Sophie 2003-2017

“I’m learning how to be sad without [her]; navigating without my North Star.”

Sophie, my beautiful red dog, died. June 29, 2017. She was two months shy of 14.

She could not stay any longer.  Early in the 2016, before Joe died, we had talked about the possibility that Sophie wouldn’t make it through 2016. She was getting old and her arthritis and hip dysplasia was getting worse. She still acted like herself, just older and slower. She had changed from chasing her tennis ball to just guarding it, lest anyone decide to throw it.

After Joe died, she somehow knew that she had to stay.  She stayed for me because she knew how broken I was without him. She was too. She missed him. She knew he was gone. She’d watched the paramedics try to revive him. But, like me, she knew it was useless. We grieved together. But she made me get up and walk with her the morning after he died. She made me see the daffodils that bloomed that morning … the forsythia that had exploded all over March 2016 … the blackbirds singing in the tree outside our house.

And every day after that we did our morning and evening walks… our mid-afternoon turn around the yard.
She’d been okay even in the morning of the 28th and right up until about 3 a.m. when she refused to walk up the steps to the house one more time after a middle-of-the-night walk. A friend carried her in for me and put her back on the bed, where she’d slept for her entire life. We snuggled. I fell asleep but around 5 a.m. on June 29th she was having trouble breathing… she was scared.  We got a couple of pills down her and she calmed. I thought I’d take her to the vet at 9 when they opened, but it soon became obvious that she would not make it that long. So I held her.
I told her stories of getting her and Bear… the day that Joe and I went to pick out puppies from an acquaintance who’s dog had a rather large litter of two different looking dogs half black & white and half red & white. Wandering around their yard we both attracted the attention of two different pups. A little pink-nosed red girl laid on my foot. I picked her up and looked into Sophie’s eyes for the first time. I put her under my arm like a football and turned to see Joe.  I said, just as he started saying the exact same words, “I think I’ve found the dog!” He had a perfectly beautiful black-and white dog under his arm, like a football. We laughed. Told each other how we found the pup and immediately decided that two dogs was just fine.  Their Mama dog came up to me, put her paws on my shoulders and looked me in the eye… then, as if to say “Okay, you can take them,” she dropped back down and walked away.
I told Sophie stories of her great hunting conquests … of catching rabbits … two that we knew of … one only two years ago … both rabbits survived their encounter with Sophie … her soft mouth too gentle to kill a bunny.
I reminded her of the Last Great Adventure of her life when Michael (who had loved four of Sophie’s pups) and I took her with us to Colorado. She got to smell Colorado dirt just the month before.  She didn’t like it and was a nervous wreck until we got back to where she knew the smells again… Topeka was as far west as she’d ever been. She finally rested once we hit Wanamaker.
I told her about Nine and Kira and Foxy and Lil’Bear and Brown all waiting to go play.
I told her about Joe waiting for her on the Other Side, his pockets stuffed with tennis balls.
With every single word she knew, she raised her eyebrow. She listened to every word and looked me in the eyes… when she breathed her last breath my heart came apart.
Reading this article has brought me to grief-tears again. Good and healthy, but grief-tears just the same. Sophie made sure I lived through losing Joe. I am learning how to be sad without her.
Sophie was my first dog. I’d had dogs in my life, but they were my brother’s dogs or my Mom’s dog and it broke my heart when they died… but not like this. Dogs choose who their person is. Bear, was my other “first dog” and when he died it was crushing but not like this. Joe and Sophie and Nine were here to help me be sad.  And now, the last of them is gone.
End of an era.
I miss HER … not a dog… HER. I miss her unconditional love. I miss her eyes. I miss the sound of her breathing at night. I miss my beautiful red girl.

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