The Fan Hitch Volume 3, Number 4, August 2001

Newsletter of the Inuit Sled Dog

Table of Contents

Guest Editorial
Featured Inuit Dog Owner: Dr. Lucien Ockovsky

The First Official ISDI Gathering
Nunavut Quest 2001 Diary
The Song of the Glacier
An Arctic "Fish Story"
Defining ISD Purity
Distemper in the North
Brucellosis in Arctic Marine Mammals: A threat to team dogs?
Poem: But, I must be dreaming, that's years ago...
Book Review: the latest Coppinger book
Janice Howls: Who Belongs in the ISDI?
Page from a Behaviour Notebook: Inuit Dog Stereotypes
Frankly Speaking: Zombies

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              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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                                                                                 Hamilton photo

Inuit Sled Dog International Holds First Official Conference

reported by Sue Hamilton

The Inuit Sled Dog International (ISDI) held its first official meeting on the weekend of July 13 to 15 in Ely, Minnesota [USA]. Hosts Paul and Susan Schurke welcomed about forty ISD enthusiasts from across the United States and Southern Canada as well as locally from Ely, at their Wintergreen Dog Sledding Lodge. More of a family reunion than a meeting, the event, officially described as the "Gathering", seemed aptly titled. Folks who may have only previously communicated via email, snail mail or the occasional telephone call, and some who had never met each other assembled for what can be described as a sense that this was an opportunity to "seize the moment". 

Despite the moderate heat and humidity and some bloodthirsty mosquitoes, spirits were high and the atmosphere was full of enthusiasm and optimism. In between mouthfuls of food and the scheduled programs, veteran ISD owners and a few wide-eyed newcomers filled the air with a cacophony of conversation, sometimes long into the night, about their favorite subject: the Inuit Sled Dog. Folks from a full spectrum of working backgrounds (educators; fraud investigators; supervisors; truck drivers; a former professional hockey player; outfitters; sales reps and manufacturers; writers; dog food, pharmaceutical, veterinary, and human medical professionals, and even some retirees) discovered how much they had in common. Heard from several people with small recreational ISD teams were expressions of relief and delight that they no longer felt alone, having discovered others who enjoy their hobby at a modest but rewarding level.

The weekend began Friday afternoon as the participants arrived. Many came bearing contributions for the Friday evening potluck supper. Also offered was a wide array of items donated for Saturday's Chinese auction. Room assignments and registration packets containing the program, participant list, embroidered patch bearing the new ISDI logo and a commemorative ID badge were handed out. After folks settled their gear into their sleeping quarters (some choosing to camp), they quickly got down to getting to know each other as they nibbled on munchies, while the lodge's twenty-four-foot table was covered from end to end with dinner items, and an outdoor cooker was fired up for the super fresh corn on the cob. A few calories were burned off as the assemblage ambled over to the "big house" as it was called, Paul and Susan's personal residence, where extra chairs borrowed from a local church were set up for the larger than anticipated crowd. After brief welcoming remarks, and a reading of the ISDI financial report, Ely resident Will Steger offered a retrospect of how he came to be an polar adventurer. The evening was rounded out by a video and talk by John Senter of Oregon [USA] and Sylvia Feder of Washington [USA] on the Oregon Dune Mushers' Mail Run. This annual non-competitive carting event takes place in March. Teams of three dogs and larger trace an historical mail route, traveling up and down dunes of impressive height and along and sometimes in the surf that pounds the beautiful Pacific Northwest coast. Yes, Inuit Dogs "do" sand, too!

                                                                                 Hamilton photo

The following morning, after a breakfast of Belgian waffles, French pancakes and real maple syrup we all trooped down to the kennel for a presentation on phenotype, work ethic and breed stock selection. The other morning presentation, the DNA project, ISDI breed registry database and breeding project, and defining the pure dog was held on the lawn outside the lodge, where we were joined by Wintergreen's new Greenland puppies and a couple of adult dogs wandering among the gang.

