Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavik April 10, 2017 - 4:00 pm

Sick dogs, blizzard conditions hamper Nunavik’s Ivakkak race

Two teams withdraw, leaving 11 teams in the final stretch

SARAH ROGERS
Quaqtaq mushers Junior Tukkiapik and Adamie Michaud, team 9, arrive in Niaquguk April 8 alongside Tasiujaq mushers Willie Cain and Putulik Cain Saunders, team 11. Ivakkak racers stayed at their camp an extra day waiting for blizzard conditions to pass, and left April 10 en route to Akulivik. (PHOTO BY P. DUNNIGAN/MAKIVIK)
Quaqtaq mushers Junior Tukkiapik and Adamie Michaud, team 9, arrive in Niaquguk April 8 alongside Tasiujaq mushers Willie Cain and Putulik Cain Saunders, team 11. Ivakkak racers stayed at their camp an extra day waiting for blizzard conditions to pass, and left April 10 en route to Akulivik. (PHOTO BY P. DUNNIGAN/MAKIVIK)
An excited sled dog pulls its musher into Niaquguk April 8, the overnight stop just past Puvirnituq. Eleven teams remain in this year's Ivakkak, with roughly a quarter of the race route left to cover. (PHOTO BY P. DUNNIGAN/MAKIVIK)
An excited sled dog pulls its musher into Niaquguk April 8, the overnight stop just past Puvirnituq. Eleven teams remain in this year's Ivakkak, with roughly a quarter of the race route left to cover. (PHOTO BY P. DUNNIGAN/MAKIVIK)

And then there were 11.

A mystery illness among sled dogs has forced two teams running in the year’s Ivakkak dog team race to withdraw from the race.

Veteran musher Allen Gordon of Kuujjuaq pulled his team from the race roster in Puvirnituq this past weekend, where dog sled teams arrived April 6.

Gordon said a number of dogs competing in the race began showing symptoms of a gastro-intestinal illness last week, which caused diarrhea, green-coloured urine and vomiting in some of the animals.

His own lead dog had completely stopped eating by the end of the week, Gordon said, which led to his decision to withdraw.

“The team comes first,” he said. “I will not force them to keep going when they are all [tired] and not strong enough.”

Tasiujaq musher Billie Cain and his partner Charlie Cain also decided to withdraw from Ivakkak due to their sick dog team, leaving 11 teams remaining in the race.

Gordon, who has run sled dogs in Nunavik since the 1980s, said he’s never seen an illness like this one.

The musher suspects it might have been caused by slush salt at the race’s starting line in Umiujaq. That’s where dogs teams were tied up along the sea ice, he said, and where they may have ingested large amounts of salty snow ahead of the race.

A veterinarian following the race took stool and blood samples from some of the sick dogs to send to Montreal for analysis, but results have yet to come back.

In the meantime, Ivakkak’s remaining 11 teams have roughly a quarter of the race trail left to cover.

But the competitors haven’t had an easy time of it; this year’s race along the Hudson coast has been regularly put on hold for bad weather.

After a day off in Niaquguk April 9 to wait for blizzard conditions to pass, teams took off late in the morning April 10 in blowing snow but should arrive in Akulivik later today.

That’s the final community stop before the race’s finish line in Ivujivik.

So far, Puvirnituq mushers lead the way. Mushers Peter Boy Ittukallak and Putugu Iqiquq are holding onto the fastest time, having covered this portion of the race in 42 hours and 19 minutes.

Puvirnituq mushers Aisa Surusilak and Aiplie Qumaluk are close behind with a time of 42 hours and 45 minutes.

Gordon and his dog team remain in Puvirnituq, where he said some of his dogs seem to have more energy and more of an appetite. But Gordon isn’t sure when he can leave; he has to wait on a specially configured flight known as the “dog bus” to pick him up and bring his dog team home to Kuujjuaq.

You can follow the Ivakkak teams live here.

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