Doc, the patriarch of our kennel, gave up the ghost on Tuesday after a long battle with a stomach tumor. He was 13, and will be deeply missed.
Doc came to us as a retiree from another musher. We fell in love with him at his previous home. He was just a beautiful dog with a fantastic drive and personality. He had an all white coat and blue eyes which is extremely rare to see, but captivating to look at. After her turned eight, the musher gave him to us to live out his life, and he has been with us for the past five years.
His contributions to the kennel are many. Doc, along with Karma (who died earlier this year, and is in the photo at the bottom. Karma is in lead and Doc is in wheel in this shot), taught many of our dogs how to lead, including Doc’s own pups, all seven of which went on to be leaders themselves, and two of which finished the Yukon Quest with Cole last winter as two year olds. Apparently they had their dad’s strength and stamina, since Doc was part of the winning team in the 2001 Yukon Quest, and then went on the run the Iditarod just a month later.
The passing of Doc is sad on many levels. He was one of the most personable dogs we have even known. All the other dogs in the kennel just adored him for some reason, as was evident when they were loose. Most will run to visit one of their buddies, but that’s about it, but all checked in with Doc every time they were off. Doc was equally friendly and spent his last few months loose as a “Yard Dog”. He would wander around visiting each dog, even other males, and he enjoyed collecting bones and toys. Right up until his death he loved to play, and just 24 hours before he died, we snuck photos of him from the house as he played with a stuffed chew bone with the zest of a six month old puppy.
We have a lot of memories with Doc. He was the lead dog for Joseph’s first race, a two-day 40 miler back in 2006. Doc also served as the leader for several sprint races with Cole and even went with her brother Will in races on occasion. Although Doc’s history with the Kenai Morrow’s is sorted.
During a skijor race with Will once, Doc got startled when Will called Haw. Doc must not have recognized the voice and he immediately did a 180 causing Will to crash and the skijor belt to unlock. We stood in the starting chute waiting to see them both, when suddenly by himself we just saw Doc run by in a blur on his way back to the dog truck. Doc also left a lasting impression on Will’s wife Kristen. Two years ago Doc had to have a toe removed, but we had an appointment in Anchorage that day, so Kristen agreed to pick Doc up from the vet. We left a kennel there so she wouldn’t lose Doc, but it wouldn’t fit in her car, so she just had him ride along. HOwever, once home she attempted to take him out by the collar, but Doc, even in his old age and still half groggy on anesthesia, was way too strong for her. He pulled away, dragging her for a bit, and then ran off. He was on the lam for the whole night, but the next morning our friend Sara Armstrong helped get him back, not much worse for the wear surprisingly. he just had to have his toe stitches put back in.
Doc’s strength was always amazing. I remember another time we encountered an aggressive moose in the swamp. Joseph took out a pistol and went to the front of the team to fire a warning shot. Doc was in lead and the entire team of 12 dogs was hammering their harness to get at this moose, but when the gun went off, Doc proved stronger than all of them and turned the whole team around by himself to run from the loud band of the pistol.
Doc was always a good boy though, and he loved eating as much as running. He was one of only two dogs (the other is his brother Bashful) I have even seen eat an entire pig skull in one meal. We get them from the butcher annually and pass them out, and most dogs will eat all the meat away and gnaw at the bone a bit, but Doc, with his strong jaws, literally buzzed through the entire thing.
Doc was just amazing He was one of those rare dog’s that had it all: good looks, good build, good drive, good stamina, good appetite, good personality with other dogs and good feet. There was nothing he couldn’t do. he was the complete package.
He left a lasting impression on us and will forever be missed, but never forgotten. As a friend, a pet and a sled dog, a better dog there never was.