After lunch, we returned to the "big house" for a lively discussion on health and nutrition. We were fortunate to have on hand for these important topics Wisconsin [USA] residents Joe Bodowes, D.V.M. from Foster and Smith Veterinary Supply, and Eric Morris, owner of Red Paw, a dog food formulated especially for mushers. The balance of Saturday afternoon was well filled out with a round table discussion lead by Scott and Terry Miller of Minnesota [USA] on training, working and harness fitting, followed by an eye opening dialogue on political issues of the north. We were most fortunate to have on hand Denise Martin currently living in Ely, but a part time resident of Iqaluit, Nunavut, who gave us her arctic perspective. 

Preceded by another round of munchies, a "groaning board" of a dinner featuring homemade lasagna, Italian bread, fresh vegetables and fruit, dessert and tons of other goodies was punctuated by a veritable parade of offerings from the Chinese auction. This special event was a big hit and, along with the sale of an assortment of books, both current and collectable, netted over $300.

Although lethargic from too much food and the warm temperatures, the stalwart dog people nonetheless returned to the "big house" where they were treated to a pair of outstanding slide presentations, the first by Outward Bound Canada on their winter programs with sled dogs and then, Paul Schurke's historic Bering Bridge expedition and this year's trip to Qanaaq, Greenland. It was then around 10:00 P.M., but there was even more to come, because, thanks to the very generous support of Eric Morris and Red Paw Dog Food, the evening forged ahead with more socialization and gargantuan trays of incredibly delicious gourmet goodies! People eventually shuffled out into the night, most to seek out their bedrolls with a few returning to the lodge lounge to squeeze in as much conversation as possible before exhaustion finally took its toll.

Sunday morning came all to soon for the kitchen crew who prepared a breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, fresh fruit and other treats. It was no surprise that attendees trickled in slower than on Saturday morning, but what was a bit of a surprise and enormously gratifying was the fact that most of them stayed around for our discussion on the ISDI and where they felt this "loose confederation" should be headed. It was a healthy interchange which continued while the breakfast dishes were loaded into the dishwasher and some of Saturday's leftovers were set out for folks to create take away lunches and travel snacks. In his closing remarks Paul Schurke delivered a thunderbolt to the ISDI when he announced that he was donating all the money collected for the lodging, about $700, to the ISDI's Ted Fox Fund!

On the subject of the ISDI's future, it was generally agreed that the ISDI should remain as is with no officers and no "membership" dues, this despite the special challenges inherent of an unstructured group. Folks were happy to know that there was an active DNA project underway. What was specifically requested was the ability for ISDI enthusiasts to contact each other, to know what others are doing with their dogs and to know where the different gene pools are and what might be available to share. A plan to implement this request is now in the works.

The final report card on the Gathering was that, while representation by participants from Arctic Canada, Greenland, Scandinavia and other parts of Europe was sadly absent, this first effort was very much a success. This can only be attributed to the many ways in which everyone who came pitched in: providing a venue and physical support for this Gathering, helping with food preparation and clean up, donation of auction items and food goodies, purchasing tickets for the Chinese auction, stripping the beds and starting the laundry process, sharing a breadth of knowledge and experience and background. Every person contributed in some way to our collective achievement. Come to think of it, attendees reflected a mirror image of a great team of Inuit Sled Dogs working together!  Given that, it is no wonder that the 2001 ISDI Gathering will remain a memorable event.

                                                                                 Hamilton photo

ISDI would like to thank those who contributed items to the Chinese auction.

Above & Beyond Magazine
Biovet International
Charlotte Berg, Inwood, Manitoba, Canada Post Office
Sylvia Feder, Weaselworks
Brian & Linda Fredericksen, Ames Farm
Mark and Sue Hamilton
Joan Lewin, Goosak
Eric Morris, Red Paw Dog Food
Mushing Magazine
Paul and Susan Schurke, Wintergreen
Howard and Kathryn Thompson
UpHere Magazine
Whippoorwill Press
Xuron Corporation
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