Now retired from breeding, Susie Q is the matriarch of our operation.
I am finding it surprisingly difficult to write about how much Susie means to me. I don't want to personify her, as this would belittle her true essence. Susie is a good dog- she lives to please.
Susie has been by my side whenever possible for the last five years, she has always done her best to please me, although sometimes she has tried to change my mind first, and having this reliable obedience at hand while raising a teenager was unspeakably comforting.
When I got Susie I had just discovered that my lyme disease was chronic and she was there to help me learn to deal with it. She is always in tune to my feelings and attitudes.
I was watching a re-run of the episode of ER on TV the other day and Dr. Carter was reading to the other staff members a letter telling that Dr. Green had died, and I noticed Susie staring intently at my face. She brought her Frisbee and dropped it on my foot with a grin and rolling her eyes like she is in this picture:
"Cheer up MOM!"
This empathy is a quality that ESs have, (especially those from De Butcher's breeding) that is unsurpassed--they read their stock better than other herding breeds, and are as gentle as possible (or as forceful as necessary) to accomplish the task at hand. This is a quality that was developed through centuries of selection for working on a farm, and not by selection for herding trials, where "keenness" is emphasized.
I seriously don't know what I would have done without Susie Q when my Lyme disease was so bad. I am dead certain that because she is in our lives , our lives are less stressful, and less stressful lives translate into longer lives for us.
It is the least I can do in return to try to extend the quantity and quality of the lives of dogs in this breed.
Susie, like Will Rogers, has never met a man or woman or child she did not like. I got her as a small pup, and she has not known many harsh words in her life, the worst was when she rolled in the horse urine and was banished to the dog house with the admonition "you STINK!" She looked like a whipped puppy, slinking around. People would have thought we beat her!
She was 4-months-old before she saw a child and she barked at it- "MOM! there was a short person and he moved really really fast!"- this could have become a dislike for children easily, but I had trained her from a pup never to mouth or jump on anyone, and when she met children and they petted her she found out that they are very easily trained to throw the ball and have a longer concentration span than tall people. She definitely prefers short people! Susie learns by watching and invents so many of her own games, she is always keeping me entertained!
Here is a post my daughter sent to the English Shepherd lists about Susie:
Susie Q, who belongs to my mom, Elaine Reynolds, has been staying here with us for about 3 weeks now. She LOVES to play fetch.
We have a 15-month-old son named Ethan. Ethan LOVES animals. It's a good thing we worm the dogs because I have seen him bending over lapping up water with Shooter and finger feeding kibble to Meg. Cutest thing ever was he and Shooter cuddled up sleeping together....out of film dang it!
So, anyway, when we go out to play fetch with Susie, Ethan is usually out there and he wants to throw the frisbee or ball. I think most dogs would ignore (or not even notice) Ethan's requests to throw it, but every now and then she'll take the ball to him and let him "throw" it. She'll work with him a couple of times then ask someone who can throw it farther. He's getting pretty good at it! She's taking it to him more and more and he gets better and better. He's simply delighted.
So.... if there are anyone needs a pitching coach...
Last summer we took Susie with us to Wisconsin for the first time. Once when she was one year old she had an opportunity to work sheep and she did an exceptional job- great outrun etc, but last year Susie was four, and it had been a long time.
We followed Dan and Shooter half way out to the pasture and watched them move the cattle- and was Susie impressed- she was fascinated and looked at me as if to say "Wow mom! He's Cool!" she renewed her acquaintance with Meg and Erin and Dan and the boys at that time, and we saw them again in January, although their dogs stayed in WI.
Before we went to AR to pick up Rusty we took Susie to our son's house in Woodward to stay for the weekend. Susie knew something was up so Ron asked her "wanna go see Emilie?" (our granddaughter) and Susie responded enthusiastically!
The first of this month on the way to Wisconsin we were having a good time with Susie's reactions about the various food chains. Noticing when she knew the one we were talking about. KFC seems to be her favorite. (She thinks we should take our money out of the First National Bank and switch to the KFC bank- they just give doggy treats at the First National...) When we crossed the Missouri River just south of St. Joseph I asked Susie "Wanna go See Shooter?" Susie sat up, came up between the seats, standing on the console and started looking as hard as she could through the windshield...(hoping to see a flash of black and white!) Next convenience store stop she cast around on the ground looking for his scent. We got back in the car and drove on, and Susie was very much disappointed, so we did not say anything further about Shooter until we turned onto Red Bank Road!
Videos of Susie learning to herd cattle are the next chapter in this story: http://www.geocities.com/horsesnewmexcom/suherd.html
Susie is the best dog I have ever seen at doing a 180 degree turn while going full speed without losing any momentum, this ability is definitely something I am breeding for, physically.
Meet the Dogs of Cimarron