Between the laborer who earns his daily bread by the sweat of his brow, and the spoiled favorite of fortune who neither toils nor spins, there is not more difference than between the workers of the North - the Sled Dogs of Alaska - and the pampered, fur-coated, jewel-hung dogs "in society"; dogs who have their silk-lined baskets, their gold-mounted toilet articles, and the exclusive services of a personal attendant. But "Dogs is Dogs," and the unhappy accident of birth that gives to such a dog the humiliating experience of having his teeth brushed by a maid, or a massage of cold cream after a bath in a silver-plated tub, should not be held against him - for he may still retain some of his admirable, lovable canine qualities through the human veneer.
A dog's intelligence and his faithful, affectionate nature are his chief assets in his association with man; and if he preserves these in spite of his artificial surroundings as a mere toy, his development along those lines is almost unlimited when he becomes a co-worker with his master, and a devoted comrade through adversity and peril.
Incident in the Ziegler Polar Expedition, I903-5 Mr. Anthony Fiala with His Dog Teams - Lat. 82° N.
Far* beyond the Aleutian Islands, which stretch a grim barrier between the North Pacific and Bering Sea, almost to the bleak coast of Siberia, there lies that part of Alaska not familiar to the average tourist. The Alaska of primeval forests, of great, almost unknown rivers, of vast areas of snow and ice that reach to the desolate shore of the Arctic - the Alaska of the Dogs; and here in the "Land that God forgot," the dog holds a unique place as an indispensable factor in the settlement of the country.
He discovered the North Pole with Peary; he discovered the South Pole and the Northwest Passage, too, with Amundsen; and he played a pathetic yet heroic part in the brave, if futile, efforts of Captain Scott to reach his goal; just as he has ever played well his role of support to those who have sought to penetrate the trackless wastes at the ends of the earth.
Late in October, usually under leaden skies, nearly the entire population of Nome stands upon a dreary beach watching the last boat of the open season, the "Victoria," steam slowly out through a sea already heavy with young ice, and disappear in the misty grayness of the horizon. The parting salute of the ship's siren has been answered by all of the town whistles; and then as if to add the fitting climax to the gloom of the occasion, it seems that every dog within hearing raises his voice to join in a mournful farewell chorus - a blood-curdling wail that is characteristic of these Northern dogs with their strong wolf strain.
But the people look with kindly eyes upon them, and even listen with kindly ears - for they know that every letter, paper, and magazine from now till the middle of June, will be brought in over fifteen hundred miles of ice and snow and frozen sea, by the United States Government Dog Team Mail; and that, except for the wireless system, all of the news from the great world "outside," from family and friends, depends upon these Postmen of the Silent Trails. They go where soft snow and other conditions make it impossible to use horses. No service is too lowly, no mission too high. They pull the baby in his tiny sled, are the means of delivery for the merchant, and they carry the doctor and priest to the bedside of the sick or dying in some lonely, distant cabin.
A Typical Scene in the Arctic Regions.
Eskimo family and malamute - At Home.
Owing to the prohibitive tax rate on railroads which traverse practically uninhabited districts in Seward Peninsula - a tax which has only been abolished within the past few months - dogs have become the motive power instead of engines; and in place of the "toot-toot" of the locomotive as it takes a freight train out to the mines with supplies, there is the "bow-wow" of the dog team "Kougarok Limited" or the "Little Creek Express" as it starts down the track with a loaded flat car.
As to "joy riding," the "Pupmobile" has every automobile completely outclassed when it comes to the maximum of joy, and the minimum of danger. Given a winter night when the frosty air brings the tingling blood to cheek and finger tip, when the glittering stars seem close above one's head in the clear sky, and when the trail glistens like a silver ribbon in the ghostly radiance of the Northern Lights, it is a phlegmatic person indeed who does not feel the thrill of excitement and delight that animates the dogs as they strain in their harness to be away for a spin across the snows.
Then there is the famous All Alaska Sweepstakes race each April from Nome on Bering Sea, to Candle on the Arctic Ocean and return, a distance of 408 miles; and the dogs as well as the men who have won their laurels in this contest are the sort of men and dogs who are making the History of Alaska - who are creating an Empire from a Wilderness.
There are two types of dogs used in the race. The Siberians, small, prick-eared, with bushy tails curled up over their backs, and with apparently decided traces of the fox; and the Alaskans who are of mixed breeds - setters, pointers, collies, hounds or what not - with a more or less pronounced wolf strain inherited from the McKenzie River Huskie or coast Malamute.
Both types have their staunch supporters, and for excellent reasons - for both possess wonderful qualities that endear them to dog users and dog lovers. The Siberians have not the speed, and many claim not the responsiveness and intelligence of the Alaskans - but they are gentle, tractable, easy to handle and are able to travel more steadily and with less rest than the others.
Dubby, a McKenzie River huskie, of the Allan and Darling Kennel, whose wonderful intelligence, and a record of over thirty thousand miles in harness, established his reputation as one of the greatest leaders Alaska has ever known.