As if to welcome our tour group, a thousand wolf-like canines, chained and fierce, howled hauntingly. Pairs of multi-coloured eyes (one blue, one brown) calculated our every move.
There I was in Ilulissat, an isolated coastal city in the Western part of Greenland, preparing for my first dog-sledding experience. It’s the largest dog area in the country. It’s home to 3,000 dogs and 4,500 people.
These dogs aren’t your typical pampered pooches. They’re Greenlandic sled dogs, a breed unique to the area, smaller and stronger than our Canadian Huskies.
During Greenland’s winter, trained teams pull sleds with up to 400-500 kilos. Following the commands of their master, the team (about a dozen dogs) travel long distances across the ice.
Our group is warned: Don’t cross the dogs’ territory, don’t pet them or get too close for that perfect photo. The Greenlandic sled dog is tough; it lives outside year-round (through -50 C degree temperatures) and won’t hesitate to bite. So while some may look cute, they’re still wild creatures.
I saddled in for my first ever dog-sledding expedition and held on tight. Though the scene was beautiful, the wind was unforgiving. Snow swirled chaotically, as if the whole town was tipped upside down and shaken like a snow globe. I was freezing, and was pleased to have spared no expense on quality winter gear.
From behind my ugly wool mask, I watched the dogs run side-by-side, the strongest leading the team. The sled driver, a local man dressed in a pink parka and rosy cheeks to match, shouted a command. Tails up, bums waggling, the dogs veered obediently.
Julia Dimon, a Toronto-based freelance writer, is travelling around the world for one year.