Suki . . . A Best Friend for All Reasons

Suki . . . A Best Friend for All Reasons

From A 2nd Helping of Chicken Soup for the Soul

Suki . . . A Best Friend for All Reasons

As a small child, I could not understand why I should pray for human beings only. When my mother had kissed me goodnight, I used to add a silent prayer that I had composed for all living creatures.

Albert Schweitzer

The first time I saw her she was sitting in the midst of several jumping, yapping dogs who were all trying to get my attention. With quiet dignity, she gazed at me with her huge brown eyes, soft and liquid with a knowing that transported both of us far beyond the animal shelter. Her eyes were her best feature. The rest of her seemed to have been put together by someone with a great sense of humor and access to many different kinds of dogs. The head of a dachshund, spots of a terrier, legs seen better on a Welsh corgi and the tail of perhaps . . . a Doberman pinscher? All in all she was an amazing sight . . . the ugliest dog I had ever seen.

I named her Suki Sue Shaw. As it turned out, she was perhaps about three or four months old at the time we first met, yet she looked about 14 or 15 years old. When she was six months old, people would say, “Boy, how old is that dog? She looks like she’s has been around for a long time!” When I would reply that she was six months old, inevitably there would be a long silence and sometimes the end of the conversation. She was never the kind of dog that would stimulate the beginning of a conversation on the beach with the guys I was hoping to meet, only with little old ladies who felt they had a kindred spirit in her.

Yet she was sweet, loving and very intelligent; exactly what I needed in a companion to help me erase the bitter memories of a broken love affair. She liked to sleep on my feet . . . no, not on the foot of the bed, but right on my feet. The solidity of her little round body would be felt every time I tried to turn over in the night. I felt as if my legs were under an anvil. We eventually made peace: she slept on my feet and I learned not to turn over in bed too often.

Suki was with me when I met my first husband. He was pleased that I had a dog, as he had a dog, too. His dog was not wanted in his home by his roommates because there was no longer any furniture to sit on. His dog had eaten it all. My friend was overjoyed because he thought if he left his dog with my dog, his dog would have something to do all day besides eat furniture. He did. His dog got my dog pregnant.

I had just returned home from a walk on the beach with Suki and although her looks hadn’t improved to my eyes, to every male dog within a three mile radius, she was a temptress. She would elevate her tail and raise her head as if she was the Princess of the Dog Show. Male dogs came out of the woodwork and followed us down the strand, howling and moaning as if they were going to die. I soon figured it out . . . she must be in season. My friend’s dog was only a baby of eight months, and so in my ignorance I felt safe enough to leave them together long enough to call the animal hospital for an appointment for Suki to be “fixed.”

When I turned around, Suki and my friend’s dog were joined together in my living room! Oh, the horror of it. What could I do but sit there in astonishment and wait for something to happen? We all waited. They began to pant. Suki looked bored. His dog seemed tired. I called my friend on the phone and told him to come and get his sex fiend of a dog and take him away. We waited some more. I couldn’t stand it and went outside to do some gardening. When my friend came after work for his dog, the two dogs were sitting on the living room carpet, napping. They looked so innocent, I figured maybe nothing happened and I had imagined it all.

Suki pregnant was a sight to behold. Her already round body became blimp-like as she squeezed carefully in and out of the doggie door. She no longer was able to walk or trot, but had adapted a sort of rolling, waddling gait to ease her swollen form from room to room. Thankfully, for the time being she gave up sleeping on my feet. She couldn’t get up on the bed so I made a nest for her under the bed. I decided that she needed daily exercise to stay in shape, so I continued our afternoon walks on the beach. As soon as we would reach the sand, she would adapt her former strut and sway—up would come the tail and the head and she would sashay down the strand. The puppies inside went from side to side, in all likelihood becoming nauseated during their wild ride.

I had never attended a birth before I helped with Suki’s. She alerted me at some wee hour of the morning by pulling the covers off the bed and trying to push them into her bed with her snout. Properly alerted and ready to attend to her every need, I sat by her nest as she pushed out her first baby. It seemed to be stuck inside of a sealed bag of some sort. Suki proceeded to eat the bag. I hoped that she knew what she was doing, as I sure didn’t know. Lo and behold . . . it really was a puppy, slimy and icky. Suki licked the puppy clean and lay down again to sleep. I got back into bed.

