COLUMNISTS

Remembering dear canine companions

Susan Manzke
Barn-E tickling Sunny’s ear.

My dog, Sunny, is showing his age, almost 13 years old. With a house filled with cats, Sunny puts up with a lot. Barn-E even tried to get Sunny to play. This happens when Car-E is asleep and Barn-E wants a playmate.

Sunny will let the young cat touch noses and bat at his ear. When he gets tired of Barn-E’s attention, he just gets up and walks into another room. Only on rare occasions does Sunny ruff at one of my inside felines. This has happened when Car-E chased Barn-E through the house, bumping into a sleeping dog. Sunny never snapped but only ruffed in surprise. The cats hardly noticed.

In the past, Sunny slept in my upstairs bedroom. I don’t allow him to do this any longer. His joints are too wonky to take the stairs safely. There’s a toddler gate at the base of the stairs, keeping Sunny from sneaking up. He probably can get all the way upstairs. It’s coming back down that’s the problem. Once he slipped and almost fell all the way down. It would have been terrible if that happened, so he stays downstairs.

Rusty with Susan’s dad in the early 1950s.

Through the years, I’ve shared my life with many dogs. The first one I remember was named Rusty.

I was three when my parents moved us out of Chicago to Lincoln Estates, Illinois. Rusty originally lived with my Aunt Sophie’s family but moved over to take care of Aunt Bea’s family when they moved out of the city. When we joined my dad’s family in a house of our own down the road, Rusty moved in with us.

That big red dog put up with a lot as my little sister was all over him. Even when Karen pulled herself up using his ears, Rusty didn’t budge. Mom said he would give her a sad look that said, “help me,” but he never snapped at our little toddler.

Susan, Karen and Rusty in the 1950s.

When Rusty died, there wasn’t a dry eye in the neighborhood. I remember it was a Wednesday evening when he passed away. Until the very end, Rusty took care of us.

Eventually, Laddy came to our family. He was a purebred collie, but he was one sick puppy. Mom took it on herself to nurse Laddy.

At first, Laddy couldn’t keep anything down. He was skin and bones. With a teaspoon, she gave him warm milk. Eventually, Laddy ate some liver sausage. It wasn’t long before he was bounding after me and my sister. Too often, Laddy found his way into thistles. His long hair attracted the stickers and made his coat almost impossible to brush. After running free in the countryside, Laddy looked a mess. I remember trying to pick out the burs one by one.

Laddy put up with two little girls dressing him up in their dad’s raincoat in this photo.

Laddy had a great personality. He allowed me and my sister to dress him up—we also dressed our cats using doll clothes.

Back in the 1950s and 1960s, we didn’t neuter our dogs. It wasn’t a common happening back then. These days I wouldn’t think of not neutering both my dog and cats.

Being out in the country, we also let our dogs go where they wanted. If they ended up over at either of my aunts’ homes, they would get some food scraps there if they were lucky.

Sometime during my elementary years, we had another dog named Rusty—we weren’t very creative with her name. This Rusty was a shorthaired mutt and all that I remember about her was that while she was with us she gave birth to several litters. As I said we didn’t spay or neuter which meant we often were looking for new homes for puppies.

These few dogs were from my very early years. Many more followed and in another column, I’ll tell you about them. Currently, my attention centers on Sunny. Right now he’s looking at me with that look that’s telling me he needs to go outside. I’ll end this column now as his needs come first.

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165; sunnybook@aol.com; www.susanmanzke.net/blog.