SCHUYLER -- A special friend to many in the Schuyler community and surrounding area recently crossed the rainbow bridge.

Gus, the red Australian shepherd and canine companion to Doris Ahrens, passed away Jan. 26 due to complications of surgery.

The duo could normally be seen making their rounds with Ahrens' miniature donkeys and goats to area nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Gus was the center of attention wherever they went, offering smiles and licks to anyone who crossed his path.

“It didn’t matter what nursing home we went to,” Ahrens said. “They never asked how I was doing, they always asked about Gus. Every place we went to loved Gus.”

On their regular treks across Colfax and Platte counties, Gus had two spots from which he never ventured far.

“Wherever I went, he went,” Ahrens said. “I’d put him in the tail gate of my truck and we’d just go all over the place. Even for church, I’d put the hitch down and Gus would sit back and wait for me. I’d get back and he would be getting pets and kisses from people as they left the church.”

Life started for Gus in Oklahoma. His former owners made regular trips to Columbus to visit the racetrack, Ahrens said.

“One time they brought Gus with them,” Ahrens said. “They would come up here and buy horses that couldn’t run very well anymore. The horses would go back with them to Oklahoma and try to sell them as pets.”

On this particular trip, the former owners brought their other dogs, a pair of blue healers with them.

“The blue healers didn’t like Gussy very much,” Ahrens explained. “They would just beat up on him. So I got to take Gus home with me. They told me he was about three years old at that time. I think that was in 2011, which means Gus would have been 11-years-old this year.”

Seven years of companionship led to many friendships and memories along the way.

Francis Jessepe of Schuyler Care and Rehabilitation Center enjoys the occasional cigarette outside the facility, and Gus often would accompany him.

“Gus was a really good dog,” Jessepe said. “Sometimes I’d be out here smoking and Doris would ride up. Gus would see me and just come running out right to me.”

Towards the end of his life, Ahrens said Gus began to act differently.

“He seemed to be in a little pain,” she said. “And he wouldn’t eat very much. So I took him to the vet and found out he had liver cancer. He might’ve had this for a while, but at least he didn’t suffer. He has been too good to me to suffer.”

Not only was Gus a friend to everyone, Ahrens considered him as a part of the family.

“It’s so hard right now,” she said. “I find it's better when I keep myself busy. He was just a wonderful dog. I really don’t think I’m going to get another dog. I’ll never find another like him.”