|2004-11-11 - Dogs along the Kolyma
Our apartment in Zyryanka. Only -14°C (F) today! No good at all regarding the ice on the Kolyma and we will even have bigger problems if this warmth continues! Blue sky and sunny, no wind.
Johan Ivarsson at the pen:
I am, like Mikael, a big fan of dogs. I have a dog myself, a dachshund named Ysack, who I think about every day and miss as much as the rest of my family. Therefore I try to make friends with some of the dogs we come across in Zyryanka, and, there´s lots of dogs running freely all over the place! Some of them lack an owner and try to survive as much as it is possible. Most of them do have owners, but are still running freely. The only thing that separates them from one another is the necklace that every owner put on their dog.
Big, small, short, long, fat and thin, you can find all sorts of dogs and mixes. But almost everyone have some sort of a specific body detail which shows that they belong to the same breed, the East Siberian Laika. It is quite a large dog with a robust body and thick fur, it is very popular among hunters all over the world and is used to hunt booth moose and bear. It is also one of the best choices for a toboggan and the laika of this area is said to be the best of the best. (As early as the year 1741 East Siberian Laika´s from a village near Cherskii, at the mouth of Kolyma, was specifically asked for and used during the famous northerly exploration by the Great Dane, admiral Vitus Bering.)
I´ve been in awe since our arrival to Zyryanka and seeing all this dogs running freely and I´ve asked myself:
´´How they can possibly survive during the winter? In the coldest of Siberia where the temperature can go down to -60°C?´´
I got my answer some days ago, during one of our daily walks when we saw that they were using the giant pipes that are transporting hot water to all living quarters of Zyryanka! To get some warmth the dogs curl up on those during the coldest periods!
We always get barked at during our walks, not aggressively, but curiously. This is nothing that bothers us, on the contrary, it is the other way around. As we both like dogs we try to talk nicely to them and we kneel down to try and make them come closer. But the dogs here are hard to charm, they aren´t used to people talking nicely to them or that someone stays just because of them.
The fact that the dogs are running freely and aren´t tied up as back in Sweden, is very interesting. All the dogs around here are used to take care of themselves, without people being involved, and it is very rare to see a fight between them. Since they are all free they don´t have to fight to protect or tell each other who´s the highest in rank. Back home in Sweden it is different, many of the dogs are aggressive and gets into fights with others as soon as they get close to each other. I´m beginning to think, after being here for over a month and I´ve seen how the dogs behave here, that the biggest reason for this is that all the dogs back home are never allowed to run freely. But then again, there are many reasons to why they shouldn´t either.
As I said in the beginning, both me and Mikael love dogs and, before coming here, we had the idea that the first thing we would after arrival, would be to find a dog that would accompany us during our expedition. We were also of the idea, that a dog would be the best way to warn us in case of a bear and it would probably have spared us the incident with that giant bear we had. But to find a dog along Kolyma have turned harder than we thought. In Seimchan, for example, where we had planned to find one, we found out that the hunters didn´t dare to have their dogs in the village due to the risk that they might get a specific dog plague which had struck the area. Therefore, we didn´t dare to take!
Now, during our time here in Zyryanka we have come to the conclusion that there´s no possibility for us to bring a dog during the winter. Our pulks are already to heavy and if we where to bring a dog, we would have to bring more food as well, and we don´t worry about bears anymore. Of course it would be a good friend when it gets rough, but what would we do when we come to the end of the expedition? To bring a dog back to Sweden is hard, if even possible. Would we manage to leave our new friend behind after six month together?