Some of the best people in my life...aren't people at all. Like this little girl. Her name was Sophie, and God brought her to me via the Band of Angels rescue organization, in Hendersonville, North Carolina. I was at work, doing my job as the receptionist at a busy veterinary practice. You know, the usual stuff: answering phones, setting appointments, shooing parrots off the counter. A typical day. I got a call from this p[articular rescue organization asking if one of the vets could have a minute to check out a little dog they'd just picked up. I asked and the answer was "If you can be here in 10 minutes" They said it was not a problem, as they were pulling into the parking lot right NOW.
The people I worked for did a lot of free stuff for these organizations, all of the vets in the area did. Dr. Chris was a particularly soft touch, no matter how hard he tried to not be. The woman came in to give me some info so I could start a chart for the dog. They said her name was Susie and she was a Cocker Spaniel. "Oh!" I said foolishly, "I LOVE Cocker Spaniels!" Her eyes lit up, and she whispered, "An adorable little black cocker spaniel" and i swooned. "Very well behaved" she said slyly, "and as sweet as all get out." I had a Cocker once before and loved the dogs. I think she had me marked from that point on. She leaned over the counter and said "You should take this dog." "What? NO, not me. I can't. My boyfriend will kill me" "She's so sweeeeeeet" she tells me. Poor little thing...And then she turned to the big window and waved her co-conspiritor in. "You are going to LOVE this pup" and then she commenced to tell me this heartbreaking story about the rescue of this poor dog. How the people who had her last were an elderly couple. He had had a stroke and she was not well. The dog never got walked or taken outside except just to the steps to "do her business". The elderly woman was forgetting to feed her and forgetting to take care of her. She had called the rescuers to come help her by finding the dog a good home.
The dog was terrified, trembling and whimpering. They set her down on the floor by the side of my desk and she leaned her head against my leg. Of course, I petted her. And she licked my hand. "She has cataracts" they told me. "We don't know how much she can see, but she was born with them, a result of the mother being overbred. " I'd heard of this kind of birth defect, mostly dogs coming from puppy mills. She looked up at me and I could see the extensive white tissue covering her eyes. NO wonder the little thing was so scared. Taken away from her home, plus blind. They told me that she had already had 3 homes. The first couple that got her took her back because she was defective. Then a young couple got her, knowing her problem, but when they got pregnant with their first child, decided that they just couldn't have a dog in the house anymore, so they gave her to the old couple. She was a throwaway, and my heart broke for her. By this time Dr. Chris came to take her back to the examining room. He took one look at me and shook his head laughing. "You are such a MARK" he said to me. I took the little dog back for him and she let me pick her up and set her on the examining table. I was amazed by how motionless she stood, letting him poke and prod and look her over. Aside form the cataracts she had a bad yeast infection in her ears, and worms. He cleaned up her ears and washed them out with Novasol and put drops in them. She barely reacted. The doc looked at me and he looked at the rescuers. "Well?" he asked. They all turned and looked at me. "I..I....she's so sweet...but I...." And she turned and looked me square in the face and made a little squeaking noise and practically jumped into my arms. And I came home that day with a new dog.
I named her Sophie. My boyfriend fell madly in love with her (after the initial shock wore off). We had Sophie for over 10 years. She was the best dog in the world. When I got hurt in 2001, she was beside herself while I was in the hospital. Pat brought her to see me a couple of times,. but I was too hurt to do much besides a lame stroke on the head or two. After I came home, she never left my side. She would lay beside my bed on the floor, getting up on her hind legs every now and then to make sure I was still there and lick my face. When I could sit propped up on the couch, she would crawl up there and snuggle in, always careful not to hurt me. We sat on that couch and in that bed for months. We watched the Twin Towers come down. We cried (well, okay, mostly I cried) because my life was irreparably changed and I was crippled. She stayed with me, helping me to get a grip, loving me no matter what. When I could finally walk with a walker, she knew exactly how close she could stay and not get tangled up in the walker legs. She learned how to walk with me on crutches when that finally happened. She was the best friend I ever had.
We moved to Illinois in 2005. In 2006, Sophie was diagnosed with liver cancer. As she got weaker and weaker, we knew we were going to have to let her go. I talked to her all the way there and we went into the vet and I couldn't stop crying. He offered to take her back and I could stay out front until it was finished, but I said no, and I told him that all through my ordeals, she never left my side, and I wasn't going to leave her either. She was so small as I held her in my arms while they put an IV in and administered the lethal drugs. I talked to her and she never took her eyes off my face until she closed them that last time. I told her what a good dog she was and how much we loved her. I told her that it was alright for her to let go, that we would be okay. When she took her last breath, I felt the spirit leave her, and she was as light as a feather, I looked down at that little curly mass of fur and I cried my heart out...harder than I did, I think, when my parents died. My heart was broken in two, and I knew there would never be another Sophie, that I would never be able to own another Cocker Spaniel ever again. I sat there with her for almost half an hour, before I was finally able to turn her body over to the vet's assistant. I cried all the way home and long into the night. I cried for days, every time I thought I heard her, or looked around for her, forgetting momentarily that she was gone. I vowed that I would never have another dog, because I can't take it when this happens.
I am crying now. I have 3 great dogs now, because I have to have pets. But they aren't Sophie. I also have a house full of cats and fish and birds. No one will ever take her place, that little blind dog with a heart the size of New York. I was so blessed to have her for as long as I did, and to get her exactly when I did. And I will never forget her...