The Fan Hitch Volume 8, Number 4, September 2006

Journal of the Inuit Sled Dog

In This Issue....

Editorial: The Northern Experience
A Nunavik Adventure
In the News
Fan Mail
Tip for the Trail: Keep it Clean
Behavior Notebook: Displacement, Discipline, Diversion, Disarming
 IMHO: Transitions
Index: Volume 8, The Fan Hitch

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Editor: Sue Hamilton
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The Northern Experience

"Human diversity makes tolerance more than a
 virtue, it makes it a reqirement for survival."
                                Rene Dubos, Celebrations of Life

Recently, I stumbled across the website of a fellow who has owned Inuit Dogs for twenty years. But it appears he was unfamiliar with the origins of the breed or the polar culture in which it has existed over the past four millennia. It seems his initial experience, during his first recent trip to a polar region, of observing how Inuit Dogs lived and are used came as a total shock. Having traveled extensively across Canadian and Greenland arctic regions, I understand and appreciate that traditional keeping of working sled dogs as part of polar culture is different from other regions of the northern hemisphere. I am completely at ease with this. It is, after all, what has helped shape the Inuit Sled Dog into the toughest sled dog on the planet.

Nearly a decade ago, when I serialized for a sled dog discussion list our first arctic (North Baffin) dog sled adventure, the reaction to my description of how the dogs were fed met with shockingly harsh criticism. The practice of feeding working dogs every other day while we were out on the ice was, according to some of the more self-righteously indignant complainers, tantamount to abuse. They asked, if not demanded, that the mushers go to the supermarket and buy enough dog food for each dog to carry in a backpack. Folks, I am not making this stuff up. While the nature of their remarks was intolerable, perhaps their astounding ignorance was excusable. After all, the Inuit Sled Dog International was in its infancy and the only people taking notice of our presence at that time were ISD fanciers and some Canadian Eskimo Dog owner-breeders who were totally outraged that we existed at all.

Ten years later, there is a far greater awareness, understanding and appreciation of the "provenance, environment and history" (to quote Ken MacRury) of the Inuit Sled Dog, thanks to many readily available and informative resources about the breed as well as traditional Inuit culture. So for people like this fellow who is seriously involved with and has owned ISDs for two decades (albeit with only an interest in racing) to be so na´ve of their traditional care and use is, in my opinion, shameful and indefensible.

I will continue to stand by what I said eight years ago, in Volume 1, Number 1 of The Fan Hitch: "One cannot know the Inuit Sled Dog without an understanding of its recent and ancient history, where it came from, under what conditions it evolved and the people responsible for making this the finest freighting sled dog in the world.  For it is "the big picture" that gives us a greater appreciation of this marvelous dog. To do any less would not only take the dog out of context, but also be a grave injustice, especially to the Inuit people themselves."

Even with all the fine books, films and travel videos and websites, now widely available, there's little to compare with being there in person. The Arctic is very accessible. Perhaps, because it is a more costly journey than a Bermuda holiday, venturing north would have to be a once in a lifetime adventure. Although a single visit will hardly consummate perfect enlightenment on the dog or the culture, a dog sledding cultural experience will surely give Inuit Dog owners unfamiliar with the North a better appreciation of the dogs in their own kennel, as well as Inuit Dog keeping practices. I hope that ISD enthusiasts who may be able to undertake a pilgrimage to the Arctic will seriously consider doing so for a never to be forgotten experience. And with that in mind, I wish you....

....smooth ice and narrow leads,

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