|Blimey, October 2010|
I have never been very good at holding on to presents until the big day. Besides, I had every intention of running last year's litter in harness before Christmas. So at noon on a minus 20ºC day Blimey’s Christmas wish came true.
|Blimey's first run in harness, December 2011|
When the video starts Blimey is positioned beside his father (Mikkey, black furred doing a loop-the-loop). I was careful in my selection of who should be paired with Blimey for his first time in harness. I chose King. I was hoping for a good start and got it.
Even with a small team of seven dogs our take off was going to be too fast without a rope brake over the prow of my sled. When I stop after 100 metres you'll see I drop a snow anchor to hold my sled fast before rushing forward. The rope brake is what you see me pulling off.
I don’t harness dogs until they are at least one year old. By that time they are skeletally sound and physically big enough to be paired up alongside an older dog of a similar size. Early days in harness set the tone for a dog’s education within my working team.
As yearlings my dogs have a seriousness about them that has surpassed puppy play. Play that to me disrupts what should be a very good experience on their first outing in harness. A harnessed puppy fooling around alongside my mature dogs is likely to get a hiding from his new teammates that he is never to forget. Another reason for not rushing youngsters.
Unlike premier sled dog racing kennels I do not have a kennel of 150 dogs, train 60 to end up with a first-class 15. Racing sled dog breeds are new (less than 100 years old). The traits required are not prevalent enough in many dogs expected to race at the highest level. Big racing kennels accelerate the genetic process required for the specialist traits expected: confirmation, coats, feet, attitude and of course, speed. Consequently sled dog racing breeds are in the infancy of their development and that must be very exciting for the racing community.
But the Greenland Dog as a breed has a heritage of over 2,000 years. The Greenland Dog was brought into the country with the last major migration from Canada, the Thule Culture, at around 1100 AD. In all that time Greenland’s dog population above the Arctic Circle is believed to have been totally isolated from the rest of the world. There were no stud-books. No need.
For over 2,000 years the selection process was, if you pulled hard, you lived. And those that lived through those generations passed on very special genes. What remains are incredible canine traits: powerful dominant dogs that are incredibly strong-willed. With huge chests and fur over twenty centimetres thick they are the Panzer tanks of the dog world and stop at nothing. They are aggressive in their appetite to do what they've been bred to do and that's pull massive payloads in brutal cold.
Blimey is one of the finest youngsters I have ever seen and, despite Christmas being weeks away, his wish has been granted. As soon as he was in harness and we were under way 2,000 years of Greenland Dog instinct kicked in.
He was wonderful.
For more about Gary and his dogs go to www.garyrolfe.com