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24 July 2016

The Filth

Our house was built in circa 1930. It was most certainly Ittoqqortoormiit’s seventh house to go up. For a while I bet it looked quite sweet. A little Arctic cottage.

We bought our house but you cannot buy or own land in Greenland so I had to seek out and was granted municipal permission to keep my dogs in the area around the house.

Above everything else a safe clean place for my dogs runs true today as it did during the first three months I lived in Greenland, when picking up and removing nearly 80 years of filth from around our house dominated my existence. All that work was achieved during and beyond the 70 days of Arctic 24-hour daylight. I did not rest until it was done. The longest I went without sleep was three days.

I started in May. I was totally unaware of the nasty surprise hidden under deep snow. I worked hard and fast as the thaw revealed a nightmare. It was disgusting work.

I dedicated nothing less than 12 hours a day to the task during those first months until I was happy the area was good enough for me to begin building a kennel box for each dog and have access to our house without stepping in to something that was going to infect me with hepatitis or intestinal worms. Without running water in the house I stripped and scrubbed myself clean until it hurt.

Every dog deserves a box of their own, and space. This basic requirement for dog welfare is, in theory, recognised in Greenlandic law. The area around our house for my dogs is now rid of a deep stinking layer of jagged broken glass, bottles, serrated cans and tins and matted blubber from every Arctic marine mammal seen in these waters and an unbelievable amount of dog shit.

And dog skulls.

And firearms. Three rifles and one shotgun. One of the rifles has a telescopic sight. Apart from being tools of the trade in a previous career I have never had much interest in guns. What else was going to appear?

Firearms. Not your usual garden junk.
All of it I picked up. I bagged it and took it to the dump.

If there happens to be a bonus to all of this effort, aside from the overriding importance for the dogs, it has to be that over the years there have been several special finds that include brass belt buckles, old coins, clay pipes, English bullets dating back to the First World War, really old shoes, clogs, polar bear teeth and carvings made out of bone and wood. But alas, 10 years later litter continues to surface. Thankfully this litter does not appear in stinking barrow loads requiring 12 hours' daily dedication for three months to shift.

All this makes for healthy happy dogs and two humans happy to be doing all that is possible for Greenland Dog welfare.


In 100 years time none of us will be alive. This is inevitable. At the rate Greenland's working dog population continues to decline a grim future for them is predicted. This is not inevitable but it certainly looks like the dog will no longer be an integral part of Greenland within our lifetime.

I hope to be wrong because the Greenland Dog, as a breed, is magnificent. Wherever we go (after we pop our clogs) I would like to think it possible to look down with a smile on the ground I spent so long to clear to see another generation of happy and safe dogs on it.


For more about Gary and his dogs go to www.garyrolfe.com