Thursday, 13 November 2014

In Memory of Brittany Handler

Many sled dog kennels have handlers come and go without a lot of notice. The handlers have entirely separate living quarters and most of the interaction they have with the 'human family' is in the dog yard. That is not us. The handlers who come volunteer for us over the winter eat, live and work alongside us (especially me) every day. Most come back for a second (or third or even fourth) stint with us. Basically they become family.

On Wednesday we lost one of our family - Brittany Butt. Brittany leaves behind her husband, Jeff and her adorable young son, Teige. So very tragic.

Brittany first came to the kennel in the fall of '11 for 2 months and then again for the winter of 12/13. She seemed to pop up frequently when we were in Alaska to help out too, both in 2012 and last winter.

Over that time Mark and I had the privilege of watching Brittany transition from a lovely young woman to a wife and mother. 

Our memories of Brittany are many. She had a big, bright, often and easily offered smile - and no trouble laughing at herself. Which was good, as she was one of the most uncoordinated handlers I've ever had. I remember suggesting she not wear shorts in the house as the multitude of bruises she was always sporting was slightly disturbing. She took great pride in them all - even if she couldn't remember where they all came from. 

I came to rediscover biking during Brittany's stay here. I was shocked to find out she didn't know how to ride a bike, so gave her my old one. She crashed a lot, but didn't give up. When she moved to Alaska, she took the bike with her and contacted me last summer looking for recommendations for a more comfortable seat for it. I was happy that she was on the seat enough that that was a concern for her!

There are also a lot of 'food memories' around Brittany. She was always appreciative of the food put in front of her and like one of my sled dogs, ate with enthusiasm and enjoyment. Mark and she could polish off a 9 x 13" pan of chocolate zucchini cake in a startlingly short amount of time. Nice to know your cooking/baking is appreciated.
She also had a huge fondness for Canadian chocolate bars. If I was running errands in town without her, throwing an Aero bar into the cart would be sure to bring out a big smile when I got home.

And then, of course, there are the dogs. She had nicknames for most of them - and a number of them like 'Etch a Sketch' for little Skecher have become part of the kennel language.
The dogs were often a source of her bruises and crashes - like the time the front end of my 16-dog main string knocked her off her feet and dragged her down Highway 2 trying to get after the disgusting carcass of a road killed moose - but she never held it against them (and they didn't get the moose either!).

Brittany tolerantly dealing with young and enthusiastic Chewie!

Super handlers Helen, Simone and Brittany helping me get organized for the 2013 Eagle Cap Extreme.

Keeping her high maintenance traveling partner, Bet, happy on the way to the 2013 Canadian Challenge. 

Chris Smith - another of our extended family - and Brittany at our 2014 Alaska Open House.
About to dye her hair 'kennel colours' in '13

Helping load straw bales in '11

That Brittany smile.

Camping with the team in '11

Some of the cartoons Brittany (also known as Briffany when Bet got her name wrong) inspired by her misadventures at the kennel. She was such a good sport about being cartooned for them.

We are all shocked and in mourning at Brittany's passing. We wish courage and strength to Jeff and Teige as they deal with this all. And Brittany, from the bottom of ALL our hearts, we hope you are at peace.

With love and sadness,


Unknown said...

I have laughed and cried the past few days as my heart has broken for Karen, Mark, Jeff, Teige and everyone else she touched with her wonderful spirit. I pray all those she left behind can soon leave the intense pain of her loss behind and replace it with peace that passes all understanding and joy of the fond memories. also that they feel her presence with them. May Teige know his mommy through all those who loved her. Hugs and many thanks to you Karen for sharing your life so openly with the rest of us that we were also blessed by "knowing" her through you.

debrazone said...

I'm so very sorry for the loss of Brittany. The author "unknown" above has conveyed my thoughts and feelings very well. Karen, thank you for this lovely tribute on your blog; through it you have given some of us a chance to know Brittany.
- Deb Thorkelson

Helen Johnson said...

Brittany has left a lovely legacy of memories and smiles behind. Thank you Karen, for posting such a beautiful tribute to a very special lady.

Anonymous said...

Brittany that "gorgeous" smile of yours could light up a room....Im greatful for the kindness shown to me by you, even if only from a few interactions...You always had the funkiest dog show outfits, I loved your gusto and style. Your passing has touched me profoundly and Im terribly sorry for your family's pain at your passing. I believe there is only a veil separating us from those we love and have gone on ahead to our final destination. One day we'll see you in the eternal homeland again where many happy dog handlers and our favorite canines inhabit. I hope you have lots of Aero bars, a great saddle seat bike and only the best for freinds until we see you again...LOVE ...

Anonymous said...

Lovely tribute to a lovely, too-short life.
Blessings, Jane

Sandrina said...

takenThis is a lovely tribute to Brittany. From day 1 we met Brittany in VA with her dog Shinkirou she would say all she wanted to do was move to Alaska and run sled dogs. I am glad she got to fulfill some of that dream.Thanks to you Karen she got to enjoy what she wanted to do.The world lost her too soon. We will miss you Brittany!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this tribute with all of us who knew Brittany through you. I'm so sorry the loss of such a beautiful soul. May she rest in peace and her family, including NW Kennels, find comfort.