81: Suzi Saves the Day

81: Suzi Saves the Day

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Very Good, Very Bad Dog

Suzi Saves the Day

Fun fact: Dogs’ exceptional hearing may make them more sensitive to loud noises, like fireworks exploding.

Just four blocks from my house, the Fourth of July parade starts to line up. My dog and I sit down on the grass to watch.

Political candidates straddle the back seat of convertibles. Marching bands step in place aided by the rat-tat-tatting of drums.

Full-grown men decked out in exotic costumes, including tall hats with tassels, push little bumper cars into place and squeeze inside. Engines roar, making loud popping noises. POP. BANG.

At the first BANG, Suzi, my Boxer–Golden Retriever mix, jumps up, eyes dilated, the fur on her back standing straight up. She does an about-face, tugs the leash, drags me up off the grass and starts heading in the opposite direction.

I say “NO,” but at sixty-one pounds of determined dog, she out-muscles me.

Every dog obedience command I ever learned comes tumbling out, one after another: “SIT! STAY! DOWN! LEAVE IT! BAD DOG!”

But she has selective deafness. Suzi then does something I’ve never seen her do before or since. She squares her shoulders, expands her chest, puts her head down and takes one deliberate step away from the parade, then another step.

My dog is an ox dragging a plow behind her. I, the plow, follow, whining, trying to turn back, to no avail.

One block. Two blocks. Three blocks. Then finally home. Suzi places a front paw on the back door and looks at me. The message: “OPEN THE DOOR NOW!”

I open the door. She collapses on the kitchen floor, panting, mission accomplished. My four-legged protector has brought her human out of danger and into the only safe place she knows — home.

Suzi first came into my life quite by chance. Her mom, a purebred Boxer, was destined to mate another Boxer, but along came a Golden Retriever at the right time.

Two friends got three girls from the unwanted litter. I got a dinner invitation. They knew I was looking for a dog but needed help getting there. I’d lived with cats for years. Change is hard. After all, you don’t have to walk cats.

All the pups were lively, but Suzi was the one that crawled up into my lap, sighed and went to sleep.

I was a goner.

The day I took her home, she whimpered in the car. I sang lullabies to her, the same ones I sang to my three sons when they were little years ago. She fell asleep.

We bonded big time — playing with toys, exploring the neighborhood. Walking with a dog is so different from walking alone. Dogs I never knew existed came to their fence lines to greet Suzi. I met new people and their dogs. She expands my world, and I am grateful.

After she was grown, about two years old, we started doing 5K races together, and she even became part of newspaper stories I wrote on getting a new dog park in town. A chapter in my gardening book, Florida Gardens Gone Wild, tells about the day she danced with a butterfly in the back yard.

Her only phobia is anything that sounds like gunshots — say, fireworks and those little car engines.

While Suzi panted on the kitchen floor after rescuing me on the Fourth of July, I had an “a-ha moment.”

All this time, I thought it was my job to take care of her, to keep her safe and happy 24/7. It was all about me being in charge, being the alpha dog. Never once did it occur to me that she has a job, too, and her job is, well, me.

Suzi’s 24/7 job — stay close while walking, share snacks in the evening, let me dress her up sometimes, sleep back-to-back, remind me to get going so we have time for her morning walk.

Every day when I come home from work, she turns herself into a pretzel at the front door, twisting in two, so glad to see me. Let the laughter begin.

She takes her job so seriously that she dragged me from danger to safety that Fourth of July. I feel humbled, protected and loved.

Two-legged humans come and go in our lives, but Suzi always has my back. So when people ask me, “Do you live alone?” I answer, “No, there is Suzi. She takes care of me.”

~Lucy Beebe Tobias

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