Table of Contents
F.I.D.O.: Barry Salovaara and Tina Portman
Barry of the Midnight Sun
The Fan Hitch Contributor Wins Maxwell Award
Ivakkak: Encouraging Purity in Nunavik ISDs
Games People Play:
Saving the Sled Dog or Saving the Show Dog
Coppinger Comments Prompts ISDI Rebuttal
Behaviour Notebook: Building a Team
IMHO: The Sernix, a Fable
|Featured Inuit Dog Owners...
Barry Salovaara and Tina Portman
by Barry Salovaara and Tina Portman
Barry and Tina, along with six Inuit dogs: two four-year-olds and four one-year-olds (all from Toadhall), live in a cottage on three acres on Kawagama Lake, Ontario near Algonquin Provincial Park, with its two hundred kilometers of dog sledding-only trails. They hope to have their rookie dogs, and themselves - two rookie mushers - ready for multi-day trips next winter.
Barry became a fan of Inuit dogs almost forty years ago, when his uncle brought one back from the Ungava Bay area of what is now Nunavik (arctic Quebec). Palo was a white male. Barry was fourteen when Palo came bounding down to the dock to greet him by putting both paws on his chest, licking his face (eye to eye) and finally sinking his teeth through the arm of Barry's new Dixie Major Midget Hockey jacket. That weekend Barry and his brother spent every waking moment playing with, wrestling and following Palo through forest and stream near Kawagama Lake.
Fast forward thirty-two years. Barry is living in Oakville, Ontario, a suburb west of Toronto. Barry and his daughter are thinking about getting a northern breed dog. Leafing through a dog magazine they see a section on Canadian Eskimo dogs. The dog in the photo looked like Palo. On his next business trip Winnipeg, Barry visited Michael and Geneviève Montcombroux of Toadhall Kennels, breeders of Canadian Inuit Dogs. Barry brought a photo of Palo so that Geneviève could see this dog from the 1960s. Geneviève thought the dog might well be a pure Inuit Dog
While at Toadhall, Barry mentioned to Geneviève that he'd like to see the dogs pulling in their native element. By the time he got back to Ontario, Geneviève had forwarded the names of several outfitters for Barry to check out. He called a couple before talking to Dave Reid of Polar Sea Adventures in Pond Inlet, Nunavut, located in the north of the Baffin. Barry met Dave at the Toronto Adventure Travel Show, where Barry explained that he wanted an authentic dogsled trip to the floe edge.
The trip, six days by dogsled with an Inuk hunter, was everything and more than Barry could have imagined (read "Barry of the Midnight Sun" in this issue of The Fan Hitch). He lived with subsistence hunters, saw polar bear, caribou, seal and walrus. He ate raw seal meat and fresh polar bear. He slept in an igloo. He experienced many of the systems used for traveling by dog that haven't changed for thousands of years.
When Barry got back to Ontario, he decided that he had to get an Inuit dog. A year later, Toadhall had a litter, and Barry asked if a non-aggressive female would suit a suburban area. He and Geneviève decided that it might work so he drove from Toronto to Winnipeg to collect up his twelve-week-old girl. But Tuqpiq had really bonded with her brother Unuma, so Barry left with two dogs instead of one!
A year-and-a-half later, after complaints from neighbors and visits from the Oakville authorities, Barry and Geneviève decided that he should board his dogs at Toadhall until he could relocate to a better environment for them. It was tough taking them back. Tuqpik and Unuma remained at Toadhall for two years, and Barry visited them every couple of months. Even while living at Toadhall, Barry's dogs remained bonded to him. They remembered the games and the tummy scratching and got excited when they heard his whistle.
Barry joked with Geneviève that he needed to find a woman to live with him in his family cottage, someone who enjoyed the outdoors and who would be happy to take care of the dogs when Barry was on his frequent business trips. Well, Geneviève came to the rescue again. Tina Portman knew Michael and Geneviève through their writing careers. Tina writes science and nature articles, and she'd started spending time at Whippoorwill Press/Toadhall to learn about the publishing business. That's where Barry and Tina met. After they started seeing each other, Geneviève predicted “They'll be headed for a cabin in the woods with a bunch of sled dogs.” And sure enough…
Barry and Tina decided to live together at Barry's cottage, on Kawagama Lake. While in the process of making plans to move Tina to the cabin along with "Kobi" her large Munsterlander hunting dog, and Tuqpiq and Unuma from Toadhall, they watched Dogs of the Midnight Sun. Realizing that if they wanted to go on overnight dog sledding trips, they'd need more dogs. So they talked to Geneviève who, after some deliberation, offered them four one-year-old littermates. Barry and Tina moved into the cottage in November 2003, built a chain link pen, and after Christmas brought all six Inuit dogs plus Kobi, to their new home in a half-ton Dodge pick-up.
Now Barry and Tina have brothers Anernek (which means angel - he’s a sweetie but he’s no angel), Pitsiak (handsome, and he is), Tuyok (strong going forward. There couldn't be a better name for him. He is a solid and consistent puller. He really is "born to pull".) and sister Ermine (Smart and alert and affectionate, she's already showing skill at leading and picking trails.); and finally, Tuqpiq (snow blowing) and Unuma (silent night) are with Barry all the time.
Having these six Inuit Dogs has been fun and challenging. They are fed the Toadhall meat-organ meat-fat-rice diet. The littermates are still in their own pen, and they have undergone a change in boss with the accompanying fighting. With advice from Paul Schurke and Geneviève, Barry and Tina have been working at the challenging task of training the dogs. They run them every other day on the trails and roads near the cottage, or on the frozen lake right out the door. They plan on training all six dogs to run as one team for camping trips in Algonquin Park, and then hopefully go on extended trips into northern Ontario and Manitoba.
Each of the Inuit dogs has a distinct personality. Barry and Tina believe spending time with them is like reading a book. Each time they go out with their dogs there's a different sentence and a different chapter. The couple looks forward to the readings in the years ahead.