Thursday, April 25, 2019

Goodbye Sophie

     We didn't have too much trouble getting Sophie, our 13-year-old mixed breed dog, into the back of the car -- she just needed a little help with her back legs. She's done this many times, making trips to the vet and the dog park, and going on vacation with us. But this trip was a little different.

     When she was a puppy Sophie hated to go in the car. It would make her anxious to the point that she would begin shaking and slobbering. We'd have to lay newspaper down on the car floor just to drive her a few miles to the vet. But eventually she got used to the idea of traveling, and we once even took her with us as far as our beach vacation.

     I like to think that beach vacation was one of the highlights of her life. She took walks on the sand, and loved sitting on the deck of the beach house, basking in the sun and watching people walk and bike and drive down the beach road.

     We got Sophie when B's older son went away to college. She came as a rescue dog from the North Shore Animal League, a no-kill rescue and adoption organization. Her younger son wanted a dog to keep him company while his brother was away at school and his mother went back to work.

     Her son bonded with the dog, played with her and fell in love with her -- despite the fact that she wasn't too active, or too bright. The truth is, Sophie was the laziest dog I've ever seen. She didn't play with doggie toys; she didn't chase balls or sticks; she didn't even eat that much. Mostly, she liked to lie around and sleep, or watch us with her soulful eyes, and then ask to be petted. She loved to be petted.

On the bathroom floor
     They took her to a series of training lessons. She learned how to sit, but not much else. She refused to come. She didn't lie down or shake. She never understood the concept of heel. In fact, she didn't even like going for a walk. We had to coax her out the door, then pull her along when we walked around the block. But as soon as we turned for home, she'd suddenly move out front, now leading the way, anxious to get back to her favorite activity, which was lying on the floor, keeping watch around the house.

     Despite her poor performance at doggie school, Sophie was a well-behaved pet. She never climbed on the furniture. At night she kept watch outside our bedroom door, in the hallway or the bathroom. When a thunderstorm came, her anxiety would hit, and she'd climb into the bathtub. That seemed to give her a sense of security and comfort.

     She almost always waited until we woke up before she barked to go out. It was only in her later years, when she had some urinary issues, that she got impatient and would yelp a few times around 6 a.m.

     B's son went off to college, and then a career, but Sophie stayed at home. She was always there to greet us in the morning, and was deliriously happy whenever we came home after we'd been out ... even if only for a few minutes. She became a passable guard dog. She'd bark when anyone came to the door. But no matter who it was, after a couple of barks she would sit down and nuzzle the person's leg and ask to be petted.

     She was pretty good with other dogs, and I like to think she developed a friendship with my daughter's dog. Whenever we arrived at her house the two dogs would sniff each other and go out in the backyard together. After that Sophie would curl up in my daughter's dog's bed -- and her dog seemed okay with that, satisfied with finding a spot on the rug instead. But it was at my daughter's house that Sophie learned to eat her dinner, only because if she didn't eat right away my daughter's dog would steal her food.

     As Sophie got older she developed arthritis, like a lot of dogs do, and now for the past few weeks she couldn't get up the stairs at night. Her back legs had become too weak. But we were in for a surprise a few days ago. We had a thunderstorm during the night. In the morning we couldn't find Sophie. Finally, we looked behind the shower curtain in the upstairs bathroom, and there she was, looking at us with her soulful eyes. We helped her out of the tub and she gingerly make her way down to the first floor. That proved to be the last time she was upstairs.

     It was last fall when we noticed that she seemed to be drinking more water and peeing a lot, and maybe having a little more trouble than usual with her back legs. Her squatting looked a little awkward.

     We took her to the vet, and he thought she might have Cushing's disease, an endocrine disorder common in older dogs that would explain her thirst. He gave us some pills and suggested we come back in a few weeks.

     She did seem to get a little better, but when we went back to the vet, and after he poked and prodded her, he said we should get an ultrasound. Sophie might have a tumor. If she did, he told us reassuringly, it was likely benign, or if not, probably slow growing.

     We went to get the ultrasound, and then later another one. She did have a tumor. The vet explained that the protocol was surgery, followed by chemotherapy, but it wasn't worth it, not for a 12-year-old dog. The tumor seemed to be small and non-invasive, and we could hope that she had plenty of time left -- as much time as any 12-year-old dog.

