Amusing to Profound

My Conversations with Animals

© 2011 (all rights reserved)

An article from the JULY 2011 issue of THE STAR BEACON.

From the chapter titled “Fruity” ... Suzanne Ward developed the ability to “mind-talk” with animals. Her remarkable conversations include the following excerpts from this amusing chapter in her book.

Long after other responsibilities had limited my involvement with our local shelter to only fund-raising activities, it had expanded to accommodate a few dogs. Early in September 2007, one of the volunteer veterinarians told me about the black and white Lhasa apso, the worst case of neglect the staff had ever seen, whom they called Marty and estimated to be about thirteen. He had been receiving medical care ever since he had been found wandering around in the street two months before, and he needed still more minor surgeries. However, nothing could restore his vision or hearing, and those handicaps plus his chronic skin condition and the expensive eye drops he needed twice daily for the rest of his life made him the worst possible candidate for adoption they could imagine.
          Nine days later Marty was well enough for me to bring him and his eight medications home. I am not waving some do-gooder banner here—I was unabashedly self-serving. Having Marty to take care of was like more time with Lucky, the tiny black and white fellow who walked into my life September 11, 1998, the day that would have been my son Matthew’s thirty-sixth birthday. I was driving along a stretch of nearly deserted pasture land, taking two of our dogs for dental appointments, and suddenly a little fur ball walked into the middle of the road. I braked, jumped out, scooped him up and waved a thank-you to the approaching driver who had screeched to a halt.
          I left my new passenger and his unholy odor at the hospital to be examined and bathed. When I returned, I learned that he had been matted to the skin, where a colony of fleas were thriving; he was probably ten to twelve years old; was blind in one eye and had severely distorted vision in his deformed eye; and his ears were infected. As I paid the unexpectedly high bill, the office manager said, “He’s sure one lucky dog that you found him,” and I came home with two dogs whose teeth were sparkly and a little guy whose hair was gone but so were the fleas, and several bottles of meds for him.
          Our six dogs kept us very busy, and I had given Bob my word that I would not add to our family. So when I walked in cradling that squirming little body, who could blame my husband for saying this isn’t fair, I had promised him I never would do this again. This is different, I told him—this is Lucky, Matthew’s birthday gift to me for being his mother. It took Bob perhaps as long as half an hour to feel as grateful as I that this dear little dog had come into our lives.
          Lucky was shy and sweet, the quietest dog imaginable, and totally content to lie in a lap or find his own spot, and we adored him for the two-and-a-half years left of his life. He was by far the smallest dog I had ever had, and I thought of him as a baby who needed a mother’s care. He never was sick, so it was a shock when he died an hour after Bob and I returned from an evening class. I wasn’t ready for Lucky to leave, and when I met Marty nine years after that morning when a miniature version of himself walked into the road in front of my car, I felt thankful for more time with dear little soul Lucky.
          That really warped thinking blew right out of my head about a nanosecond after Marty came home with me. Our fur family seemed puzzled when I put him on the floor, as if he were some alien life form whose little black and white rear didn’t merit the usual check-me-out routine. They just stood there, towering over him, as Marty confidently walked under Brillo and kept on going. I steered him into the guestroom, hugged him and told him to stay there, I would be right back. I spoke aloud to the other dogs, but it seemed more natural to think-talk with a nearly deaf little fellow and usually that’s what I did.
          I took him his quota of pills for that time of day, each disguised in a little bite of his special canned food, and put the dish right under his nose. “Marty, here are some special treats for you.” “Where?” He couldn’t smell either. After he ate, he said, “Marty isn’t my real name and I don’t like it.”
          “Oh, OK. What is your real name?”
          "Billy. I don’t like it either.”
          “What name would you like?”
          "Fruity. I like the ooooo sound in my head.”
