Sunday, December 19, 2010

Kigusiutnak's dogs


In the midst of the canine clamour of close to 150 dogs, Philip Kigusiutnak, a 72- year-old elder from Nunavut, sits immobile on top of his laden sled awaiting the start of the Hudson Bay Quest race. Close-by his dog team crowd together, strangely silent as they looked on at the madness surrounding them.

Philip Kigusiutnak, Inuit Elder
Like the horse whisperer of movie fame, Kigusiutnak has a mysterious technique for managing these notoriously excitable dogs. With a limited English vocabulary, Kigusiutnak manages a forceful “NO” when asked by a fellow musher to teach him the secrets of Inuit dog whispering.

In contrast with Kigusiutnak’s quiet demeanor, Ed Obrecht, a musher from Quebec, has a vastly different disciplinary style. His voice carries clear across the assembly ground. To my uninitiated eye his dog team - crazy with excitement - seems out of control.

. “Don’t touch the rope”, he yells at his dogs, his prose sprinkled with expletives. “Don’t chew the harness. Is that too complicated for you?”

Weaving my way between parka-clad onlookers, I call out “Are they scared of you?”

“No”, he bellows. “Do they look scared of me?” And who are you? I only pose for Vogue”, and he bursts out laughing.

Just minutes later I turn my camera on him, and Mustang, his lead dog, is planting a wet kiss on Obrecht’s face.

“And whose the boss around here” I ask.

“Mustang, he’s my number one man”, says a proud Obrecht.

Miriam Koerner, only woman in the race
Amidst barking, yapping and yodeling dogs, Miriam Koerner, originally from Recklinghausen in Germany, is the only woman in the race.  Sitting on her komatik (an Inuit sled) she pulls on a pair of embroidered felt inner boots.  Padded to twice her normal size, once attired, this delicate slip of a woman emerges as a powerful figure in  traditional Inuit clothing.

Tours: Frontiers North Adventures, Winnipeg 800-663-9832, 

Photos copyright Anne Gordon

Posted by Anne Gordon on Sunday, 19th December, 2010.


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