The Fan Hitch Volume 5, Number 3, June 2003

Newsletter of the Inuit Sled Dog

Table of Contents

Editorial: …of Philosophers, 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
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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Clockwise: at wheel, at lead and as a pup   Feder photo

Niya 1988 - 2003

by Sylvia Feder, Washington State, USA

Niya (the name means "little sister") was born in Qeqertarssuag, Greenland, in the summer of 1988, and she was a perky gray and white piebald pup when I got to know her. That she had survived to the ripe old age of eight weeks was surprising considering that most female pups are killed at birth; a typical team in Greenland consists of only one or two females, and the rest males. But the man of the household was away for a few weeks, and when he returned, Niya was already cute and a favorite of the children, so the deed was postponed. He was only too happy to give her to me when it was time for me to leave Greenland.

As I had not planned to bring a pup home with me, I had no crate, so she rode in the helicopter from Qeqertarssuaq to Illulissat in a zipped up carry-on bag. There were no dog regulations, so she rode on my lap. From Illulissat, we went to Sondrestromfjord, and then on a three-day backpacking trip among blueberries and muskoxen. She kept up with our hiking group on her stubby puppy legs, and collapsed in exhaustion at the end of each day. 

We left Greenland, and then it was just she and I, traveling through Canada to our final destination, Alaska. Most of the return trip was a blur, except for the night we spent together, sleeping on a bench in the ladies room at the Edmonton airport -- Niya curled up inside my jacket to avoid detection by the cleaning staff.

She was my first Inuit dog - my first sled dog. She oversaw (and approved of) the acquisition of my next two Inuit dogs, both males, from Whitehorse. For the next ten years, the three of them were my team, first in Alaska, then in Oregon, finally here in Washington state. Together with her teammates Kiva and Taku, she showed me how much it is possible to do with a small team - overnights in Alaska, the dune run in Oregon, and many trails in between. 

For most of her working life, Niya was content to be harnessed in wheel with her buddy Kiva. She never ran lead until Taku died, and then she took over without missing a beat. I'm sure her obedience to my commands wasn't flawless, and yet I remember her as a very good leader. She trained the then-upcoming leader, Iluk, and taught trail manners to the next youngster, Thule. Her last big run was the nearly seventy-mile (or so advertised) Dune Run in Oregon. She finished strong and happy, approaching her eleventh birthday. And while I've been talking about her working ability, Niya was also a very sweet and good natured dog who loved to be around people. Last year, she was the gentle dog that I brought into a classroom for children to pat during a sled dog demo, while the rowdy boys were outside.

Niya aged very well. She continued doing short runs in her early teens, then ran loose beside the sled when she wasn't up to pulling, and in the last year was first my jogging, and then my walking, companion. Only in the last few weeks did her health start to deteriorate significantly. This afternoon, I took her to the vet for a final kindness (Gayle says this is a gift that we can give to our dogs, and for those who don't know her, Gayle is a gift herself - she came to be with me at the vet's even though I told her it wasn't necessary - she knew it was - thank you, Gayle). 

And thank you, Niya. It was a great fifteen years.

                                                        Feder photo

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