Michelle and Pete Gerukos’ dog Shaker was one in a million. Always the happy-go-lucky, funny guy, the Golden Retriever lived like the entire world was his playground and, in the meantime, completely changed the way the Gerukoses lived their lives and beheld each day…with light hearts and TONS of laughter.
Shaker embraced life full-on and was completely convinced that he could do anything a human could do—only better!
“Every day was a game,” Pete said.
“Shaker lived his life with passion, joy, and love for everyone,” Michelle said. “He was a genuine gift to our family. He made us laugh, learn, and love—every single day.”
Shaker came to the Gerukos home on Christmas Day 2006. They had waited literally years, fearing no dog could possibly “fill the paws” of Michelle’s three beloved Akitas that came before.
The 8-week-old puppy immediately impressed the couple with his sparkling personality and his innate abilities to heel and to let them know when he needed to go outside to use the restroom.
“Literally, from day one when he arrived, he was super smart. Although we had already seen his brilliance in heeling and training, he quickly decided he could garner more attention when he was misbehaving,” Michelle said. “Thus, he was into everything. The more trouble he could find, the happier he was.”
But the Gerukos family took it all in stride.
“The thing that we noticed the most was just how funny he was,” Michelle said. “He just brought sunshine and laughter into the house. The fact that he was so mischevious just cracked me up.”
The Gerukoses’ ability to take Shaker in stride not only had them laughing but also taking the ups and downs in life in stride, as well. Shaker literally made them “stop and smell the roses” and simply not take life so seriously.
In 2015, just before Shaker turned 9 years old, he was diagnosed with cancer. As he began treatments, he developed a fluid build-up in his chest and abdomen. Near the end of 2016, not knowing what the fluid was, Shaker was referred to Texas A&M’s Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH).
In College Station, the couple met with Dr. Audrey Cook, an associate professor of internal medicine at the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ Small Animal Hospital, who told the couple that Shaker’s condition wasn’t caused by cancer but by an idiopathic disease that resulted in a fluid build-up around his heart.
“He went through some pretty drastic surgery for that and was here eight days,” Pete said. “We came up every day because we only had 20 minutes (to visit each day).”
Shaker returned home, but the fluid persisted and, ultimately, the Gerukoses lost the love of their lives to complications with his condition.
In looking back at the care Shaker received, the couple wanted to memorialize both the pet they loved so much and also commemorate the care he received at the hands of Aggie veterinarians, both at Texas A&M and elsewhere throughout his life.
They chose to do so by naming an examination room in the Small Animal Hospital in his honor. “Shaker’s Exam Room” was dedicated on Nov. 4, 2017.
It brings his family much comfort knowing Shaker’s story will be shared with many other clients visiting the Small Animal Hospital; the couple also hopes it will bring comfort and confidence to those clients that they are receiving care from one of the best animal-care facilities in the nation, by compassionate veterinarians and staff who are also helping to train tomorrow’s future in veterinary medicine.
With their gift, the Gerukoses will provide funds to remodel a place in the hospital for the C-Arm imaging machine that Cook and her team use on a daily basis, the very machine that helped Cook confirm her diagnosis of Shaker’s condition.
“One of the reasons we wanted to do this was because of the confidence we have in A&M, but, also, spending time here, we wanted other people to have something beautiful. We wanted to give back, to hopefully add some humor and love like Shaker added to our lives. It’s something special for him, for our little boy,” Michelle said.
Throughout Shaker’s treatment, when the Gerukos family would get the dog ready to come to Texas A&M, he never hid or quavered, as if he knew he was getting the best care.
“He had so many Aggie vets taking care of him, from the time he was just a puppy,” Michelle said. “When we would come to the hospital, he never lost that smile, that happiness. I know that’s because of the care he received. A deciding factor to live in Houston was to stay close to A&M because you know you have the best care, and that’s huge. We’re so fortunate to have that; we really, really are.”
Contact Information: Megan Palsa, Executive Director of Communications, Media & Public Relations, Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Science; firstname.lastname@example.org; 979-862-4216; 979-421-3121 (cell)
This story originally appeared in the Spring 2018 edition of CVM Today magazine.