Preserving a Northern dog
Saving an original Canadian canine

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services

RANKIN INLET (Oct 13/99) - Rankin Inlet's Jo Kelly came North from Nova Scotia with a mission in life -- to do everything she can to help preserve a very special breed of dog.

The huskies are registered as Canadian Eskimo dogs. They came across the Bering Strait about 2,000 years ago and are the traditional dogs of Northern Canadian Inuit.

Kelly says in the 1970s, their numbers dropped to about 200.

"When the RCMP came North there was a lot of mixing between the Siberian and traditional huskies," explains Kelly.

"At about that same time, Ski-Doos were taking over. Hunters and families no longer needed the dogs for travel, so they replaced them and a lot of teams were destroyed."

The traditional dogs are one of only four breeds indigenous to Canada and their image has graced a commemorative coin and stamp.

They've also been featured within the pages of National and Canadian Geographic and a commemorative collector's plate is the works for early next year.

Kelly says the Canadian government and the Canadian Kennel Club moved to preserve the breed and sponsored Yellow-knife's Bill Carpenter to start the Canadian Eskimo Dog Research Foundation in the '70s.

"Carpenter and Brian Ladoon of Churchill, Manitoba, began breeding these dogs to increase their numbers and get them registered with the Canadian Kennel Club."

While Carpenter dropped out about six years after he started and hasn't been heard from since, Ladoon is still going strong with fellow breeders Kelly, Denise Vick and Cecil Rolfe.

"Some dogs from Carpenter's pedigree are still around, but most of the dogs I have come from Ladoon or people in the Baffin Islands who still run traditional teams."

Kelly say the four traditional dog breeders are working diligently to raise the breed's numbers, adding there are still only about 450 dogs registered.

"When I came to Rankin from Nova Scotia, one of the first things I noticed was how few traditional dogs are here.

"I think it's a shame Inuit seem to have such little interest in preserving a genuine piece of their heritage."

Kelly has 12 of the 25 dogs she owns in Rankin.

She says the breed is becoming increasingly popular and many people are pleasantly surprised at the mild nature of the dogs.

"A lot of people think they're very aggressive and nothing could be further from the truth.

"If they're raised right, properly fed and cared for, they're every bit as friendly as the average house pet."