Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Meeting Suzie

As I mentioned yesterday in Waiting for a Dog's Age, our family has a new member.

And last night I arrived home to meet our newest little girl. She is a beautiful five month old black Labrador retriever.

And her name appears to be Suzie. Her official papers actually say Suzanne.

This is awkward because we have a friend named Suzanne, and it seems a bit uncomfortable to have a dog with a person's name. Shortly after the girls named our kitten Skye, I met a young lady with the same name. When I informed her that my daughters just named our kitten with her name, she was not sure how to take it. I would assume the perception of a dog named after you would be more … unnerving.

Suzie is beautiful. She has a beautiful black shiny coat as perfect as you could imagine. And good with children? She played with my two little girls just as if she were a child herself.

But I do have a couple of concerns.

The first in that she is excessively submissive. As I approached Suzie, she immediately laid on the ground. The bottom of her jaw firmly on terra firma. And as I moved my hand to her for her to smell, she cowered. Not a light wince, but expecting to get a whack on the head or nose. I am not saying the farmer that we bought her from beat her or abused her, but it certainly appears that somebody whacked her a few times.

I checked her face and mouth and nose, looking for any remaining signs of such abuse, but none could be found. The only remnant of such abuse would be the very scared look in her eyes.

She is not quite as timid and submissive with the girls, but there are traces of her being overly cautious, even with them.

The second concern is that we were hoping, counting on Suzie to be a house dog. To live in the house and be with us in the house. But Suzie was raised on a farm, and so far has spent her life in a pen attached to a barn. She shows no interest in the house, in fact she wants nothing to do with the house.

But I think time will let us assess the situation a bit better. And time will let her gain trust in us.

She has not received any training yet.

So far, Suzie does what she wants. Her way of protest is to simply lie on the ground. She does not quarrel or squirm, but just simply lies there, un-budge-able by leash or collar. To move her, you must bend down and pick her up. Her defense is to go limp and force you carry her dead weight. Passive resistance in the most Ghandi-like fashion.

At Darlene's request, I carried Suzie into the house, and set her in the tub. Dead weight and all. Once in, she went again laid down into that scared way on the floor of the tub. I talked as sweetly as I could to her as I showered her. I wrestled with trying to reach her underbelly as I shampooed her. And I kept talking sweetly to her as I towel dried her. When the bath was over, she was not exactly impressed with her clean self. She continued to lay there as I struggled again to lift her dead – but now wet – weight out of the tub.

I carried Suzie past Skye the kitty – who by now was confused as to why - after only being in our home for a month and a half - we would feel the need to get a dog. But no hissing was heard. No barking, no real notice of each other except that their eyes met.

And Skye might well have been amused as I carried the wet dead-weight puppy to the garage.

Our house has a single car garage. And luckily last Saturday was spent spring-cleaning it out. It is furnished with a wall long workbench, another wall full of wooden shelving for storage, and a couch and chair set we replaced with new shortly after moving in. Indeed it looks like an outdoor den, and is the perfect place to listen to a ballgame on a rainy day.

We laid out a blanket for Suzie, and I plopped her down on it. And there she laid. For three hours she laid there. No motion, just a big sad look of homesick.

Around midnight we finally decided that Suzie, after consuming so much water, and eight cups of food, really needed to get up and go outside. So I opened the garage door, put her leash on, and we tried to coax her outside.

Her expression spoke this exact sentiment: "No thanks, I'm fine right here. If you don't mind, I'm feeling kind of sad and not really interested. I'll just stay here … and mope some more."

And sad she was.

Finally, I picked her up off the blanket I had laid her down on hours before. And I carried her through the garage door, to the front lawn. Once her feet touched the grass, her spirits picked up significantly. Now she wanted to play.

So we did.

At 12:30 AM we played on the front lawn until she finally decided she needed to do the business we had anticipated.

But then she didn't want to go back in. She pulled so hard, her collar slid over her head.

Suzie didn't run away. She came up to me with her head low, tail wagging, and actually waited for me to put it back on.

I felt horrible for her as I picked her back up and carried her dead weight into the garage again. After another 20 minutes of consoling and loving Suzie, Darlene and I went to bed.

The next morning, Alannah beat all of us to the garage door. She opened the door, and there standing happy and wagging her tail and prancing around was Suzie. She was so happy to see Alannah. So happy in fact that Alannah was frightened and closed the door.

"Dad! Suzie is scaring me. She's like a wild dog!"

I opened the door, and there she stood – tail wagging and happy. As for the mess, the only casualty was a phone book Darlene left sitting on the couch. It was half shredded with the pile of shreddings neat in the center of the floor. And upon closer examinations, she had peed again during the night – right in the pile of shreddings. It was as if she knew she needed hay to pee in from her old barn, and finding none in the garage, she derived a way – using only a handy phonebook, to make a place she could go to the bathroom.

If you would have told me I would ever praise a dog for ripping a book to shreds and peeing on it, I would have answered defiantly "Never". But that was one of the smartest things I ever saw a dog do. Perhaps there is the chance it was not be a conjured plan of her derision. Perhaps the series of events did simply add up to the positive result.

But I choose to think she figured it out.

We are again very lucky with the new member to our family. I think we will all love Suzie very much.

Although I can't speak for Skye the kitty.

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