Saturday Stories: Life with Suzie

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When I was five, my parents decided I was old enough to have a dog. Mom found a white German Shepherd puppy for our family and I named her Suzie. I was so excited to have a dog. I had already, in my short life, been regaled by tales of my parents’ dogs and I was sure this was going to be the best thing that ever happened to me. We brought the little 6 week old puppy home and I got down on the ground to love her. She, in her exhuberance for her new home, promptly scratched me across the face. That was not a very promising beginning but I firmly believed that we’d be best friends. Little did I understand then that animals tend to love the ones who feed and train them best; that would have been Mom.

We lived in an old farmhouse at the time. The floorplan didn’t have any halls on the main floor. You simply went from room to room straight back from the family room in front to the kitchen in back. Mom spent most of her time in the kitchen or dining room either sewing, cooking, painting or cake decorating. I spent most of my time in the family room playing or watching tv. I was always afraid to be alone, so I’d go get Suzie and make her go with me to the front room. She was an extremely obedient and long suffering dog. She would come with me, lie down, watch to see if I was looking and then go back to the room Mom was in. I’d notice she was gone and go get her again. This went on and on and on ~ day in and day out.

When we moved to our next house, Suzie was only allowed in the family room and kitchen. It was a better lay out for my fears, so I didn’t force her to follow me. Her favorite spot was under our coffee table which was really an antique bench. She had to be careful when she got up because she could easily tip the entire thing over. Her tail cleared glasses off the table, too if she wasn’t careful.

To illustrate Suzie’s amazing obedience, one day, Mom had been entertaining some friends in the family room. She had left a plate of cookies on the coffee table. Susie never ate anything unless someone said, “OK.” At the end of Mom’s little get together, she walked her friends to the door and in the course of her conversation, inadvertantly said the magic word. Susie jumped up and had those cookies gone faster than anyone could blink an eye. Mom just laughed, afterall, she had said, “OK!”

In our next house, Susie was allowed from the front door, down the hall to the dining room and then in the kitchen and family room. She was not allowed to be in the room when we ate, though. If we weren’t having company, she had to sit in the family room, across a line dividing the linoleum from the carpet. She’d lie down just next to the line. Pretty soon, one paw would be over the line and then another. All mom had to do was say, “Suzie, get back.” and she’d move her body back where it was supposed to be. We would laugh at her army crawl. As long as we didn’t say anything, she would inch forward. As soon as we said to go back to her designated spot, she would.

The only time that all obedience went out the window was during a thunderstorm. Suzie was completely freaked out by the noise. She would try to climb on Mom’s lap or sit on Mom’s feet and just shiver with fright. Storms never got any easier for her.

Suzie hated men in uniforms and sunglasses. When she was a little puppy, the mailman would swat at her with the leather strap of his mail bag. All she wanted was to be petted, but he must have been put off all dogs by some harrowing experiences on the job. Needless to say, that experience stayed with Suzie. My dad had to take off his sunglasses before approaching the house at the end of his days on base. Suzie was fine as long as they were off. If Dad ever forgot, though, she barked and snarled for all she was worth. She never bit anyone, though.

You may have noticed that all of these incidents in Suzie’s life involved Mom. Suzie never was my dog. She died when she was 10 of canine cancer. She was a great pet and wonderful watchdog. Mom didn’t get another dog until after I left the home.

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