The Fan Hitch Volume 2, Number 4, August 2000

Newsletter of the Inuit Sled Dog

Table of Contents

From the Editor
Raising Sled Dogs
The Good, the Bad and the ‘Eskimo’ Dog
The Russian Connection
Honoured Symbol Under Fire
Iqaluit Team Owner Speaks Out
The Homecoming
Niels Pedersen, D.V.M:
Challenging Folk Remedies
Janice Howls:
Maintaining the ISD Roots
Book Review: 
Portrait of Antarctica
First Hand Account:
Exploration of Antarctica
Dog Ownership in Modern Society
Baking: Carnivore Brownies
Behaviour Notebook:
 Silent and Induced Heat
ISDI Summit Postponed
Memorable Inuit Dog Encounters

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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ISDI home page

Editor's/Publisher's Statement
              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 Svalbard                                                                  Socha photo

My Memorable Inuit Dog Encounters

by Tim Socha

While driving home from work, I hardly noticed the green Swiss countryside, because I was wondering what to write for this article. My mind went back to Churchill, Manitoba. I was taking a walk on the outskirts of town. It was blowing spindrift but wasn't actually cold. There on the edge of town were two Inuit Dogs staked out. Thinking back, suddenly all the experiences and observations came together and I understood. I had first met Inuit Dogs on Svalbard and liked them immediately. My friend Robin Buza had about 40 dogs in his kennel. I was there for a one on one trip in February. I went down to the kennel alone. The dogs were still and silent as I approached in the dim early morning light. I walked up to the fence and spoke to the biggest lion-like dog. He was brown and black with slanted eyes, yellowish eyebrows and a big bristling mane. I stuck my fingers through the fence whereupon he gave them a good nip. After some nips and nibbling he started rubbing up against the fence to get patted. Suddenly everybody wanted patted, but only after nipping my fingers. Just like that, I was accepted, I never had another Inuit Dog just look at me, they wanted petted, rubbed, stroked, any body contact, and they wanted it now. After another trip with Robin the following year, I got very keen on having my own dog. 

While searching for an Inuit Dog, I corresponded with Geneviève Montcombroux, receiving much help from her. I requested a sabbatical leave for two months from the school where I work, and on Geneviève's suggestion made contact with Paul Schurke and arranged to work for him as an "intern" guide for two months in order to learn more about dog handling. Paul's Wintergreen Dogsledding Lodge was most interesting. The clients were indoctrinated into dog sledding with talks, walks, videos and hands-on dog sledding. What I didn't know was that the dogs were not used to following voice commands, but followed a skier, which on occasion was me! I was happy that I had done quite a bit of training in preparation, but wished that I hadn't put on the extra pounds over the years. Having plenty of insulation did have its advantages when trying with bare hands to put a harness on an ecstatic squirming fur ball vibrating with raw power and energy. They basically want to have the harness on too, but are so pleased about it, that some rolled over, some pushed against you nearly knocking you over and took the opportunity to stick a wet nose right in your face. You just don't think about where that nose has been! My clothes got a kind of patina composed of dirt, dog hair, dog snot, dog smell, wood smoke and other things. Actually the fabric became quite soft and comfortable. The next thing was getting the dog who was now in harness to the sled and on to the tug line. This was like running an obstacle course, because some younger males like Copper (hopping next to me on two legs, squirming and thrashing around) would suddenly snarl at another male, who would of course take up the challenge and lunge at Copper. Suddenly the snarling and barking decibels would go off the top of the scale, with Copper trying to drag me to get himself in scuffling range of the other dog. After the obstacle course, I'd try to get him on the tug line, but could he stand still? No. So he would strain at the line trying to sniff something out of reach while I tried to clip him in. When an Inuit Dog "leans" he is still a force to be reckoned with. So now as one of the guides always said, the dogs started going "ape shit" until the safety line was released. Then it was suddenly quiet, as all the dogs did what they were there for, to pull. We couldn't have guests ride the sled through the woods and down to the lake. It was way too dangerous. The dogs just went flat out to the launching area, where we stopped and allowed the guest to take over. Dog power was a great way to travel over the frozen lakes, cruising for hours along on the cross country skis in the company of the dogs. Of course the work was never done until the dogs were staked out and fed. 

What is it about these dogs that endear them to me so much? They are so much like myself as a teenager. They have this sense of enthusiastic urgency. They are only interested in the future, as if they live in a time dimension that runs slightly ahead or slightly faster. When they see the harness, they want in the harness, not now, but before now, then on to the tug line, then running, then resting, then starting up again, everything is too slow or too late for them. They constantly remind us to keep moving. 

During my two months at Wintergreen I experienced many adventures and discoveries, topics for other stories that I don't have room for here. So in remembering Churchill, I also remember what I once heard about each animal or plant group having a spirit, like the spirit of the caribou. Of course each caribou is an individual, but they are in essence the same. They have the same spirit. Then I saw it. The Inuit Dogs are all, each and everyone, individuals, yet they share the same spirit. I had made contact with this spirit, and was known and accepted. Each Inuit Dog, no matter where I went, recognized me. It is truly an honour.

Born, raised and schooled in the US, Tim now makes his living as a school music director in Switzerland, where he lives with his wife, Sheena.  His other passions are outdoor adventures, especially "things arctic".  Soon to be a first time Inuit dog owner, look for Tim as a Featured Inuit Dog Owner in an upcoming issue of the Fan Hitch.

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