          His chronic skin condition required a bath with medicated soap twice a week. Our oversized kitchen sink and flexible spray faucet would be ideal, and after collecting a wash cloth, towels and his shampoo, I gathered up Fruity and told him what was in store for him. "Am I stinky? I don’t like to be stinky,” and while I was bathing him: “I love this. I love my bath. I love warm water.”
          I wrapped him in towels, carried him to our bathroom and turned on the hair dryer. "I love the whizzer best of all.” I put him down and steered him out of the bathroom into our room, then turned him toward the hallway. “Am I going back to my room now?” His room? Well, now it seemed practical to feed him there. “I love my dinner. It’s delicious.” Afterwards he sat perfectly still while I put drops in his eyes, and he said “Thank you” when I gave him a little biscuit for dessert.
          I had been holding up my end of our brief conversations and my words hadn’t posed any problem. “Fruity, do you have to go outside now?”
          “Do you need to go out to … um … do your business, go to the toilet?”
          “Um … oh, do you have to do potty?”
          “Oh. You mean one poo and two poo.”
          That taken care of, I got the big lightweight neon orange blanket I had bought for him and folded it until it became a mattress for the large soft baby basket I felt so fortunate to find on sale at an antique shop. I put Fruity on top and told him this was the bed especially for him. He turned around a few times, then jumped out. After the third time, I doubled the blanket, spread it on the carpet at the foot of the bed and put him on it. He saw me as a big blob, but somehow he could detect what was beneath him: “Thank you for my beautiful blanket.” He curled up and went to sleep.
          An hour later when I passed the guestroom, he was sitting up and looking out into the hall. I didn’t want him to feel abandoned, so I steered him out of his room, around the corner and down the hallway into the master bedroom, which is large enough for a leisure area with a bookshelf, two comfortable chairs, small tables and a large old wooden chest that holds our television. I placed Fruity in Bob’s lap, where he stayed for the rest of the evening and watched the TV screen change from light to dark. When he fell asleep, I took him back to his room, and he spent his first night there on his beautiful blanket. At 7:30 a.m., he barked for the first time. If his body were commensurate with his vocal volume, he could be an elephant.
          His first bath deluded me into thinking they always would be gleeful times. However, a professional grooming came soon after that, and his second bath at home was a litany of complaints: The water’s too warm, now it’s too cold, I got his face wet, the water’s too high, I’m taking too long, when will I finish, I got his face wet again, that’s enough. The whizzer he loves best didn’t fare any better—I put it too close, it touched him, he’s tired of standing still, when will this stop, it touched him again, he’s dry enough, he wants all his baths at the other place. Well, if I can’t take him there every time, I need to get a big box that has a whizzer outside so he can move around or sleep while he gets dry.
          One day he didn’t stop at griping. He kept turning around in the sink, climbed up on the counter and soaked the towel there, then shook before I could get my hands on the second one. In the bathroom, he was a tiny edition of a bull in a china shop. He thrashed around until he managed to get out of my hands and knock both porcelain soap dishes —they were safely out of his normal reach—and an electric toothbrush on the floor. The toothbrush survived and I caught the thrasher just before he landed. “Fruity, why have you been so awful today?” “It comes naturally.”
          Eventually I figured out that keeping a conversation going throughout bath time reduced his complaints and scrambling around. It was a gloomy all-day drizzle, and when he came inside after strolling around on the deck doing both poos, I plunked him in the sink of warm water and asked if he had gotten wet outside. “No, I am wet because you are washing me.”
          Another day I told him having a bath was like being in a very little swimming pool. “What is that?” I told him a pool has a lot of water, like a pond, but not as much water as a river or a lake, and I asked if he knows what those are.
          “No, I don’t get involved in those.”
          “Oh, OK.”
          “What is swimming?”
          “It’s playing in a lot of water. Lots of dogs like to swim.”
          “I’m not one of them.”

