The Fan Hitch Volume 7, Number 3, June 2005

Journal of the Inuit Sled Dog

Table of Contents

Editorial: Coming Together
F.I.D.O.: Ken Beattie
Nunavik Dog Slaughters, Part II
Fan Mail
In the News
Behavior Notebook: Life in the Pack
Book Review: Soldiers & Sled Dogs
Janice Howls: Preserving Nature's Standard
 IMHO: Tough Dogs, Tough Owners

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Editor: Sue Hamilton
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In My Humble Opinion.....

                                                     photo: Hamilton

Tough Dogs, Tough Owners

by Mark Hamilton

This year's mud season left me thinking about our dogs. Our snow left early this year, but first cold and then just cool weather persisted until June. Mud season came as a result of our spring rains, not the melting of the winter snow pack. 

Once the lingering ice build up on the trails had dissipated we hung up the sleds, put the training cart back on the trailer and returned to the woods for some late season running. We were mindful of getting to the trail head while it was still quite cool as the dogs were still in their full "winter clothing". Since the days warm up quickly at that time of the year, the decision to turn around and return to the dog truck was always based on air temperature. Still, we often found ourselves getting back to the trail head with the temperature higher than what we wanted.

But the dogs never complained or showed sign of faltering. They were having fun, doing what they love, being what they are. We didn't even experience excessive water consumption at the end of those runs. We gave the dogs extra time to cool down before loading and transporting them back to the kennel, but I suspect that too was to satisfy our perception of their needs. All the same, it's better to be safe than sorry.

We really enjoyed running so late into the year (running season usually ends for us around the first of March). And it certainly seemed that it was greatly enjoyed by the dogs as well. Bishop's bunch (already a trained team at the start of the season) continued exhibiting the joy they demonstrated on their first run of the season back in late September. For Qiniliq's group, in addition to the enjoyment of running, the extended season provided an outlet for their cool morning wake-up temperature excitement that didn't involve the boss dog, Qiniliq, and the junior male, Sunny, fighting. Yes, life can be good!

Our Spring rains, on the other hand, were relentless. Every second or third day we'd get soaked. The ground soon became saturated. Every subsequent rainfall resulted in puddles, localized flooding, more mud and run-offs. The ground was so wet that water came into the basement from places where it hadn't leaked before. The ground was so wet that our gravel driveway felt like a layer of foam rubber when you walked on it. The ground was so wet that every storm resulted in erosion moving soil from one location to an entirely new downstream location.

Now it's one thing when erosion moves soil from a high spot to a low spot which results in a level surface. It's entirely another matter when erosion results in friable soil being deposited on a walkway, or a driveway, or a kennel run.

Have you ever tried to hold back erosion? Mother Nature sure is persistent, and you need to be even more so if your efforts are to have any discernible effect. And that was when I started thinking about our ISDs, and their persistence, and the effort they required of us in dealing with their persistence.

It's not just the ISDs' persistence in pulling that sets them apart from their more domesticated relatives. It's their persistence in everything they do. Persistence on the owner's part is required just to keep up with them. If you want to get ahead, that's going to require a whole bunch of extra effort. Tough dogs require tough owners - and I'm not talking about "whip and chair" style lion taming here.

Gotta' go now. Time to put on my "game face", get "my mind right", and go out with the dogs. 

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