Old Dawg Love

Sophie is very special to me; I adopted her from the Greater Birmingham Humane Society when she was seven months old to keep my eighty-four-year-old mother company when she moved to an apartment in our friends’ house down the street from us.

Were we both ever so young?

I can still see the little puppy who hadn’t grown into her ears yet lying on the cement floor of the shelter, looking so sad. She knew just how to get me- when we locked eyes, that was it. And, when I brought Mom to the shelter to meet her and Sophie (formerly Lily) walked right up to her, put her muzzle on Mom’s lap and gazed pleadingly into her eyes, well, that was really it. The adoption person shared his concerns, “A Border collie for an eighty-four-year-old woman?” I can’t explain it, except to say that I saw Sophie’s gentle and sweet spirit and knew that she would be the perfect fit for Mom and our family. She was.

The look…

Sophie is a Border collie mix, and as Border collies often do, they choose a person to be theirs. I have always been that person for Sophie. She loved my mom- in fact, I have never met anyone that Sophie didn’t love- but it is me that her eyes follow, me that she shadows constantly. If Mom couldn’t get Sophie to come inside from the back yard, all she had to do was say, “I’m calling Denise!” and the dog would come running inside looking for me to come.

Sophie has the patience of a saint, good-naturedly getting along with all animals and people…but she does love to chase the neighborhood feral cats that come into our yard. She is a thread of connection with past animals; my Doberman, Bailey, and our sweet dog and cat, Cooper and Kasey, who we lost to cancer spring and summer before last. She especially adored Coops, happily trailing behind her, joined at the hip since we found Cooper as a puppy when Sophie was a year old. I’ve never seen such a close connection between two animals before.

She has welcomed Marley and even crazy Shiva into our home, consistently patient and sweet…even when Shiva dashes past her and Kung Fu’s her on the backside. Nothing rattles her.

Sophie is also a connection to my mother, a thread of memories and longing. As my sweet girl heads toward her twelfth birthday on December 11th, my heart contracts as I see her aging so quickly, seemingly before my eyes. The white keeps encroaching on the formerly black of her face and body. Her eyesight is diminishing rapidly, and so we turn on extra lights for her to see to go down the stairs. Her hearing is fading, and she is on medications to help with arthritis, so we wait patiently when it takes her a little longer to come in than it used to.

Yesterday morning I took the dogs outside for their morning constitutional, and Sophie just sat down, confused, not seeming to remember what she was supposed to be doing. I had to take her out again after breakfast until she finally went. These progressing signs of aging are unsettling…some of which Dan and I are experiencing, too. I don’t want to think of losing her, but I know it is inevitable. I already feel the pangs of loss when I see her increasing fragility. It brings the pain of losing my mother to the surface, as she and Sophie are forever entwined in my heart.

I promised Sophie that I’d make a deal with her when she first came home with us; if she would take good care of my mom, I would promise to give her the best life I could until the end. Sophie did her part beautifully, and I’ve done my best to fulfill my part of the bargain- Sophie has had the best veterinary care, the best food, long walks, soft couches to nap by the fire, and her very favorite- sleeping curled next to me in bed at night. We shower her with love and affection, as we will until she leaves us to go back to Grandma and Coops. I couldn’t ask for a better dog, and I hope there is still plenty of time left to show her how loved she is.

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