Twenty minutes later, I awoke to find myself coverless again. Another puppy. This time I waited up with her and talked to my dog until the next puppy was on its way. We talked about things I had never discussed with a dog before. I poured out my heart to her, about the love I had lost and the emptiness I had inside of me until she had come along. She never complained . . . about my conversation or about the birth tremors she was experiencing. We stayed up all night, Suki and I . . . talking, giving birth and licking puppies . . . I involved in the first, she in the latter. She never cried or moaned once, just loved those little babies of hers from the moment they arrived. It was one of my most fulfilling life experiences.

None of the puppies looked like her or, for that matter, like my friend’s dog, either. Of the six puppies, three looked like small black Labs and three looked like dachshunds with a black stripe down their backs. They were all cute. Friends of ours lined up for Suki’s puppies and I never had to stand in front of the grocery store with a box.

My friend and I got married and moved. We took Suki and gave his dog away. I’m not sure he ever forgave me for that. We moved to an area that had open fields to run in and Suki took great advantage of that. She would run at full blast into the fields and disappear, except for integrated intervals when you could see the top of her head and her ears flapping high into the breeze. She would come out grinning and panting. I’m not sure she ever caught a rabbit, but I know she gave it her best effort.

Suki would eat anything and all of it. One afternoon I made 250 chocolate chip cookies for a church meeting I was to attend that evening. Somehow Suki got into the bags of cookies and ate not some, not most, but every single cookie; all 250 of them. When I got home I wondered how she had become pregnant from one hour to the next. Only this time she was moaning, panting and definitely out of sorts. Not knowing what she had done, I rushed her to the animal hospital. The vet asked what had she eaten and I replied I hadn’t fed her yet. His eyebrows disappeared into his hair. He said she had eaten, and a lot of it.

I left her there overnight and went home to find my contribution for the church dinner. Only where were the 250 cookies? I searched high and low. I was sure I had put them in the cupboard before I left home. I went into the backyard on a hunch and there, neatly stacked, were the nine plastic bags that earlier had contained the cookies. They weren’t ripped or disheveled, only very empty. I called the vet and explained that 250 chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies were missing. He said impossible. No animal could eat 250 chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies and still be alive. He would watch her closely during the night. I never saw the cookies again, and Suki came home the next day. From that time on, she wasn’t too fond of cookies but she would eat them if someone insisted.

There came the time when Suki’s appearance and her age matched. She was 16 and having a difficult time getting around. Stairs had become too hard to climb and her kidneys were giving her fits. She had been my friend, at times my only loyal friend. Friendships with my human companions would vary and fade, but my friendship with Suki stayed steady and loyal through it all. I had divorced, remarried and was finally feeling as if my life was working. I couldn’t stand to see her in such pain and so I decided to do the humane thing and put her to sleep for the last time.

I made an appointment and carried her in my arms to the car. She snuggled next to me as best she could despite the misery I knew she was feeling. She had never wanted me to worry about her; all she wanted from me was my love. In her whole life, she had never whined or cried. I did plenty for both of us. On the last drive together, I told her how much I loved her and how I was so proud of who she was. Her true beauty always had shone through and long ago I had forgotten how I once thought her to be ugly. I told her how I appreciated that she never begged for my attention and love, yet accepted it with the grace of one who knows they are deserving. If ever a royal animal had been born, it was she, for she had the ability to enjoy life with a dignity befitting a queen.

I carried her into the vet’s office, and he asked me if I wanted to be with her in her last moments. I did. I held my arms around her while she lay on the cold, sterile table and tried to keep her warm when the vet went for the shot that was to end her life. She tried to get up, but she no longer could make her legs do what she wanted them to do. So for the longest time, we looked into each other’s eyes . . . liquid brown eyes, soft and trusting, into blue eyes overflowing with tears, as they are now. “Are you ready?” the vet asked. “I am,” I answered. I lied. I would never in my life be ready to give up the love I had with Suki and I didn’t want to give her up either. I knew I had to. I didn’t want to break my connection with my Suki and I know she didn’t want to either. Up until the last second, she looked into my eyes, and then I saw death creep into her gaze and I knew my best friend was gone.

I often think that if we human beings could duplicate the qualities that our animals exemplify to us, what a better world we would all live in. Suki showed me loyalty, love, understanding and compassion in an effortless way that was always ladylike and forgiving. If I could show my children the same unconditional love that Suki gave to me in the same consistent manner, I am sure my children would grow up to be the happiest and most secure individuals on the face of the planet. She set a good example for me and I will try to make her proud of me.

People say that when we die we are met on the other side by someone we know and love. I know who will be waiting for me . . . a little, round, black and white dog with an old face and a stubby tail that never stops wagging with joy at seeing her best friend again.

Patty Hansen

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