Today we said goodbye to Sophie, our ten year-old mini schnauzer.
It was a really difficult decision my mom and I made together after considering the amount Sophie was suffering, and the amount she’s suffered her whole life.
Being in the presence of someone/something who dies isn’t something I’ve done a lot in my life, but it is very difficult and always reminds me that imagining I have all the time in the world is foolish.
Rather than try to rewrite Sophie’s story from memory, I’m choosing to post something I wrote about her in December of 2010, when I was going home from Japan and getting to see her after a year. I think it sums up how I feel about her perfectly.
Rest In peace, sweet girl. 💔
I ruined my iPhone because that guy broke up with me. I lay on the bed on my side and cried on it, begging him to change his mind. An hour later, the screen didn’t work anymore, which was problematic because it was the night before our first fundraising event for a well-known college. We were a brand new company and everything was riding on it, and the guy who dumped me told me he couldn’t stand phone calls with me anymore, that I made him crazy, that I insisted on being depressed.
“Isn’t this kind of bad timing?” I asked him. “You couldn’t have waited until tomorrow, when my event is over?”
“I can’t wait a second longer,” he said.
I parked at the mall the day after our event (which went okay, considering it was our first). It was the end of February. The same time a year before, I’d been broken up with in a similarly crappy way. I didn’t know it then, but a year later, my best friend would take care of you for a night after another horrible romantic disaster. It may be why I don’t like February. Or relationships.
The guy who dumped me had been calling that day, his mind already changed, but I couldn’t answer the phone because the screen didn’t work. (Blessing in disguise?)
I parked by Sears, and even now I can see it, how sharp that day was, like I was living in HD and the sky’s saturation had been bumped up in Photoshop. The mall was warm and I walked slowly, in no need to hurry anywhere. Belonging to no one.
The nice man at the Apple Store told me he’d get me a new phone, no cost, even though I let him know several times that it was my fault it had been broken.
“No, really. I cried on it too much,” I said. “My boyfriend dumped me.”
“No, really, it looks like the screen just malfunctioned,” he corrected, and he didn’t have to say anything else; the quick change in tone let me know. I’m going to pretend I don’t know what’s wrong with your phone, and you’re going to go along with it.
With an hour to kill while they fixed it, I wandered around, in and out of shops. I’m not sure what led me to that store that day, but I spotted you from a distance and something seized me. I stood completely still; a clerk finally asked me if I was all right. I wasn’t. Something in me had gelled, finalized. I knew, after everything that happened with the dude who broke up with me, that it was definitely too soon to be thinking about any kind of commitment, but once I met you, once I touched you, once you looked at me with those freaking eyes, I was changed. Forever.
Even now, when I haven’t seen you in an entire year, the thought of you can make me cry or laugh, or produce a longing that defies logic.
“You can hold her,” the clerk said, “but I’ll warn you—she’s really skittish, that one. Trembles a lot.”
I stood before the glass and watched you perk up every time a worker passed by to get to the other animals, and the way your ears fell flat when you realized no one was coming for you. You weren’t ugly exactly, but your cuteness factor wouldn’t develop for a few more months. Your ears were bald and you were very nervous.
When the woman went back to get you, you got very excited and then shrank into a fearful pose as she reached for you. I figured right away that something was wrong, that you’d been pulled from your mother too early.
But when I held you, you weren’t skittish. You didn’t tremble. You looked up at me with those giant brown eyes and it was already too late for me, wasn’t it?
Oh, you were no peach. You hated being alone; so much that you ripped up carpet and tore open packages of cotton balls and chewed for hours on my hair straightener, for cripes’ sake. You tore the heels off of my Kenneth Cole boots, dumped over the laundry basket and dragged underwear all over the house.
Let’s not forget TrashGate 2008, when you knocked over the entire trashcan and your water bowl, so that the kitchen morphed into a rubbish swamp. Or what about that time you somehow got on the table and ate the entire plastic container of parmesan cheese? What a nightmare that night was; I’d fill up your half-gallon water bowl, you’d drink it all, and then you’d nudge my hand with your nose so you could be taken outside. Every hour on the hour, all night long.
With time, you grew right into your personality—barking at new people and anything that looked like a dog, protecting the apartment from the slightest sound of footsteps on the stairs, learning to roll over and shake and give high-fives. You learned that “go for a walk” meant that you needed to sit calmly by your leash. Eventually, I could point at the leash and you’d run and sit by it. You learned to walk on my right side only; now my mom says you can run alongside her when she rides the bike.
I took you to the beach, figuring you’d love it, but you hated it and growled at children, and wouldn’t even go twenty-feet from the waves. I took you to Mexico too, and other than when you got carsick, you loved every minute.
You eventually became quite funny. It was a running joke to point to anything and say, “Hey Sophie, that’s mine!” No matter what it was—shoe or ball or remote control or giant blanket—you’d immediately grab it and take off running with it.
When I dated the next guy and he and I would fight, you’d cower under the table, trembling. I still can’t forgive myself for that.
I’ve always loved animals. But that night when you had the seizure and I drove faster than I ever have to get to the 24-hour Vet Clinic, I cried like it was the end of the world. Boyfriends I could lose; but the thought of being without you was unfathomable. It’s why it was so hard to leave you a year and a half ago. I remember when I dropped a chip on the floor in my new apartment and I didn’t even reach for it, thinking you’d be right there to scoop it up. But you weren’t there; you were half a world away.
When I came home for a visit last year you ran right by me, oblivious. Ten minutes later you’d realized and your whole butt was shaking from happiness and you spent the next three weeks following me from room to room. (Even the bathroom.)
I know you’re happy now, having so many people around, a backyard, and another dog. It gives me more peace than you know. You’ve got the worst case of separation anxiety I’ve ever seen. Just me and you and an apartment wasn’t enough. I’m sorry for that.
I’ve known for months that I’d be visiting home soon, but I haven’t even let myself think about you. Last time when I said goodbye to you at the airport, it felt like my insides had been tied to a truck that was rapidly tearing out of the parking lot. I cried for half of the flight back here.
And now I’m going to see you tomorrow. Tomorrow. Is that real?
I want you to know that you rescued a part of me. You comforted me and loved me when I found nothing in myself lovable. Oh sure, anyone could read this and say, “Yeah, any dog will do that for you.” But I think there are enough movies and books out there now to prove that some dogs are special. You are among them. When I was sick, you whined and hovered over me and just knew to be quiet somehow.
I can’t forget the sight of you racing up the stairs, barking at me to hurry up, or the Saturdays you slept under my desk when I snuck into the office to get ahead.
What’s more, I can’t forget that the night I sat on my roof, thinking it was all over, you stood on my legs and put your face so close to mine that it almost touched, and whined, not understanding.
Taking care of you taught me that I needed to take care of myself again. You needed a walk, I needed to shower and get dressed. You needed to eat, and I did too—days of Red Bull and Clif Bars had whittled me down to 114 pounds and I didn’t look well. You needed to relax and play, and I needed to stop being suicidal.
You did such tremendous good. I can never repay you for that.