Monday, April 04, 2016


On what would have been her 32nd birthday this year, I want to honor Suzy.

Suzy was my family's toy poodle.  I named her after my favorite aunt.  Suzy's full AKC name was Mademoiselle Suzette Cherie.  She came to us in May 1984 and provided us with almost 13 years of love, dedication, fun, and bitchiness.  She was a very tiny presence in a house filled with people, but her personality, grit and pluck made you think she was every bit the same size as the people with whom she lived.

My dad randomly brought her home one afternoon.  He had friends whose pure bred poodle had a litter of toy apricots and they gave one to Dad.  At first, Mom wouldn't let Dad in the house with her.  But slowly Mom warmed up to Suzy, despite telling anyone who would listen for 12+ years that she hated the dog.  And also despite this, Suzy would follow my Mom around incessantly.  If we were all sitting out on the deck and Mom walked into the house, Suzy would get up and follow.  If there was every any doubt that Mom was our alpha, Suzy confirmed it.

"The Tooz" was spunky - most likely because she had to be.  My family is full of big people who also tend to be loud, especially when we get together.  It's a lot of girth accompanied with a lot of noise.  So to compensate, or perhaps just to compete, Suzy's personality was every bit as large as ours.  Fair warning: she'd bite.  Not hard enough to draw blood or anything, but now and then we would all get a peck from her (except Mom, of course).  Tooz loved to cuddle.  When I'd lay on the couch she would jump up and curl up on my chest and lay there as long as I did.  But when I would move to put her down, I'd get a little bite from her.  Oddly enough, none of us was bothered by it.  It was just Tooz being Tooz.  She'd growl when she was unhappy and we just learned to let her be when she didn't want to be bothered.  It's probably the only way she could keep her sanity.

When Suzy was about 2, I took her outside on what was the first nice day of the year.  She was running around the yard and playing with me.  As we were chasing each other in circles, we accidentally went in the same direction and I stepped on her front right leg.  She yelped so loud that people came running out of the house, yelling at me for hurting her.  We took her to the vet and she wore a cast (hot pink, of course) for a few weeks.

She didn't seem to hold a grudge against me.

Suzy was always happy to see us when we came home.  After I moved away, I would leave a tee shirt or something behind that she'd keep in her bed. She loved her bed, but she mostly would lay on the landing between the first two levels of my parents' home - I think because she could better see what was going on in the house from that place.  Starting around 6:00 every night though, she would sit near the door and wait for Dad to come home.  She'd just sit and stare at the door and nothing would make her move from her spot.  She'd greet him anxiously and then mostly retire back to her spot because now everyone was where they belonged and she could relax.

She was a great dog in the regard that we could leave her in the house all day by herself and she never made any kind of mess.  She most likely enjoyed the solitude.  Letting her out was as simple as opening the door and allowing her to go about her business in the yard.  She'd bark when she was ready to come back in.  This worked well for the first 9 or 10 years, but as Suzy got older she began to wander off.  She was returned to us at least 2 times that I know of by people who found her several yards away.

She almost made it to 13 when we realized that she was fading.  The vet suggested that now was the time to put her down.  My dad simply couldn't do it.  So on January 25, 1997, he and Mom and my sister took the day and went shopping about 100 miles away while my youngest brother had to take Suzy to be put to sleep.  He said Suzy sat and watched him as he dug the hole in the yard where she would be placed, almost as if she knew what would happen.  He took her to McDonald's drive-thru for some ice cream, then took her to the vet.

For awhile, I was upset with him that he didn't go back with Suzy when they put her down, that he allowed her to go through it alone.  But when the vet came out and asked him to come back and identify her before he could release her, Mike almost couldn't do it.  He told the vet, "I don't care what you give me in the bag.  I don't care if it's a squirrel.  Just give me something to take home and bury.  Don't make me look at her."  But alas, the law is the law and he had to see her.  Then, he went to pieces.  He brought her home, placed her in the grave she had watched him dig, and placed a stone on top of the spot that is still there today in my parents' yard.  Mom said that Dad cried like he had lost a child.  I'm sure Mom did too, but she would never admit it.

Me and Suzy, 1985
We didn't get another dog after that because Mom refused - still exclaiming that she hated the first one and didn't want another.  But I think the loss of Suzy was simply too great for my parents to go through again.  Suzy was great company to them as one by one their children moved out of the house.

So today, I wish Suzy a happy birthday and thank her for all the love (and love bites) she bestowed on all of us.