During these days of COVID-19 quarantines, our animal friends are important in our lives. Just their presence can lighten the stress and anxiety so many of us feel. Even during less tumultuous times, pets have been important in my life.
One of the pets embedded in Day family history is Susie, the dog we had while I was growing up. She was a little, short-legged, barrel-chested dog, with short, white hair and a tail that curled over her back. I think she was a stray that Sandra found on the ranch. Susie was the only dog allowed in the house. This privilege was granted her when I was too young to know that not every dog received special treatment. When she looked at you, you could read the intelligence in her eyes. She fit in our family like a fourth child.
Susie loved all the family equally and would always come with a smile when called. Every morning she made it a point to visit each family member in bed and greet them with a smile. If you didn’t know better, you would think her smile was snarl. She pulled her lips back, stuck out her tongue and hissed.
Susie wasn’t spoiled and never was in the way, yet she was always part of any event in the house. One of her best traits was that she could hear cars coming up the ranch road when they still were several miles away. She’d give a couple of little barks. You could always tell whether it was a stranger or a ranch vehicle by her bark. If we heard a stranger bark, we would say company is coming, and my mother would make a fresh pot of fresh coffee and get ready to receive guests.
Susie only had one enemy—the pig we kept down in the corral. Once a day, the pig visited the back of the bunkhouse to eat the cowboys’ table scraps. When that pig took one step out of the corral, Susie jumped and had a barking tantrum even if she were napping soundly indoors.
I loved having Susie as a companion. I’d take her with me to check windmills or put out salt licks for the cattle. She loved to come along. I almost always took a 22 rifle to shoot jackrabbits. They ate a lot of grass that I wanted for the cows. Susie would spot the jackrabbits first and would tell me. I’d stop and shoot the rabbit. She’d then jump out of the jeep and land on her head because her legs were short. She’d pick herself up and run over to the jackrabbit, shake it to death, then strut back to the jeep so proud of herself for being such a great hunter. Sometimes, she would get a little blood on her chest or leg. She’d make sure to show me the badge of courage that she earned while shaking that mean rabbit.
Susie lived a long and healthy life. When she finally got old and passed, it was one of the saddest days we had on the ranch. I was a senior in high school. Of course, I missed her. Terribly. But when I think of her, I don’t think of the missing. I think of all the fun we had and feel grateful that she was a part of my life.