Have you ever known someone who is truly a beautiful soul? Someone who touched the lives of all around them for the better? Who was such a shining light that you walked away with some of their reflected lustre?
A Beautiful Soul
Would you laugh at me if I said that some of the finest souls I’ve known have been dogs? Pepsi was such a stellar soul. I was on the phone with a fellow dog-loving friend who told me to read the post she’d shared on social media… Pati warned me I might cry. But she was wrong.
By the end of Pepsi’s story, I wasn’t crying. I was full-on weeping, and paradoxically smiling. And laughing at myself for being sentimental and ridiculous. But I hope that everyone, at least once in their lifetime, is moved to tears by the memory of a life lived well – whether that life be human, canine, or other. To me, Pepsi’s life illustrated why Collies are so special.
Table of Contents
I write stories about dogs and make them the headliners, that is true. But every dog story I tell is inextricably intertwined with the lives of their humans. As Temple Grandin said, “Animals Make Us Human.”
Because every person who’s ever had a dog knows: in the end, it matters not at all if your dog knew how to sit, shake, or speak on command. What your dog did know was how to love you, and love you well. Just like Pepsi.
In Brianna's Words
Last Friday, our sweet, handsome, fluffy goofball, Pepsi, decided to cross the Rainbow Bridge to be reunited with Grandpa, Grandma, and of course, Dad. He gave us 13.5 years of unconditional love.
It has taken me some time to find the right words to write a proper tribute for our gentle giant and my best friend. Not everyone understands or believes it, but I certainly believe that pets are not just pets. They are family and should be treated the same. They give us so much unconditional love that the pain from their loss is beyond measure. We owe them all of the love to the moon and back. Pepsi was, and still very much is, an incredibly special boy who lived a rich and wonderful life. He touched so many people’s lives that I’d like to share his story/obituary with those who may only know part of it. Buckle up, because this boy was larger than life.
A Very Opinionated Boy
Pepsi was born to his parents, Grand Champion Marnus Lucky Strike, ROM (yes – Striker for all of you Marnus folk) and Champion Kirkhaven-Accent First Kiss (Fluffy) on February 24th, 2007. He was the only tricolor Collie of his litter. My grandparents, Robert and Norma Jean Blank, had been looking to adopt another Collie of their own, as they had had a few before. They always had sable and white Collies, but something stuck out to them seeing this beautiful tricolor puppy. They fell in love, brought him home, and he barked the entire way. He was a very opinionated boy from the start.
Pepsi was given his official AKC name by my Grandma, “Nanny’s Sunday Pepsi” as their previous Collie, Brandy, was called “Nanny’s Sunday Brandy.” It was different, yet fitting, for a boy who kind of looked like a glass of Pepsi! He fit right into their home and was promptly spoiled. He was fed plenty of food, snuggled in bed with them at all times of the day, carried around their shoes and socks, and my Grandma also loved to “tuck him into bed” by covering him with blankets. I think this is where he learned to be patient! Despite their old age, they went on walks in the woods behind their home. Moreso, Pepsi would walk them. He kept them on their toes and was incredibly energetic. He became their little boy to keep them company, to keep them laughing, and to keep them young.
Unfortunately, in January of 2012 when Pepsi was almost 5, my Grandfather passed away. Pepsi was understandably devastated and confused as to where his Dad had gone. My Grandpa had been caring for my Grandmother in the mid-stages of dementia, and as a result of his passing, we had to place my Grandmother in a memory care unit. Luckily, Pepsi was able to stay at his childhood home when my uncle, Dan Blank, moved in and adopted him. Despite the sad circumstances, Pepsi was still able to stay with people he knew. He was well loved and well fed – he got to sneak some pieces of pizza! He also gained a Sheltie sibling, Abby, and they had a lot of fun together! Unfortunately, Abby passed away about a year and a half later.
