The Fan Hitch Volume 7, Number 1, December 2004

Journal of the Inuit Sled Dog

Table of Contents

Editorial: New Faces, Old Passions
F.I.D.O.: Peter Schmidt Mikkelsen
A Conversation with Palle Norit
DNA Analysis of the Greenland Dog and the Canadian Inuit Dog
Pregnancy, Whelping and Pup Development in the ISD, Part 1
Product Review: Herculiner®
Tip for the Trail: Anti-fatigue Mats
In the News
Janice Howls: At the Heart of Greatness
 IMHO: Training or Interference

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Editor: Sue Hamilton
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August at Sirius Patrol headquarters in Daneborg            Mikkelsen photo

A May 2003 Conversation with Palle V. Norit,
Former/retired Commanding Officer, 
Patrol Branch North and Northeast Greenland, 
Sirius Patrol, 1990 - 2001

T.F.H. Can you start by giving us an overview of the Sirius Patrol and its purpose?
P.N. I use to brag that Sirius is the oldest special force in the world because we have had the same purpose, manning, setup, area of responsibility everything, since the start 18 August 1950 - 1) Maintain Danish sovereignty in the area, 2) Police jurisdiction, 3) Military surveillance.

International law (5 April 1933) describes that one actually has to tread the ground one possesses. No aeroplanes, no satellite, no snowmobile can do that. Are dog powered patrols still the most efficient and cost effective way to get the job done? Yes, and one's way of observing multiplies 10,000 by being close to the nature.

T.F.H. We'd like to know more about the dogs the Sirius Patrol uses. Please tell us a little about them, where they came from and what they are like.
P.N. Very difficult to tell, because Sirius has a special way of selecting dogs. Most likely the dogs came from the whole "ice area" in the North (Canada, Siberia, Greenland). Sirius has got blood from Antarctica (via USA), from West Greenland and from Scoresbysund, making sure we are well away from any close family relations. Sirius goes for a long-legged, short-haired, upright ears, square and gentle dog.

T.F.H. Maintaining dog teams to support Sirius Patrol's responsibilities must be a significant effort involving many people. Can you tell us about this process: the scope of the program, any use of breeding facilities, and the process and criteria used for selecting dogs for breeding?
P.N. Definitely; there are two selected patrol members checking the dogs, together with the drivers. 

Bitches whelp both en route during sled runs and at Daneborg by the so called "Station Bitches". E.g. when the bitches selected are "red", we use the selected males when it's time, and the selected dogs are available. There are at least four generations between before we are using the same family.

The Sirius Patrol requires two or three new dogs per team per year on average. Some puppies may be "unserviceable". Therefore, we produce five to ten more than we need, and the ones we do not use are given an honorable death.

Since 1962, we have been very observant about getting a dog as mentioned before.

Sirius has all the records back to 1962

T.F.H.  With two to three pups per team per year, raising and training that number of animals has to be a major undertaking.  Are there details you can share?
P.N. During the childhood pups are together with their mother in the grand yard in Daneborg, where all the patrol members are passing many times daily. It's mandatory to pet the dogs whenever one is passing. Then they like the people as much as their mother.

Between five and seven months of age pups are put together with the grown up dogs on the chains. Training of new personnel and the teams starts in late September. The puppies are trained too.  So they are less than a year old when they start working.

T.F.H. Veterinary care and the feeding of dogs can be very problematic in the North. Does the Sirius Patrol have access to veterinary services? Are dogs fed the traditional seal diet?
P.N. At least two times a year a special veterinary (a former Sirius man) examines the whole pack. 

In consultation with our veterinary and the diet factory in Denmark we have develop an excellent type of food for very young, young and grown up dogs.

T.F.H. Are records kept on the dogs?
P.N. Yes, held by the veterinary.

T.F.H. Are there any health issue other than occupational osteoarthritis?
P.N. Primarily "stomach turning".

T.F.H. When it is time to "retire" the working dogs, is it based on physical condition or on other factors?
P.N. After 20,000 kilometre, about five years, most of the dogs are worn out - so to speak. Those who are still fit for fight, will be placed as reserve at Mestersvig, Danmarkshavn or Station Nord. 

The dogs have an extremely nice life in those five years: well trained, well feed, well petted, done the life they like etc.

Sirius-team on March patrol in Alpefjord           Mikkelsen photo
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