Wednesday, 4 April 2012

THE Man

My 10 1/2 year old man Crunchie has certainly been the talk of many folks on our Facebook page during Iditarod. I thought that since that was the case I would tell Crunchie's 'story' to everyone.

Crunchie was one of our 'Chocolate Bar' pups out of my all time favorite dog, Grover and a cool little black girl named Visa.


Adorable Crunchie pup

He is named for the 'Canadian' chocolate bar Crunchie, a delicious chocolate covered piece of sponge toffee.

Tasty... but not adorable


Crunchie was my favorite pup from that litter even as a very young dog. His cool dark markings and awesome personality just shone for me.

As a 2 year old Crunchie made my 2003 Iditarod team. He was the only one of his litter to do that and he set his own 'bar' for things to come.

Since that first season Crunchie has been a key player in almost all my dog teams. He has NEVER BEEN INJURED OR DROPPED in any race he has run. I've referred to him over the years as my 'Iron Dog'.

This summer the 'Iron Dog' turned 10. Ten dog years, which is about the equivalent of 65 - 70 human years, is pretty darn old for a competitive athlete, forget a competitive distance runner.
Crunchie had nothing left to prove to anyone - especially not me. I knew what an amazing animal and athlete he was. With sadness at the loss of a valued team mate I announced that he was retired.

One small problem....I forgot to tell Crunchie.

In fall training I routinely start off running everybody in the yard - yearlings, two year olds, main string dogs and recently retired dogs. As the pace and distance of the runs increases, the young and old normally falter a bit and are cut from the 'pool' leaving me with the best athletes in the yard by the time races roll around.

Last year was no different. Recently 'retired' Crunchie began training and was doing well. So well in fact that when the rest of the retirees were cut, he was doing well enough that he wasn't cut.
Time came to make the final selections for the 24 that were going on the dog truck to Alaska and low and behold, Crunchie was in that group.

I well expected that even though he was making the trip to Alaska, he likely wouldn't make the Iditarod team. And honestly, I was okay with that. I adore that black dog and any excuse to have him around was good in my books!!

Photo by Tony Turner


As training in Alaska progressed it began to look like Crunch wasn't going to give me an 'easy out' and give me an excuse to cut him. I fretted alot about the decision. I didn't want to set him up to fail. I respect him far too much to do that to him.

Finally Richard was able to help me put things in perspective and when restart day for the Iditarod came around Crunchie was harnessed up and ready to roll.

For the next 13 days he gave me a detailed lesson in humility. That dog that I had written off as 'too old' proceeded to lay down the best Iditarod of his career.

Every checkpoint when I stepped out of the building to start getting the team ready to go Crunch was watching for me. He was always the first dog on his feet and ready to hit the trail. He never struggled or showed his age even a bit. He was a star.

I was proud of him before, but now.....I can't even begin to explain how proud I am of him now.



Crunchie will be eleven in June. I have discussed things with him and he is now officially retired.

As breeder, one of the things that takes a dog from greatness to legendary status his their ability to produce offspring as good or better then themselves. Crunchie is producing fantastically. Two children from his first litter were in my Iditarod team this year - Turtle, who I named my 'Rookie of the Year' and Smartie, who led me across the finish line in lead. 



In my books he is a legend. I am honored to know him.

21 comments:

Andre & Natalie van der Merwe - Snowdrift Siberians said...

What a wonderful tribute to a dog in a million...from his best friend and musher... :)

The Heartbeats said...

Wow! I love him! What an amazingly tough dog you have there!

Mamma Heartbeat

Caron said...

Stunning words Karen, and was reading your blog as you were fretting with your choice. Glad you let him run though. Enjoy the retirement Crunchie its an absolute priviege to have seen a little bit of you in Iditarod. :-)

Sparkee Spud said...

An amazing athlete! No better way to end a career than on a great Iditarod race!

Michelle said...

He is an amazing dog and my favorite that you own.

Gillian Kirby said...

You've brought tears to my eyes, Karen. How fortunate you both are to be with each other. He's as proud of you as you are of him.

SAY said...

Wow, what a tribute, what a dog. So glad he ended his career in harness in "The Last Great Race."

Anonymous said...

Are you sure he REALLY understands what the word "retirement" means?

Congratulations, Crunchie, for a stupendous job!

Marcia from PA

Barbara said...

I remember looking for and buying a Crunchie bar in Alberta in 2008, in honor of The Man. Not sure he was known as The Man then; little did I know what a legend he would become! Congratulations to him and to you, Karen.

Susan Scofield said...

Opal and Granite say Congratulations to their Uncle Crunchie! We Love You!!

Belle, with a side of courage said...

Karen, I love how you describe yourself as humbled by what you learned from this amazing guy this year. Every day I am humbled by what I learn from my Siberian, and I am perpetually grateful that we've been made guardians for one another.

granimar said...

When I first met Karen [in the flesh !!] It was our first stop at North Wapiti [on our way to Whitehorse]. The Soda Pop Litter [#I and 6 weeks old] and the Chocolate Candy Bar kids were 11 weeks old----what a phenominal treat. Free walked pups, fed Candy Bar kids. What a visit. Crunchie what a thrill to have met you as a youngster and watch you grow. What a REAL guy you are. It's an honor to be a teensy part of your world.
Stand tall big boy.

granimar said...

When I first met Karen [in the flesh !!] It was our first stop at North Wapiti [on our way to Whitehorse]. The Soda Pop Litter [#I and 6 weeks old] and the Chocolate Candy Bar kids were 11 weeks old----what a phenominal treat. Free walked pups, fed Candy Bar kids. What a visit. Crunchie what a thrill to have met you as a youngster and watch you grow. What a REAL guy you are. It's an honor to be a teensy part of your world.
Stand tall big boy.

thecrazysheeplady said...

As a newbie to this whole sled dog thing, Crunchie immediately got my attention and I love this tribute. Thanks :-).

Pat & Mark from MN said...

Batdog and Junior send their congratulations to Crunchie and say: "We are honored that we got to run Iditarod with you in 2006, '07 and '08. Happy retirement."

bakavi said...

So NICE!

Pat in MN said...

Oh, and how could we forget to mention that Junior is another "star" offspring of Grover's??

Becky and Husky Ryn, from Iowa, U.S.A. said...

These 'old' ones are wonderful, still teaching about stamina, perserverence, patience, dedication and love..........
It brings tears to my eyes to read about how Crunchie has shared all that and more with you. I once had a 'crunchie' in my life.....and no matter how many huskies I shall ever own, he will always be "The blue-eyed love of my life!"

Becky and Husky Ryn, from Iowa, U.S.A. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Becky and Husky Ryn, from Iowa, U.S.A. said...

These seniors have much to teach - patience, perserverence, understanding, and most of all love. It brings a tear to my eye to see what Crunchie is still sharing with you, Karen. You know how fortunate you are to have him in your life! I once had a version of Crunchie in my own life. And no matter how many huskies I shall ever own, he will always remain "The blue-eyed love of my life". He's the man who taught ME that Siberians are the only breed for me....aren't we fortunate to share our lives with such a special breed?!

Anonymous said...

Karen, What a wonderful, wonderful tribute to THE MAN! I was moved by your sensational writing. Crunchie truly is a shining star & what an ending to a very illustrious career! I fell like I know him because of reading so much about him over the years. He certainly has won a piece of my heart. As have many of your other curly tails. Such magnificence, respect & loyalty you & Chunchie have for each other. You are the light that guides that star! Happy Easter to the whole gang & again congratulations on your Iditarod finish! Hugs Sitka's Mom, Lisa(ColsOH)