Sunday, November 12, 2006

A Dog Named Suze

Talking with my California Girl recently, and hearing the constant "yip, yip, yip, yip, yip!" of her dog's eleven, yes, eleven, puppies in the background, got me thinking about dogs. Specifically, dogs we have had. Specifically, The Suze.

The OC never had a pet growing up. His family was too busy establishing themselves in this country. My mother was a farmer's daughter, and to her, animals belonged on farms and in zoos, certainly not in her living room. I regularly brought strays home, thinking this time she'd relent. One time she did. She let me keep a black cat I'd found. But he was a promiscuous fellow, always out chasing the ladies, and getting into battles with rivals for their "affections". One time too many he arrived home, after an evening of adventure, with his ear hanging off....

And then there was the time a cocker spaniel followed me home. I was flattered that he liked me and fell hopelessly in love. He was a handsome fellow and charmed my mother too, so she said I could keep him until his owner showed up. For a full week, he followed me everywhere and, unknown to mother, slept at the end of my bed. I felt like a heroine in an Enid Blyton novel, the girl and her loyal canine companion. But by week's end the owner of the LCC showed up, claimed his dog and broke my heart.

When we were first married the OC was studying for his master's and I was teaching. One day in the teachers' lounge I heard another teacher talking about her black lab's beautiful puppies. We went to see them....... And then there were three.....

We were not allowed to have animals in our apartment so had to be very sneaky. We figured that by the time The Suze [named for the song Suzy Q] became unhideable, we'd be out of there and on our way to the OC's first AF assignment.

The Suze traveled to and from classes in the deep pockets of the OC's field jacket. He had to wear thick leather gloves so that she could be kept happy chewing on his hand, while profs expressed disgust that graduate students could be so immature as to make puppy noises while they wrote on the blackboard. The Suze was born to chew. Nothing was safe. Not the covers of the OC's LP collection, not our books, not my lovely, new, cork heeled sandals.....

When we set out on our cross continent trek to the OC's first assignment the Suze came too.

When our first child was born the Suze never showed the slightest bit of jealousy. In time she and Liz became inseparable. If she tired of toddler ways she'd sigh, get up and move to another part of the house or yard. On New Year's Eve the OC always shared some champagne with his girl. She loved it. If her hero was giving it to her it had to be good, even if it did make her lips curl. The Suze sometimes suffered from puppy flatulence. Feeling something happening 'back there' she'd turn and look indignantly at her tail. Never a dull moment. And when she slept she dreamed of chasing rabbits.

By the time Liz was in sixth grade and had two brothers and a baby sister, the Suze was in failing health. It was sad to see her getting so old and blind, and finally the vet said the kindest thing would be to put her to sleep. That was a mournful day at our house. She'd been a loyal and loving friend. We hoped that she was in doggie heaven with a constant supply of her favourite bikkies, plenty of rabbits to chase, and angels available round the clock to administer titsie rubs.


Anonymous said...

What a sweet story! A little gem of a memoir. To me it is about the interconnectedness between love and loss. I've been wondering lately, whether love is really worth the trouble. Your story is a little bit of convincing that it is.

meggie said...

What a lovely tribute to your Suze.
We never lose the love we have for our pets, & though the grief can be unbearable, the love we have had is priceless.
I couldnt have pets when I was a child, either. My father's family still disapprove of my dogs INSIDE the house!!
Farmers, & dogs were for work only!

My beloved 85 yr old Aunt tells me I am a disgrace to the 'family name', even though I am now married & no longer a Mead! haha.