Never known a life without dogs


“I’d be happy to have my biography be the stories of my dogs. To me, to live without dogs would mean accepting a form of blindness.”

— Thomas McGuane

There has never been a time in my life without dogs. I can’t imagine it any other way.

I remember a black and white photograph in an old family album. My three older sisters appear in the first photo, dressed up in their new school clothes, smiling as they head off for their first day of school. I am going to be alone, as it is my next older sister’s first day of first grade.

The next photo that appears is little old me, taken that same morning, sleepy-eyed at about age 3, still in my one-piece jammies with the feet in them, sitting on our old brown couch with my arm around my dear sweet Pekingese, Chippi Chan, then still a young dog.

I have a feeling that from that day on, Chippi became something more dear to me than just a dog. I have my dear dad to thank for this thoughtful gift, not wanting me to be lonely.

So many of my childhood memories have Chip in at least a part of the moment, just as siblings are a part of most memorable clips that endure. Chip was my sidekick, my buddy, and we were pretty much inseparable.

When I was about 9 years old, the three youngest of us in the family got new bikes for the first time. We were taken to the Schwinn shop and allowed to at least weigh in on which models we liked best. I had to choose a style that would somehow include my dog. I landed on a banana-seat Schwinn with a wicker basket attached to the deep handlebars.

Chip fit down in that basket like it was built just for her, and we explored the farm and the neighborhood together. Sitting there in her perch, we received double-takes from those passing us, a comical picture, I am sure.

Many people have no idea what a pleasurable clown a Pekingese can be. Chip was sweet but sassy, fun and adventuresome, a tiny fawn-colored pup who loved to be with her girl.

Until that bicycle took a right turn at the end of our road.

A right turn meant we were heading for Doc Smith’s vet clinic, and that Peke began getting antsy, trying to escape. I had to learn to steer with one hand and hold her steady with the other, assuring her that Doc Smith was a good friend to us.

Sometimes I was just sent to pick up a dose of medicine for some ailing animal on our farm. Other times I just wanted to say hello to Doc and Shirley. Chip never thought we needed to make that right turn, and she let me know it.

Since then, there have been other dogs. English Shepherds, Pekingese, Westies, tiny Yorkies. I have loved them all — respecting their quirks and their antics, their companionship, their loyalty without question.

Lonzo Idolswine once said, “My dog is usually pleased with what I do, because she is not infected with the concept of what I should be doing.”

Well said.


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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.



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