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

Navigating This Site

Index of articles by subject

Index of back issues by volume number

Search The Fan Hitch

Articles to download and print

Ordering Ken MacRury's Thesis

Our comprehensive list of resources

Talk to The Fan Hitch

The Fan Hitch home page

ISDI home page

Editor's/Publisher's Statement
              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. 

PostScript is published intermittently as material becomes available. Online access is free at:  PostScript welcomes your letters, stories, comments and The editorial staff reserves the right to edit submissions used for publication.

Contents of The Fan Hitch Website and its publications  are protected by international copyright laws. No photo, drawing or text may be reproduced in any form without written consent. Webmasters please note: written consent is necessary before linking this site to yours! Please forward requests to Sue Hamilton, 55 Town Line Rd., Harwinton, Connecticut  06791, USA or
Here is the third in a series of four excerpts taken from The Book That Wasn't, a limited edition publication of the very personal accounts of Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey and British Antarctic Survey veterans describing what it was like to live and work with dogs. The ISDI and The Fan Hitch gratefully acknowledge the generosity of Kevin Walton for granting permission to select and reproduce portions of The Book That Wasn't. Ed.

Vignettes from Another Time, Another Place

A "youth gang" investigates the local fauna      G. McLeod photo, 1962

Feeding dogs Nutty (pemmican)
The dogs are fed 450 gm blocks of Nutrican pemmican during a journey. Each dog receives one block a day for two days and two blocks on the third day. The food provides an average of 3,300 calories per dog per day. They eat snow to rehydrate themselves. When thirsty their fur becomes stiff: well hydrated, their fur is silky. On the first day of a journey we remove the thin paper wrapper from each block of pemmican so that it does not clog with the seal meat and bone remaining in their stomachs from the last meal they  had on base. The second day out we walk down the night span chucking each dog a paper wrapped block. The dogs pounce on the welcomed food. Most crunch up the paper and the pemmican and swallow it all. Some stand over the block, front legs straight, pressing it into the snow with front paws while carefully removing the paper with their incisor teeth. The wrapper is discarded, and the block is consumed.  Isobel, I have noticed goes to the trouble of removing the wrapper then eats it as a starter before the main pemmican course.                          Nick Cox 

Stitching Dogs
We had checked the night trace but had not noticed that some of the chains are too long. Mac and Dex could just touch noses and began to fight. Mac got a hold of Dex by the nose, his jaws clamped tight. Mac immediately adopted that superior, blank, glazed  stare. Like a wrestler who had his opponent in a perfect hold, enjoying the moment at the expense of the other's discomfort.  Poor Dex squealed with pain, his eyes focusing all to closely on the line of teeth across the bridge of his nose. We freed Dex by inserting the back end of a ski between Mac's jaws, levering them gently open. 

The fracas over, both dogs looked very pleased with themselves. Both sitting and wagging their tails with gusto while looking alternatively at me and each other. Mac had a big grin on his face, a string of blood stained saliva hanging from one side of his mouth. Dex was also grinning. There was a large hole in the bridge of Dex's nose, right between his eyes, the displaced flesh standing on end like the jagged top of a newly opened baked bean tin.

Settled in the tent, we prepared room indoors for Dex who would need a stitch in his wound. I filled a syring with 2ml acetylpromazine which would make Dex drowsy. I put the loaded syringe in the lunch break (vacuum) flask to help prevent the fluid from freezing at the base of the needle when I climbed into the cold air outside. I tied Dex on a short lead to the back of the sledge and injected the drug into his back leg. During the half hour it takes for the drug to take its effect, we cleared a space near the tunnel entrance to the tent. Dex was quite wobbly on his legs when I dragged him into our snug and warm world indoors. I dripped a little local anesthetic on the wound then waited a while Rudy sat astride the recumbent Dex and pushed the dog's head firmly onto the groundsheet. Waiving a needle and thread so close to his eyes it was important he stayed very still. The stitch work was far from smart but it pulled all the bits together and with a sprinkling of antibiotic powder on top, his face looked less of patchwork. Dex slept soundly in the tent. The doping drug we gave him takes a few hours to work off and during that period a dog lacks the ability to maintain its correct body heat. We had supper, melted ice in the billy ready for the morning brew, then slept.

