I just spent yesterday morning caressing her face, kissing her forehead, telling her how much I love her and stroking her soft, sleek fur. My dog had just died.
When I first met Sophie, it was already set in stone. I was a goner: Hook, line and sinker. There was no choice in the matter. I belonged to her and she belonged to me.
I had been thinking about getting a dog for a while but had been ping ponging back and forth on what kind. Then one day at work, a woman from a nearby rescue walked up to our office and wanted to see if she could find this black lab puppy a home. She was only 5 months old and had already been through hell: cigarette burns on her belly, beaten with a broom, terrified. And all she had to do was look at me with those deep brown, soulful eyes and I thought, "Oh. There's my dog."
I took her home and she was so timid and frightened. She would crawl all the way under the bed and hide in the corner. But in less than a few days, that personality I would grow to love and cherish started to bloom. She began to sleep on the corner of my bed, which became her spot for the next twelve years.
I was working some long hours then and Sophie let me know. She tore up my yard a dozen times. Of course, it was stupid of me to keep replanting. She destroyed my rose bushes, lavender and even a freshly planted apple tree. All of which she dragged into the house through the doggie door and tried to replant in my white couch. She also shredded about $700 worth of lingerie. Apparently we both had expensive tastes in undergarments. While I tried to keep my head from spinning off, Sophie would jump up and down, crying happily, "Mommy's home! Mommy's home!" The replanting completely forgotten.
I began taking her to Hollywood Hounds, a doggie day care center, for my long workdays. (That's right, I'm one of those people.) She would hate to be separated from me, dragging her claws the whole way into the building. She always had this sad, pathetic look on her face, as if I were abandoning her for life, but all was completely forgiven when I met her at the end of the day.
I would take her hiking often, one her favorite activities. She knew exactly where we were going and started that happy whine about half a mile away. We'd take off and I loved to watch her run. When she was little, she'd run diagonally, her hind legs racing her front paws. I half expected to watch her tumble heels over head. Yet she grew into her gate. She became Sophie the ballerina. She had such long graceful legs and moved like a purebred racehorse.
She hated the rain. Especially her first few years, I would have to literally drag her outside. Sophie would act like I was torturing her, looking up at me with that "Why are you trying to kill me?" face and we would stand in the rain, waiting each other out. Of course the umbrella was over her, not me. But she absolutely adored the snow. I had never seen any purer joy than when Sophie discovered snow. We had one of those giant storms in New York and I was afraid of how the little princess who hated getting her paws wet would react. But she dove into the snow and took off running. She spent the afternoon rolling around, making her own version of a snow angel.
Snow was her greatest pleasure, but put it in a pool and melt it, no way. Labs are supposed to love swimming pools, but not Sophie. She was terrified of pools. Wouldn't get near them. Yet she never met an ocean she didn't love. She danced about beaches of Southern California, Mexico and the Jersey Shore.
Sophie was extremely well traveled. We'd take road trips to Arizona, San Francisco, Palm Springs and beyond. She'd jump in the passenger seat (her seat) and immediately nap. She racked up thousands of frequent flier miles jetting coast to coast. She drove cross-country once and even took up residence in the Beverly Hills Peninsula Hotel for about a month.
But she was not a snobby dog. Sophie enjoyed the country life as well. Especially the time she ran happily into the field and rolled around doing the twist on her back... only to come back over to me and to share how she'd been frolicking in bear crap.
She loved babies but hated repairmen. She had a ferocious bark and made the most protective guard dog. She needed to be introduced to people cautiously, as she never fully got over the trauma of her puppyhood. But once she realized you were one of the "good ones," she'd love you for life and happily try to lick your face off. Sophie had her "people." Her fans.
She would chase bunnies in her sleep and get so excited that she'd bark and fart at the same time, a special talent I coined "Farking." When she got one of her favorite treats, she would carry it around the house back and forth for 10 minutes before deciding whether or not to eat it or bury it, saving it for later. I did not fully understand the reasoning, but it made perfect sense to her. She thought little white doggies were appetizers but had several mad crushes throughout her life, including a weimereiner, a doberman puppy and a ridgeback, all of which made her whine with delight when she saw them and prance about. She knew which shoes meant time for a walk and would jump up and down with excitement. She would lie on her back, balancing a toy between her two front paws.
She would never leave my side when I was sick or suffering from a darker case of the blues. She was always there, lying on her corner of the bed. Sometimes sprawled out across half of the bed. She always nursed me back to health with her unwavering love.
A lot of people tell me that Sophie won the lotto with me, or that I took great care of her. But the truth is, she took the greatest care of me. She was there for every success, every heartache, all the celebrations, all the dark times. Her fur dried a waterfall of my tears. She could always make me smile by trying to lick my face off or with her helicopter tail going madly round and round.
In the past year, Sophie started to feel her age. Those beautiful, graceful legs began to stiffen and I found myself hoisting her up onto the bed and off. No longer would I come home to see her dozing on the couch, the floor was fine. Her own medicine cabinet began to fill with prescriptions for her liver, arthritis, bronchial passages, and pain. But she still seemed happy, enjoying our shortened walks, her toys and her treats. A couple of months ago, she began to collapse, her arthritic legs giving out from under her. She would look up at me, those deep brown eyes so vulnerable and fearful, as if to say, "Why can't I get up?" And I would lie with her until she was ready to try again. Then she'd get up, shake it off, and wag her tail, ready to meet the day.
The cough developed last week. At first, I thought it was her bronchitis and maybe she just needed a stronger dose of medicine. But the look in her eyes, that helpless, frightened look she had as a puppy came back. The Vet said pneumonia and my heart stopped. I spent hours with her in the hospital, stroking her face, telling her how much I loved her, rubbing her belly, trying keeping her calm. But within 3 days, she was in an oxygen tank, barely hanging on. She died the next morning. My sweet girl was gone and my heart broke into hundreds of pieces, all in the shape of her beautiful brown eyes.
I kept thinking, if only I brought her to the vet sooner... I should have walked her more, petted her more, loved her more. If only I had a little more time with her. I just wanted more time. But there is never "enough" time when you lose a loved one, is there? There's no such thing.
So, I say to you, my beloved Sophie, thank you. Thank you for loving me 150 percent, 150 percent of the time. Thank you for your constant companionship, your unwavering loyalty, your infectious enthusiasm and those beautiful understanding eyes. I'm so grateful that you picked me to spend your 12 years with. I will love and miss you always.