Corey Duffel - Long Live Crash Dog
Interview Kevin Wilkins
Photography Jai Tanju
We the people, in order to form a more perfect union, share an exceptional bond with our canine companions. We see our best in all their puppiness and dogginess, and we hope to provide a life for them that’s as ego free, as loyal, and as loving as the one they present to us.
It’s mutual, you could say. Magnetism, instincts, determination, style—we are our dogs; our dogs are us.
And so, in celebration of Corey Duffel’s longtime henchman, Crash Dog, and their unlikely, deviant partnership, Devium is releasing our Crash Dog Tee, the proceeds from which will help support Lake Tahoe Wolf Rescue—a non-profit that rescues abused and abandoned wolves and wolf hybrids.
Corey spoke with us about his fallen sidekick, the struggle of their final days together, and what it’s like to live in service of your best friend’s love and companionship.
Long live the Crash Dog.
Tell us the Crash Dog story.
Well, before Crash Dog, my first dog was Wrecks—he’s a German Shepherd I rescued from the pound when he was a puppy. For the first year it was just Wrecks and me. Everywhere I went, he went. Later, we had a rescued, wolf/malamute hybrid named Saki, too.
Anyway, I was down in Murrieta and it was too hot to skate. A hundred degrees—just desert—and I was bored. I thought, “I’m going to go check out dogs.” I’m not sure why, but I ended up at the pound and I saw this puppy—a little tiny dog with gigantic paws. He looked like a cartoon character. He was all light gray, but with a big, black face and big, black paws.
I remember his name was Monty. I thought, “This dog’s not a Monty.” Because he was all over the place ... crashing into everything. “This is the Crash Dog.” His paperwork said, "Monty, two-and-a-half-month-old wolf/German Shepherd." That was kind of intriguing. So I asked, ”What’s up with this guy?”
They said, “Oh, the owners turned him in. They couldn’t control him. He’s a wolf hybrid.”
Of course, I said, “Sounds like a rad dog … like the kind of dog I want.”
And so I take this dog back home. It was seven hours. He’s pissing in the car. Shitting in the car. He’s chewing up things in the back seat, trying to escape through the window, trying to post up in shotgun, like, “What’s up, dude?”
I’m thinking, “What the fuck did I get myself into? I have a perfectly rad dog at home and here I am with this Crash Dog.” But I was attracted to him because he was so neat. He was like the Bumpuses’ dogs in A Christmas Story—the ones who run in and just eat the whole turkey. He was a motherfuckin’ piece of work.
I remember his name was Monty. I thought, “This dog’s not a Monty.” Because he was all over the place ... crashing into everything. “This is the Crash Dog.”
Do you think Wrecks and Crash had an effect on each other’s behavior?
Absolutely. All of the sudden, Wrecks started lashing out a little bit because he saw this other dog getting away with it: “You guys are treating this dog like royalty and he’s being a jackass. What is going on here?”
I think Wrecks was like, “I never thought about this good stuff. I’m going to rebel and have fun, too.” And Crash Dog was a trip because he still looked up to Wrecks like the older brother, but Crash was almost twice his size. At a year old, he was 110 pounds. He was a beast. He could jump a seven-foot-tall fence. He dug a den in our backyard. Wrecks was a lot more domesticated, but Crash wanted to be outside all night, howling at the moon—straight-up chasing things. He killed skunks. He killed raccoons. He killed squirrels. If it moved, he wanted to eat it.
People have instincts that drive us to get food, companionship, or things we think are important. But we also have a filter.
This guy had no filter ’til his later years. There were a few years of him being nightmare dog. That’s what made him so fun. He was this big, lovable, goofy, nightmare dog. But also the most gentle, sweetest dog in the world.
I don’t know much about the condition Crash had: Degenerative Myelopathy? What is DM?
It’s a degenerative neurological thing ... like doggie MS. There’s no cure for it. They don’t know why it happens or how it happens, other than the fact that it’s a neurological disease.
What were the first signs that he had DM?
My parents were watching the dogs, and my wife Rachel and I went to pick them up. My parents have three German Shepherds, and I thought they’d been beating up on Crash Dog ’cause he was limping. We didn’t really think much of it, though, and took him on a hike in the foothills leading up to the mountain.
Kind of rugged terrain?
Very rugged. This is Crash’s domain. It’s where I’d take him maybe four times a week and he would run forever. I could let him off the leash and he would go tire himself out for five or six miles.
He’s pissing in the car. Shitting in the car. He’s chewing up things in the back seat, trying to escape through the window, trying to post up in shotgun...
But this time, we were watching him try to go up the hill and he couldn’t make it. In ten years, I’d never seen him struggle with any terrain, ever. I could hear him kind of whimpering and I ran to catch up to him. It was a steep incline and he was falling backward. I’m like, “What the heck is going on here?” So we ended the hike early. He was able to walk on flat surfaces and walk downhill, but it seemed like he didn’t have power in his back legs.
Over the next two months, as we took him for walks, he started to walk like a sidewinder. He swayed a little bit. He was using his front legs for everything. We finally took him to the vet and found out he had something called DM.