The morning call was sudden and not as usual by the nasty Little Ben alarm clock perched on the pots box between us, but by a very wide awake and playful Dex, whose large square frame stood over me. Repeatedly he brought a front paw down in the middle of my chest. I sat up and cuddled his large wolf head. He then leapt over to see Rudy, sending primus, matches, meths, candle, and Little Ben flying.  He then went round and round the seven foot square tent, stampeding over everything, including us, at every lap. I took him back to the night span. The wind was very strong.       Nick Cox

Sketch of a lampwick harness with dimensions

Training a Lead Dog With the Help of Doughnuts (Smultring)
Niveak was a large deep chested dog who, we were told, had led a team for his previous owner for the past three years. Second hand dog salesmen are not unlike those who sell cars. Niveak meandered about ahead of our team oblivious of any commands we gave him.  For weeks Knut perservered but there was little improvement. One morning before we harnessed up the two teams he had an idea. We received a bag of stale bread from a local supermarket which we occasionally gave to the dogs with the dried fish we got from Tromso. The last load they gave us included a sack of smultring (doughnuts) which we were going to throw out. Knut put a dozen or so doughnuts into a large white paper bag which we threw on the sledge. The teams harnessed and ready, he set off with Niveak leading. The giant Knut sat cross legged in the middle of his  Greenland sledge cradling the bag of doughnuts in his lap.  He said the bare minimum to his team, expert at judging when they were absorbed in their work, knowing when a word from him would interrupt their concentration. He called a command to Niveak. "Hoyre" (right) "Niveak". Like a ship responding to its wheel there is sometimes a delay before the turn comes. But in Niveak's case the wait would go on forever.  There was no deflection from the route they were taking. It was time for the doughnuts. Knut shouted "Hoyre, Niveak" and threw a doughnut ahead and to the right. Niveak turned towards the doughnut leading the team and sledge behind him. The doughnut was scooped up and eaten on the move and the new course was set. 

The doughnuts worked well left and right, and Niveak returned that afternoon having navigated a complex route of many miles. Knut knew from the start that it was Niveak's grand finale as a leader. A few journeys like that and he would be too fat to go anywhere.             Nick Cox

A "Signature" Trail
Little Jock was rather shorter in the leg than most and his chief claim to fame was that in soft snow his penile member appeared to plough a distinct furrow down the center of his track when pulling a sledge. As he insisted on pulling well wide of the rest of the team it was always very noticeable but in no way was this detrimental of his ability to make use of it.          Jimmy Andrews

A Memorable Day!
It was less than a month from mid-winter so with limited daylight only a few hours of safe travel were possible each day. On this occasion there were two of us with two sledges and two teams.  We started the day with a long, fast and very bumpy decent down a long slope leading on to the glacier. I was riding on the back of the sledge and well remember the sledge wheel breaking loose from its frame and passing me at high speed. It was last seen rolling off into the far distance and was never seen again. Also the dog Sherakin [was] strapped to the back of the sledge as he was very weak and ill and had to be physically restrained from taking his place in the team which would have weakened him even more. The glacier we were crossing was known to be badly crevassed so, after working our way to the middle, both sledges were stopped to assess the next part of the route. The day was dull and overcast, poor weather for working among crevasses. I was standing on my skis to the left and slightly behind my sledge when suddenly there was a noise - whoomph - and I was left standing on the edge of a deep hole with the tips of my ski over the edge of what seemed a wide and bottomless crevasse.  The center of the bridge had fallen away leaving the sledge supported at its front and rear only. For the time being it did not look as if the sledge would fall further which gave us time to work out a method of retrieval.  This was not easy as, if the sledge were to be moved a foot or two forward, the rear would fall in and the opposite would happen if we moved it backwards. There was no way we could get closer to the sledge to reduce its load. We decided that the only solution was to start the sledge with such power that it would clear the crevasse before the back end had a chance to fall in.

To give ourselves a chance of success we let the dogs rest for a while and then the driver of the leading sledge walked out a short way ahead of my dogs. On the command to go the other driver called to them, I gave a strong push from the rear and with an uncertain lurch my sledge cleared the crevasse.

A truly memorable day and not one I would like to repeat!       Roger Scott

Scott's sledge spans the cravasse on Swithinbank Glacier, 1973       Scott photo

Return to top of page