for Tiri became her throne! A rumble that began right from her toenails, announced to her canine "subjects" that this space was hers alone, access to be granted only as she saw fit. Puggiq, her mate, was a frequent and welcome visitor to her tiny dominion. Son and daughter, Bishop and Siku, advanced with exaggerated reverence and were granted audiences. Daughter Qimmiq, somewhat of an outsider who pined for her mother's attention and approval, approached tentatively touching her mother's muzzle hoping for an open mouth greeting signaling her acceptance, a gesture Tiri denied her. Mark and I were always welcome, and it became a habit for each of us in turn to lay beside her like nesting spoons and cuddle, which brought great pleasure to both humans and dog.
As she came to move around less and less, we decided that Tiri should have this carpet square for her dog house to protect her from developing calluses and pressure sores. The floor just happened to be the same dimensions. This was the very house she was introduced to when she came from the North Baffin to live in Connecticut. It was this same house where two weeks later she whelped and successfully raised 5 sons and 5 daughters. Tiri came to be so covetous of her carpet that the act of posturing for it (albeit laying down) burned precious sugar. And so we came to the reluctant conclusion that her personal physical well being was more important and therefore it was better for her to relocate Puggiq and Siku to the adjacent pen instead of Tiri having to make feeble and potentially life threatening efforts to defend the carpet from them.
Tiri had her own deck attached to the front of her dog house on which she enjoyed laying. She would usually position herself so her right side would be leaning against the front wall of her house, allowing her a good view of the yard and our house, as her pen was one that bordered the fenced in back yard. In order to provide for her comfort, we bought several other pieces of carpet, ones for her house and deck, a couple to use while the other pieces dried out after it rained, and one for us to replace the piece from inside our house, her favorite of them all, which we didn't have the heart to take away from her. This was the piece we most frequently used as her "throne" on the deck in front of her dog house as well as the deck attached to our house.
In her final weeks, Tiri became unable to walk more than a couple of dozen feet without collapsing in apparent exhaustion and, more disturbing, she was no longer able to climb the two steps up to the kennel without stumbling. Our vet felt that at this point, she must have suffered some brain damage from all the episodes of low blood sugar, some of which likely occurred when we were not around to provide her with an emergency bolus of Karo syrup. Her events did seem to be happening with greater frequency and with no apparent exertion on her part, which led us to the conclusion that her tumors were growing and producing more insulin than we or her liver could bind. The seemingly indomitable spirit she exhibited through all of this began to crack and with no prospect of more good days ahead of her, we gently eased Tiri out of this world as she lay on her square of brown cut pile carpet, cuddled in Mark's arms.
It is our custom that, as soon as we return home from delivering the body to the vet's office, we hurry to obliterate as much as we can the physical presence of that dog and whatever may have been associated with its illness. In Tiri's case, we removed her name from her dog food bowl, discarded both the opened and unopened cans of her special dog food, her cooked rice and the gigantic plastic tub it was stored in, the oral dosing syringes used to administer the Karo syrup, the opened bottle of Karo, the dish used to measure out the Gatorade. Tiri's former kennel mates, Puggiq and their daughter Siku, were returned to their old pen after her house and deck carpets were pulled out. These items were too big to discard and, not wanting to have to watch them as they lay draped over the 4 foot high backyard fence drip drying, we hastily tossed them, unwashed, in the corner of Mark's workshop.
It was several months later when Mark became frustrated with his inability to navigate around his cluttered workshop that he removed the two 4 foot squares of carpet and hung them over the fence. By now it was mid-August and Connecticut was in the throes of a serious drought so we chose to let the pieces air out for a while instead of using precious water to clean them up. Later that day, during evening exercises, the other Inuit Dogs acted as if Tiri had returned from the dead.
During her life, Tiri made it clear she had no use for her sister Amaruq, or any of Amaruq's children. Aqsaq, the bitch we kept from that litter was painfully aware of the fact that at any moment her Aunt Tiri could pounce on her if she failed to keep a respectable distance and behave in a way which would not elicit Tiri's perceived need to punish her. It was no surprise, therefore that both Amaruq and Aqsaq, went out of their way to ignore the sudden reappearance of the carpets, despite how characteristically Inuit Dogs take notice of changes in their surroundings. Puggiq expressed his interest by scent rubbing back and forth against one of the pieces several times. During their group turn in the back yard, Bishop, Siku and Qimmiq enthusiastically rubbed against the same carpet and after several attempts, Bishop managed to tug Tiri’s very special throne off the picket fence and onto the ground. I immediately ran over to "rescue" the piece. Not knowing what possessed me to do this, I took the carpet and laid it out on the very same spot it where Tiri took her last breaths. In order of their self-established rank, each dog took its turn "visiting" the carpet. First Bishop then Siku dropped one shoulder onto the carpet and scrubbed around and then left. With the most enthusiasm of all, Qimmiq first performed the same scent rubbing, then began to dig furiously at the center of the square with both feet, as if she were trying to get the attention of some imaginary being hidden within. And then… turning her head to one side, she opened her mouth wide and pressed her teeth against the pile and ever so gently, tentatively and briefly closed her mouth a fraction of an inch, in a stylized greeting similar to what she had tried to elicit from her mother while she was alive. Astonished by her display, we could only conclude that Qimmiq did not find the carpet to be as "inanimate" an object as it appeared to us.
These recent behaviors on the part of the 6 remaining Inuit Dogs to Tiri's "magic" carpet demonstrated beyond any doubt to us that neither the relationship nor the impact she had with these others had faded any more than the scent she left behind. And despite the shortcomings of our human olfactory capability, there is little question of the impression Tiri made on our lives as well.
*We wish to express our profound gratitude to Al Townsend, Eagle Pet Foods' Staff Veterinarian, for his compassion and advice in developing a diet plan for Tiri. Without question "Doctor Al's" ongoing support was responsible for extending to Tiri some quality time with us and her family.