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Home for the summer: Suzi, the invisible dog

From Jan Kent

We brought an invisible dog up to the cabin this summer. Her name is Suzi. If you could see her, you’d see a 50-pound golden-brown dog with soulful tiger eyes. She’s half pit bull, with one ear that’s a little perkier than the other.

This all started when we saw an interesting item on Craig’s List. Suzi’s family lived in an apartment that had suffered water damage and they were forced to move out. They moved in with a family member who lived in a building that didn’t allow dogs, so they were looking for someone to house Suzi until they found a new apartment. They needed a dog-sitter for a couple of months. We contacted them, they came to our house with Suzi, and that was that. One look at her, and we agreed to keep her until they were resettled.

Finding a new apartment turned out to take far more than a couple of months. Many apartment building owners prohibit dogs. Others allow some breeds, but say no to pit bulls.

We loved Suzi from the start. She came when called, never tried to run away and even seemed to understand suburban lot lines. When she ran around the backyard, it was in a tight figure eight that rarely went beyond our lot and into a neighbor’s. She looked like a short deer, running and leaping.

Suzi had a lot to learn when she joined our family, however. For example, it was okay to jump up and sit on Les’s lap, but not okay to climb on me. She was fairly heavy and her pointy knees, elbows and feet dug uncomfortably into my legs and torso. Likewise, Les and our neighbor, Bob, put up with doggy kisses, but I did not. And when I sat on my favorite living room chair, it wasn’t okay for Suzi to jump up and sit next to me (I’m really mean.) In fact, if she curled up in my chair when I was away, she eventually learned to jump out when she saw me come into the room.

That said, we did have our tender moments. I was usually the one to feed her. I’d put fresh water in the left bowl of her doggy dinnerware and a cup of dog food in the right. When I bent down and put her food and beverage on the floor, she’d come over and gently touch her nose to my cheek before lighting into her dinner. And if anyone smiled at her, she’d wag her tail. When the smile ended, so did the wagging. If you petted her foot, she wagged; if you stopped, so did she.

In Illinois, we live on a small man-made lake and the road around it is almost exactly a mile. Most days, one, two or three of us would walk around the lake with Suzi on a leash. People got to know her and she made a lot of friends, so eventually they’d ask the question: “You’re not really going to give her back, are you?” Neighbor Bob threatened to throw himself in front of any car that tried to take her back to her real home.

Well, two months turned into eight, but finally Suzi’s family was in a position to take her home again.

Off she went. She seemed a little sad to leave us, but happy to be back with the people she knew best. A few tears were shed, but no humans were run- over during the transfer.

So now, here we are on the Shore with our invisible dog. We picture Suzi chasing chipmunks, although she would have had little trouble catching them. We see her prowling around a beach fire, looking at the moon over the lake and trying to snitch marshmallows.

At first, you might not see Suzi if you stop by the cabin, but if you ask, we’ll be able to point her out to you.