Dr. Mark Brauner and Shasta

Healing Those Who Heal

A doctor and his dog brave COVID-19 together 

At Mckenzie Willamette Medical Center, Dr. Mark Brauner works strange hours — and he’s virtually always on call. When COVID-19 began ramping up in March, Brauner flew to New York for a month to help out at Columbia University’s Irving Medical Center. It’s exhausting work in its immediacy; and during a national pandemic, the stakes couldn’t be higher. 

Thankfully, he’s got Shasta.

“We sort of joke that she’s famous because everybody in south Eugene seems to know her,” Brauner says. “But they don’t know us. Like, we’re just the people who feed Shasta.” 

Shasta is a chow shepherd mix who’s been described as large and fluffy. She has a rusty black coat mixed with amber throughout her legs and body, and doesn’t shy from children or strangers. She has sweet eyes and is known to roll onto her back when people approach, hoping for belly rubs.  

Brauner got Shasta nearly nine years ago from Greenhill Humane Society. She’d been found running around a farm with her pups that looked nothing like her. Apparently, she was hard to catch, and animal control had to go out multiple times to try and bring her in. 

“Shasta is not the brightest dog in the world,” Brauner says. “We call her an emotional giant. She just has that unconditional love.”

Shasta became a true neighborhood celebrity after staying with multiple different families while Brauner’s own family went traveling for a year in 2016. While Shasta traveled through the neighborhood, the family went all over the globe, often volunteering where they went. Like Shasta, it appears to be in their nature to serve and give back wherever they go. 

“Shasta distributes her love and affection really well,” Brauner says. “She knows when you’re feeling down and need extra attention.”

At the end of July, Shasta’s health began to quickly decline; she was losing weight and having trouble walking. 

 “It’s pretty clear that this is the end of her life,” Brauner says. “Probably in the next few weeks. The vet said we could be aggressive and acquire biopsies, which are invasive and painful, and then chemotherapy.” 

Shasta slowly walks over, stumbling a bit, before flopping down at Dr. Brauner’s feet, exposing her belly. He reaches down to rub her. 

“I deal with a lot of end of life stuff,” Brauner says. “Our plan is just to spend a lot of time with her and love on her a bunch.”