It’s early morning in Colorado, dark clouds dot the sky outside . . . sort of like how I am feeling right now. I have been sick the last few days, with the flu. However, this isn’t the reason I am feeling bummed out and sad, tears coming to my eyes as I type these words. Yesterday, my Mom told me my dog, Shasta had passed away while I was on my trip to Vietnam. Shasta was almost 15 years old. She explained that Shasta had been really sick the week before my trip, and they finally had to take her to the pet hospital on February 12th, where they put her to sleep. My mom made the right decision not telling me while I was away on my trip, as that would have really affected me while I was in Vietnam.
Both my mom and step dad, Dennis, were with Shasta when the vet put her down. I’m grateful she wasn’t alone when she left us. It’s hard to express my feelings right now, as I am still processing the fact she is gone and I will not see her during my trip to California in May. Instead, I will tell you why I loved Shasta and try not to dwell on her being gone . . .
On July 2nd, 2000, I got Shasta from the Park County Animal Shelter. Easy choice as her and I bonded immediately. Her bright eyes, wagging tail, and jumping on the shelter cage fence when I first glanced at her, sealed the deal. I decided to take a few days off, along with the 4th of July holiday to get acquainted with Shasta. We were inseparable, she went everywhere with me, riding in my jeep.
During the first few months of our friendship, I also started training her. Eventually, she was able to do many tricks, e.g., jump through a hula hoop, roll over, play dead, shake hands, guess which hand the treat was in, get on her haunches and beg, turn in a circle on command, etc. Hands down, the smartest dog I have ever seen or been around. My friend, Kris S., was the activity director at the Evergreen Care Center. She was so impressed with the tricks Shasta could do and consequently, she asked if I would bring Shasta to the center and entertain the senior residents? Of course I would . . . I was so proud of Shasta after her performance.
Shasta didn’t travel the world as much as I did, but she certainly wasn’t “provincial” either, e.g., going on many cross country trips with me, including a 3 month Western States and Canada (British Columbia) trip we did with my friend, Katie and her 2 dogs. Shasta also traveled to Arizona, where I visited my friends, Mary Lou and George Brown, as well as my cousins, Diana and Eric, in Sedona.
Shasta had many friends, as she befriended cats, dogs, and people equally. When I lived in Morrison at my mountain home, I would often travel and my friend, Rex, would watch her. Rex was like a second “father” to Shasta and I would be remiss without mentioning him and the love he showed Shasta. Rex’s home had over 40 acres and a pond too, i.e., Shasta loved roaming and exploring around Rex’s property. Others who have taken care of Shasta when I was on vacation or business travel, include Peter and Sue, Greg, Bob, Kerry, Elizabeth, Connie, and Kris. At the Mountain Club, I attended AA meetings and Shasta would undoubtedly accompany me. She became a regular fixture there and was practically adopted by the members of the club. Thank you all for the love and kindness you showed Shasta.
If Rex was like a second father to Shasta, my mom, Dolores, was like Shasta’s mother (grin) . . . In 2006, I was assigned by my employer, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, to Folsom Dam, Sacramento, California. This was going to be an extended detail and I brought Shasta along with me. Shasta stayed in Sunnyvale with my mom and Dennis, along with their two dogs, Dolly and Eddie, while I worked at Folsom. On the weekends I would visit them. During this time, my mom and Dennis lovingly took care of Shasta, taking her along for walks in the morning and afternoon, at the park near their house. A wonderful place because usually there would be 3-6 other pet owners at the park and Shasta was able to play with all these new friends. Fast forward 4 years later, I sold my mountain home and moved into a condo . . . Which Shasta absolutely hated. The first couple of weeks there, I could see this wasn’t going to work. Shasta loved my former mountain home, which had plenty of acreage. Frequently, she would visit her “boyfriends” at adjacent properties (much to my chagrin). In short, she was not going to be happy living in a condo. Rex would have lovingly taken her in, but my mom also offered her a home as well. Shasta was already 10 years old and although, she was still very active, I knew altitude took its toll on pets. It was an easy decision, as I remembered how much Shasta loved living at my mom’s house during my 2006 assignment to Folsom. Mom and Dennis, thank you so much for the love and care you have showed Shasta during these last 4 years.
Shasta has had some amazing adventures and comedic moments. During one hike, at the trail head entrance, she confronted a bull elk, where both of them stood nose to nose. With a low, soft voice, I said, “Shasta come here . . . don’t bark . . . come here Shasta.” Fortunately, they only had a “stare down” for about two minutes, before the bull elk got bored and walked away and Shasta stayed where she was. Whew!
Another time, I was working on my computer in my home office and I heard her incessant barking outside in the front of the house. I got up to investigate, using the house door to the garage and as I opened the door, I noticed two things; 1. Dog food all over the garage floor; and 2. A large, black furry butt sticking out of the garbage can I used to store Shasta’s dry dog food. Oh oh . . . Apparently, I had forgotten to close the large garage door and a bear decided to have dinner, with Shasta and I footing the bill. With one hand on the door to the house and on the top step of the 3 step landing to the garage, I yelled, “Hey, what the hell is going on here . . . ” The bear removed its head and body from the garbage can to investigate, then fully extended on hind legs, and roared back at me. Shasta continued to bark and I roared back too (actually, I think I used the F word really loud). Apparently, this was sufficient for the bear to run off. Believe it or not, this happened another time a couple of years later with a much larger bear, albeit, the bear was on my driveway and didn’t actually enter the garage. No, I didn’t “roar” back at this particular bear. Both Shasta and I kept our distance during that incident.
Also, I will never forget the infamous Thanksgiving dinner at Kris’s house. First, some background . . . Kris, had two wonderful dogs at the time, Ozma and Kacey. Shasta was pals with both of them. Her daughters also had pets too. Anywho, all of us were there, along with a couple of other guests, with their pets. I am not certain, but it’s quite possible that the pets outnumbered the humans that day . . . and all of the pets were in the house. LOL. Prior to dinner, all of us heard this loud gasp or yell from the kitchen. I call out, “Kris, how’s dinner coming along?” Kris nonchalantly walks into the living room holding a dish cloth, which is on fire and says, “Oh, pretty good, except for this small problem.” We all laugh as she puts out the burning dish rag. A half hour or so later, she comes out with a hot serving dish of stuffing, which she places on a foot stool to cool off. Wrong decision. I am not certain, but I think Shasta or maybe Ozma, was the ring leader, knocking the stuffing off the foot stool and of course, this was a signal for the dogs to begin their Thanksgiving dinner. Hilarious. Kris’s response, “Fortunately, I made two servings of stuffing.” Typical Kris. Cool, calm and collected.
I will share one other adventure I had with Shasta. I know my friends, Kris, Barb, Bob, and Elizabeth will probably remember this . . . We were hiking in Conifer, with all of our dogs. We must have had 5-6 dogs with us at the time. The trail was wide, allowing for all of us to walk abreast of each other, with our pets near our sides. While walking, we hear this low rumbling, which got louder and louder and louder. We stopped and listened. Suddenly, a herd of deer, numbering at least a hundred or more, crosses our path, no more than 40-50 feet in front of us. We were mesmerized by this stampede. Not one of us moved, not even our pets. This was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen in my life.
I am so grateful for having Shasta as part of my life. I will never forget the joy, love, and happiness she brought me and others who knew her. I will miss you very much my friend.