          Fruity told me he would need a coat when it got cold. I got him a darling red, white and blue turtleneck sweater that goes over his head and his little legs fit through the sleeves. Each day when I was dressing him to go out, he chattered about loving his beautiful coat and going out to roam until the afternoon I was hurrying and stuffed his head into a sleeve. “Get me out of this now!”
          “This is your beautiful coat, Fruity.”
          “No it’s not. It’s a bitch.”
          “WHAT?! Why did you say that?”
          “That is what you say when you don’t like something.”
          So his beautiful coat lost favor, but I ignored his protests that he didn’t want it ever again, and when he darted out of my knee-hold, I chased him down to finish dressing him. All the aggravation evaporated in his enjoyment of walking wherever he wanted to without a rope until the first day it snowed. There was only an inch or two when I took him out to the yard. He did one poo right where I set him down, walked around for a few seconds to find the right place for his two poo, then walked up the step. “Don’t you like the snow?” “Sometimes, but not today.” “Well, the other dogs always like it.” “Maybe they don’t know any better.”
          Recently I went into his room with his sweater in hand and touched his head to let him know I was there. He told me, “This is quiet hour. You never should interrupt quiet hour.” I apologized and made a quick exit. It was a few days later when I told him,You’re a beautiful little soul,” and he replied, “Big Dog said you are too and I have to respect you.” That caught me off guard, and I didn’t think until that evening to ask him what respect means to him. “It means being nice and polite.”
          When I told him, today is Christmas, he asked, “What is a Christmas?”
          “It’s a very special day for God.”
          “Then Big Dog must know about it. He always follows God’s instructions.”
          “What kind of instructions?”
          “Big Dog tells us what is important to God so we know what to do.”
          “But Big Dog didn’t tell you that Christmas is important to God?”
          “I must have missed that lesson. But now I know. Dogs keep on learning like people do.”
          A few days later while he was getting a dose of the whizzer, he asked, “Is today a Christmas?”
          “No. There’s only one Christmas each year.”
          “What is a year?”
          “It’s a long time—many, many days.”
          “Oh. Dogs know what a day is. We don’t need to learn about a year.”
          The other day the new veterinarian at Monica’s hospital said that Fruity’s skin condition may be exacerbated by food allergies and suggested that we try a diet of unsalted chicken and rice. That night I added little bites of simmered skinless chicken breasts and some broth to cooked rice and gave it to Fruity. “This is delicious and it comes with soup! I love this dinner!”
          When I told him he can have it every night, he asked, “Did you buy a lot of chicken?” and I told him yes.
          “Will the other dogs get some?”
          “No, it’s all for you.”
          “That’s not fair. Give them some too.”
          One afternoon when Fruity was lying on the bed in his room, I asked if he wanted to roam. “No, I am busy. I am making pictures of bottles dancing.” “How interesting!” “They are very pretty bottles. My inside eyes can see their colors.” “Are you making music for them to dance to?” “No, I can’t make music. They make their own music and it is beautiful. It goes chingy, chingy, clinkle, clinkle.”
          When Betsy came recently, her younger daughter was on vacation from her first year of medical school, and she came too. I told Fruity that the real name of this Big Girl is Raquel.
          “Are you sure that is a real name?”
          “Oh, yes, definitely Raquel is a real name.”
          “Well, it isn’t a pretty name. She should change it to Ann.”
          “Fruity dear, she can’t change her name.”
          “I changed mine.”
          “I know you did, but people don’t change their names.”
          When I took Fruity’s dinner to him a little later, he said, “Did she change her name to Ann yet?” “No, and she’s not going to.” “Then tell her to change it to Princess.”
          Fruity’s skin condition requires keeping his hair short, so there are frequent trips to the groomer. The most recent was last week, and his first bath since then was three days later. While I was drying him, I said “The whizzer works better since you had your hair cut.” And he said, “The whizzer works the same. My haircut is what is better.”
          The other evening when I gave him his dinner, a bigger than usual serving of chicken and rice, he left about two tablespoons of broth. When I picked up his dish, he said, “You gave me too much soup. I couldn’t eat it all.”
          “That’s OK. I know I gave you a lot.”
          Later, when I took in his biscuits, he asked, “Did you save the soup I couldn’t eat?”
          “No, each of the big dogs had a bite. I’ll cook more for you.”
          “You never bite soup. You sip soup. I always sip soup.”
          Life with The Little King is a continuous roll of learning, loving and laughing.

          Order Amusing to Profound, My Conversations With Animals, at





This page updated July 14, 2011


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