A Trial Period
In early 2014 when Pepsi was almost 7, my Uncle Dan decided to move to Arizona to be closer to his daughter. With Pepsi being older and possibly not a fan of the hot climate, we kept him here in New York. I had been begging my parents for a dog since I was a kid. I had fish, salamanders, hamsters, and a turtle (she’s 20 years old now, that old woman), but I always longed for a fluffy companion. My Dad and Uncle grew up with lots of animals too, so I was trying to tug on the heartstrings of both my Dad and my Mom. After some shuffling around and convincing, Dad brought Pepsi home to us in early March of 2014. Dad’s “test trial period” of a week turned into a lifetime.
Pepsi fit right in with our small home. He was a Blank family member, and we wanted him to stay that way. We knew Grandpa and Grandma would want him to be with us, too. So we embarked on our journey with our first dog. I was wrapping up college and saw Pepsi on the weekends. Every time I left to go back to college, Pepsi tried to get me to stay home by “distracting” me with stuffed animals. Every time I came home from college, he did zoomies around the house. Needless to say, I was incredibly excited to finish college to properly spend time with my first fur baby.
Despite Grandma being in a memory care unit, we would have her come visit us and Pepsi. She couldn’t remember much, but somehow she still knew Pepsi. She instinctively filled up his water dish without us saying a word. She exclaimed how big he had gotten. She alternated between calling him Pepsi and “Pumpkin,” but it was close enough. She knew, and Pepsi still remembered her, too. Every time she came over, he tried to climb on top of her, as he used to do when he was a young boy. Pepsi used to snuggle so much with Grandpa and Grandma in their chairs or at their feet. He also would bring Grandma toys – knowing she wouldn’t throw them – but he just wanted to show her his new stuffies. Their bond was still clearly there.
In July of 2014, my Dad was diagnosed with cancer, the same type that I had had as a child. It’s as if Pepsi knew what was going on. He suddenly became “Doctor Pepsi” (no, not Dr. Pepper). He would frequently try to lay on top of my Dad and happily pant in his face. He would lick my Dad all over. He knew something was wrong with his body, and he wanted so desperately to fix it. The first time Dad had to stay at Roswell Park, Pepsi was devastated. Suddenly, his Dad was gone again. When Dad came home a few weeks later after his first round of treatment, Pepsi practically knocked Dad over by greeting him with love, tail wags, and demands for “butt scratches” (an all time favorite).
Pepsi and my Dad became couch buddies throughout his treatment. Any time Dad needed to rest, Pepsi casually strolled up onto the couch with him. Pepsi brought my Dad stuffies to play with or for comfort. (Pepsi hated hearing people cry.) He also loved stealing my Dad’s socks and any clothing left on the ground, and he would strut around showing them off with his tail in the air. He didn’t want to play necessarily: he just wanted to show you what he had. He loved attention. Pepsi was a goofball with his silly antics, and so was my Dad. They were two peas in a pod, being clowns together.
In October of 2016, my Grandma passed away. In February of 2017, my Dad passed way. Just like that, two of Pepsi’s parents were gone physically. We brought home Dad’s last pieces of clothing from the hospital to let Pepsi snuggle with them. We all were a mess, including him. At one point, we took Pepsi to the emergency vet because he seemed to be in a panic that he couldn’t find Dad, and we had no idea what was wrong. He was incredibly sensitive to emotions, whether directed at him or other people. He always knew what you were feeling without you ever having to say a word. We promised him he would see not only Grandpa and Grandma again someday, but also Dad.
Man of the House
After that, it was just Pepsi, me, and my Mom in the house. It was quiet and certainly smaller, but Pepsi kept our spirits up. He loved running around in the back yard, demanding belly rubs, climbing onto the couch or bed with us, and “protecting us” from the garden hose. (“It’s a snake!” he said.) He was our man of the house and made sure we were both watched over every night, as he would shift between my room and my parents’ room. He kept an eye on us here while the rest of our family kept an eye from above.
Pepsi was starting to get older, and I knew we might not have much time left with him. What I didn’t know was that he was going to be just as stubborn as all of the Blanks when they left this Earth. No matter what developed, he was ready to try and power through. We almost lost him to a toxic medication reaction when he was 11, but he made it. (Those darn MDR1 genes!) We began longer walks to keep up his strength, supplements, food changes – you name it. We wanted to make sure he would be the best-spoiled senior dog. He deserved it. He was – and still is – incredibly loving, and we wondered how we could ever make that love up to him.
