I’m walking around our rickety first-floor Victorian apartment looking for traces of you… bits of fur nestled in the crook of a door, a piece of kibble left behind your food dish, muddy paw prints on the back hall floor, your doggy smell on the couch cushions. It is impossible to not want to collect these tangible pieces of your ghost in a desperate attempt to hold onto you forever.
I miss you so badly, my little toker fish sandwich. My puffer fish. My little tokey. I don’t even know where these terms of endearment came from, but you knew each and every one of them as your name.
It’s only been three days since we had to let you go, and already my world feels completely altered in ways I could not have imagined. A third of my life was shared with you… over 15 years.
I was a mere 30 years old when we met for the very first time in Tucson, Arizona. You were rescued from the Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) and we were told that you were the runt of the litter… and the last remaining pup. How we were so amazingly blessed that no one chose you we’ll never know. I just can’t imagine any other litter-mate that could have possibly compared to you.
“In the cart!,” I said, and we brought your tiny little doggy butt home.
Your first year with us was filled with all sorts of adventures.
You lived for the dog park. We loved the way you would run and play with the other dogs… and how every so often you would come check-in with us with a huge smile on your face as if to say, “Hey Mom and Dad! I am having so much fun!,” before returning to play again. (This would become known as the “Sophie check-in”.)
You didn’t love walking in the Arizona heat, instead opting to plop down in the shade and demand you be carried home.
You ate a lot of my favorite shoes.
During the day you found fun things to do such as daintily deconstructing periodicals in the backyard as to create an impressive artistic collage of hundreds of carefully torn out magazine pages. We decided you needed a sibling and on your first birthday brought home your brother Cosmo whom, as it turns out, would curb your penchant for disassembling my favorite sneakers. You would find other ways of expressing your artistic side by way of performance art. Notably, watching you demonstrate premeditated thought by going outside and barking (at nothing) to cleverly get Cosmo to drop his bone and run outside to see what was going on, only to watch you immediately run back inside to steal his bone.
As a young 30-something couple we were primed to have offspring as we had just moved into our first house; but ultimately, you and Cosmo would be our only children. Well, I mean, and the cats of course. (R.I.P. Godiva, Mama Cat and Lucifer.)
When I look back at photos of you as a puppy, it’s impossible to not notice how collectively young we look. I had a healthy full head of dark hair and smooth skin. No wrinkles. No resting bitchy face.
It feels like a lifetime ago. I started a band. And a design studio. Moved across the country to Providence and finally to Boston. Retired the band. Spent a decade designing packaging for Trader Joe’s. Took up running. Ran several marathons. Took up the sport of triathlon. Completed a full Ironman. Started a new job.
And you were there for all of it.
You were our support system. Our comfort dog. I miss so many things about you… the way you would lie flat on the ground with your back legs sticking out and we would pat your butt and say, “fried chicken!” You had the best doggy smile of all of time. When you would first see me, especially after waking up from a dream, your doggy lip would curl up and your nose would wrinkle… your head would bow down a little like you were trying to hide your smile. I miss that so much. It was the best greeting and made me feel whole, and always loved.
You loved to hard snuggle, which is to say, butting your head against us as hard as possible like you were trying to make sure we really felt your love.
I love that you were always up for anything–even letting me put a Santa hat on you, or the time I dressed us both up in matching skunk costumes.
You were so sweet to Cosmo. When we brought him home you let him take your toys. You were just so happy to have a partner in crime, and you guys did get in trouble together. Like that night in Providence when someone left the gate open and you two walked yourselves to the dog park. Or just a few years ago when you guys decided to chase a skunk in the backyard and it was only 25°F outside meaning we had to deskunk both of you in our bathroom.
Near the end you guys were sharing the dog bed almost everyday. I can’t help but think you both knew there wasn’t much time left.
He misses you, too. He paces around looking for you and probably wondering why you haven’t left him any leftovers in your dog dish.
When you were 11 or 12 you were diagnosed with Cushing’s disease. We spent a lot of time at the vet, but you responded well to the prescribed therapy. Even at 14 you were still going strong. I watched a video of you from this past winter and you had no problem navigating the snow or jumping up onto the doggy ramp (instead of using it’s full potential).
But, everything ends and nothing is permanent. The last four months were hard for you as you could no longer support your hind quarters. There was a lot of splaying out and routine falling. If you ran or barked it was only when you were dreaming on the sofa.
And then on a business trip I got a call that you could no longer stand. You stopped eating. You couldn’t raise your head. It was time. I booked an early flight which was diverted to Providence because of a thunderstorm. Oh thunderstorms–you hated those. But I quickly made it home.
It’s hard to think about those last moments. Wrapping you up in a Red Sox blanket. Nuzzling my face to yours and listening to the soft little Sophie-sounds you made. The last picture I took with you before we left for the MSPCA. But mostly how fast it all went. You were here… and then not.
And then our world crumbled.
It’s been three days and I haven’t stopped crying. In fact, I am sore from it–and probably dehydrated. The house feels empty and your lack of presence ignites wave after wave of grief at the slightest reminder you are gone. Just feeding one dog. Not calling your name to come inside. Seeing your favorite toy duck. It is so painful, Sophie.
What I realize is that the heartache isn’t just about losing you. You were the connection to old friends and new friends. Everyone that knows us, knows you. Everyone that loves us, loves you. Now that you’re gone the link that defined our past, present and future is broken and it’s as if I am watching the last 15 years of our lives evaporate into the ether. I know this feeling will pass…
I wanted to write this because I wanted to let you know how much we loved you, and still love you. If ever there was a model for kindness and love, you are it. We miss you so much… our little Sophie girl.
I know you are in a happy doggy place with the most amazing dog park of all time. All I ask is that you check-in with us every once in awhile, even if it’s only in our dreams.
I love you and miss you…