Tomorrow, February 21, is the one-year anniversary of the death of my sweet Pasu. I’ve shared a lot about what a great friend he was to me and how much I miss him. To honor him today, I’m remembering what a great friend he was to other four-legged beings, twos and threes, too.
My friend Jean described Pasu as “a perfect gentleman.” She and her two cats, Happy and Go Lucky, often hosted Pasu in their home when I was away from my home. After I returned from a day trip, a weekend retreat, or a vacation where I didn’t take Pasu, Jean would share stories of their time together. It was also common for her to send me photos, sharing in an instant an interaction between her and Pasu, Happy and Pasu, Go Lucky and Pasu, or other dogs and Pasu. The truth of Jean’s stories was in both the showing and the telling, and the emotional truth of each photo was always delightful. I am so grateful to have those photos and stories.
Their dog adventures included walks to Powell Butte and Rocky Butte, walks in the neighborhood, and hikes in the Columbia River Gorge, Sandy River Delta, and Mt. Tabor. Cat time included socializing indoors and outdoors. One constant in Jean’s stories was that Pasu always followed Happy and Go Lucky’s lead in their home space, respected their daily routines, and shared their space peaceably. By not being intrusive or domineering, he earned their trust. He knew he was their guest.
Even when Pasu and I hosted other canine and feline guests in our own home, he wasn’t pushy, except when herding humans, of course. He was, after all, a Sheltie—a Shetland Sheepdog and herder by breed. Whatever the gathering in our home—PLC Bass Sectional, Christmas Carols at Cheryl’s, Tacky Tie Poker Party, Halloween Party, October Birthdays Party, a folk music jam, a game night, or just a visit with friends—Pasu observed, recorded, and remembered where everyone was seated. When anyone got up to use the bathroom or go to the dining room for goodies, for example, he would follow them, wait for them, and then herd them back to their seat. Gently nosing or nudging their calf or nipping the back of their knee, he would guide them back to the specific seat they had left. He was working, doing his job, keeping the herd together. He was doing what he was born to do. Most people were fine and comfortable with it, even found it fascinating and entertaining. Some friends tested and teased him for the pure joy of it.
The most entertaining part of a gathering with Pasu at home was the end of the party. Pasu did not want anyone to leave. The herd had to stay together. He was so excitable and barked with insistent opposition when anyone went to the door. We always joked that Pasu would most certainly let burglars in the house but would never let them leave.
With other dogs and cats, though, Pasu let everyone have their own way—their own space and time to get comfortable with him and our home. He rarely demonstrated dominance with other four-leggeds. He was the perfect host—a perfect gentleman, a remarkable little being. It’s sweet to remember Pasu’s relationships with his four-legged friends Happy, Go Lucky, Rusty, Rainbow, Sammy, Casey, Randi, Tucker, Ruthie, Gray, Danny, Cucumber, and others whose names I don’t remember.
With no other four-legged, though, was Pasu’s good and gentle nature more apparent than with his feline friend Danny. An orange and white short-haired cat, Danny had come from an unsafe home where his humans had neglected him before he was rescued and given a home with a new, loving human. Having suffered the violent mangling of one ear in a dog attack, Danny hadn’t recovered from that trauma to establish any trust or security with a dog in almost seven years. Until he met Pasu, that is.
It took several months, but Pasu gradually gained Danny’s trust and friendship. Over time they developed sweet greeting and parting rituals, nose to nose. They would touch noses and sometimes lick each other’s nose, simply to say “Hi” or “What’s up?” Danny even let Pasu bury his nose in his fur affectionately. Pasu is a Dakota Sioux word that means “nose,” after all. I wish I had a video of how Pasu would open his mouth and give Danny a gentle massage up and down his spine. Danny purred with contentment and trust. Earned trust.
And then there was Tucker, a black and white tomcat who thought he was a German Shepherd. Tucker was unafraid. Other neighborhood tomcats gave him a wide berth. Dogs, too, except Pasu. One of Tucker’s favorite hangouts was just outside our backyard chain-link fence, where he would sit in the corner between the fence and the garage door and watch Pasu play. Pasu enjoyed playing frisbee. I’d toss it. He’d fetch it and return it to me, or not.
One day, looking out the kitchen window, I spied Pasu playing frisbee by himself. With a shake of his head he gave the frisbee a toss, it went flying, he fetched it, and he tossed it again. Then I watched him carry it over to the fence where Tucker was sitting on the other side. Pasu dropped the frisbee at the base of the fence, looked at Tucker, and sneezed at him, coaxing him to play. Tucker moved closer to the fence, reached his paw under it, and batted the frisbee. Pasu picked it up with his mouth, raced off, ran a few circles in the backyard, then came back to the fence, dropped the frisbee, and did another sneeze-bark at Tucker. Again, Tucker reached his paw under the fence and batted the frisbee. Again, Pasu picked it up, ran circles in the yard, returned to the fence, and dropped the frisbee. This continued for several minutes—two four-legged friends and neighbors playing frisbee.
Occasionally while doing dishes, I’d look out the kitchen window and see Tucker sitting in his spot outside the fence. So, I’d let Pasu out to play with his friend. I never saw Tucker come into our yard, but he had his way of asking if his friend Pasu could come out and play.
Pasu did have tender friendships with dogs, too, especially Mom’s dog Rusty. I remember a road trip Pasu and I made to southern California to stay with Mom in her apartment at Glenwood Gardens in Bakersfield. Rusty was a little red poodle who adored Mom; she was his everything after Dad died. Because life with Mom was a slow stroll rather than a trot, a canter, or a race, Rusty hadn’t stretched his legs into anything faster than an amble for several years. Until he met Pasu, that is.
On one of our daily walks—the four of us together—Rusty watched with fascination as Pasu ran in big circles around the grassy greenspace after I let him off leash. Pasu charged toward Rusty, stopping a safe and non-threatening distance away from the little dog, and yipped sweetly to encourage Rusty to join him, to run and play with him. Rusty looked quizzically from Pasu to me to Mom and back around again, not knowing what to do. Mom and I both encouraged him to “Go ahead. Run, Rusty, run. Play with Pasu.”
At first Rusty did a few spirited hops, like a deer. Obviously surprised and delighted with himself, he stretched his legs into bursts of bigger movement, stopping to check himself and check in with Mom, of course. And then he took off, racing with Pasu. Mom and I grinned big, laughed heartily, and cheered Rusty on. What a delight it was to watch both dogs flex and extend their spines, all the while increasing their power forward, making more and more complex turns, and running more freely with each other, enjoying the chase. Although Rusty couldn’t keep up with Pasu, he did look like a young chap again, and he had made a great friend in Pasu.
I remember Mom saying to me when I was a young woman in a new relationship, “Trust is like churning butter, Cheri. It needs to be made fresh daily. And the more you churn it, the more solid it becomes.” My four-legged friends have been good at establishing trust. Whether by instinct or practice or both, they’ve paid attention to and respected the boundaries of others, and known and enforced their own. As much as Pasu would follow me everywhere and usually be at my feet, he would pause at the bathroom door, however, and wait for my invitation before he walked in. Always a gentleman.
Here’s to all the four-leggeds for whom I was their person—Pasu, Punkin, Marmee, Chloe, and Birtie. And here’s to all the extended Kuck family four-leggeds I’ve loved—Happy, Kucky, Charlie, Rusty, Munchkin, Robby, Moxie, Midnight, Corkie, Nubbie, and Ollie. For me, though, Pasu was a breed apart. I am grateful for our life together.
Composed on February 20, 2018 – one day before the one-year anniversary of the death of my beloved dog Pasu