The day you were born you taught me amazement. I was amazed at how precious and beautiful a tiny Labrador puppy was. How tiny you were, how sleek you looked, and how tenderly your mother placed you under your sister that was born first. You were the first black colored male born. Your mother was still whelping your siblings as I reached over to hold you and caress your tiny body. You were minutes old, your mother kept a protective eye on my hand as I reached across your whelping pool full of blankets and towels. You squealed and wiggled, eyes still closed, sleek looking like a brand new rubber tire, but soft as a silk shirt. Your momma didn’t like it that I moved you, so she gently reached over and picked you up by the neck skin and placed you back at the bottom of the every growing pile of litter mates. I spoke up that I wanted “that one, the first black one”, but you were not mine to choose. You see, I didn’t have a choice, I got what was left, but I was getting a “free puppy”, for painting a remodel that your momma’s masters had. As the days past, I would visit every day to hold, play and keep up on the growth of you and your litter mates. As weeks past your personality started to shine. You were to me the brightest, the smart one, the one that knew it was me that held you first. You choose me, you would come running, tugging at my pant leg, nibbling on my shoe laces and wiggling to be picked up. You see, you choose me, but again, you were not for me to choose, I had to wait. As fate would have it, or as some believe, God makes the right choices, I found out it was you that I was getting. I wanted a male, a black male and there were two of you. I was so elated that you were the one I was getting. The day came when your momma’s master ( my sister) called me to say, “ the puppies are ready, when do you want him?”. I had prepared, I had everything ready and in place for my new best friend and I to start a life together. Crates, pens, toys, tennis balls, more toys and blankets, leashes, your first collar and a ready camera for our adventures. More importantly, I had your name: Presley’s Mt. Shuksan Franks. Call name of Shuksan. My favorite mountain to climb in the North Cascades. The most beautiful scenery and beauty that nature could offer. A fitting name for the most beautiful ball of fur I saw that very first day you were born. Shuksan it was.
Since then, I have had to spell and pronounce your name to nearly everybody we would meet, and explain where that Mountain is, and why I named you such a difficult name for most to pronounce.
From the very beginning you taught me trust, you taught me that I could trust you, your willingness to trust me and rely on me was from day one, yet it was me that needed to be taught to trust in you. This started when I would let you out to potty. Once you were able to go outside on your own, I would stand at the screen door, and call you to come up the steps so I could keep an eye on you. You would come every time. I soon learned I could trust to let you outside on your own, knowing that when you were done with your business you would come and wait to be let back inside. Trust was mutual. I was your chosen human, you were my chosen pup. You taught me to have patience, gratitude, to live in the moment full of amazement.
You taught me acceptance in all things. Your willingness to accept all creatures, my parrot, my cat Tracy who ruled the household, my parrot who would talk to you. You never went after them, tried to chase or harm them. You knew and accepted them as a part of your family. This was carried over your life time, you always welcomed new pups and cats and people into your life as a trusted member of your circle.
You lived for the moment, held no grudges of my long work days. You wanted nothing more than a game of fetch, a game of hide and seek in the house after dinner or on rainy days. You were extremely happy and jubilant to go find your “blue toy”, and get all so excited when you found it under a cushion and would sit and stare until I got it for you with a ton of praise for your find. You were a natural, a smart dude that probably could have been a drug dog doing great work, but instead you were my pet, my best friend, my shadow and every loving companion.
You, my buddy boy Shuksan were the calm in my hyper world. You didn’t care that I was a morning person who would be up early to go for runs or walks before daybreak, but you eagerly were by my side to go if I said “ wanna go bye bye?”, you would beat me to the door and to the truck. You were my constant in an ever changing world.
You were the welcoming committee at our home. You welcomed, Hank, who was your nephew, you raised him like he was your son. Taught him to play, fetch, be mellow, be loving, taught him to love the kitty and shyed away from him when he would shred the mail because you never would do such a puppy thing ! You welcomed a rescue dog we found wondering, played with him like a best buddy. Howie was lucky to have such a gentleman as a mentor and house mate while he was here for 5 months until we found is first owners. You showed sadness when Howie left, you didn’t have your buddy. Then when Hank came as a tiny puppy, you were skeptical, but soon you both were inseparable. Your nephew grew taller than you, but was still the younger one that you taught the ropes to. You two would wrestle, play, sleep on one another. Truly the picture of true love and appreciation for one’s kind was very evident with the both of you. I have numerous pictures and videos of the both of you playing for hours until exhaustion. Making my life smile all around with your glee for just being in the moment.