And their advice was, “Start thinking about putting him down?”
Yeah. And when you hear that, you’re thinking, “Dude, piss off. We’re not going to put our dog down.” But over a couple weeks, I could see the decline. It was getting worse and worse. He was starting to trip. And then a couple months into it, he was no longer able to stand up on his own.
For more than a year, we carried him everywhere we went. We would put a towel around him and lift him up.
You think he was aware of it?
He knew something wasn’t right. As long as he could walk a little bit, he still tried running, but he was tumbling. He would try to run full speed, and just burn out because his front legs worked but the back legs were in neutral. It sucked.
The first time I saw Crash, he was in his little cart.
Yeah. Crash had these wheels. My Uncle George has a weenie dog and it uses a doggy wheelchair to get around. We decided to try the same for Crash Dog.
We found a wheelchair that strapped on to his torso and it lifted up his back end. But he hated it. He still wanted to try to use his legs even though they didn’t really move. It was just his instinct.
At first, he couldn’t figure the thing out. He was flipping over. He wasn’t stoked. He was crying and not knowing what was going on. But we’d try it once a day: “Come on, Crash. You’re going to have fun.” And finally, after a month, he got the hang of it and realized, “Hey, these wheels are awesome. I can go outside now.” And we saw him actually be a dog again. He was so stoked, fully smiling, you know, wind in the face, tongue out, like, “Whoo! I’m a dog!”
A dog’s meant to be a dog.
Rachel and I were talking: “We can’t put him down. He’s not ready to give up.” He kept trying to fight.
Part of the companionship we have with dogs comes with the knowledge that we’re going to outlive our buddies.
It’s a pact with the devil. There’s going to be a day when Lucifer takes what he wants. You’re going to have the most amazing time with this creature, but then there’s going to come a time when he’s gone, like, they just bail out, you know? And you don’t realize how hard it is to say goodbye to an animal you love.
We can’t put Crash down. He’s not ready to give up. He kept trying to fight.
Tell me about Lake Tahoe Wolf Rescue.
Rachel and I had read about this foundation. They work with dogs who people can’t take care of anymore. A lot of people get these wolfdogs because they’re totally enamored by them. Wolfdogs are beautiful creatures. They’re majestic. But they’re wild animals. And it’s sad when an animal dies because somebody wanted something majestic, but couldn’t take care of it. Why should an animal get put down because someone was selfish? I don’t believe in that. I think it’s really cool that there are people who want to help with these animals. I wanted to help them, too.
Is that what the Crash Dog shirt is about—helping to support this wolf-rescue foundation?
Yeah. I hope dog lovers or skateboarders or even fans of the Crash Dog will think, “Oh, this shirt’s cool. I’ll buy one of these,” especially knowing it’s going toward a good cause. It’s crazy; I got the shirt yesterday. I didn’t realize ... I’m like, “Aww.” You know, choking up again. It makes me want to cry. I still think about Crash Dog every day, but seeing the photo and knowing it’s actually printed on a t-shirt, and knowing that friends and other people who didn’t even know the Crash Dog can buy this shirt, I’m like, “Wow, this is pretty heavy.”
How did you make the decision to let Crash go?
I’d flaked on this vet three times, but when she finally came by, she told us, “I get it. Now I see why you couldn’t do it. This guy does not want to go, but physically he has to.”
I said, “I know. But I would have carried this dog until I couldn’t walk anymore.” And that’s what it was becoming. I was throwing my back out taking care of this guy-even up until he died he was still 95 pounds. So I’m lifting him everywhere—every morning—to go pee; I’m holding him up by one hand and pushing in on his bladder to make him go.
So, yeah. We put him down. And it was a trip because Wrecks was in the garage hanging out with us. He knew something was up. Right before Crash’s lethal injection, Wrecks was watching from about twenty feet away and he came over, sniffed Crash’s face, and put his paw on him. It was like he was saying goodbye to his buddy. Then he let out a little howl and walked inside and disappeared.
Wrecks was sulking for the first couple weeks—he was totally mourning—but now it’s like he’s a puppy again. For the last year, he wasn’t able to get out and do much, because all the focus was on the Crash Dog. But now he’s like, “Dude, it’s you and me! This rules. I get to go everywhere with you again.” He’s doing better now than he has in the past couple years.
But he’s twelve. It sucks knowing that he has a year, maybe two at best. We’ll have to go through this all over again. It’s going to be the worst. And you can’t try to find another dog like that. It’s not going to be the same.
I just have to remember all the good times we had. That’s the thing: Crash Dog brought so many rad memories into my life. And there’s no way he could have had a cooler life. This guy met so many rad, cultured people ... all the different stories he heard from pro skateboarders, rock stars, all the killer records he got to hear, Rachel playing music. This dog loved being a part of the pack. Wherever I was, he was there, too. He was like, “Oh, you’re listening to records? I’m going to come in and listen to records with you.”
I’m thinking, if this dog was Monty, his life could have sucked. But he was the Crash Dog and we had a kick-ass time.
Support Lake Tahoe Wolf Rescue by purchasing your Crash Dog Memorial Tee here.
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