The Best Sherpa in Churchill: Brian Ladoon

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In small towns, everyone knows each other. In a northern town like Churchill with a population of 700, that’s definitely the case.  You know, when you ask someone about someone it ends up being a response similar to this: “Oh, I know Peggy from the end of the street, and Wally from the lodge.” And that’s enough.

We wanted a real account of someone who has survived, struggled and lived in Churchill, and we heard that there was an interesting mix of personalities to interview.  So we decided to get a word-of-mouth recommendation and pick someone based on that.

Our candidate? Brian Ladoon, a world-class dog handler, witch doctor, stonemason, cemetery worker and film crew Sherpa. Something in that order.  When we pulled up to Brian’s dusty F-150 truck, the scene felt like it was out of a Hollywood movie: We were doing a drug-bust and something intense was going to go down.

Peeking out from underneath his wide-framed black sunglasses, Brian’s face was blotchy and red; the years of hard work, and harder play creased into the folds around his eyes.  His long, grey locks appeared to be bleached and had a yellowish tinge, but then it could’ve just been the chlorine or the cold weather.  He wears a thin, handmade black rubber headband across his forehead and lights up a Player’s Smooth every other minute.

I’m pretty sure if I didn’t know who he was, I’d be a bit intimidated to meet him in a dark alley, but then you sit down to talk to him, and he is this absolute ray of sunshine. He is unhurried, unfiltered and deliberate, he loves life, he loves his dogs even more, and he has made a point of not following the rules. He got into the dog business because he’s a failed deckhand, and because painting portraits kept him inside too much. With his high school degree completed, he taught himself everything he knows today.

The man is genius. “We set up a foundation for the dogs,” he says proudly.  “There is website and one of their portraits even made it onto a Royal Canadian Mint silver coin.” He took us to Mile 5 where the bigger dogs are chained up. Wolf-like cries and endless barking filled the air as soon as we arrived.  The dogs couldn’t wait to jump on him, rub up against him, nibble on his fingers and one of them practically shoved him over in his excitement.

To me, this was the turning point.  I really saw through Brian.  I didn’t see a wacky, out-of-this-world guy anymore who talked about extraterrestrial invasions or the fact that he only eats 27 foods.  I saw a little boy, whose face lit-up with joy when his dogs greeted him. Crouching down, he kissed them on their faces and cooed at them. He melted at the sight of his precious dogs.

It seems to me that few people could understand Brian.  In fact, the way Brian described some of his dogs (he has 160 of them) he almost seems to be describing himself in them.  “They’re friendly, good dogs, but there is always that one pup that won’t come when you call him. He’s the social deviant. And those usually turn out to be the best dogs in the end.”

Check out Brian Ladoon’s site for more information about he dogs and how you can donate to his foundation.

While I’m a contributor to We Blog the World, the below blog post  is the copyright of the Canadian Tourism Commission.  Please link back and credit all content used to Canada is a Big Place.  You can also check us out on Flickr and @biglaceblog.

Victoria Revay
Victoria Revay is a broadcaster, journalist and on-air personality. She has worked at BCTV on the Global Desk and regularly filled in for Pia Shandel's show on CFUN 1410 am as a radio producer.

She was channel editor, citizen-journalism hustler and video presenter for Now Public, has appeared as a new media expert and trend/lifestyles expert on shows such as City TV's Breakfast Television, CKNW 980, CBC radio and the Leo Laporte Show on G4Tech TV.
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