When I was about 7 or 8 I went to this lady’s house after school until my mum was done work. She lived down the street from us. One day mum picked us up and we got home and she realized we hadn’t paid her. So mum asked me to take the money back to her house. I didn’t want to go–I didn’t tell my mum why. (The lady had a big dog in her backyard…when we were there it was always tied up, but it barked and was mean sounding…so I didn’t want to go back into her yard to give her the money because of the dog.) Mum didn’t listen to me not wanting to go back, but sent me back to her house! I went into the back yard… knocked on the back door and I remember the dog coming up from behind me and biting me. The lady answered, I was crying I think I threw her the money said, “your dog bit me” and ran home. Once there I stomped into the house and yelled at my mum, “…are you happy now? her stupid dog bit me.” (it didn’t break the skin and the lady followed me home to make sure I was ok. In the end it was ok, except for the fact that dogs freaked me out!)
What’s the point of this little story? well experiences shape our thoughts and beliefs about things…so that experience has made me really nervous and freaked out around big, hyper dogs. Little dogs are ok… but big dogs…not really my cup of tea.
Nunavut is a place with lots and lots of dogs. Over the years of living here…I’ve been working on overcoming that childhood fear. I’ve become friends with some awesome people that have big dogs…and have joined them on walks. I’m ok as long as they don’t jump up on me! Today I faced that fear…and went on a dog sled trip! It was a fabulous day…and not once was I scared. Perhaps my new experiences have wiped out that fear of dogs from my childhood. I contacted Louis-Philip (owner/head guide) from Inukpak Outtfitting who is based in Iqaluit. We figured out a day he was free and it would work for me and I took a day off work and flew to Iqaluit to go dog sledding! That day was today… I met Louis-Philip at his house…and made sure I had warm enough gear. I didn’t bring my Sorels, but had my rubber boots + 2 pairs of wool socks…my feet probably would have been ok, but Louis-Phillip had a selection of all the gear you’d ever need to go outside and have a fun day in the Arctic. So I grabbed a pair of his Baffin Boots and a neck warmer (I forgot mine)…and off we went! (But that’s one of the thing that’s awesome about this outfitter…is you don’t need to have all the warm boots, parka, snow pants, mittens etc… he has all these for your use as part of the tour!) I hung back and watched Louis-Philip get all the harnesses ready. Before he hitched up the dogs we walked up and down the lines and he presented each dog and told me their name and a bit about them. Honestly, there’s only a few dogs names I remember but they were a lively bunch! As Louis-Philip hitched the dogs I stayed close to the qamotiq and got on just before the alpha male was hitched (he’s the last dog to be hitched)! Then it was time to go! Off we went… the dogs were eager to get running! (Don’t worry about the dog on the right…she’s one of the pups, and is still learning ropes on the team. To start off she is harnessed but not clipped in with the other dogs, because she’s a slow starter and the rest of the team start off fast…eventually once we are on the sea ice she would get clipped in. Today she managed to get out of her harness and ran with the rest of the team until our snack. Then was put back into the harness and clipped in to join the team and be a sled dog!)
It was a super nice day to be out on the ice… a wee bit windy…but it was at our back on our way out of town!
Sitting and enjoying the ride…but also talking up a storm.
We passed a few other teams that were chained on the ice. Sometimes the dogs wanted to get closer to “visit” the other dogs but all visits were avoided!
Going around some of the pack ice….a wee bit bumpy! (Pack ice is in the tidal zone and is created by the tides.)
Just before we stopped for our snack and break…the dogs decided they wanted a break, and stopped running… so Louis-Philip got up to run with the dogs.
When we stopped for lunch…the break was put on the qamotiq. Louis-Philip grabbed his whip and cracked it in the air (the whip didn’t touch any of the dogs). This is a signal for the dogs to lay down and rest… Then it was time for us to enjoy some hot chocolate and tea with some awesome snacks.
Just hanging out before it’s time to get back on the trail!
Before heading back on the trail Louis-Philip sorted out all the dog’s ropes…to make sure they weren’t all tangled. The girl puppy I was talking about earlier…decided to start a play fight with her brother which started some playful bites!
Back into town…with the wind at our faces! At times with a little encouragement required to get the dogs moving!
At the end of the ride…I was asked if I wanted to take the dogs out of the harness and put them back on their chains. I took a deep breath and said yes. So was showed how to get the dogs out of the harness.. and then walked them to their spot and hooked them on their chain. . I did about 4 dogs as Louis-Philip did the other 9! (I was given the out if they jumped up or scared me to just let go but it wasn’t needed they all behaved!)
If you ever want to go on a dog sledding Iqaluit is the place to do it! Thanks again Louis-Philip for an awesome day…it was great to meet you and your dogs!