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Journal Excerpt – Jaimee Gillis

Thursday, June 15th 2017

Igloolik, Nunavut

Clinic Day 1


This morning, our Chinook team headed out to the Old Hall to set up the temporary veterinary clinic. Our first patient, Rocky, arrived as scheduled, and our work began.

A little while later, we found ourselves perplexed as Andy and his son arrived at the clinic without any animals in tow. However, we quickly discovered that he was the proud owner of quite a number of dogs — a whole sled dog team. The lead dog had recently had a litter of pups, and he was hoping we could come out to his property in order to examine and vaccinate all the dogs. “Of course! That’s why we’re here,” a member of our crew responded.

Dr. Gunn McQuillan, Anna and I packed a box full of medical supplies, hopped onto Andy’s four-wheeler, and headed to his place. There, we found Mickey, the lead sled dog, nursing her two-week old pups. During Mickey’s check-up, Dr. Gunn McQuillan found an area on her back right leg that was missing fur. Andy explained that on a polar bear hunt this past winter, Mickey had gotten too close to the bear and was attacked and bitten before Andy was able to get a clear shot. She struggled free, and her wound healed nicely. Unfortunately, not all dogs, or people, are as lucky as her when it comes to a polar bear encounter.

a different polar bear skin, in town.

Andy told the story of the bear encounter in an incredibly calm – almost nonchalant – way, but still I found myself having to pick my jaw up off the floor. And then Andy, registering our amazement, took us over to his shed to show off the pelt of the very same polar bear!

We finished de-worming the pups and headed off to our next stop. The rest of Andy’s dog team was located out of town on the point of the island of Igloolik. The four of us moved from the four wheeler to Andy’s snow machine and held on for the five-kilometer ride across the ice (we were assured it was still 8 feet deep – even in mid-June!). During the ride, we admired the beautiful blues of the ice and sky and watched the town fade behind us. I could hardly believe I was above the arctic circle, snowmobiling over solid ice – on the very first day of our northern clinic!

We reached the group of dogs tied in their sledding order. One had an eye infection, but the remainder seemed happy and healthy and were all given the ‘go-ahead’ for vaccinations and de-wormer. Andy held each dog for us, and he gave a very clear description of their medical history, their personality, and their role on team.

Andy is pictured with Junior, Blackie, One-side, Brownie, and Nanu.

Jaimee Gillis, AVC 2018, traveled to Igloolik in 2017 as one of the student participants on the Chinook Project. As part of the experience, the students craft various pieces of reflective writing. This is one of Jaimee’s pieces.

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