A little over a week ago we had a dog attack in town. A toddler, aged 2 or 3, was mauled by three dogs as he played near his home. Another child raced and got his grandfather who stopped the attack, and saved the boy.
Having spent a good deal of my adult life policing in northern communities I'm no stranger to these events, they happen on a regular basis. Dogs are a part of life in the communities, and important part of the history and culture. And if have any doubt about how important you only have to look at the energy spent getting answers about the killing of sled dogs up here in the fifties and sixties. A commission, that more than anything else was about understanding. For non-inuit to understand just how important the role of dogs was to the people who depended on them.
Or you can witness the pride and passion that the Pangaggujjiniq Nunavut Quest dog team race brings to the communities of the North Baffin each spring. It is probably the most talked about and anticipated event up here. The race is important as a cultural anchor in these days of change.
But because of the ubiquitousness of dogs in the north there have been attacks (as there are in the south, witness the outcry about breeds like the pitbull when an attack occurs). Too often I've seen the results of children and adults severely hurt or even killed by a group of dogs. They are terrible events.
This one has weighed heavily on my mind. Foremost because of the child. The boy was terribly bitten up. He undoubtably will be facing plastic surgery. He almost lost an eye, and had the attack not been stopped he would have lost his life. He was out playing and will now carry the scars and the trauma with him forever.
But I'm rolling this around in my mind even more, because these were my father-in-law's dogs. Well, two of them were. The third was a stray that was hanging out with his team that I'd run off on several occasions. The night before they were chained up about two kilometres from town, along with Bolt's four pups. We check on them nightly. The two got off their leads, went to town, and along with the stray did the attack.
The one dog, a dog my father-in-law bought from another team, was a cowering timid thing. It would back away to the end of the chain when I'd try and pet it. But the other was Leah's little sister's. A big powerful dog, but in essence a gentle playful pup.
I played with that dog a lot, it bounded with energy and I never saw a hint of aggression from it. It was engaging, and although untrained would easily be led by the collar. Hell, my children played with it. A couple of weeks ago it was off its lead, bounding amongst kids never touching them. It came quickly to my whistle and walked back with me to its spot on the ice. It was playful and gentle, and yet it participated in a savage attack on a little child. Of that there is no doubt.
And that is why this won't escape from my mind. If this is a dog that can do this terrible thing, then any dog can. That the wild in their ancestory must lie in them underneath. Since the attack I look at my children playing with our big gentle puppy, Bolt, and wonder, if the circumstances were just right, what might happen?
In the late morning we struck camp at Ijjujuarjuk and headed down the road to Ikpikituarjuk. Despite it being one of the most popular areas here for fishing and camping it is another place I'd never been to before. Dozens of Ringed Seals dotted the ice, taking full advantage of the warm sun. Raising their heads as we moved along, they'd slip into the water if our path took us too close.
The kilometres slipped by as I drank in the scenery, although I was slightly perterbed at how technology had crept in to my world, and the way I view it. As I'd look at a deep valley, frozen river or mountain I'd think "I need to have a closer look on Google Earth". Turning into the shallow valley that led to Ikpikituarjuk, the trail became rougher, but still we made good time and we paused to shorten the ropes to the komatiq to manouver through the twists and turns of the river that would take us into the lake.
Photo by Leah Ejangiaq Kines
By the time we arrived there were many people fishing, most having arrived the night before, and even more arrived behind us. We no longer had a lake mostly to ourselves, but there was still a lot of room, a lot of fish, and the comeraderie of visits at other's tents for tea.
The rest of the weekend passed too quickly. Warm temperatures, often making it shirtsleeve weather, prevailed. I explored, and took some photos. And if a picture is worth a thousand words, here are several thousand below the fold.
Last night, thanks once again to my sharp eyed son who saw the bird drop in behind me, I saw a Red-necked Phalarope at my favourite spot, the outflow of Marcil Lake. Now its a new bird at that location for me but I have seen them before. This however, is the first time I've seen one not offshore, and the first time I've seen one in basic plumage (breeding plumage).
I believed it was a male, because male phalaropes are not as brightly coloured as females (the reverse of the common theme in the bird world), but after looking at the photos I'm really not sure. It seems to be a bird that has not completed the moult into breeding plumage. A gorgeous bird, with a very interesting life history and breeding strategy.
In the early spring, when the Sun has warmed and you can feel its strength, even if the air temperature stays cool, the lemmings emerge from their tunnels under the snow. Before the snow has a chance to glaze into a hard, shiny crust their tracks can often be seen as they go on excursions under the warmth of the Sun.
I often see their trails, meandering for great lengths and wish I could catch one out in the open. I figured that a lemming, slowly out for a walk on the snow would make an excellent photo. Even though they aren't leaving any trails on top of the glazed snow I finally saw one on top of it yesterday.
As the kids and I drove down to Victor Bay I saw one on the expanse of snow along the road. As I pointed it out and pulled to a stop (well pull is a bit of an exaggeration as I just stopped in the middle of the road) it slipped down onto the shoulder.
When I got out it took off, with a speed and an urgency that must come with being pretty much the bottom of the food chain and on the menu of most predators up here. And while it might have made an excellent photo it was one I still don't have. There was no slow walk on the snow as it made a beeline away from me, and I found it impossible to get one in focus shot of it, just a lot of blurry lemming butt photos that might have well been photos of Bigfoot.
It was only when it finally paused ducked into a bit of a tunnel just below the surface I managed to get a shot of it peeking out.
As it took off again, off the snow and into the rocks I finally loosed Travis on it, as he'd been right behind me clambering to catch it. He made quick work of it as it hid under a rock and I ended up with the money shot. My son, who shares an Inuktitut name with this tiny speedster, holding it gently. After showing the others, and taking a bite for his efforts, he let it go. It once again raced across the snow to the rocks, leaving me with even more blurry, out of focus, lemming butt photos.