When Hank moved away you were sad, and I knew I had to find you another pup to raise. You handled stress better than I. You continued to teach me to be and live in the moment. We had moved twice in a month and were living with my mom and you handled that transition better than I did. I was too busy being stressed over life, relationships, the death of my step dad, and mom’s diagnosis to realize the moments in front of us each day. Yet, you would reel me back in and every night we would be out playing fetch or I would watch you try to catch that infamous rabbit that would dart across the field at moms place. You were having a blast and it tickled me to no end to watch your exuberance each day. Your ability to lighten the moods of both mom and I were amazing. Mom loved your kind gently soul and would give in to your puppy dog eyes every night with scraps from dinner. She would sneak you bites to my dismay, but I honestly thought it was cute. You were mom’s guardian. You were never trained to be, but you were her therapy and comfort dog. You would rest your head on her lap, or bedside if she were restless or needing help until I could get there. Mom felt your comfort and would tell me that you were taking care of her. Your ability to read these moments amazed me and made me stop and realize that we are all going too fast and need to slow down and see what is in front of us at the moment. In your moment, all you saw was a need to be there, nothing more.
You bonded with mom’s cat. An unlikely friendship that I thought would never happen because you wanted to chase the fat cat because she would always dart in front of you at mom’s house, like she was egging you on to chase. In a matter of a couple weeks, the two of you worked out some sort of agreement and were suddenly best buds. Thankfully, mom’s words of “ take care of my kitty” were heard by not only me, but by you as well. You took this role to heart. I know my mom would be so very proud of you my buddy boy.
You were there for me after mom passed. All you wanted was to be near me, in my car, in the house, in the yard, you were by me just standing, sitting, laying near me. You demanded nothing but being next to me. Our sunset walks each night meant the world to me as the peace of being here was the most uplifting feeling I have ever felt. You taught me this my buddy boy. You taught me forgiveness of things out of my control. To forgive the universe for flipping upside down from where I thought it should be. You taught me to move forward when I did not know the steps of trepidation. You were my guiding light, my night in a shiny black coat who loved me unconditionally.
You welcomed your brother Mi Hijo into our home like he was your new “project”, and took him under your angel wings to teach him how to be a black lab in our home. Mi Hijo looked up to you from his first moments home. He obsessed over you, and your gentle soul put up with his puppieness and taught him the needed traits to become a young lab that is just as sweet and sentimental as you.
Then I threw you a curve ball by bringing a bouncy hyper German Shepherd pup home. You were not thrilled, and let her know who was boss the very first night. So how your strong willed presence was enough for Cali to realize you were the Alpha dog and you were the boss. The respect was instant and you were ok with that position of authority. While never having to assert your being, it was a much respected thrown you owned all your own. You tolerated the play and rough housing like it was expected for the two young ones to take part in every day. You were the boss, the leader of the group and leader of my LabShepCrew.
In your last days your body wasn’t giving you the life you once had. Your ability to move freely was becoming impaired by your hind end not wanting to hold yourself in a comfortable way. I felt bad to watch you, but you still had zest to want to play fetch and play with your favorite hedgehog toy, or tennis balls, go for car rides to get your puppy latte from the ladies at Starbucks, to just having “mom time” with only me. Your light went out in your eyes on Monday Dec 11th, 2017, and I saw your distant look, your willingness to continue to please me and be close was still there, yet your body couldn’t move unless I moved you. And, yet your eyes and what you spoke taught me the most humble thing in life. It’s not about me, its about you. What I could give you was the most respect one could ever give, and that is to be free of the traps of an old tired body that has no more left to give to this universe. Your eyes trusted in me, and you somehow knew my heart was breaking, but you comforted me in the hardest decision I have ever had to make. You allowed me to pick you up and cuddle, you knew your journey here was ending, and your next journey was to go find mom, and all our pups that have gone before you. As you relaxed in my lap, ate your favorite treats to fill your belly, with Loretta and I holding you for your take off, we cried and smiled of a life lived to the fullest and a million memories made and for me the lessons in life you taught me which were the most valuable things I have ever had in my life. Thank you for taking me on your journey through life and loving me unconditionally no matter what buddy. Thank you for watching over me. I love you my buddy boy, go run and chase tennis balls and rabbits and I will see you again someday. EOW 12-11-17