Riding the exercise bike to retreat!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Gus -- 30 Dec 2005 - 19 Apr 2012

We had to say goodbye to our dear boy Gus on Thursday April 19. We didn't know that he was very, very sick and that our time with him would be so short. He was our very last foster dog in 2005 and we knew as soon as he put that first paw up on Roger's lap that he had chosen to stay with us forever. He brought us such joy these past 6.5 years, and as my son Paul said, "There will be a large Gus sized hole in our hearts for awhile".

I'm sharing here, some of my favorite scrapbook pages of him and some of the beautiful words shared by family these past few days.

Paul and Gus at our property in Snowflake, Arizona.

On the Oregon Coast

A Toast to Gus          by Roger
We returned home about 7pm and settled in to start life without Gus and then something very eerie happened as Rachelle and I had a special toast to his memory.
It starts in the morning, after a rather good night sleeping between us on the bed and me carrying him out at 2am to pee on some ferns, Gus spent the morning comfortable on the big futon, on some towels, and at some point he wanted to move (go out) and had a little pee accident before we could help.  A small amount soaked through and so when we got home, we removed the cover to wash it and then cleaned the mattress, leaving a small wet area in the middle of the futon.
The toast required something special, so I poured Rachelle a solid dram of Glenfiddich SnowPhoenix, a one-off blend made after a freak snowstorm in the Scottish Highlands damaged a warehouse, it includes whiskeys as old as 30years.  I decided it was time to finally open my bottle of 1998 Highland Park Bicentennial that I got in 2008.  I have long anticipated tasting this famous 21yo bottling, passing up several special opportunities but finally deciding it was time.
So I prepared my generous dram and handed Rachelle her glass, she was sitting on the futon beside the wall.  To lean towards her for the toast, I carefully put my knee down on the futon, beside the cleaned spot, and our glasses came together in memory of our Gus.
But I didn’t get to take the first taste of my treasured Highland Park.  As I pulled my arm back and gave the glass a gentle swirl my hand sort of shuddered and despite the glass being far from full, a big splash of the whisky landed on my leg, just above the knee, soaking in and leaving a wet circle, right near where Gus would always put his paw when he wanted my attention.
Rachelle and I were silent for just a moment and then she just blurted out “he bumped your arm”.   And then I sat down and tasted the scotch and I think it was very good but it wasn’t the scotch that I was thinking about.
Gus was with us Dec30 2005 to April19 2012;  he came to us after being rescued, he decided to stay, and he left in peace after spending many, many wonderful days in our lives.
Our last backpacking trip up the Stuart Fork. He actually formed blisters on his front paws and had to have some first aid. He wasn't too happy about it!
Will, Cinder and Gus enjoying a day on the boat. Here is a beautiful tribute Will wrote, not just about Gus, but all of our furry friends.
"I don’t often talk about pets on Tumblr but Labrador Retrievers are a very important part of my life. Four months before I was born my parents got Zippo, a potential show dog that turned out with the temperament of a family dog. I went from birth to eleven years old with him and miss him very much.

But this isn’t about Zippo. My dad already made a tribute to him. A beautiful poem from an engineer who missed his best friend. Shortly before we lost Zippo we rescued another black Labrador from the horrors of the Rodeo-Chedaski fire here in Arizona. My parents went to the Humane Society to see what they could do and when Cinder caught my dad’s eye from the across the room she knew which family would save her from an overexcited cell-mate and the fear of being put down. She’s still a part of our family and should be for some time.
But this isn’t about Cinder. For a time we were involved in a Labrador rescue society where we would foster dogs for a time until families could be found to take care of the dogs full time. We helped a few skinny dogs pack on some pounds. We helped one dog with ribs too large for his body get used to his crate for sleeping. We only failed once and couldn’t handle a young pup with a split and bleeding tale and an overactive bladder.
But this isn’t about those dogs. It’s about the last dog we foster for. The dog we adopted. His name was Roger but that was my dad’s name as well. He held little fondness for the name and rarely answered when it was called. My dad tried a few names out and finally settled on Gus, the only name that perked his ears.
This is about Gus. I don’t think I’ve ever met a more neurotic dog than Gus. The list of his fears goes for miles. Water, wind, soft noises, loud noises, his own shadow, silence. The list goes on and on.
We don’t know what Gus’ first year was like but he was rescued from the middle of the desert near Yuma, a city in southwest Arizona. He still gets scared at night. He still sniffs his food to make sure its edible. He still howls at things that move in the darkness.
But not when my dad was around. Everything was terrifying for Gus until my dad came home from work. Once he had his master in sight Gus could finally relax. He could rest his head and let his ears down and return to his favorite activity: sleep.
He loved sleeping. He loved hiking. He loved sunlight and mint and even bananas. But he loved my dad more than anything.
Gus lead a hard life. Harder than most men. He braved the desert and found salvation with my family. He suffered from cataracts in both eyes and made it through. He was heavy and slow and terrified of water.
We found out today that he had severe cancer in his liver. The kind you don’t come back from. And after six and a half years of love and life with my family my parents held his gaze and helped him move when all he could do was blink.
Gus is gone now. Only a few hours ago, in fact. It hasn’t truly hit me and it won’t until I’m back at our house and the only black Lab that comes to see me is Cinder, confused once again that another black Lab she knew didn’t come home.
Gus was the best dog anyone could ask for. I’m glad my dad could have a new best friend and I hope he’ll find another in time."
Heather and Gus

I thought I would write a quick tribute to Gus, because of a picture I found of him and Paul. After he passed, I looked through all my pictures of him, and found the one attached, from Florence a couple summers ago. It's an accidental picture, but those are the best ones. Paul was trying to figure out how to use my camera, and took a picture of the ground and his and Gus's shadows, instead of the beach. Look at Gus. His head is looking up at Paul, asking, What are you doing? This picture made me think of Gus as the most questioning dog I have ever seen. Is it time for bed yet? Is it time to get up now? Is it time to bark? (yes) Is it time for Roger to get back? Is it time for Roger to get back? Is it time for Roger to get back?

Paul reminded me last night that the day we went to the beach in Florence a month ago, Gus ran more than we had ever seen him before. He ran and ran and ran. I think he was asking to himself, Is this the last time I'll be able to run? And in his last few days, Is it time for me to say goodbye?

Gus was a dog that loved everyone, and he always counted you as an equal representative of the whole. I know that wherever Gus is, he's with Zippo, looking up to his big brother, asking, What's next?


And here is that last trip to the beach we took with Gus. It really does seem in retrospect that he was feasting on his last trip to the beach. Taking in the sounds, the smells and chasing Paul until the 2 of them couldn't run anymore.

Cinder and Gus enjoying the day at Emerald Lake.

We will miss you dearly, Gus.


  1. Oh Rachelle, I am so sorry. I am sitting here crying for your loss. It sounds like you have done a lot of good for a lot of dogs and Gus could not have had a better family. I love your layouts and pictures. And your son's tribute is beautiful! Big hugs and prayers for peace coming your way!

  2. Wonderful tribute to Gus Rachelle, it is so heartbreaking losing a friend this way. Sending you hugs and love Annette x