We had a dog named Susie when we were growing up. She was a Saint Bernard. We were the only people we knew who had a Saint Bernard, so she was very unique and we thought she was pretty special. Also there were several famous Saint Bernards – Nana from Peter Pan and Neil from the Topper television show – which only made it seem cooler for us to have a Saint Bernard. All the people in our neighborhood knew Susie.
Susie did help my mother raise us, at least my two younger sisters. They would take naps curled up on her and she was so gentle, she would just lie there until they woke up. She was also very patient as babies learning to walk would grab handfuls of her fur to pull themselves up to standing. We lived on a busy street, but Susie would make sure that none of the little ones got too close to the street. We were never outdoors without her. She was seen one day, gently taking the hand of a strange man who walked down our street and stopped to talk to my sister. Susie just growled very low and escorted him out of our yard. No one would talk back to Susie.
When my youngest sister was about 1 year old, Susie had puppies. She had nine puppies, I think, so that’s lot of dogs to keep in the house, particularly as they started to grow. My parents fenced in an area next to our garage in our back yard; it was kind of like a big play pen. They put Susie and the puppies out there and occasionally my mom would put my sister there too. Susie would look after all the babies – the four legged ones and the two legged one.
Because Saint Bernards are used in the Swiss Alps as rescue dogs and have big kegs of brandy attached to their collars to help revive anyone they rescue, my parents got a keg for Susie. She looked very cute when she wore it. My parents would put it on her and take her around the neighborhood on New Year’s Day. They figured that some people might need reviving after a wild New Year’s Eve.
We lived in Kansas City, which doesn’t have exactly the same weather as the Swiss Alps. While Susie put up with the summers there, she loved winters, especially when it snowed. She was in her element then. She would run circles in the snow, run her nose through it and roll in it. She was most happy when we were all outside with her on snowy days. One of our favorite games to play with her was a form of chicken. We would all lay down at the top of hill in our back yard and my mom would let Susie go. She would charge up the hill and the last one to move was the winner. However, if we didn’t move fast enough Susie would sit on top of us and rescue us by licking our faces. If she couldn’t catch any of us on the ground, she would chase us around, rear up on her back legs and knock us down, so she could then rescue us. She would also grab our gloves or mittens and pull them off and run away with them. She just loved being outside in the snow and she made it so much fun for us too.
I am proud to say that I was raised by Susie. She was a great dog.