If any of us thought that bringing dogs onto the team would lighten the workload then that theory didn't last long! Tonight is the first evening we've got in before 10pm for days (not that you would be able to tell since the stars are shining bright at midday here) and I'm writing this from our little yellow house on the edge of Qaanaaq.
Our recruits have come from across the Thule area, some from hunters here in the settlement and others brought across the new sea ice from Siorapaluk, a native outpost with a population of barely forty.
My first working dog here was of course Dave and his personality stands out a mile. One of the larger dogs in town, he's also one of the most enthusiastic with tons of nervous energy. Hopping from foot to foot and bouncing back and forth on his chain, he can't contain his excitement when paid a visit. This winter he's also usually accompanied by four mini-Daves, who have become our shadows as we go about our daily work. Dave has to work on protecting his food caches though and our conclusion is that he might not be the sharpest tool in the box....my favourite he will remain regardless.
We didn't know how the not inconsiderable extra 19 dogs would compare. It's a lot of personalities and as normal with new owners' they have needed new names. Some are still TBC but some standout players are:
Thor - a likely 'king dog' of a team; powerfully built, sandy coloured and with an instant low growl. We've concluded he's actually a bit of a drama queen though - all thunder and no lighting.
Enrique - our singing dog. If someone is making a fuss it's probably Enrique. Surprisingly trustworthy though (tempting fate?) and is one of the few on a rope instead of a chain.
O.J. - probably the less said the better.
The Hitmen - Jason and Leon - professional, calm and slightly unnerving.
Odin formerly known as Thor - a bit of a mouthful but we'll get used to it. A Thor lookalike but with one floppy ear. We reckon he'll be a strong personality - a listener so potentially a lead dog of a team.
We have four females in total and to be honest a lot of our efforts have been to try and limit the chance of our twenty dogs multiplying before the spring!
Our wildcards are our puppies (big ones and nearly yearlings). Rasmus, our hunter mentor, said they seem strong and he approves. What a handful. Almost every drama to date has been down to them - three dashes for freedom, two broken harnesses, one chewed off collar, two punctured gloves and about a thousand long-lost-friend greetings. We're very fond of Houdini and Lyka though and they live outside our window, not far from Dave.
Our life in Qaanaaq has been a raft of frankly unexpected experiences given that we only planned to be here five days. Our drinking water comes icebergs out in the sound. Some villagers use the JCB to bring back eight-foot minibergs back to last them for weeks, but our tactics involve an axe, one person with a rifle on bear watch and a lot of effort!
We're not far off our third week here now and once the dogs are settled into a routine, we have winter sledging journeys on the sea to undertake and two large capacity dog sleds to build from scratch. For now though, sleep. Merry Christmas all (it's the main festive day here tomorrow and we have been invited to a villager's home for a meal).