     When we went to the Carolinas this winter, we left Sophie with my daughter, and she did okay. After we got home we took her back to the vet for a checkup. He could feel some tumor activity, he acknowledged. But she hadn't lost any weight. Was she still eating? Yes. Were there any elimination problems? No.

     So we went home, knowing that her time was limited. But then her decline began to accelerate. It soon became hard for her to stand up. When she walked into the kitchen, her legs splayed out on the slippery tile floor. We started to bring her water and food dish into the TV room so she didn't have to get up. Before long, we were feeding her out of our hand.

     B finally made the call. She told me, through watery eyes, that she'd made an appointment at the vet for the next morning.

     That night we took Sophie out for her usual evening walk. She tripped out the front door and lumbered down our short driveway and then just seemed to stand there, looking out on the street. Finally she hobbled across the street, did her business, and slowly made her way back to the house. Several times she just stopped, as if unable to go on. We coaxed her along and back into the house, where she settled on the TV room rug and went to sleep.

     And so the next morning we got her into the car. The vet had us come in the side door, where there were no steps. She made her way inside and sniffed around the floor of the office. Then we lifted her onto the table. We stroked her and petted her while the vet prepared a shot. The first one would just put her to sleep -- she'd barely feel the stick. The vet explained that a second shot would stop her heart. B and I would stay for the first shot, but not for the second.

     The vet was very supportive and made some light conversation, then pointed out that Sophie's legs were swollen -- a sign of kidney failure. We were doing the right thing.

     Sophie barely flinched when the vet stuck her back leg. She kept looking at us with her soulful eyes, suspecting nothing, I think, but we'll never be sure. We continued to pet her as her eyelids drooped and her stare became vacant.

     She's asleep, the vet told us.

     But her eyes aren't totally closed, I protested.

     I petted her some more. There was no reaction. She was clearly unconscious. And so we paid the bill and arranged to have her ashes brought back to us. It would take about a week.

     B and I drove home in silence. She called her son, who now lives in South Carolina with two dogs of his own, along with a wife and two kids. He knew it was coming. We all knew it was coming. Still, it's hard to say goodbye to a dog.


hammondartbiz said...

I'm so sorry for your loss.
We have gone through that horrible pain more than a few times. It's awful. No way around it. But, when the pets reach their end, as do many of our elders, this is the most humane way to 'let them go', I think. I've painted three pet portraits of the ones we've lost over the years. For some reason, I can't paint them when they're still alive. Weird, I know. But, it really helps me when I look at their portraits and remember the good old days with them. Now we have 2 cockapoos, one is almost 14 and the other is 10. They are truly a 'couple' and I know how hard it will be for the younger one when the oldest leaves us. But, for now, she's pretty spry and very spoiled!

My Grama's Soul said...

Oh my....this post has made me teary eyed. Dogs are the most wonderful creatures and they become a cherished member of a family. We lost our sweet Sophie a few years ago and it still makes me sad to think of her on the day she passed.

hugs to you and your family.


Rian said...

Having had to take this step ourselves several times, I sympathize with you. It is a difficult decision, and isn't any easier even knowing that it's time. We too always stay with them loving them until the end. You will miss her terribly... and may sometime feel that she is still there. But find comfort knowing that she had a good life, was well cared for, and loved.

John Going Gently said...

I have been in your shoes so many times
this poem by kipling sums up how we feel

THERE is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie
Perfect passion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart for a dog to tear.
When the fourteen years which Nature permits
Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
And the vet's unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find - it's your own affair, -
But ... you've given your heart to a dog to tear.
When the body that lived at your single will,
With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!),
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone - wherever it goes - for good,
You will discover how much you care,
And will give your heart to a dog to tear!
We've sorrow enough in the natural way,
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent,
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we've kept 'em, the more do we grieve;
For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short-time loan is as bad as a long -
So why in - Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?

Barbara said...

I'm so sorry. Losing a pet is losing a loved one. I'm crying for your loss.

gigihawaii said...

So sorry about your loss. It's hard to euthanize a pet.

Barb said...

This is a hard thing. We had two dogs that lives to fifteen and sixteen and one who had cancer. The lab who lived to sixteen actually had his but muscles atrophy so we had to lift him up. You did what was best for the dog. Hopefully you will someday fine another canine child to love.

AWmom said...

So sorry for the loss of Sophie!May she travel over the rainbow Bridge!!With us our son brought home a rabbit!We had him for 15 years before we had to take him to the vet because of tumors and put down! Pets are part of our family!so sorry ! Hugs to both of you!