He started going to daycare shortly after Dad had passed away: not just so he wouldn’t be alone at home since his couch buddy had passed on, but also to keep his mind sharp. Though he was older when he started going to good ol’ Ruff Relations, he fit right in. There are so many stories from his years there, of how he helped the new dogs adjust to daycare, how new puppies fell asleep on his stomach, and how he made it known when he wanted his treats or fresh water. He gave the entire staff there so many laughs and lots of nose kisses!
Falling in Love
During this time, I began dating my boyfriend, Pat. Pat fell in love with Pepsi, and the love was certainly mutual. Although I will say, Pepsi did not like it when someone would hug or kiss me! He felt he needed to “make room” in between, even if it was just a hug or kiss goodbye! He was a protective boy, but Pat passed Pepsi’s tests with flying colors. Pepsi soon adopted Pat as his Dad. In June of 2019, Pat and I found our own place to live together.
Our first thought had been, How do we find a place that is Pepsi friendly? We settled into a wonderful house that barely had stairs – Pepsi never learned what a step is – and had plenty of space for his large-boned body to flop around in. Pat’s father even built us a custom ramp in the back to fit the few steps we had, so we wouldn’t have to bench press our 75 pound (34 kg) chunker every time he needed to go outside. Despite Pepsi starting to exhibit dementia, he was able to navigate our new space, and of course, he was still going back to Mom’s house to keep an eye on her too.
We started Pepsi on a 10 week PT (physical therapy) program, and he went in weekly for active and passive PT treatments. He got everything from treadmill exercise to massage therapy. After that had finished, he continued PT treatments once a month to receive TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation), massage, adjustments, and laser therapy. On top of this, he was also giving love to his holistic vet, The Veterinary Alternative, where he received lots of holistic and acupuncture care. We liked to joke he was getting better health care than us!
Treated Like a King
After he retired from daycare in October 2019, Pepsi continued to live like the king that he truly still is. Especially with the pandemic, we were able to give him more attention than he was used to. Let me tell you, he soaked it all up and loved every minute of it! His health issues grew; but his mind became young again at times, and he would snuggle with us, “guide us” around the home, find new corners to get stuck in, and cause mischief as if he were a little kid. He was going on new adventures, eating more homemade food, trying new snacks, getting more toys. He loved spooning his larger stuffies and falling asleep next to his puppy night light. He was incredibly loved and incredibly spoiled, but I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
Things had been getting more rough the past few months. He was dealing with his dementia, arthritis, cataracts, lack of hearing, Vestibular Syndrome, Horner’s Syndrome, and general anxiety every day; but he was handling it like a champ. He never liked when he was having a rough day and certainly would feel bad about it. We tweaked his meds, supplements, and food when needed to make sure he was comfortable and happy. There were days we could walk for 30 minutes straight on a great sniff-a-thon. There were also days we had to carry him back up the driveway, because he didn’t want to walk. There were also numerous “spontaneous baths” when he had accidents.
No matter how he was, all that mattered to him was that he was with us, by our side, and that we were okay. When it came down to it, it wasn’t just the walks, sniffs, and toys that made him happy. It was lying on the grass outside smelling the air while I watered the garden next to him. It was us sitting next to him eating dinner, while he ate dinner, so we could have dinner as a family. It was him coming into our bedroom at night to A) make sure his night light was on and B) make sure we were sleeping peacefully. He always had to make sure we went to bed on time, otherwise he would throw a temper tantrum! He loved treats, cuddles, walks, sniffs, soft stuffies, belly rubs, and more. What he loved most though, and still does, is people. He always wanted people to be happy. If he felt you were off, he would place a paw on you, try to climb onto you, or give you a big smile. Just as we loved taking care of him, he loved taking care of us.
Crossing the Rainbow Bridge
The past week without him physically here has been difficult, to say the least. He was/is certainly our fur-child. Despite him “tricking” us in the past that he may be ready to go home (one incident happening as recently as June), he stuck around for as long as he could. We told him to just tell us in his own way when he was ready to go see his family, and we would help. When he did let me know that it was time, I knew. He certainly informed me in his typical, dramatic Collie fashion!
