LaRue: Blame the fall on Bode, but credit him with the new book

Overly friendly dog is center of this family — and of a story by UP woman

Staff writerMay 10, 2014 

The trouble with Bode that day was that he’d been stuck in a truck for a long time with his owner. And when they got home, the front door was open.

So it wasn’t really Bode’s fault. He was, after all, just a puppy — a golden retriever-poodle mix, known as a golden doodle.

His owner, Paul Page, watched Bode bolt through the open door. Inside, his wife, Sheri, heard the dog coming down the front hallway.

Sheri’s mother, Shirley Sulenes, saw him coming — something like a freight train with fur.

“He just ran me over,” Sulenes said. “He’s a good dog, and he’s been apologizing to me ever since.”

With good reason.

Sulenes was about to turn 79 back in September 2005, the day she and the dog had their close encounter. She’d just dropped by her daughter’s University Place house to leave fresh-baked cookies for her son-in-law on his birthday.

“I shouldn’t have baked those cookies,” Sulenes says today.

When Bode ran her over in the kitchen, Sulenes broke her pelvis and spent close to a year recuperating. Bode’s penance was dog training.

Sheri Page wanted to do something special for her mother’s 80th birthday, so she began writing a children’s book. Sulenes had been a children’s librarian many years earlier, and Page put together a rhyming tale called, “Use Your Noodle, Doodle.”

It’s the story of a dog named Bode and an accident in which he runs over “Grandma,” who is carried off in an ambulance and spends months recuperating. In the end, she attends a big party — and Bode sits quietly near her.

“I read it to her on her 80th birthday,” Page said.

Asked about that first reading, Sulenes smiled.

“It brought back a little pain,” she said. “But I really do like Bode.”

Today, Sulenes is 87 and living in the Tacoma Lutheran Retirement Community, the mother of three daughters, grandmother to four and great-grandma to 10, including one that arrived Friday.

Page’s manuscript turned into a book, illustrated by Jennifer Frohwerk, which was published this year.

The book has attracted plenty of attention and lots of local readings. Page, Sulenes and Bode all attended the first one, at the University Place library.

And all three sat down with The News Tribune on Friday to talk about life, literature, Mother’s Day and the dog who has become part of all three.

Now pushing 10, Bode is a calmer, mellower boy, though he can still find himself in fourth gear — all 72 pounds of him.

“My sister-in-law, Lisa, called him ‘a human in a bad dog costume,’” Page said.

Sulenes has had a few other falls — none with Bode’s help — and now uses a walker. She’s proud to share Bode with her friends, however, and her daughter and the dog often visit the retirement community.

“It takes forever to get down one hallway,” Sulenes said. “Everyone wants to meet Bode.”

Small wonder. In the years since bowling her over, Bode has become something of a wonder dog. He sits up and lies down on command. Told to speak, he barks. Asked to sing, he throws his head back and, well, makes a noise that could be considering singing, if dogs sang.

Page’s extended family has been involved with the book, most of the youngest ones as models. The children in the book are all family members.

There are other family touches, including the title.

“My father, who we lost about 10 years ago, used to say to me when I was little, ‘Use your noodle, doodle,’ and I thought it was always encouraging,” Page said.

As for Bode, he’s a humble star. You can follow him on Facebook — “Bode Page” — and he attends all of Page’s book readings and events. On a leash.

Last year, romping off his leash, Bode charged up on the deck where Paul and Sheri Page were watching the sunset — and knocked Sheri off the deck. She broke her left ankle.

“I’m thinking of a second book,” she said.

On Mother’s Day this year, the family will gather at the Page home. There will be four generations of people and one dog.

“Bode really is a good dog,” Sulenes said. “Ever since he knocked me down, he’s come up to me and sat beside me whenever I visit. He’s a very sweet dog.”

MORE ONLINE

To buy the book or learn more about it, go to use yournoodledoodle.com.

Larry LaRue: 253-597-8638

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