Sunday Scribblings - Fellow Travelers - 1/20/08

I have traveled extensively in my life, but sadly, mostly alone. This is partly by choice and partly because I am such a bastard that few people enjoy my company for long enough to endure any kind of extensive trip. But, this writing will be about a companion that doesn’t care that I am an asshole, she loves unconditionally.

In December of 2000, I escaped the frozen wasteland of central Wyoming and moved to Myrtle Beach, SC. I put everything I had in storage and set off in my new SUV, with my traveling companion, Suzy. Suzy was, and is, a Dachshund. As a puppy the size of your hand, I gave her to a friend’s daughter for Easter in about 1996. Suzy was re-gifted to me just prior to my trip. Situations required the family to move into a rental property that would not accept pets.

So Suzy and I departed on the 2,000-mile adventure. I hadn’t gotten out of the driveway before I realized that this journey was going to be interesting. I had always known that Suzy suffered from OCD. If you think that Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is only a human condition, you have never spent much time in the company of a canine, or at least this one.

The first compulsion that I observed with Suzy was her obsession with chasing a ball. From the time she was a tiny puppy she loved fetching a ball. No one taught her to fetch, she just figured out that if she brought it back you were inclined to throw it again. She never tired of it. She would chase as long as you would throw. She would not even stop to relieve herself, rather let it fly while she was at full speed. When you wanted to stop the game, you had to hide the ball. I mean HIDE the ball. If she saw where you put it, she would either engineer a way to get at it or look at the spot in which she believed it to be and whine until she drove you completely mad. If you just stopped throwing it, she would move the ball closer and closer to you with her nose. That failing, it would soon be on your foot or in your lap. There was no ignoring her and hoping she would lose interest. She never lost interest.

If you uttered the word “ball”, even under your breath, her ears would perk up and she would begin to dance in anticipation of chasing her beloved ball. Even the words “mall”, “hall”, “doll” or anything else with an “all” sound, elicited the same manic response. Tennis balls were her favorite, though I believe she would have tried to retrieve a bowling ball. If you threw more than one ball, she would make every attempt at bringing them all back, driving herself mad with indecision.

Once, I took her to the beach to chase balls and on the way home I stopped to get gas. I hadn’t realized that one of the balls had gotten lodged between the back seat and the door. In the length of time it took me to pump the gas and buy a drink, she had chewed my leather seat trying to retrieve the ball. She normally did not chew, but when it came to “ball” she was unbridled.

Okay, back to the trip. The new obsession that Suzy exhibited, and would continue to exhibit for the next 1,999.9 miles was that she required that I pet her at all times. I didn’t really have to make a stroking motion; rather my right hand must constantly rest on her. Any attempt to remove that hand resulted in her repositioning it with her nose. Should I try to put both hands on the steering wheel, she would crawl onto my lap and whine. Not once, while the vehicle was in motion, did she sleep. I tried once to put her in the back seat but it became obvious that was not acceptable to her and since she has toes like a badger, I again feared for my leather.

We made the trip without incident, though my right arm slept for most of the journey.

When we arrived in Myrtle Beach, my plan was to leave her with my son Josh and his wife Tia until I settled in but she bonded with my daughter-in-law and has been her dog ever since.

Suzy is now about 11, very old for a Dachshund, due to their fragile back and hips. She is grossly overweight (Suzy not Tia) and her ball chasing days are about over.

She coexists with their 100+ pound black Labrador, Bob, but it was obvious from day one who was boss. She has terrorized Bob for seven years now. Suzy has no idea that she is only a foot tall. She fears no dog. She is the alpha dog.

A cat once beat the crap out of her, but that is another story.

Bob loves Suzy. Before she arrived he had terrible seperation anxiety whenever he was left alone. Suzy's presence calmed him. Suzy pretends to hate Bob, but when no one is looking she will play with him. But she will not share her bone, her food, her attention, or her place on the couch.

Suzy does not really like children. They move at her too quickly and are a bit rough for her liking. Suzy is a gentle creature. She does not bite them, but she will avoid them and if they continue to pursue her she will growl and show her teeth, maybe even a little warning snap. This is my grandson Carson getting into Suzy's personal space. She is less than pleased.

Remarkably, the only children she tolerates, and even seeks out, are two young autistic boys that are neighbors of Josh and Tia. She is pictured here with one of them.

The other photo is of Suzy and Bob waking my son, Josh, on his birthday.

Suzy is now, pretty much of a couch potato and as you can see, still enjoys being stroked. Don’t we all.