Sunday, October 16, 2011


Its often said that you don't find a dog, a dog finds you.  Sophie came into my life about 7 years ago and even as I drove home with her I swore I would never be one of those crazy dog people.  The one's that the dog adorns their holiday cards, the dog they can't leave for more than 24 hours, the one with special food and sleeps on your bed, well I not only became one of them, I think they abducted me and named me their leader.

My first experience with a family dog was my grandma's dog Bonnie.  Bonnie was a purchase my father made in hopes of staving off a divorce between his parents.  I am not sure where that logic came from, but it worked.  Bonnie was the love of my grandma's life, most grandchildren were often called by her name.  She even had one of those professional studio portraits in a fancy frame, where its hard to tell if its a photograph or a painting.  I inherited a number of my grandma's genetic influences, the strongest perhaps is the adoring love she had and I have for our dogs.

When I was little, my sister and I begged for a dog.  For years and years, and my mother's main reason against - at least the one that she vocalized - was that dog's die and it is really sad when they do.  So when we finally got our Wheaton Terrier Hennessey when I was in middle school, I distinctly remember always being well aware that this dog's time on earth was limited, and I better find a way to get use to it.  In fact, she did almost die numerous times, shortly after we got her she ran to the neighbor's yard, and drank from water with some sort of pesticides.  The odds weren't in her favor, but she pulled through.  She had a litter of puppies, and we kept sweet Dylan.  And the years went on, I left for college, and the time came when the dreadful decision needed to be made whether she should be put down.  The plan was she was going in for an operation, and if the cancer looked too advanced the vet would call my mother and she would decide.  The call was made, the cancer was very bad, and the decision was made  - save her.  I remember coming over to the house ready to console my mom, and to my surprise, Hennessey was coming home.  To be fair she lived another year, and her quality of life was quite good.  She wasn't in pain, but then things turned, and this time there was nothing that could be done.  My mother was inconsolable, because this dog was never mine and my sister's it was hers.  And, despite my difficulty of getting over losses, this one I had expected from the day we brought that sweet puppy home.

It was my second year at Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Phoenix when I decided I needed a dog.  I was browsing through the dog section at Borders, and the page after Bichon Frise, was Bolognese - I had never heard of this breed.  They were from Bologna, Italy, were happy to exercise, but not crazy if they didn't.  Historically they were given as gifts to royalty as their lap dogs - this sounded like the perfect fit!  But where do you find one? After a brief internet search I came in contact with a woman in her late 80's who had brought the Havenese into the US and now was bringing the Bologense here.  So I began a little side project to find my dog.  I know I know, the pound, but I needed a dog with low allergens - every time I found a breeder, I would call the "guru" and she would tell me some awful story about that particular person - they don't pay enough attention to their eyes, those people cross breed, etc etc. About 8 months later, her assistant - term that should be applied loosely - called me.  They had a dog - "Baby" that had gone to a family in St. Louis and their dog didn't like her, so she was headed back to them in Western Colorado and would I like to have her?  She was a bit nervous dog - perfect, like dog like owner, and they thought I would be a good fit.

The plan was made, they would drive her from Western Colorado to Flagstaff.  First hurdle, I hate driving to Flagstaff.  Phoenix to Flagstaff is one of those routes that you must commit.  Once you get out of populated Phoenix, go past the prison, it is a two lane divided highway with no exits.  I hate the thought of no exits, so a million panic attacks later, my friend Jami and I pulled into a McDonald's in Flagstaff, where if there wasn't a dog, it looked like a drug exchange, I handed the couple a wad of cash and they handed me my Baby, aka Sophie. Then they got back in their pick up truck and drove away.  I was terrified.  She looked so vulnerable, Jami drove home, and as she says, from the minute Baby saw me, she was all mine.  She shook, and only wanted to be on my lap, its as if she knew I was the one keeping her.

Sophie has been my constant companion ever since.  Her red streaked eyes are long gone, thanks to a six month course of Angel Eyes.  Her dreadful haircut was taken care of by Johan at Applewood Pet Resort in Phoenix, and her IBS is taken care of by a diet of sweet potatoes and tilapia and she has more frequent flyer miles than most people (under the seat, never cargo).  She is not a typical dog in the sense that she doesn't come up to people asking for affection, she is a one person dog and that works for me.  However, she does seem to have a keen sense of illness.  My mother had a severe case of shingles about 5 years ago, and after hospital stays and being bed ridden, when she first started making little trips down from her bedroom, but still only could lay on the sofa, Sophie would leave my side, and lay directly on the area where my mom's shingles were.  She wouldn't leave her side, she seem to know where she was needed more.

This dog has slept next to me in my darkest days, hour after hour in bed.  I didn't know when I got her how much I would soon need her, but somewhere, someone did.  And I will forever be grateful.

Recently, we considered getting another dog, Lyndee.  A friend of mine foster's dogs for Fluffy Dog Rescue, and posted Lyndee's picture on Facebook.  Lyndee is Sophie's opposite, she was a big dog, will love anyone who is near her, a rescue from Alabama.  From the moment I saw her picture, I had the strongest feeling she was meant to be in my life.  So I filled out all the paper work, had a home visit, and met my friend Stephanie and Lyndee in a parking lot near our home.  I loved this dog, she was sweet, she was pulling through from being heart worm positive, and as we were leaving, and she was about to jump into my friends car, she walked over to me and put her paw on my leg.  I was overwhelmed, with love for this sweet dog - I knew she was to be mine.

It was a done deal.  And then I got home, and the next day had a really bad day.  I couldn't get out of bed, I could barely deal with feeding Sophie and letting her outside.  Sophie is the easiest of dogs, Lyndee was more like a puppy.  So I sat and I sat, and I picked up the phone, and barely audible through my sobs, I told Stephanie that I could not take Lyndee.  I wanted to be the person that could deal with a shedding dog, handle a dog that needed a certain amount of exercise, handle a second "child", but that want was not enough, and it wouldn't be fair.  Stephanie was so kind, and told me over and over how its harder to know when to walk away, but my heart was broken.

I cried like I hadn't cried in ages.  The tears that seem to be ripping apart your insides, and I realized, not only was I crying for the loss of this dog, I was crying because I wasn't well enough to have her.  I called my friend Jami in Phoenix, giving her the news, and she said, you know what, maybe you weren't meant to have Lyndee, but you were meant to see the possibility - think about it, a year ago, the thought of getting another dog wouldn't have ever entered your mind.  And she was right, the very fact that I had the thought, and went through the process of getting Lyndee was a huge step.

Lyndee got adopted the next week.  I had sent the new family a little tag and gift card, and she sent me a picture of Lyndee with her new companion, that looked like a much better fit than Sophie.  She is at a house with 8 acres of land, and a fellow Fluffy Dog Rescue sister.  She found the right home, but I still believe that she found me first to offer me that glimmer of hope.  I still find it difficult to think about her without that pit in my stomach.  Then I look to my right, as I am typing, and see the sweet baby that found me first and I could never feel more blessed. 

Here's the link to Fluffy Dog.  They do great things.

Here's the link to Stephanie's Blog, you can find Lyndee in the older posts

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