It happened incredibly fast and was not something any of us could have seen coming. What started as a peaceful summer afternoon with my boy turned into helping him cross the Rainbow Bridge hours later. We had finished a walk, had some snackies, and were relaxing when he started having a medical episode. After being rushed to the vet and having x-rays, we found he had developed megaesophagus and had the possible onset of multiple myeloma. It was then that Pepsi let me know it was time for him to go home. He always liked to have the last word in a conversation, so it was only fitting that he “spoke” to me until the very end. Just like that, barks turned into a peaceful lick of his lips – exhale… and he was reunited with Dad, Grandpa, and Grandma.
Pepsi is preceded in death by his human parents, Dad, Grandpa, and Grandma Blank, as well as his father (Striker), his mother (Fluffy), his wonderful cousin Enrico, and his numerous family members through the Marnus, Accent, Barksdale and Kirkhaven Collie lines. He leaves behind his Mommy and Daddy, his second Mommy, his numerous Aunties and Uncles, and all of his girlfriends from doggy daycare.
They Give Us So Much
You may think, “Wow – geez, isn’t that a lot to say for a dog?” It may be, but Pepsi was beyond “just a dog.” He was our boy, our best friend, our goofball, our “funny man” as Dad liked to say. He was larger than life and we could not have been more lucky to have him in our lives and in our hearts. I don’t type all of this to seem annoying. I type all of this because I think we as a society need to better recognize that a pet’s death can be just as traumatic – sometimes even more traumatic – than a human passing. They give us so much in our lives, so much love. They may not live as long as other family and friends, yet they are still incredibly important to all of us for one reason or another. No one should try and diminish your feelings if you are grieving an animal, because they are *just* a pet. They are, and always will be, family.
For those of you who have animals of any kind, hug them a little closer tonight. Feed them some extra treats. Show them all of the love in the world. For those with seniors, every day is a gift and I hope that you have many more healthy and happy days ahead. For those of you who have an animal waiting for them at the Rainbow Bridge… I understand, and I’m sure they will be so happy to see you again someday.
In Our Hearts Forever
Lastly, I want to thank all of those who made Pepsi’s life so incredibly special. There is no way he would have lived as long as he did without your love and care! Thank you to Tillou Veterinary Hospital for making sure Pepsi was as healthy as can be as he grew up. Thank you Ruff Relations, Dee, Vanessa, Morgan, Kylie, Mary “Auntie Keri,” and everyone else there. You kept his mind sharp and kept him looking great! Thank you Cold Nose Warm Heart Dog Grooming and “Auntie Melissa” for always helping him look and feel his best! Thank you to Dr. Koenig at The Veterinary Alternative for keeping his mind and body in tip-top shape! A huge thank you to the PT Team at the Village Veterinary Clinic of Hamburg. Thank you Dr. Cely, Kelsey, Mark, Ashley, and all of you guys as you certainly kept Pepsi’s health issues in line and allowed him to live a comfortable and pain-free life. He may have not always showed it, but he truly appreciated everything you did for him to be able to stick around as long as he did. Lastly, thank you to Dr. Krzemien at the Village Vet for helping Pepsi in his last moments. I’m sure one of his barks in the end was also thanking you.
Remember, just because they are no longer here physically with us, doesn’t mean they are no longer with us period. They remain in our hearts forever.
We’ll be reunited again someday, Bubs. Until then, go get those pizza crusts and french fries from Dad.
February 24th 2007 – July 31st 2020
Waiting for Pepsi, Jr.
Brianna and Pat plan to get a puppy who would be one of Pepsi’s relatives. Carrie Lenhart breeds the Marnus bloodline. With her being a notable show breeder, there is quite the waiting list for one of her puppies. Though there was a Marnus litter born in April, Brianna said, “We felt it was too early and we weren’t ready yet.” There had been an available tricolor female, but for Brianna “it felt too close.”
They asked Carrie to keep them in mind when she has another litter. While the next Collie probably won’t be the same color as Pepsi or actually be named Pepsi, Jr., maybe the puppy will be a nice sable and white, blue merle, or white Rough Collie named something like Soda, Cola, or Sprite. In any case, they are eager to welcome another Pepsi-related Collie into the family again when the timing works out.
