Pets and Their People: Jefferson and Susan Williams

For 11 years, until her death last August, Judith Sugrue lived with Susan Williams and her husband, David, at their home in Rhoadesville. Sugrue suffered from multiple sclerosis and depended on Susan Williams, her caregiver, for help with just about everything, including the animals she wanted to keep on the property. Williams, who has helped stage barnyard nativity scenes at her church for many years, was happy to oblige. The two women collected an assortment of animals that brought joy to both of them. As Sugrue became increasingly ill, Williams told her, “Judy, I promise I’ll take care of the animals.” Since Sugrue’s death last summer, Williams has felt the loss deeply. Her dear friend’s ashes are in an urn beneath the picture window where Sugrue used to sit with her cats and gaze out at the llamas, goats, chickens, ducks and dogs. The animals have brought Williams great comfort and moments of healing delight during her time of grief. Her face breaks into a wide smile when she describes how Jefferson, a 10-year-old llama, goes out of his way to protect the goats. One time her husband was wearing a hat that made him look like a stranger to Jefferson, who viewed him with suspicion. Approaching the towering beast, a playful David Williams responded: “So you don’t like my hat. I’ll put it on you!” In Susan Williams’ recollection, “Jefferson reared up on his hind legs like, ‘Try it!’” Pictured here, Jefferson shows his affectionate side as Susan Williams offers him a kiss.

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