Table of Contents
Featured Inuit Dog Owners: Jill and Daniel Pinkwater
Never Let Go: A Pedestrian Experience
Points of View: John Senter; Kathy Schmidt
When a Fight Isn't a Fight
Arctic Brucellosis Update
High Arctic Mushing: Part 1
Book Review: Uncle Boris in the Yukon
Page from a Behaviour Notebook: Do Dogs Have Emotions?
IMHO: Dog Sled Racing vs. Sled Dog Racing
|From the Editor...
Does What We Do Matter Anyway?
It was a sparkling morning here in Connecticut (USA). I was sitting on the deck with Janice Dougherty who had driven up from her Brooklyn, New York home the day before to visit and meet the new Pangnirtung pup, not even a week out of the Arctic. While watching the dogs during their morning romp, we talked about the ancient and recent history of Inuit Sled Dogs, the birth of the Inuit Sled Dog International and the Fan Hitch, the July Gathering, and the future of the pure ISD. I asked her if she thought it was worth the effort and expense to have semen collected from a nine-and-a-half year-old magnificent example of the breed, knowing that the likelihood of it being feasible to do or finding someone willing to have their bitch surgically implanted with previously frozen sperm (the preferred method for best pregnancy success rate) is infinitesimally small. There was a pause in all this talk while we studied in contemplative silence the interactions of the current group of dogs in the back yard. We then looked at each other and I asked, "Does anything of what we have done or may do matter? After all, the planet will someday boil away into space and all the work and the passion we put in to the activities we hold dear will evaporate along with it."
It was Sunday September 9th, not forty-eight hours before the Day the Earth Stood Still.
One month and one-and-a-half days later, a sleek, silver rental van pulled into our driveway. Mark and I stepped outside to meet our eagerly anticipated visitors, four people we had never met, with whom we had only exchanged e-mails over the past thirty or so days. There was a strange and inexplicable lack of the slightest apprehension in knowing that they were to spend the next three days in our house. Greeting them with open arms, hand shakes and hugs before we hardly knew who was who, we felt as if we had known all of them all our adult lives and shared deep and common bonds. We wasted no time getting down to what seemed to be a frantic effort, in the brief time we had to spend together, to "catch up on old times" and exchange information about our respective involvement with Inuit Sled Dogs.
Andrew Bellars and Phil Wainwright were members of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), having served at the Stonington Island base, during the time when Inuit Dogs played an important part in exploration and the gathering of scientific data on the white continent. Andrew, Penny, Phil and Brigid had flown to the United States from the United Kingdom on October 9th for a reunion of the FIDS (Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey)/BAS with members of the Black and Ronne Expeditions, (USA) to be held in the towns of Stonington and Mystic, Connecticut (USA). The commonality of the two Stoningtons was hardly coincidental since the discoverer of Antarctica, Captain Nathaniel Palmer, was a resident of that southeastern Connecticut seacoast community. This and other connections between the two distant sites were what drew the BAS Reunion to our state. And living so close and owning Inuit Sled Dogs, the reunion organizers graciously invited Mark and me to join them.
Most of the attendees hadn't seen each other for at least thirty years, and some for nearly half a century. Many had not touched the fur of a sledge dog in a very long time as well. We were honored to be able to bring dogs and men together once again on Saturday, October 13th at the Nathaniel Palmer House reception, even if it was on grass on the shore of Stonington, Connecticut and not ice on the shore of Stonington Island, Antarctica. To be in the presence of so many whose work laid the cornerstone for modern scientific conclusions and after whom many "bits" of Antarctica were named, and to see men and dogs greet each other like long lost partners was a moving experience. Watching these pioneers lovingly stroke and caress the appreciative dogs, it was almost possible to see the recollections of times gone by flooding back to their consciousness. The men did not verbalize their memoirs, seeming to prefer to keep them close to their hearts. We did not pry, choosing instead to respect their private moments. This was not a time for words. Their silence defined all that needed to be heard.
The Sunday program at the Mystic Hilton was filled with videos, slides, wall maps and journal entries, a sixty year old photo album, ribald and revealing accounts of life in Antarctica, a pointed question (which was deftly not answered) to a representative of the National Science Foundation asking if it had been determined that the presence/removal of the huskies as a result of the Antarctic Treaty had a significant impact on the environment, and Brigid Wainwright's monumental work-in-progress documenting the genealogy, snapshots and "dog cards" of the 1,200 or so dogs who were an integral part of the FIDS/BAS program. The room was filled with the richness of history and a frenetic hum as the assembly sought to fill every nanosecond of time before we had to disperse, knowing that many may never see each other again.
While sitting on the deck back at home that Sunday evening, watching the dogs at play, after our past five days of enlightenment, I thought back on the question I had asked Janice that strangely peaceful Sunday morning in September, "Does anything of what we have done or may do matter?"
As long as we occupy this planet, we will have causes to believe in, work to do, hopes to pursue. And along the way, we have the opportunity to keep optimism alive, make some things better, meet kindred spirits, give joy to others, bury our faces deep into a ruff of fur. The hard life and sacrifices of those who preceded us left an Inuit Sled Dog legacy that affords the experiences and activities we now enjoy with this breed. We owe these people our profound thanks. The efforts of those who labored at both poles and elsewhere in millennia, centuries, decades and years past certainly matter to us, as it must have to them. What we choose or choose not to do now can and will matter to others who will follow. The Earth's epitaph is too far into the future to believe otherwise.
Wishing you smooth ice and narrow leads,