In January 1998 a young German Shepherd was brought by the police into the clinic where my husband works as a veterinarian. She was a stray with severe nerve damage in her right rear leg, likely the result of having been hit by a car. After two weeks, during which no one claimed her, she needed a home – ours. When our then five-year-old son saw her, he was initially a little frightened by her. She was big, ungainly on her injured leg and a wee bit ferocious-looking. But Sophie, as we named her, was anything but ferocious. She was a gentle girl.
Although not in the least high-strung, Sophie ran around our meadow with glee, dragging her nerve-damaged leg behind her even as she barreled into people, oblivious when she was on a tear. After a year, my husband had to amputate her leg. He’d tried to save it, but despite booties and regular care, her toes kept getting abscesses. She couldn ’t feel her foot. Sophie seemed depressed for a few days after her surgery, but she never complained. She learned to move gracefully on three legs and soon chased kids around the pond, never letting her disability stand in the way of a good game of tag.
Although Sophie’s manner was generally calm and elegant, her exuberance snuck out in funny ways. When she lost her hearing later in life, thatdidn’t stop her from “whoa, whoa, whoaing ” loudly for food at 5:55 p.m. each night. She never vocalized for petting, though, just sat quietly as she was petted, and pawed your arm if you dared to stop.
Her best friend in the household for many years was our other three-legged dog, Griffin, also a rescue who’d been hit by a car and then abandoned. Griffin really was ferocious (he’s calmed down in his dotage), and the two of them were quite a pair: Griffin, weighing under ten pounds and ready to bark your head off (as well as bite it), trying to dominate the gracious, dignified Sophie. Sophie always indulged him.
Until she became too old, Sophie joined us on all our hikes. There were many times she couldn’t maneuver a steep rocky area, so she’d wait patiently in position for one of us to lift her rear leg up and help her. Then off she’d run.
She loved to swim. She joined me when I would swim laps around our pond and would overtake me as I’d swim in the ocean out to an island that appears at low tide. She’d get to the island, shake herself off, and lie down to wait for me. In her old age, she’d often go down to the pond alone to go for swim, then come back and climb on the couch, sopping wet, to take a nap. She loved sitting quietly in the grass in summer and on a snow bank in winter, with her head up, surveying the world around her. She also loved my garden, a bone of no small contention between us. For the last couple of summers, she ate the lion’s share of our asparagus, always managing to get the spears just as they were tall and ready to pick.
Sophie was quite compliant but she had a sneaky side. She seemed to accept that she wasn’t allowed on the bed (she was a very smelly dog); that is, until we left the house, and she’d sometimes climb up and queenly lay her head on the pillow. When we’d catch her sleeping there, she was quick to climb off the bed, seemingly contrite.
Sophie died a week ago on the winter solstice. She was in the end stages of bladder cancer, and we euthanized her the day that we could tell that all that was left was suffering. She still had not complained, even during her last twenty-four hours in which shecouldn’t rest. She was close to thirteen years old.
Sophie modeled so many wonderful qualities. She was kind and friendly, knew how to share, never held a grudge, and was happy to play or to rest as the case might be.
I wish I had half the good qualities Sophie modeled every day. I’m trying to cultivate them.
I miss you Sophie. Thank you for everything.
~ Zoe Weil
Author of Most Good, Least Harm and Above All, Be Kind
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Filed under: gratitude | Tagged: companion animals, dogs, Kindness, memorials, rescue animals, role models, tributes | Comments Off