Tribute to a Lord of the Ice
Tribute to a Lord of the Ice
With a paw up in the air, a tilted head, hopping about, that is how Zagrey greeted us in the morning, always even tempered and with a kindness second to none even when Ticksy pinched his place… He was our guardian on the ice field, faithful companion, nearly with a human look in his eyes. This Siberian “White Fang” would bark to point out the presence of bears, seals or cracks in the ice. This tireless woofer protected us against hazardous encounters in the cold of the polar night. During the drift, he became our floe wanderer, going from here to there and teaching the young Ticksy the job of camp guard.
Zagrey, this old 11-year old dog, joined the exhibition with Etienne Bourgois in September 2006 in the town of Tiksy. This pure breed Yakut dog from Khatanga near the eastern point of Taymiria, was a descendant of a renowned Yakut leika (his father had been filmed in a Russian television series), and had been trained to protect man from bears. Having suffered an injury to one of his paws by one of these whilst defending our polar base, we had to stitch up his wound with the help of the doctor. Zagrey often found himself on the wrong side of the cracks, and we then had to rescue him. His kindness, his gentleness towards mankind made him a full member of our team. I recall moments when the blizzard blew strongly and he was sleeping in the wind engulfing the Tara always on the alert, letting himself be slowly snowed in albeit restlessly watching over our safety. When the bears got too close, we had to tie him up because he could chase them for miles to force them away from our camp. When our hands got cold, his thick white and grey fur was the best warmer in the Arctic.
At the end of the expedition, and while we passed through Spitsbergen, we left him with Eric and France on “Vagabond” to spend his last years in well-deserved retirement in the immaculate world of ice and snow where he had always lived. This companion, half dog and half wolf from the large Siberian areas, was subject to seasickness and would, whilst sailing, find refuge in the small bridge of the Tara, leaving little room for the man on watch.
I saw him again, and we spent four months together during this winter onboard “Vagabond” in the Ingledfield bay. He immediately recognised us, and became a very close companion for my son Nael, who entrusted him to warn us when Father Christmas came around. When we went out testing the ice or wandering on the ice bank, I enjoyed his reassuring and expert presence as an ice field dog. When we parted in January last, I promised him that we would meet again. However, yesterday on board Vagabond, Eric found near the kennel a bear against which Zagrey, tied up, could not defend himself. He now rests near an iceberg, and will drift away this coming Summer towards dogs’ world.
In Russian, Zagrey means “keep me warm”, and it is true that, from a mental point of view, his presence always reassured us during the drift. Anyone who ever knew him is aware of the total dedication of this dog to mankind.
To Zaguou, Lord of these wild lands where the fight for survival is merciless.
Thank you for having been with us and protecting us.
Never shall we forget you.
Hervé Bourmaud, Tara Captain