Pet Talk: Aspen says farewell to its ‘yellow dog
Vail, CO Colorado
ASPEN, Colorado ” Aspen has bid farewell to a four-footed icon.
Fraser, the 14-year-old “yellow dog” featured in Jill Sheeley’s series of children’s books about Aspen, was put to rest on earlier this month.
“He was the most special dog in the world,” Sheeley said last week. “He was just so gentle, compassionate and loving.”
But Fraser was more than just a friendly local Labrador in a red bandana; he was Sheeley’s muse, she said.
Sheeley self-published the fictionalized accounts of Fraser’s adventures with her daughter, Courtney ” now a senior in college ” and was inspired by Fraser’s puppy misadventures and mountain exploits with family and friends.
Her books tell tales of everything from skiing on Aspen Mountain, to rafting, cross-country skiing and a recent rescue in the Maroon Bells, all with an eye to recounting local history and passing on a message about safety.
Local artist Tammie Lane’s illustrations helped make Fraser a local hero, Sheeley said.
In recent years, Fraser suffered from cancer and had a stomach operation in January, Sheeley said.
Fraser’s condition had improved under treatment, but the dog just wasn’t doing well, and had gone from a hearty 100-plus pounds to just 80.
“It was his time,” said Sheeley’s husband, Don. “He was ready.”
A local vet put Fraser to sleep in the Sheeley’s home.
“Kids all over the world have read about Fraser the dog,” said Lynda Schultz, general manager at Explore Booksellers in Aspen.
Sheeley and Fraser were regulars at the shop, where the pair often came for book signings, Schultz said, and Fraser had a strong following.
Sheeley’s other dog, 8-year-old Maggie, is also featured in the adventure books and has in recent months has stood in aging Fraser at local events.
But Schultz remembers the shouts and cheers of local kids when Don Sheeley brought Fraser in as a special surprise at a fall of 2007 signing at Explore, she said.
“The kids just went crazy,” Schultz said. “Fraser was still the star.”
Schultz said Fraser was “totally mellow” and great around kids.
“We’re all very sad,” Schultz said. “Fraser is definitely a piece of Aspen history.”
Fraser was also a therapy dog and accompanied Sheeley on visits to the hospital. The author also employed Fraser to help a young child who’d been attacked by a dog recover from his fears.
But even with Fraser gone, Sheeley said she’s not finished with the Fraser the Yellow Dog books.
“We’ve got a few extra under our belts,” Sheeley said, and future projects will include the most recent adventures stories of Fraser.
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