Michael Ivunirjuk of Arviat, Nunavut has been breeding sled dogs his whole life. He says he has taken part in races across the North and the country.
Ivunirjuk says that came to an end this fall, thanks to an altruistic dog lover who claims he rescued Ivunirjuk’s lead dog, Bones.
"She was my top dog, my lead dog, and I know without my top dog the rest of the dogs won't run the way they used to,” Ivunirjuk says. “It broke up my team. I had to give all my dogs away.”
Ivunirjuk claims the dog was in a shed at the time.
“I kept her there because she had just had a litter of puppies, she was very skinny,” Ivunirjuk says in Inuktitut. “I fed her polar bear and caribou meat and dog food. She knew to go outside to pee and when she went outside to pee, my wife said some white man had taken my dog without saying a word."
That man is Ian Kaulback, an RCMP officer on paid leave. He volunteers his time to care for sick or stray dogs. He says he and his wife are taking neglected dogs from the community and sending them to Manitoba and other animal shelters.
The couple has already been the subject of controversy. Earlier this month, the pair received a letter from the hamlet, along with a petition signed by 200 people, asking them to stop seizing dogs.
Kaulback has a different version of events in the case of Ivunirjuk’s dog.
"We found that dog running loose, actually, and we took it to the RCMP,” Kaulback says. “In the process of taking it to the police, the non-tethered dog, they claimed it was theirs, so we said look, ‘I don't know and the dog's in terrible shape and we are going to take it to the RCMP.’"
Ivunirjuk says he spoke to an RCMP officer at the time, who told him his dog would be returned the next day, but that didn’t happen and Ivunirjuk still doesn’t know where she is.
RCMP in Iqaluit say they’re looking into the matter.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified Michael Ivunirjuk as an RCMP officer. In fact it is Ian Kaulback who is the RCMP officer on paid leave.