The Fan Hitch Volume 3, Number 1, November 2000

Newsletter of the Inuit Sled Dog

Table of Contents

From the Editor
Featured Inuit Dog Owners:
Scott & Terry Miller
Nunavut Dogsledding Association
Update: No Resolution in Iqaluit
Season's Greetings from Toadhall
The Homecoming, Part II
The Russian Connection, Part II
Meeting Ken Pawson and Kevin Walton
Arctic Sojourn
The Ted Fox ISDI Foundation Fund
Book Review: 
Two Years in Antarctica
Janice Howls:
No Click and Treat for ISDs!
All Breed Kennel Club Registry

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

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. 

PostScript is published intermittently as material becomes available. Online access is free at:  PostScript welcomes your letters, stories, comments and The editorial staff reserves the right to edit submissions used for publication.

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Scott and Terry Miller's 13 dog team of Inuit Dogs, Alaskan Malamutes and Alaskan Huskies

Featured Inuit Dog Owners:
Scott and Terry Miller, Qimmitsiaq Kennel

At Qimmitsiaq Kennel we have 18 dogs: 12 Inuit dogs, 3 malamutes, 1 mal/Inuit mix, and 2 Alaskan huskies.  Of all those dogs, five are young puppies who are not yet ready to join the team, but nonetheless provide hours of enjoyment for us and for our adult dogs. 

We have been running dogs recreationally for seven years.  We started our sledding career with Alaskan malamutes, but over the years switched to primarily Inuit dogs.  Our main interest with the dogs is in sledding as opposed to showing or having pets.  We like a good work ethic in our dogs, but we also like a freighting style dog, so neither Alaskan malamutes or Alaskan huskies quite fit the bill for us (although I will confess we like both of those breeds too).  The Inuit dog provides us with a great combination of both work ethic and aesthetics.   We think our kennel name is befitting for such great animals:  "qimmitsiaq" means beautiful dog in Inuktitut. 

We live in Hinckley, Minnesota, USA and that puts us very much south of the tree line.  Although it's certainly not an Arctic environment, typically our winters are cold and snowy.  However, the last three years have been disappointing in terms of both cold and snowfall, but we haven't let that stop us from enjoying our dogs.  We train with a four wheel all terrain vehicle (ATV), so despite the recent lack of true winter weather, we have managed to run our dogs quite a bit between September and March or April. We train a large team (10-13 dogs) on the ATV during the fall (and snowless winter), and we switch to smaller teams during the winter when we can get on sleds.  We generally log between 1000-1200 miles per season with our team. 

Our dogs live on stake out chains with a rather deluxe housing arrangement.  Each dog has its own house made out of a single sheet of plywood.  Attached to one side of each house is a "porch."  The primary purpose of the porch is to provide shade in the summer, and the dogs definitely take advantage of their shade.  However, the dogs seem to think that the primary purpose of their porches is to elevate themselves to the level of their humans when we walk by.  The porches are also a favorite place for lounging and lording over their domains. 

We feed a mixture of dry kibble (34% protein, 20% fat) and raw meat (turkey, beef, liver, and cooked eggs).  We feed the same diet year round, although the quantity is scaled way back in the off season.  When the dogs are working, we also supplement their diet with several different fat sources.  We not only mix fat in with their baited water and their meal, but we also use it as a treat after a job well done on the trail. 

We have discovered the joy and challenge of mid-distance racing with our freighting dogs, and that has been our main training focus for the past several years.  We have run four mid-distance races with our team:  The Great Trail Sled Dog Race (two day race, 30 miles per day), the Beargrease Rec. Race (one day race, 30 miles), the 6-dog class of the Empire 130 (two day race, 33 miles per day), and the Cascade Quest (three day race, 22 miles each the first two days, and 11 miles the final day).  Obviously, given our choice of breed, our goal is not to win these races.   We like to race our dogs to see how well we can train them, to meet new people, and to run on new trails.  It's also fun to have the big guys at the races because they tend to attract a lot of attention from the spectators with their impressive size and their more traditional appearance.  When they're well trained, they get a lot of respect from the other mushers as well because of their strength and their ability to deal more efficiently with the harder terrain and conditions which are sometimes encountered in races. 