In the meantime, since they might be waiting a while, Brianna and Pat gave themselves a holiday gift…
Pepsi's Legacy: December 2021 Pupdate
Brianna announced their new puppy adoption via a social media post.
I’d like to introduce the newest addition to our family. Meet Twyla! ❤
Twyla is a five-month-old Boxer mix who was on the euthanization list at a high-kill shelter in Alabama. Luckily, Nickel City Canine Rescue scooped her up and brought her home to Buffalo! We had been slowly looking at rescuing a dog the past few months, as it has been quite quiet without our king, Pepsi. We took some cues from our angel boy and decided to bring sweet Twyla into our home. ❤
Aside from Twyla meaning twilight, it also means “woven with a double thread” as well as “light in the dark places.” While the name did come to us while we watched Schitt’s Creek, it reminded me of the elder grandmother of the Seneca Wolf Clan, Twylah Nitsch, who the Blank side of the family were friends with long ago.
She has blossomed so much in the past few days! We cannot wait to see her personality continue to shine and to see her grow. She is an absolute sweetheart who is incredibly affectionate, gentle, playful, and smart. She was born back in June right after my birthday and right before Pat’s. We like to think that Pepsi had been working on a lovely belated birthday present to us. We plan on introducing a Collie pup in the future from Pepsi’s line, and we know that Twyla will make a great sister someday!
Thank you so much Nickel City Canine Rescue and Darleen (her foster Mom) for bringing this sweet pea into our lives. She will be loved for eternity.
From comments under the announcement post:
And don’t forget Twyla Tharp – famous modern dancer/choreographer!!! ❤️❤️ – Mary Ellen C.
Ahh, yes! I love that she’s got some strong women behind that name!! 😊💓- Brianna
Twyla darling, Pepsi led you to the jackpot of people! So happy for you, pretty girl. Adventure awaits!!! – Keri G.
Oh my goodness, what a sweetheart! Congratulations and milk bones all around!❤️❤️❤️ – Gail B.
She’s beautiful and in the perfect home to flourish!! – Sarah M.
She’s very adorable. Such soft, sweet eyes. – Catherine D.
Thank you!! When she looks up at us, we absolutely melt. 💓 – Brianna
She’s lovely, and so very lucky.❤️ – Cynthia L.
We are definitely the lucky ones too! 😊💓- Brianna
Later, I reached out to Brianna for some more information and photos.
At 5 months old, Twyla is already 35 pounds (≅16 kg). The rescue staff labeled her a Boxer and Black Mouth Cur mix, so we’re guessing she may grow to be 50-60 pounds (22-27 kg). We did an Embark DNA test and are waiting on the results… We can’t wait to see if she has relatives pop up! You never know what is mixed in there. I’m almost banking on Twyla having maybe a smidge German Shepherd or Redbone Coonhound. Her nose is crazy good with smells, and she is incredibly intelligent. (She’s also extremely photogenic even without treats.)
Note: a further breakdown of the Supermutt category indicated she may indeed have a smidge of German Shepherd, plus Chow Chow and Bulldog!
Twyla recently met some children, and it was so amazing to see her with them. She obeyed the kids when they asked her to sit or give paw. She followed them around and licked them all over. Kids are so great with dogs (most of the time), but dogs are such wonderful caretakers and listeners. She is such a good girl. Twyla absolutely adores other dogs and will be going to Pepsi’s old doggy daycare, Ruff Relations, once she is more settled. She would love a Collie sibling!
Stay tuned for future updates as Pepsi’s legacy continues to expand. Pepsi, Jr. may be joining Twyla in 2022!
Meet the Author
Brianna Blank is the proprietor of Blank-Slate Photo & Video, based in Western New York, USA. She said, “Capturing people’s stories is why I got into photography and filmmaking. I love meeting new souls… There is always much more to a person than meets the eye, and I strive to express that in everything I create.” You can connect with her on Facebook @blankslatephotovideo or through her website.
Do you have a story about a beloved Collie? Feel free to leave a doggy eulogy or “in memoriam” post in the comments below! We’d love to read it.
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