In the weeks leading up to my journey to Igloolik, there were many days of preparation. I attended information sessions on de-worming protocols, on pain-management strategies, on surgical techniques, and on a variety of other veterinary topics. These sessions were essential in preparing me for practising medicine in our small clinic in Igloolik. One thing I was not prepared for, though, was how deeply I would fall in love with traditional Arctic dogs.
I knew that when I went north with the Chinook Project, I would have ample opportunity to see these incredible northern dogs. But I also knew that – for a variety of reasons – many of these dogs are nervous around strangers, around being inside, and about being touched and examined. I knew all that – before I met Daisy!
Daisy was a young Traditional Inuit dog who came into our clinic for vaccinations and surgery. We were told that she was being trained to be a “bear dog” for a polar bear researcher in the area. “Bear dogs” warn and – if necessary – protect their humans from Polar Bears.
Unlike a lot of the dogs I had encountered up to this point, Daisy loved a good belly rub and graciously provided kisses in return. When she came into the clinic, for a few moments, all of the hustle and chaos of the clinic came to a halt and I was able to just enjoy the company of a dog who not only grew up in one of the roughest terrains around but was being trained to protect her human from the ruggedness of the world she lived in.
This encounter – with such a friendly and gentle dog, being trained for such danger – made me determined that one day I want to experience slobbery arctic kisses from my own Arctic dog companion.
Rachel Hughes, AVC 2018, traveled to Igloolik in 2017 as one of the student participants on the Chinook Project. As part of the experience, the students craft various pieces of reflective writing. This is one of Rachel’s pieces.