The Fan Hitch Volume 5, Number 3, June 2003

Official Newsletter of the Inuit Sled Dog International

Table of Contents

Editorial: …of Philosophy, Dogs and History
Featured Inuit Dog Owner: Ken MacRury, Part 1
Remembering Niya
Page from the Behaviour Notebook: Bishop and Tunaq
Antarctic Vignettes
On Managing ISD Aggression
The Qitdlarssuaq Chronicles, Part 3
News Briefs:
Inuit Dog Thesis Back in Print
Nunavut Quest 2003 Report
Article in Mushing Magazine
Possible Smithsonian Magazine Story
Product Review: Dismutase
Tip for the Trail: Insect Repellents
Book Review: The New Guide to Breeding 
Old Fashioned Working Dogs
Video Review: Stonington Island, Antarctica 1957-58
IMHO: The Slippery Slope

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Editor: Sue Hamilton
Webmaster: Mark Hamilton
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From the Editor...

of Philosophy, Dogs and History

"Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained… infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
George Santayana, 1863 -1952 
philosopher, poet, cultural critic
(The Life of Reason, Vol. I, 1905)
I don't think Santayana had the history of working dogs in mind when he wrote the philosophical opus from which the above quote was lifted. But I could imagine him describing the fate of so many breeds whose "progress" took the wrong fork in the road when they became show dogs and pets. Yes, this has been my personal mantra and a recurring theme in this newsletter, perhaps ad nauseam. But I prefer to repeat this notion instead of having to say, "See, I told you so!" at some point down the road, when the future becomes history and the Inuit Dog has gone, heaven forbid, the way of the passenger pigeon (extinction) or of the [changed] Alaskan Malamute (corruption) …not sure which direction is worse. 

Nor do I interpret Santayana to have believed that all past is bad, as he might have implied by using the word "condemned" in reference to repeating it. But before one can remember the past, laudable or otherwise depending whose past one is remembered, and then act accordingly, one has to know what that past really is. It cannot be treated like the game of telephone you might have played as a kid, or as an adult at a party where you may have had too much to drink; the first person tells a story and then whispers it to the person in the next chair who in turn repeats it to the next person in line and so on until the last person compares their often wildly divergent yarn to the original version. For canid examples consider Northern Inuits (sic) or blue-eyed racing "Greenland dogs".

When reviewing all the cited histories of dog breeds, the quality and accuracy of their pasts depend on the source of the information and the conclusions drawn (some of which become incorporated into that history) by the "historian". And when wildly inaccurate, these "factoids" often turn into urban legends that just don't ever seem to go away! The latest example of this appeared in the May/June 2003 issue of Mushing Magazine in an article entitled "The Origin of Sled Dogs" (see News Briefs in this issue of The Fan Hitch). 

I mention all this because it is yet another example of how the true description and to some extent the history of the Inuit Dog is still being corrupted by people who appear to neither bother nor try hard enough to do their research well. It also offers me yet another occasion to remind those of you in whose hands the future well being of our breed rests to not let the history of other former working breeds become our history. But more than this, it gives me an opportunity to openly express what a privilege it is to be on a first name basis with more than just a few of the people who are very much a part of the Inuit Dog's more recent past, those who made the history we so often refer to and rely on, and who have so generously shared their knowledge and experiences with me, the ISDI and you, The Fan Hitch readers. What has been handed down to us has either been experienced by them personally or provided to them from those with first hand experience with Inuit Dogs. Unlike what is received by the last participant in game of telephone, we have the good fortune to be offered this detailed and accurate view into the past. I am sure you join me in thanking all these history-makers for sharing their knowledge.

Wishing you smooth ice and narrow leads,


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