Monday, 20 March 2017

Ch.NorthWapiti's Crunchie

I wanted to convey my most grateful thanks to all of you who have written and messaged over the last 10 days to express your sadness over the passing of Crunchie.

I have generally not replied, liked or even acknowledged anything and I wanted to make it clear that it was not because I am ungrateful or don't care, but rather that I just CAN'T. We all grieve in our own way - and my way is often to withdraw. Please don't take it personally, it is not intended like that.

I don't think I can write a little memorial page for him as I usually do with the passing of one of my dogs, but I did have some things that I think were important to say about him - some for the folks with his offspring and his future offspring (a few folks have collected and stored semen on him) - and some for me.

I don't have some great breakout memory of one day recognizing his potential as a puppy. With him it was more like a jigsaw piece clicking into place. Without effort or force he just became part of me and part of the team.

Many have commented about the loss of my 'leader' - but in fact, I don't consider him a 'lead dog'. In a pinch, he could get the job done, but it was rare that I put him up front. Despite that, he made any dog team he was in better. I don't understand how, but I really didn't need to. He was just a different sort of 'leader'.

He ran his first Iditarod at 2 1/2 years of age. He ran his last Iditarod, and probably his best, at 10 1/2 years of age.

He ran just about every race with me from 2004 to 2012. He was never injured, sick or dropped in any of those races - and I could likely count on one hand the number of times he had booties on.  I think he embodied the toughness of Siberians of old.

Crunchie resting in McGrath in '12 at 10 1/2 years of age

One year the Discovery channel came out to film us for a series on Iditarod they were doing. Inevitably, they asked the question, "who is your favourite dog?". I took them over to meet Crunch. The cameraman got in tight for a head shot and Crunchie fixated his dark eyes on him - or so the cameraman thought. When he got in close Crunch struck like a cobra and ripped the fuzzy cover off the microphone. It took some doing to get it back.

Weeks later when they were filming us in Rainy Pass on Iditarod, the same cameraman tried to get Crunchie to do the same thing. Crunchie looked at me and looked back at the cameraman with a look that CLEARLY said "can't you see I'm working". The cameraman didn't get his shot.

Retirement never suited him. This is him in his teens singing the blues because I was out with a team.

After his first Iditarod I got the harebrained idea to take him to a dog show. He was what I thought a Siberian should look like, so why not show him?
I promised him that if he thought it was foolish, I'd never ask him again but the second he figured out that you just stood there and got fed, he was on board.

He finished his Canadian Championship with a Group 2nd.

The year I took him to the US Nationals I clearly remember being in the Open Dog class. It was a huge class and I had no expectation of placing with my little old sled dog.

The judge went over him, commented on his lovely shoulders and sent us to the front of the line.  It wasn't until the next few exhibitors came over and counted back to insert themselves in the line that it occurred to me that the judge was putting us in the order she intended to place us - and we were up front.

I got stressed and attempted, to Crunchie's dismay, to place his feet like a show dog. He brushed me off and put his feet back where he wanted them. I took the hint and was just a puppet on the end a show leash from then on. HE won the class.

Those stories - and many more - about Crunch make me smile, for sure - and I'm proud of the things he accomplished in his life, but none of them are the reason I grieve so deeply for him.

I'm stealing something that my dear friend Simone wrote to me after hearing the news of Crunch's passing. I didn't ask her permission, but I don't think she'll mind.

"I went through all my photos to check if I find a great photo of him. I realized, I took selfies with almost all the dogs - except Crunchie. He was always your dog, and he sure let me know this - he was quite reserved around most handlers (well, all the ones I met) but as soon as you came in the yard - he was totally focused on you! ❤️ a once in a lifetime relationship!"

I have spent the last 16 years with those little black eyes boring into me. I have deeply loved many dogs, but I have never known one that I felt more connected to.

Simone's right: he was not a super affectionate, cuddly dog. He didn't give kisses, he hated hugs, and he NEVER wanted to be pampered. His way of connecting was to stare into my eyes and sniff my face. Correction, stare into my soul and sniff my face.

I can't count the number of times I'd be puttering in the dog yard and look up to catch him lying somewhere he could stare at me. On our last Iditarod, I swear he was sitting up staring at the door of the checkpoint every time I walked out.

In 2007 flying home from Grayling after losing his sister (Snickers), the dogs were all behind me on the small plane, necklines snapped into cargo netting - I turned around in my seat as we got ready to take off to make sure everyone was settled. Some were fussing, some lying down, and Crunch was sitting straight up staring at me. We locked eyes - and I'm not really sure I know who was comforting who in that moment.


In the Vet Clinic that final day, I sat on the floor with him waiting for Tannis (Dr. Jackson) to come in. He locked eyes with me and we sniffed moments before she did. I couldn't look in his eyes as he passed - I feared the light going away would suck my soul out with it.

He was my teammate, my partner and my friend. I will grieve his passing always.

Ch. NorthWapiti's Crunchie
June 6, 2001 - March 10th, 2017


Khyra And Sometimes Her Mom said...

I more than understand...

