The Fan Hitch Volume 5, Number 1, December 2002

Newsletter of the Inuit Sled Dog

Table of Contents

Editorial: Hoof Beats and Zebras
Featured Inuit Dog Owner: Merv Ehrich
Jubilee Medal Awarded to ISDI Co-Founder
Blue Eyes in Norwegian Greenland Dogs
ISD Enthusiasts Speak out on Blues Eyes
ISDI's Official Stand on Blue Eyes
Mountie, Alouette and Moose
Following Nanuk's Tracks
The Qitdlarssuaq Chronicles, Part 1
News Briefs:
New ISDI Scandinavia Web Site
Atanarjuat Update
Dog Teams in Iqaluit
Grammar Lesson
ISDs in Museum Exhibit
Poem: Lost Travellers
Book Review: first Nations.... first Dogs
ISD Enthusiast's First Novel Published
IMHO: Seeking to Answer the Wrong Question

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Editor: Sue Hamilton
Webmaster: Mark Hamilton
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This site is dedicated to the Inuit Dog as well as related Inuit culture and traditions. It is also home to
The Fan Hitch, Journal of the Inuit Sled Dog.

                          Leon DeCaire

"When you hear hoof beats, think horses - not zebras"*
                                                                              *source unknown
by Sue Hamilton

Recently, word has come from the ISDI Scandinavian coordinator, Ove Nygaard, that the festering issue of Inuit Dogs (called Greenland Dogs in Norway) with blue eyes has once again ruptured. He felt it was time to present this to ISD enthusiasts worldwide via The Fan Hitch. It matters not to me the source of these blue eyes. Until the sun runs out of hydrogen we could argue that blue eyes are merely due to cross breeding or that they are actually found in pure ISDs as a result of a spontaneous mutation or severe inbreeding.  We could further argue that this blue eye business is strictly a "Norway thing" or shows up in Greenland Dogs in Greenland, too. In that case some would say that, of course, those dogs would have to be pure since "foreign dogs" are not permitted in Greenland above a certain latitude. I know that the no "foreign dogs" rule has not always been strictly adhered to. But enough of this.  Blue eyes, whether in crossbred specimens passed off as pure or in genetically pure ISDs, are unacceptable to me personally and to the ISDI officially. It is an expression of a radical departure from 4000 years of development of the Inuit Sled Dog and everything that evolution represents. Blue eyes are a red flag - signs of an insidious "infection" - a genetic marker announcing something gone terribly wrong.  Also disturbing is that there are some folks who seem to think otherwise.

It is my understanding that the population of "blue-eyed GISDs" is very low. This should be reason to heave a sigh of relief. Small numbers should mean it would be relatively easy to identify the genetic pathway of affected dogs and remove them from the breeding population. Unfortunately it is not seen in this light by some, but instead perceived as not so much (if at all) of a concern, not even labeled as a problem. It is, according to an article published on the Norsk Polarhundklubb (NP) website, "a trait embedded in the Greenland dog gene-pool, one we will have to live with in Norway as well." My take on this comment is that it is not spoken as a cause for alarm but in the tone of justification and acceptance of blue eyes.

You will read more about NP in the feature article on blue eyes. I can tell you that since its inception, the ISDI has never been approached by this club to collaborate or share information/resources on the Inuit Dog. (I am shocked that their web site has a link to ISDI web page or makes referral to The Canadian Inuit Dog: Canada's Heritage by Geneviève Montcombroux.) However, I had been contacted recently, 'out of the blue' you might say, by someone who superficially wanted to point out that the ISDI's  Website had a broken link to the Norway ISDI site. I believe it was no more than a segue to excoriate our ISDI Scandinavian coordinator. It was done in a non-specific way, without mentioning what issue in particular might have had this person's shorts in a knot. 

Now, I don't need to be labeled as one of those people who sits thousands of miles from this Norwegian issue and finger points, accuses and condemns without knowing all the facts. Come to think of it, I should be used to being thusly accused since a Northern Inuits (sic) lover did just that (V4, N4). But if I never heard a word from any of our supporters in Europe, I would sense, based on the NP website, an oxymoron. I see some decent looking dogs in appropriate winter scenes. But then I see conformation show stuff and links to racing events. I can easily find the breed standard, identified as FCI-Standard No. 274/12.03.99. It lists a variety of faults, none of which includes blue eyes. OK, maybe their standard allows for blue eyes.  But then I see under "Health" blue eyes listed as an inheritable fault, albeit occurring, according to the document's unknown source, at less than 0.05%. Buried in less obvious locations are two articles, one in which the aforementioned statement "…a trait embedded in the Greenland dog gene-pool, one we will have to live with in Norway as well..." appears, then another piece, even less well marked by topic, which describes the existence of blue-eyed dogs in Greenland as just another variant amongst the thousands upon thousands of the diverse population of Greenland dogs and therefore no big deal. I suppose this means two-headed calves or human twins conjoined at their heart and liver are normal amongst the thousands upon thousands of baby cows or baby people born each year all over the planet. That this letter is included anywhere on the NP site says to me that NP is using it in support of the acceptability of blue-eyed Greenland Dogs. Why else would it be there, especially without condemnation by their Breeders Council? It seems then, that NP and its supporters are talking out of both sides of their collective mouths. This observation was further reinforced when it was pointed out to me that the FCI standard for Greenland Dog, which does appear on the NP site, is just an overview description. There exists an accompanying document, a compendium, whose origin is the NP, with assistance of members of the Norsk Kennel Club, and is recognized in Denmark as well. This text describes in detail everything within the standard, including the following (a translation from the Norwegian): "glass" eyes and blue eyes are atypical and unwanted, and are disqualifying faults. As of this writing, the compendium for the breed, did not appear on the NP site.

There is an old saying, "Fish or cut  bait". Well, that's not exactly as I would have put it, but I've already been accused, admittedly with justification, of being on the coarse side. To the Norsk Polarhundklubb I ask, "Do you or do you not condone and find acceptable, the blue-eyed Greenland Dog as part of a responsible breeding program of quality dogs?  If you do, then at least have the courage of your convictions to dig out your buried pro-blue-eyed references and put them right up there on your main page. And if you don't find blue eyes acceptable, so state it right up there on your main page.  Shit-or-get-off-the-pot!"  There, I said it anyway.

Wishing you all smooth blue-white ice, narrow leads of blue-black water, bright blue skies overhead and a fan hitch of brown-eyed ISDs out front!

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