Aspen bids farewell to Fraser the ‘yellow dog’ |

Aspen bids farewell to Fraser the ‘yellow dog’

Charles Agar
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” 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 Friday.

“He was the most special dog in the world,” Sheeley said Wednesday. “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 on Friday 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 family 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, also featured in the adventure books, and in recent months has stood in for the 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.”

Publicity signings and school visits were more than just self-promotion, Sheeley said, but a chance to inspire kids to tell their own stories, and Fraser was a big part of that ” inspiring an annual writing contest.

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.

The Sheeley family enjoyed the minor celebrity when someone recognized Fraser out on local trails or on the street in Aspen, Sheeley said.

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.

Maggie, also a Lab, will carry on the tradition at book signings and events, she said.

“They come on this earth and they spend such a short time with us, but they give us so much in return,” Sheeley said of owning a pet.

And the take-home message to her young readers, Sheeley said, is to carry with you all of the good memories of Fraser or any pet.