From Iceland — Glacial Dogs

Glacial Dogs

Published July 2, 2008

There were five of them up on the Mýrdalsjökull glacier: a journalist, a photographer, and three former sergeants from the Danish army who by some strange cosmic coincidence were all named Christian. “Just this morning, we tried an 11-dog team for the first time,” one Christian said as the men walked over to a sled harnessed to 11 large Greenland dogs resting in the snow. They prepared for departure. One Christian stayed behind while the other two strapped on cross-country skis and grabbed a rope attached to the harness. The other two men sat down on the sled. “Kom så hunde! Kom så!” the two Christians yelled.
    The Greenland dog is descended directly from wolfs and doesn’t bark. It only howls. It is a pack animal, and the dogs constantly fight for position within the team. Pedro, the alpha dog, was missing half of his right ear after a fight, but for now the other dogs – Bacon, Frosty, Rudolf, and Einstein – would follow his lead. But a fight could still break out at any time, and if it did the two Christians knew they had to be quick to break it up. Once the dogs start fighting they won’t stop until one of them is seriously injured, or preferably dead.
    “Kom så hunde! Kom så!”
    The sled moved slowly across the glacier, approaching the turn-around point. Suddenly, faster than a blink of an eye, a fight erupted. The dogs piled upon each other, howling and biting and yelping. Christian and Christian jumped off their skis and grabbed two short rubber hoses and started beating the dogs to submission. As soon as the fight started, it was over. The dogs were lying down, tails between their legs. “Did you see who started it?” Christian asked Christian. “It was Bacon.” Christian walked over to the dog to deliver a punishment. “It looks bad, but if we don’t beat them down to stop the fight, they will kill each other,” he explained to the two passengers.
    The company reached the turn-around point and stopped. The four of them patted the animals and admired the view from the glacier. They talked about the difference between training soldiers and training dogs, life in Iceland and life after the army. But mostly they just admired the view from the glacier – alone in nature, alone with 11 dogs.
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