All too well, he embodies that trite but true 'grief is the price we pay for love' -

We'll send extra light his way tonight when we light our 'khandle' -

Khyra and Her Mom Phyll

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

I love that you promised him if he felt 'showing' was foolish, you would never ask him again. I can relate. I've never met you, nor Crunchie, but it is precisely the relationship you two shared that I have often admired. The ones that understand us, and whom we understand are the most difficult to lose - even as we try to prepare ourselves for that time. I don't believe I've ever met two souls who belonged together more than the two of you. What an impact the relationship you two shared has made on so many of us. All of our love. And thank you for sharing him with us...........

The Thundering Herd said...

We are all so terribly saddened by your loss of such an awesome dog.

And I do understand your approach to grieving. We each do that differently and in your own way. No need to acknowledge the messages.

Thinking of you and everyone at North Wapiti.

Marilyn said...


Unknown said...

No words except to say thank you for letting us glimpse into such a wonderer and personal relationship. I to am one to withdraw when grieving.

Adella said...

I once had a similar dog and your tribute to Crunchie hit home and made me cry. As the years have passed I have come. To realize what a privilege it was to have had that relationship. We love all our dogs but there is always that very special one. Thinking of you.

Painter Pack said...

Well said and understood. I am very sorry for your loss and very grateful that you had so many wonderful years and memories. But they are never enough.

Take care.

Amalia Cochran said...

Karen, your relationship with this fine man (and Bet's storytelling) were what got me hooked on following your blog and Facebook. Thank you for sharing your heart and your dogs with us. It's a privilege.

Lori Lee said...

Oh Karen, your love, your words to express it are pure and beautiful no doubt about your bond with Crunchie and his devotion and love for you

Jane and The Pack said...

I always remember the time I was at a Siberian Specialty show in California. I saw a dog across the parking lot who took my breath away. I made a beeline for him, and was greeting him and admiring him, when I looked up and saw you on the other end of the leash. I had followed your races and writing for years and looked forward to meeting you, but didn't even notice you at first in my admiration of Crunchie! He was not only a magnificent dog; he was a great soul. You are so lucky to have had the time with him <3

ElizabethMC said...

I remember meeting him at the meet and greet and Willow - his eyes were always on you. And no one but you. Not often that these relationships happen and they are to be treasured. The thing is - it hurt like H--- when they pass on. Thank you for sharing your memories and times with Crunchie. He is, was and always will be with you Karen! He will be the whistle in the wind, that bird song, the hawk in the sky, the new flowers of Spring. But most of all he will always be in your heart. I wish I could say it gets easier, but it doesn't. And I certainly relate to your style of grieving - just who I am too. Just know that you are loved = ALWAYS! Great Big Hugs!

Shutterbug said...

You stated at the beginning of this article that you did not feel you could write a memorial page for your dog - but to bare your soul about a special dog is one of the most touching memorials anyone can write. Many of us have had those "once in a lifetime" dogs, and as you said - they look right into your soul. My heart goes out to you, and know that in your heart, Crunchie will always be with you.

Kaos Siberians said...

Crunchie stayed in our setup during that of the proudest moments "Karen's letting him stay in our setup!" He didn't have to be "a leader" he was the leader...and the best leaders lead from where they are strongest.

My heart breaks for you...and rejoices that you had him in your life.

Denise Ledbetter said...

Love and respect...not always in that order, but intertwined. Your relationship with your dog's is a beautiful thing. I still feel my most special guys' stares and it's been been more than ten years!

Sue Crawford said...

Beautiful, beautiul, beautiful words portraying so vividly the strength of your relationship. I understand your pain... and celebrate your memories.

Pawsitive Pals Dog Training said...

I was at that same Nationals and as Jane said he really commanded admiration without commanding it! Such a presence and such a sweet soul. I'm glad you were able to share so many years with him but even 16 years isn't enough with our beloved dogs and soulmates. Thanks for sharing your memories of this awesome dog, Crunchie!

mgailt said...

I was saddened when I heard about Crunchie, but on the other hand, thought of the wonderful years you two had together, and the wonderful memories you'll always have of him. I only met him that once, at the Fort St. John show in Taylor, and fell in love immediately. Remember him with "gladness" for his having shared your life, NEVER with "sadness", because Crunchie wasn't that kind of a boy!

Pat said...

My favorite parts of all your blogs are about Crunchie. My favorites are the 2012 Iditarod. He looked so young and happy to be on the trail. And when he went to the Siberian show and kicked the behinds of the show dogs. He would have done the same at Westminster. How rude of them to have that show in the middle of mushing season.

Your words are elegant expressing your sorrow but also expressing the depth of your relationship with Crunchie so eloquently.

My deepest sympathies for your loss

Elaine Bartholomew said...

Thank you for putting into words, so eloquently, what some of us havealso felt for our dogs. Baring your soul can be one of the most painful things to do in life but also sometimes helps to relive the hurt just a little, Someday I want the honor of meeting all the dogs in the kennel. Through Karen we will all miss Crunchie.

thecrazysheeplady said...

I've been dreading this post :'-(

Libby the Lab said...

Beautiful tribute

Evelyn in Australia said...

So very hard to lose your 'heart dog'. I feel for you. ;-(

Marie Elks said...

Love hurts sometimes, especially when saying goodbye. Grief stays with us but in time it's joined by memories and smiles. I'm so sorry, Karen.