Saturday, December 28, 2013

Remembering Sophie

Ten years ago, I accepted a new job in a small northern city and moved there with my two younger children in the summer of 2004. We bought a log house in a semi-rural area, with a large fenced yard. I promised my kids a dog. Our family had never had a dog before.

After about six months of settling in, my son reminded me, somewhat persistently, that we still didn't have a dog. We decided (or maybe I decided) that we would get an adult dog rather than a puppy. As I was working long hours and both of the kids were in school, I did not think that we would be able to spend enough time at home to look after and train a puppy. We liked the idea of giving a home to a rescue dog.

So during the winter and spring of 2005, my son and I began making visits to the animal shelter in town. Each time, we would walk down the central aisle peering into kennels. We saw many mean looking short-haired black dogs, a few pit bulls, some old sick dogs, and a couple of frantically yapping little dogs. Two or three time times, we took a dog for a walk to "try it out" but never did we find a single dog that seemed like a good fit for us.

We were looking for a loving family dog who would get along well with people and cats. Tragically, we had recently lost our beloved old cat, Tuxedo, who was attacked and killed in our front yard by a neighbour's dog that had escaped its owner. Therefore, we were especially cautious about dogs who seemed aggressive or antisocial. We still had one remaining cat, Chaucer.

Summer rolled around and we still did not have a dog. We did, however, acquire another cat, our grey tabby, Oliver. During those visits to the animal shelter, we often took a peek into the cat room, and every time we saw Oliver sitting, tidy and calm in his tiny cage, just waiting for someone to come and choose him. One day, I plucked him out of his cage. He put his paws up on my shoulders and purred into my ear. we took him home with us. He is still with us, and he is the most cuddly and loving cat I have ever known.

One day in August 2005, a member of my soccer team showed up at the field with two young dogs on leashes. One was a black and tan short-haired male, and the other was a midsized female black and tan wire haired terrier cross. My teammate explained that she wanted a dog, and that these two dogs, a brother and sister, had been found abandoned on the streets of the town. She had tried to find the owner unsuccessfully, and had taken them home. Although she only wanted one dog, she was thinking of keeping both of them because she thought the two of them should stay together. I looked at the female terrier cross and immediately liked her. She was exactly the dog we had been looking for.

"If you change your mind and decide not to keep both dogs, give me a call. I will take that terrier dog," I told her.

Two weeks later, my teammate called. "You can have the female terrier if you still want her. You can even have both of them. I just couldn't manage them."

And that is how Sophie became part of our family. She came to us on September 11, 2005 (my son recalls the exact date). The vet said that she had been spayed, and that she was probably about one and a half or two years old, and not older than three.

At first Sophie was afraid of everything.We think that she must have been abused in her early years. She was afraid to come into the house. She was afraid of sudden movements and noises. She was especially terrified of men. She cringed when we tried to pet her, and she never barked. When she was anxious, she chewed things, especially my shoes.

She also was an escape artist. She chewed through her leash or ropes, and she could squeeze through, jump over, or dig under most fences. We called her our Houdini dog.

But she settled in and quickly became a member of our family. She was very smart and easy to train (although somewhat willful). She overcame her fears, and became the loyal loving dog that was her nature. Sophie loved my son, and often sneaked into his bedroom and slept with him on his bed. When my daughter returned from a trip away from home, it is hard to picture a more joyful welcome than the one Sophie gave her. Sophie and Oliver became best buddies, and often slept cuddled together. But first and foremost, Sophie was my dog. She listened to my voice, and quickly learned a vocabulary of more than 20 words. She followed me from room to room. She was always sleeping outside my bedroom door in the morning; was in the kitchen with me while I cooked; slept  under the desk in my office while I worked; and was right beside my chair every evening. Sophie always was thrilled to go with me for a walk or for a ride in the car.

In the summer of 2007, my son, Sophie and I made a 6 week trip across (most of) Canada and back in an ancient motor home. Sophie was an excellent traveller. In December 2007, I met my husband to be, and his dog, Kate. Kate and Sophie became constant companions. In 2012, we moved east to the prairies. Sophie loved to run through through the fields and coulees. She had a way of bounding upwards so she could see over the tall grasses, and she was always the first to spot a rabbit, deer, or grouse. Even though she often came running back to us with a face full of burrs, it was such a happy face!

This fall, Sophie started to lose interest in her food. We tried her on different foods, and each appealed to her for a short time, and then she would lose interest. She became thin, although in every other way she seemed energetic, happy, and healthy. Then about ten days before Christmas, she stopped eating altogether. That was followed by laboured breathing and lethargy. After multiple visits to the vet and many tests, the vet diagnosed her as having a tumour in her chest cavity. Her lungs were filling up with fluid and she couldn't eat. The last morning, she even refused water.

Sadly, we had to put her down on Christmas eve. Our dear little Sophie is with us no longer. Although I know that she had a good life and I would not have wanted her to suffer, I miss my loyal, loving canine companion.

Sophie, on the right