I heard the news just a couple of days ago about the recent death of a friend’s dog. Her name was Sophie and she was a Golden Retriever rescue, around 13 years of age. She had a “gimpy”, sore front leg that she favored for the last few months of her life and my friend had talked about getting a special ramp for her to walk in and out of her car. Instead of rushing into that expense prematurely my friend decided to take her to the vet first. It turns out Sophie had cancer. Taking into account her age and the pain she would most likely have to endure, Sophie’s mom had her put to sleep.
Now this might sound a little strange to the average person, but many of the dogs I know I consider as friends. Is this normal behavior for a dog-walker? I couldn’t say, but as with any set of friends, some are closer to me than others. I’ve known Sophie for as long as I’ve known my friend which is around eight years now but two months ago, for 7 days, Sophie and I got to spend night and day together. You see, Sophie’s mom is a pet-sitter/ house-sitter like me. She went on a long over-due vacation to Hawaii while I house-sat for her, took care of Sophie and picked up her dog-walking route on top of my own. It was a very busy, interesting week to say the least, but that’s a whole other story.
That week, Sophie often kept me company on my dog walks and errands and trips to the park. At night she slept on my bed, something I rarely allowed my own dog to do. Nero shakes the bed horribly in his sleep, hogs up the covers and snores like a mighty freight train. Admittedly, since that week with Sophie, I let Nero up on the bed much more often now. I think I missed her. I remember how every night I had to call for her, encouragingly, to jump up on the bed because even though she wanted to sleep with me she was shy about asking. Sometimes I had to give her a boost if her leg was painful. She was always respectful of my space and she was a quiet sleeper. In the mornings she enjoyed her cuddle time though. She waited patiently for me to awaken and when I petted her long, soft fur she would slowly move up the bed till her head was more level with mine, then roll on her back blissfully and listen to the loving things I would say to her. At her age she didn’t have much of an appetite anymore and I would have to feed her by hand. Sophie would look up at me and in those sweet eyes I often saw gratitude for the little things I did for her.
That night, when I heard the news of her death, I lay in bed thinking of her again, of the things she would do and of all the ways that made her the Sophie that I loved, and I wondered then if she had a soul like we do and, if so, where did it go? Because to know and to love a dog is to feel an emotional and spiritual connection with them. In life she was a sweet and loving and caring companion. I can’t imagine what will happen to her soul, or even mine for that matter when I die, but I would like to think that we go on and that maybe I will know her again.