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?