During a photography trip in March 2016 I got to know Brian Ladoon and his Canadian Eskimo Dogs. I’ve always been interested in sled dogs, not to say I’m crazy about dogs, so I was very surprised by the fact that I had never heard of this breed before. Of course I wanted to learn more. So I took the chance to help Brian feed the dogs the next day. It was a chilly morning, about -25 degrees when I rode on the back of his truck and threw big pieces of frozen meat for each one of the approximately 80 dogs. On the way back to town Brian told me a little bit about his life and the Canadian Eskimo Dogs. This was just a very short insight but it was enough to get me hooked.
Back home in Germany I started to research online about Canadian Eskimo Dogs and soon figured out that there is no breeder in Germany and hardly any information in German at all. Just found a handful breeders in the United Kingdom and a good website with a lot of information from Italy. That was not enough for me, I wanted, I needed to learn more! It almost seemed as if these wonderful dogs had been forgotten. That made me even more curious. So I wrote an email to Brian and Penny to ask if I could come back to Churchill to work with the dogs and learn more. 5 months later I found myself back at Churchill airport where both of them welcomed me together with little „queen“ Honey, a 14,5 years old West Highland Terrier. Before we could drive to town, Brian had to do a few pictures with fans because – what I didn’t know – he is a TV-Star from the Canadian TV show „Polar Bear Town“. Well, with this „Sheriff“ – as they call him in the TV show – I would work during the next week. So here we go, luggage on the back of the truck and into town for a quick stop at the supermarket and to see where I would be living during the next days. Then we drove to Mile 5 where most of the dogs live. They have to stay a bit further out of town because otherwise they would attract bears too close to people’s homes. We hadn’t even entered the gate, when we spotted a polar bear. It was walking right on the path in between the dogs. Now you would think these dogs are afraid of the largest land carnivore on earth. But no, they’re not. In fact they were barking and howling at the bear to scare him away. Amazing! Well, the bear wasn’t too impressed but made his way off the yard when we came closer. He was still close enough though for me to take my first polar bear picture, being in Churchill for 3 hours.
The next day we went out to feed the dogs and the bear was there again. But it rained so hard all day that we decided to not leave the truck and the bear found a hide in the willows. When we came back the next day, not only 80 dogs were awaiting us hungry but also „our“ bear. As soon as we had dropped the first couple of meat pieces for the dogs, he came out of his hide. Due to the rain from the day before, the meat had gotten a little wet, so feeding was quite a mess. That’s why I was sprinkled with meat myself over and over and when I walked from dog to dog with a shovel full of meat and saw the bear coming towards us, my heart did a little jump. But fortunately the bear was more interested in the meat we had dropped for the dogs and stole a piece here and there. While he was happy eating his lunch, we could finish feeding the rest of the dogs. I walked a bit faster now and always had my eyes on the bear and so had Brian, of course. This was a usual working day for him but it was definitely not a usual working day for me. Compared to sitting 8 hours in front of a computer, I was so happy to be here and live that adventure!
By now Brian was sure he knew that bear. It was a 7-8 years old mid-sized male which had been around Mile 5 already in the last years. So he probably knew the routine and wouldn’t cause trouble. As long as the bears behave around the dogs and don’t do them or people any harm, they can stay. Here they are in a safe place and don’t need to go to the bear’s jail.
The next day was beautiful. Sunshine, blue sky, + 15 degrees celsius, it felt like summer. The dogs were satisfied and calm, still full up from yesterday’s meal. Also the bear seemed to be sleeping happily somewhere in a calm place, we didn’t see him all day. But the day after that everyone knew we were coming with a truck load full of meat again, so the dogs were excited and the bear didn’t need long to be seen again. He first watched us from a distance and later stole some meat from the dogs who tried to defend their lunch with loud barking and howling. He still got what he had wanted and the dogs would get another piece later on.
The week passed by very fast, every day was an adventure and in three of the nights, there were beautiful northern lights. One night was a 6 on the northern lights scale from 1 – 10 which promises very strong lights. They were all over the sky, a big green fog, moving and dancing, and also some of the rare red lights in between. What a show!
After just a week I felt at home in Churchill and I would have loved to stay longer. A whole year would be good to experience all the different seasons and see how nature changes throughout the year. See more bears (and tourists) in the fall, see a lot of snow and northern lights and feel the real cold during winter, see thousands of birds in the spring and hundreds of Beluga whales in the summer. And of course see how those wonderful dogs live in the middle of nature’s beauty. Are they happy when they see the first snow? Do they howl at the northern lights? How dangerous is their life during autumn when there are more bears? I guess this was not my last visit. But for now I would go back home, back to my office job and my „normal“ life, but not without many new impressions and a full load of new inspiration in my luggage.