Our biggest adventure to date was a trip to the Washington, USA then on to British Columbia, Canada for a three week dog mushing extravaganza.  After brainstorming in the fall of 1999 for fun things to train for during the year 2000 winter, we came up with the grand scheme of a trip out west with our ten adults.  We planned to enter two teams in the 6 dog class of the Cascade Quest, held in Leavenworth, Washington, and then head north to Quesnel, British Columbia the next weekend to run the Gold Rush Mail Run.  This plan had lots of benefits:  it provided us with a goal to train for, it provided us with an adventure unlike anything we'd ever done before, and it provided us with an opportunity to meet and stay with fellow ISD owner/musher, Sylvia Feder. 

Once decided, plans fell into place relatively nicely.  My workplace generously gave me three weeks off. I found a handler, Claire Hruby, who owns an ISD puppy of ours, and the dogs trained up nicely.   I was somewhat stressed out at the idea of heading across the country without Scott.  He is a teacher and wasn't able to get the time off from work so he had to settle for flying out for the Cascade Quest and then flying immediately home.  It helped that we frequently travel with dogs, although not for three weeks at a time, so they were good at living out of the dog truck.  That was one less skill to try to acquire en route. 

January 9, Departure Day, finally arrived and Claire and I headed west with ten dogs, a loaded truck, and some soon to be too-listened-to cassette tapes.  The same weather that we were cursing back home for bringing no cold or snow to Minnesota soon became our friend as we realized what good winter driving conditions we had.  The dogs did absolutely great during their three days of travel.  The only stress associated with them was at feeding time.  It is a well known fact among our friends that our dogs are enthusiastic eaters: they not only have voracious appetites, but they are also loud!  To minimize disruption to others, we tried to feed them at truck stops or wayside rests.  They were also a bit vocal during their evening potty drops, and while it stressed me out somewhat, they couldn't be blamed:  they were happy dogs celebrating their goodness and their delight in traveling! 

The entire trip went well, with the exception of losing one of our sleds in a 50 mile per hour crosswind in North Dakota.  The dogs did great on their fun runs on some of Sylvia's training trails in the Cascades.  They did great with all the traveling. They did great at the 50 mile Gold Rush Mail Run. And they did great at the Cascade Quest.  Because the conditions at the Quest best exemplified what these dogs do well, I'm going to go into a little detail about that race. 

Terry and Inuit Dog leaders Lug (M) and Ilik (F)

The dogs’ first big test, the start of the Cascade Quest, came on January 14.  The 6-dog race course followed a snowmobile trail approximately 22 miles into the private ghost town of Trinity.  Although we were entered in the 6-dog class, we only had ten adults, so we each raced a five-dog team.  We weren't worried about being "underpowered" since we weren't there to win anyway.   Our goal was to find some decent snow and to see how our dogs would do in the mountains.  We found decent snow, all right.  In fact, there was almost too much of it!  Not only was there more than eight feet of snow on the ground to start with, but it snowed another foot during the course of our run into Trinity the first day, and it snowed more than two feet total over the course of the entire race. 

As the first day ended and teams arrived at Trinity we were directed to mush around a loop which lined our teams up in the order in which we came.  As good luck would have it, I ended up coming in right after Scott, so all of our dogs were in a row.  Our dogs are used to camping and sleeping in harness, and that skill came in very convenient in this situation.  It was nice for us to just be able to anchor our sleds with a couple snowhooks and anchor our front dogs with a snow picket, unhook the dogs’ harnesses from their tug lines, and let them settle in for the night.  You don't know how useful it is to have dogs that know how to rest in harness until you need it! I can't tell you how proud we were of our dogs that day!  Not only were they good at camp, but they had all had an excellent run into Trinity.  Despite very few training miles on snow back home, despite slow trail conditions, and despite an overall uphill grade, they pulled great!  They did so well, in fact, that at the end of the first day Scott and I were smack dab in the middle of the pack:  sixth and seventh out of twelve respectively.  We were ecstatic! 

