City or county, shelter has the dog for you

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 14, 2009

As I’ve told you before, when we tied the knot last September, both of our lives were changed forever.

She was a late sleeper; I generally get up early.

She likes to sleep for hours and hours; I like to be actually doing something.

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It was a recipe for disaster. But amazingly, we’ve managed to work things out well.

Now, each morning, as I wake, she gets up, too.

I make sure she uses the bathroom before feeding her breakfast.

I have oatmeal; she has Purina Little Bites.

A quick rub behind the ears, or maybe a foot on her belly and it’s a good morning.

Suzy — the dog that came along with my new wife — can be a bit of a prima donna, but she rolls with the punches and like a good little hair-shedding marine, she adapts to any situation.

Aside from the schedule changes, Suzy’s had to learn some new things. Specifically, she’s become a “county dog” after several years of living downtown.

Actually, we’re not sure of her Natchez pedigree. She may or may not be related to some of the city’s founding fathers’ best friends.

All we know for sure is that my wife Julie found Suzy at the Natchez-Adams County Humane Shelter. And from the moment Julie rescued the little dog, both of their lives became more enriched.

I’ve shared in this fun since September and now I can’t imagine her not being part of the family.

Suzy is afraid of being struck. Just the mere movement of objects near her can send her cowering.

We believe that indicates she probably was mistreated in the past. Given her appearance — short and wiry with a bobbed tail, it’s likely that she was in line to be a squirrel dog but didn’t quite make it through boot camp.

She could have been gun shy or maybe just too much of an independent spirit.

Regardless, her instinct to hunt small furry animals remains ingrained. And, the move to the county has provided a fighting chance.

Near her old downtown pad, stray cats often outnumbered the squirrels. Now, no cats live within 100 yards, but a regular army of squirrels lives nearby — including some paratroopers.

A few weeks ago I noticed that two small flying squirrels had periodically decided to camp out in a small bird box just behind the house.

One day, with Suzy on a leash to allow retrieval if she chose to dive into a hole, I tapped on the side of the box.

Out popped Mr. Flying Squirrel and he soared to a nearby tree.

Suzy freaked. She dove after the squirrel and attempted to climb the tree. Obviously, she was too late. The squirrel was gone, unharmed and safe.

After I calmed Suzy down a bit, I tapped gently on the box again. Out popped Mrs. Flying Squirrel and the same drill was repeated.

Suzy did not catch either squirrel. But she’s now obsessed with the bird box and, comically, with the stick used to tap the box.

In her little doggie mind, the stick is magical and I can use it to conjure up squirrels. Tap the ground and she stares with anticipation; tap the fence, excitement builds.

That incident is probably one of hundreds like it that we’ve experienced together since she moved here.

Pets are amazing creatures that can enrich our lives in amazing ways, whether it’s an excited welcome home, snuggles on a cold morning or the undying faith that you possess special squirrel conjuring skills.

Hundreds of animals like Suzy wind up at the animal shelter; unfortunately, many never leave.

The Adams County Humane Society is currently in a fundraising blitz the month of June, and I urge you to consider helping them raise funds for a new, larger building.

It might help protect the next mighty squirrel hunter that’s waiting for you.

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or