Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Sophie & The 2015 Holiday Season

Dear Friends,



This picture of Stella Bella, now 16, was meant to be our Holiday Greeting card for 2015 but, as some of you know, we recently put Sophie to sleep.  That took a lot out of us.

Add to that, December is the anniversary of the passing of two of Carol's family members & we currently have two dear friends who are in dire health circumstances. The joyful mood left us.

But, be that as it may, I wanted to take this opportunity to sincerely thank you all for the outpouring of concern and condolences when Sophie died.  We've all had the experience, sometimes multiple times. It never gets easier but somehow some seem more tragic than others.


Sophie, rescued by the wonderful Deborah Dickerson, had a terrible life. She was with us from age 7 to age 12. Like many rescues, It took her about 3 years to bloom into the Bouvier she truly was and could have been had she had a loving & patient home. Three times we almost lost her to various illnesses but she pulled through and everyone marveled at her inner strength and desire to live.

Even on the very day her life ended, she reacted with a warning bark at a young man who inadvertently stuck his hand in front of her face. I never figured out what that behavior was about but she always reacted this way when someone put their hand out for her to smell. Surely something traumatic must have triggered it because, though protective, Sophie was, first, a lady; then a Bouvier with a properly balanced temperament.



She was my shadow, moving from room to room, from guard position to guard position when I worked outside. She was a great companion as we hiked through the many open spaces in and around Ridgefield. When we would get to a fork in a trail, she would look to me for direction. She enjoyed these little adventures and I took her everywhere. She loved riding in the convertible, top down.



We had lunches & dinners together at dog friendly restaurants, sat on park benches while I sipped a cup of coffee, obligated to share my croissant with her. She was always the perfect companion but always calmly on guard.

Sophie loved to run and she did for the first four years that she was with us. She enjoyed her freedom and patrolled her two and a half acre territory with great care. She respected Stella and spent hours Bouv playing with Ziggy -- the 20# mutt we added to our home several years ago, thanks to Dagi Henry. They became a true odd couple.



But in her fifth year with us, Sophie had one of her periodic grand mal seizures. It was in the middle of the night & Ziggy raced to her aid. I found Sophie writhing on the floor, repeatedly slamming her spine against the corner of a square leg of a nearby table, her flank soaked in urine.

After I slid her away from the table and puddle of urine, I stroked her and eventually she re-emerged into the conscious world. But it was clear her hind quarters had been injured. She couldn't stand at first and, from then on, had difficulty getting up, walking, keeping her balance.

Although over weeks and months, she improved, still you could have knocked her over with a feather. She stopped running. And although she never cried out in pain, it was obvious she was in constant stress. Periodically I heard a low moan. We tried various medications to help her live more comfortably to little effect. Throughout it all, she still insisted on following me from room to room, exerting valiantly to stand up and plopping down in the next room, tired from the strain.

As winter drew closer, I had visions of Sophie trying to balance herself in the snow and on ice, slipping, falling, flopping around like a fish out of water. I couldn't get it out of my head and I knew I couldn't let it happen. I watched her weaken day after day.

Finally, one Sunday, while Carol was home with me, I burst into tears and told her it was time. The sun was shining. It was an unseasonably beautiful day, a day when I was to plant fall bulbs.

Instead I called  Dr. Dale Krier, a mobile vet who specializes in veterinary hospice care and euthanasia. I broke down on the phone, as did she, because at the time of my call, she had been sitting on the side of the road mourning one of her own dogs..... named Sophie.

She arrived a few hours later, in her private car, with her son and medical bag. I introduced her to Sophie and we talked quietly for a while. She described what would happen and we decided to go outside, on the grass, in the sun on this otherwise beautiful day.

I got Sophie to lie down and lay next to her as she got her first shot that relaxed her. That took a few minutes to take effect. Carol and I were in tears. I talked to Sophie, stroked, hugged and kissed her and told her how much I loved her. I know I was the last voice she heard as she sank into drugged oblivion. After asking if we were ready Dr. Krier injected Sophie with the drug that put her into a permanent sleep. In a few minutes, she pronounced her passing. I stayed with Sophie for more minutes, sobbing and hugging her.

Dale made an imprint of her paw in clay and left us to grieve privately.

Finally it was time and we rolled Sophie onto a canvas stretcher and gently placed her in the back of Dale's car. Dr. Krier then spent another half hour with us. She lit one of those little mourning candles. She provided us with comfort, hugs, grieving resources & explained the next steps.

I wanted to know how Sophie's body would be treated and that the ashes I received would actually be hers. Dr. Krier assured us that Sophie's remains would handled with respect as she was taking her to a crematorium where the entire process was video taped. She would review the tape. Her fees were handled gently, with sensitivity.

Later in the day she called to see how we were doing. She checked in the next day and she called both of Sophie's vets with the news.

Several days later, she returned with Sophie's remains. So Sophie is home with us again, sharing space with Sabrina and others.

We did our best for her and she did her best for us, right up to the very end. She was a big, wonderful, beautiful girl and, like all the Bouviers before her, I miss her terribly.