September 04, 2013LANCASTER — A happy and furry friend made for an entertaining night at Weeks State Park on Thursday. The presentation, which discussed New Hampshire's state dog, the Chinook, included an example of the lively and friendly breed. Mountain Laurel Tamworth Tugger, also known as Tug, was on hand to give people a chance to see the powerful, yet gentle, Chinook.
Bob Cottrell, who provided a presentation on the Chinook, owns Tug. The breed was created in the early 20th Century. They have legendary status as sled dogs, thanks to their participation in Adm. Byrd's expedition to the South Pole.
Arthur Walden created the Chinook. He was from Wonalancet, N.H. Walden took part in the Alaska Gold Rush. He returned to New Hampshire in 1902, maintaining his interest in sled dogs he experienced during his previous adventures.
Cottrell noted that Jack London's most famous novels came out shortly after Walden returned to Wonalancet. This led to continued fascination with sled dogs in our culture.
The Chinook first made its appearance when seven puppies were born in New Hampshire in January 1917. Their parents were the granddaughter of an Arctic-exploring Husky and a Saint Bernard mutt, Cottrell explained.
By 1922, Walden had organized the state's first official dog sled race, from Berlin to Canada. Two years later, Walden took Chinooks up Mount Washington.
Chinook power and endurance were evident during such events. The breed's name means "warm west wind," Cottrell said. They would face a major test when Walden elected to join the Antarctic expedition that Admiral Richard Byrd led in the late 1920s.
During the harsh adventure, "Chinook," one of the original 1917 dogs Walden bred, was lost. The tragic event occurred on Chinook's 12th birthday.
Even with the loss, dogs had a great impact on Byrd's journey. Air and snowmobile travel was subject to the vagaries of weather and mechanics. Byrd, however, found the dog's very reliable. As he wrote, "the wisest thing we have done was to insist upon bringing a great many dogs."
After Byrd's expedition, Walden wrote an autobiography, "Leading a Dog's Life," in 1931. Cottrell noted that another Walden book, "Harness and Pack," added to dog sledding lore.
The Chinook maintained iconic status. By 1940, Cottrell said only about 20 Chinooks were left. They were sold to Perry Greene, of Maine. Walden died in 1947, saving his wife from a house fire.
By the mid-1960s, the Guinness Book of World Records listed the Chinook as the world's most rare dog. However, the Internet currently helps fans of the tough breed foster greater appreciation for the Chinook.
Cottrell said Tug is a great example of traditional Chinook features. The dogs have really long legs to help with sledding. Also, Chinooks have a double coat and throat shawl to fight off the cold and wetness.
Tug is a very instinctive and intelligent sled dog. Cottrell noted that Tug knows how to find trails through woods, and he is always up for a new adventure. Chinooks, Cottrell said, are not racing dogs, but great for long distance sledding.
A group of seventh graders from Ross Lurgio Middle School in Bedford lobbied to get the Chinook named the state dog. Governor John Lynch signed the legislation in 2009. At that point, more than half of the 800 registered Chinooks lived in New England.
For additional information, go to www.chinook.org.