Leader of the Pack

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Part adventurer, part showman Arthur T. Walden of Wonalancet, New  Hampshire, dazzles the crowd with his sled dog Chinook at the Winter Carnival in Portland in this photograph published on the front page of the Evening Express on February 11, 1922, the same year that the intelligent, loyal canine led Walden’s team to victory in the first Eastern International Dog Derby, a 123-mile race. Then 5 years old, Chinook, bred from a mastiff stray and a descendant of Admiral Robert Peary’s Greenland husky Polaris, was on his way to becoming the most famous dog in America. His future achievements would include leading the  first dog team ascent of Mount Washington, a treacherous undertaking that many had  considered impossible.

In 1928, Walden, Chinook, and 13 of the aged dog’s sons joined Commander Richard Byrd’s expedition to Antarctica. “There was no doubting the fact that he was a great dog,” Byrd would later write. “Walden used him as kind of a ‘shock troop,’ throwing him into harness when the going turned very hard. Then the gallant heart of the old dog would rise above the years and pull with the glorious strength of a 3-year-old.” But the journey proved too much for Chinook. One night he wandered from camp. He was never found.

In 1940, the Chinook dog, a gentle, hardworking breed that traces its bloodline to Walden’s Chinook, was acquired by Perry Greene of Waldoboro, who asserted strict proprietary rights, selling only spayed females. After Greene died, the already small population of Chinooks dwindled. By 1981, there were only 12 dogs. Richard Skoglund, the current owner of Perry Greene Kennel, is among a group of breeders who have since worked to build up the breed, which now numbers about 800 Chinooks. — V.M.W.

 

Photo Collections of Maine Historical Society/MaineToday Media

Virginia M. Wright is the senior writer at Down East.

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