We hadn't seen snow that heavy for several years back at home, and although it's beautiful, there's no doubt that snowfall can make even the simplest chores significantly harder!  Equipment was getting buried almost as fast as I could dig it out of my sled bag, and Scott and I were a little bit stressed out by the fact that there was no power at Trinity.  The power outage was due to an avalanche that had temporarily stopped up the river which provided the ghost town with hydroelectric power.  It wasn't the lack of power that scared us,  it was the possibility of avalanches.  Remember, we come from a state where mountains are nonexistent and lately snowstorms have been as well!  The anxiety over the snowfall actually served to make the evening more exciting and memorable - after all, we had traveled a long way for this, so it was nice that it was an experience we couldn't have back in Minnesota. What made the evening even more fun was that Sylvia had also mushed her three-dog team to Trinity after the start of the race.  Yes, that's right, she ran her small team 22 miles in relatively poor conditions!    So she joined us for a night of worrying about avalanches, camping, and discussing the amazing joy that is running dogs, and ISDs in particular. 

The next day dawned clearer, but the snowmobiles which were supposed to have broken the trail for the race hadn't arrived at Trinity as scheduled.  That brought about general discussions between the race officials and the racers regarding how to proceed.  There was about a five mile section of trail which was prone to avalanche danger and, of course, no one knew if the snowmobiles hadn't arrived simply due to slow trail conditions or if they hadn't arrived due to a completely blocked trail.  The group decided to wait an extra hour or so for the snowmobiles and if they didn't arrive, we'd reconvene and reformulate a plan.  Sylvia, with her smaller team, and not being an official part of the race, elected to get an earlier start and begin breaking trail herself.  Staying over an extra day wasn't an option for her - she had to get back for work!  Her dogs ended up having to do more work than any of the bigger teams because they were out breaking trail while the rest of us were back at Trinity resting and waiting for the race to restart! 

Our trail-breaking snowmobiles did arrive, and once we knew the way was clear, we mushers busily readied ourselves and our teams for departure.  I don't think anyone wanted to get out of that avalanche zone more than Scott and I did!  The trail was absolutely beautiful with all the fresh snow blanketed thickly on the evergreens and balanced precariously (or so it seemed to me in my state of heightened awareness) on the side of the mountain.  The dogs went out at a nice pace, and they acted as if there was not a care in the world.  They were traveling again, and they were in their element.  I soon settled in and began to revel in the running too. The slower trail conditions again kept us in the thick of things as far as race standings go, and after the second day, we had maintained our positions.  That evening we camped by our truck, and our dogs had the luxury of spending the night in their boxes.  It was a much less stressful night for all of us! 

The third day was an easy eleven mile loop beginning and ending at our trucks.  The snow had completely stopped falling and the trail was faster than it had been the previous two days.  The improved trail conditions sped up the other teams, but it didn't do much for us.  We always maintain that our dogs go one speed - it doesn't matter if it's uphill or downhill, good conditions or bad - so we actually usually prefer a somewhat less packed trail during a race.  Our logic is that it hurts the other teams more than it hurts us!   We managed to go into the third day of the race with enough of a lead over the remaining teams to finish in the middle of the pack which is something we'd never done before and will probably never do again! 

Twelve teams entered the race and  all of them finished.  Scott came in sixth place and I came in seventh.  Our dogs had not only run the miles, but they had been great ambassadors for their breed while on the trail.  They were well behaved. They passed and were passed professionally.  And they got to show off some of their strengths as working animals as the conditions deteriorated. 

I'll be the first to admit that the Inuit Sled Dog was not bred to be a racing dog, and indeed, it does not excel as a racing dog under many, if not most, conditions.  However, it was bred to be able to pull for many miles under harsh conditions with poor or non-existent trails.   Given the predisposition for a strong work ethic, some training to hone the basic instinct to pull, and a little luck on the trail, I think there is a place for the ISD to show off its working capabilities even here south of the tree line! 

As Scott and I like to say, "Go big dogs!!!"

.....And from another quarter!
Subject: hey!
Date: Thu, 19 Oct 2000 21:39:23 EDT

Howdy Mark and Sue!!

I ran my dogs last weekend and blew both rear tires out from dragging the brake so much. I LOVE THESE DOGS!!!!

Chuck Weiss

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