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What Dog?

It was my first winter in the Arctic when, one night in a storm, I heard the sound of a crying puppy. I found the thing outside an apartment trying desperately to climb over a short piece of plywood that blocked the steps up to the wind shelter. It had been standing directly in the wind and snow and ice had penetrated deeply in its fur. I carried it up and left it with a few other dogs that were taking shelter there. The next afternoon I learned that the people who lived in the apartment had found someone else’s puppy dead in their porch that morning.

The ubiquity of chained dogs, many neglected, some shelterless and underfed, is something I struggle with here. I want to help them, but I don’t want to be cast as just one more southerner who doesn’t get it. These days few of the Inuit I know keep dogs to run them in teams or use them otherwise as they were used in the past. They keep them, they say, because a dog makes a good bear alarm and food-scrap disposal and because, well, because they’ve always kept them. I get that. It’s just sad to see them outside all year long not being useful and not being loved.

See the dog in the picture? Post-snowstorm. It was minus 28°C this day. With the windchill, minus 48°C.

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