Metro Changed My World
by Susie Slanina
February 3, 2022
I was a cat person. I’d argue with my brother how superior cats were to dogs. Cats have eyes that glow in the dark, they sound like a motorboat when they purr, they’re mysterious, they aren’t obvious like dogs, and they can even bathe themselves. But one day, there was a little dog in a shelter, gazing up at me. My heart flipped over and it’s never flipped back. Within two days, I was so in love with the new puppy, my preference switched to dogs. (I called my brother and we laughed when I told him he was right in our friendly debates of dogs vs. cats.)
Metro lived from 1994 to 2008. If you knew me during that time, she was my constant companion and my favorite conversation topic. There’s a saying: “Everyone thinks they have the best dog, and they’re all correct.” But, Metro, well, she was something special. She won first place in Puppy Kindergarten and was awarded Miss Congeniality. To celebrate, I bought a tiny tiara that still sparkles near her photograph. I’m reminded of her goodness and sweet nature every time I see it twinkle.
She was so full of joy and happiness—she made every day, every ordinary moment–special and unique. I longed to spend more time with her and my two other dogs. I retired early and moved to a small mountain cabin in Big Bear, California. Being with the pups all the time was a dream come true.
After Metro passed, I was pretty lost, and I’d daydream about her every morning. I started writing little letters to her about our life together, the fun times we had, and the moments we shared that became such treasured memories. I started looking forward to the ritual of drinking coffee and writing the Metro letters. It was healing—it lightened my heart, made the whole day better, and it seemed as though she was still with me. Instead of feeling sad, I smiled as I wrote. I did this for months, and eventually put the letters in a drawer, though the Metro torch still burned bright.
A year later, a friend liked a poem I had written about a spider. She said I should write more about the spider. I didn’t want to write about the spider, but it sparked an idea. I told my friend I once had an amazing dog named Metro—maybe I could write a little something about her!
The next day, I went to the drawer and retrieved all the letters. The “little something about Metro” became a book series. As a child, I was an avid reader, and especially loved series. (I remember Nancy Drew had a cat, but there was only a couple paragraphs about it. I craved more words about her cat!)
Once I started writing, I couldn’t stop, and my imagination took over. Some of the adventures are true and some are fiction. When I speak at schools, kids guess which adventures are true. I encourage children to write their own stories. It was an honor to be invited to become a member of Windtree Press and get to know all the wonderful authors in the group. To date, I’ve written four Metro books. They’re beautifully illustrated by artist Paul Bunch and are available at several online vendors and in print.
In this time of pandemic and Stay-At-Home orders, I’m so grateful I have my current little dogs: Sugar and Curry (sweet and savory). I look to them for sanity, truth, and brightness. They are cuddlers and clowns, and inspire me every day.
Susie Slanina lives in Vancouver, Washington. After graduating from California State University, Los Angeles, she went to school in Ireland to study the Montessori approach to educating children. She worked 24 years at CSLA and retired at age 50 to spend more time with her dogs in a cabin in Big Bear. She had been retired for eight years when a poem she wrote about a spider became the catalyst for the Metro book series. She used to enjoy traveling, but discovered that hanging out with her dogs is better than seeing the wonders of the world.