Kathy @ SMART Living said...

Hi Tom! What a wonderful tribute to Sophie and I am so very sorry for her loss. Even when you know it is coming, even when you believe it is for the best, it is STILL very, very hard. I know some people get to the point where they say they will never, ever get another pet. But I tend to believe like the old saying, that it is better to have loved and lost than to never love at all. Sending heartful vibes to your whole family. ~Kathy

Tom said...

Thanks to all. I especially like the kipling poem. I'm pretty sure we will eventually get another dog ... but not right away. We'll need to take some time. And then, since we'll be older, we might not get a puppy but a four or five year old. I never thought about it before now, but what happens if we die before the dog does? I'd had to leave her with no home, nobody to take care of her.

Unknown said...

Sympathy to you and B. We are going through the same thing now with our 14 year old Aussie. Kidney cancer. Dreading the day.

Jono said...

So sorry to hear about Sophie. Dogs love unconditionally, but there is a price to pay for that in the end. You and B gave her a good life and will have the memories she gave you.

Diane Dahli said...

What a beautiful story about Sophie. She was obviously a treasure to your entire family, and I know you will all miss her very much. You did the right thing, Tom, sometimes seeing a beloved pet suffer is just unbearable.

Cindi said...

Sorry for your loss. Having had two dogs over my past lifetime that passed away, I understand your grief.
We have another dog who is 9 years old now. She's happy and playful and still acts like a puppy.
But we know her time will be coming up soon enough.
God made a huge mistake when He didn't extend the life of a dog. Dog is man's best friend. We need good friends longer than 15 or so years. Sad.
Thank you for sharing your story with us.

Olga said...

I am so sorry for your loss. It is so hard to see a beloved in pain and painful for us to give them release.

DJan said...

I cried as I read this, knowing what was coming. Thank you for introducing me to Sophie through your gentle words. We know when we get them that they won't live as long as we'd like, but they give us so much. Rest in peace, Sophie. :-(

Savoring Sixty said...

Losing a loved pet is so difficult. I am very sorry to read of your loss and thanks for sharing part of her life story. Sending peace to your family.

Susan said...

I am sorry for the loss of your Sophie. We are facing this, in the near future, with our own dog. He just turned 5, but has several tumors. He has been a wonderful pet, but so young to have to put down.....

Arkansas Patti said...

I am so very sorry for the loss of Sophie. It is the hardest decision we pet owners make but the kindest. Thank you for the lovely introduction to that sweet gal.
I totally agree with getting a senior dog and wish I had. My huge fear is my dog outliving me and not being cared for properly.

Kay said...

Thank you so much for your visit, Tom. This post was so beautiful and so very poignant. I remember how difficult it was for my brother when they had to say goodbye to their Pugsley. Sophie was very lucky to have such a wonderful life with you and your family.

Wisewebwoman said...

You did the right thing. I admit to crying reading this. I've been through it a few times, more poignantly the last with my very last dog, Ansa, my treasure.

Never easy but they trust us until their drying breaths and we do not let them down.

Well done, you and B, Tom.

This wee poem is what sustained me, especially the last para.

Treat me kindly, my beloved master, for no heart in all the world is more grateful for kindness than the loving heart of me.

Do not break my spirit with a stick, for though I should lick your hand between the blows, your patience and understanding will more quickly teach me the things you would have me do.

Speak to me often, for your voice is the world's sweetest music, as you must know by the fierce wagging of my tail when your footstep falls upon my waiting ear.

When it is cold and wet, please take me inside... for I am now a domesticated animal, no longer used to bitter elements... and I ask no greater glory than the privilege of sitting at your feet beside the hearth... though had you no home, I would rather follow you through ice and snow than rest upon the softest pillow in the warmest home in all the land... for you are my god... and I am your devoted worshiper.

Keep my pan filled with fresh water, for although I should not reproach you were it dry, I cannot tell you when I suffer thirst. Feed me clean food, that I may stay well, to romp and play and do your bidding, to walk by your side, and stand ready, willing and able to protect you with my life, should your life be in danger.

And, beloved master, should the Great Master see fit to deprive me of my health or sight, do not turn me away from you. Rather hold me gently in your arms as skilled hands grant me the merciful boon of eternal rest...and I will leave you knowing with the last breath I drew, my fate was ever safest in your hands.


Linda Myers said...

Ah, Tom. It is very hard to lose a beloved pet.

Sending a virtual hug, one for you and one for B.