Karen, a veteran of several combined family canoe trips with us, met us at the airport. She hosted us for a stay that we extended when we looked at the snow-covered ground on the day of our planned departure. We were happy to stay in bed and pull the blankets over our heads.
During our visit, we came to realize just how important dogs are in northern culture. Everyone has a dog and some have many. One Yukon friend has over twenty dogs, enough to run two sled teams at speed as he travels his hobby trap line in winter months. A visit to his “dog yard” is deafening. These are working dogs, and they clamour for attention as we walk through the yard where each dog is chained to a doghouse. They are well-fed and well-exercised, but at this scale of ownership there just isn’t time for as much ear scratching that each hound would dearly love.
We went out for dinner and met some of Karen’s friends, including a professional couple who had got a dog as soon as they moved to Whitehorse from Ontario. Theirs was a pet. Karen has two dogs, and though not working dogs to the same extent as the sled dogs, their purpose in life is mainly to run and to pull. Karen keeps them is for ski-joring, a sport taken very seriously by outdoors people in the Whitehorse area, as witnessed by the collection of engraved trophies displayed in the ski club’s hall.
Once our bicycles were assembled, we exercised each dog in turn along with Karen who is skilled at cycling on quiet roads with a harnessed dog bounding ahead. Another day, while Karen worked from home, Chris and I took them for a long walk, always keeping one leashed while the other ran free.
Cherry and Aphrodite (Afri) greet visitors enthusiastically.
If only we could have harnessed their energy to pull us toward Vancouver.