Sled dogs in Longyearbyen, Svalbard


Meet Lumi, a four months old female in training.

Lumi
Beautiful 4 month old female, in training.

Do not despair, my animal lover friends. She is a happy puppy. Her enclosure is huge, there are other dogs in training and she is very much loved. I was proudly invited by the caretaker to meet her.

The day we went for the sled dog ride, my heart sank when I saw each one chained to their little houses. I really wanted the whole thing to be over and get out of there. DO NOT JUDGE.
These dogs, the majority of them mixed, are working dogs. Nothing wrong with that, I worked all my life and nobody frowned upon that. They are athletes in a way, very strong, (each one can roughly pull 60kg ) and are a very important part of the Arctic life.
A dog that would jump to kiss you and gives you belly IS NOT and abused dog. They are very well fed, their health very much taken care of (if one is sick or in any trouble, the get to be in the main shack and walked around for their bodily needs as any other loved pet).
The care takers know every dog by name, and they are all animal lovers. You couldn’t do the job otherwise.
They get go ride at least once a day and I’m a witness they love it! Their joy is intoxicating.
I visited three kennels and got enough dog love for the rest of the year

Husky love
This beautiful girl was taking a Sunday morning stroll with her family. A bit more relaxed than the one at the kennel, she didn’t jump at me, but accepted and corresponded to my affection.


On our ride with Svalbard Huskies, one of the guides was a beautiful girl from Seattle. She can tell each of the hundred dogs apart and by name.

After they were harnessed, with the riders help, who get to learn, we went on our way. Six dogs to each sled (with wheels for the summer), two guides and four general workers make each team. Guides concentrate in the route which they know by heart and the rest just pull merrily.
We carry empty dishes (I was trying to figure that out) and stop by the clean streams for give them water. We stopped twice for water and a third time by a mine just so we could see it. They did not care for that stop and were hauling to get going LOL


When they got overheated, the whole team went to the side stream of water, took a quick and fun dip and came up to the road. Smart puppies.
We also saw many locals walking their dogs and “parking” them outside the business they were visiting. Got to “talk” yo many of them. I particularly remember “Monster”, with beautiful blue eyes and the female we saw the last day, who shed half her fur into my clothes.

Dogs are the only pet allowed in Svalbard, although the Russians have managed to illegally import some felines into Barensburg, the mining community across from Longyeabyen. Since they are isolated, they are contained there.

Dog parking
Sign outside the Radisson Blue Polar Hotel. It was common to see dogs “parked” outside businesses. All patient and well behaved.


Dogs are happy in Longyearbyen, both as home pets and as working dogs.

Husky close up
This beauty was, as most of them were, very friendly and loving. Difficult to get a good pic since they are so active. Wet kisses galore!
Svalbard Husky
One of the dogs at the kennel.

A Moment in the Life of Tigrito, Oaxaca


I had spotted “Tigrito” close to the Zocalo in the city of Oaxaca, Mexico, following a tall, slender man, in a hurry in the midst of a lazy pueblo morning. The tall stranger seemed to be on a mission. He and the little dog made a striking pair. I took a quick shot and continued on our way to Plaza Santo Domingo.
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A few minutes later, on the side street by the church, a second sighting. This time, the tall stranger saw me and turned his head as not to be in the picture. But that was not to stop him of keep him away from his mission.
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Looking around for things to photograph, we spotted someone lying in the sidewalk, apparently drunk, since no one around him paid any attention. In a provincial town, you do pay attention to things like that.
The guy was collapsed in front of aa Art Gallery, and as we watched (a couple of pics to be had, why not), there we are, face to face with the tall stranger with the puppy.
We said hello and learned he was an artist waiting for the gallery to open so he could deliver some of his work.
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Two seconds later, I was on the ground, trying to establish contact with the puppy and asked the Master if I could take pictures of the dog. The name was Tigrito” (small tiger) and the artiste was looking for a home for him.
Tigrito was very difficult to photograph. Not in the way our puppies are, playfully biting out fingers and turning over for a belly rub. No.

Tigrito was a street puppy. And street puppies grow up in a hurry. His eyes were constantly on his Master (Savior?) and the little eyes followed him with devotion every inch of the way as if his life depended on him. Which actually may just be the truth. The life of street dogs in our Latin countries is not easy, although every street and town has plenty of them and you can see there is a law and structure firmly held in place by the stronger ones, territories clearly marked.

My guess is that in a struggling artist life, the sudden presence of a puppy could be too big a responsibility. But I feel that in this case, the deal is sealed. Those two depend on each other and that is the way it will stay for a long time.
It was a treat to get to meet the Tigrito and his friend.
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