Remembrance

The following was posted on the original LDR blog shortly after the Lucky Dog suffered a stroke on the afternoon of February 29, 2008, and died that evening at her vet's office.

The Lucky Dog was just one of many nicknames she acquired over the years, but her actual name was Sophie and she would have been 14 in a couple of weeks. The first time we laid eyes on her she couldn't see us, simply because she was so young that her eyes hadn't opened yet. A couple of months later we took her home, and although we thought we were ready to care for a border collie, nothing could have prepared us for the intensity of living with a dog who needed to be active and engaged during every waking minute.

We were fortunate, though, because Sophie truly had a sweet disposition. She was also incredibly intelligent, remarkably expressive, much too stubborn for her own good and very silly. She loved snow, and insisted on positioning herself directly in front of anyone who was shoveling it, so they couldn't help but drop it all over her. She also enjoyed attacking the lawn mower, and her favorite appliances were the coffee bean grinder and the lettuce spinner (the use of either would lead her to materialize with a tennis ball in her mouth, insisting through her muffled woofs that we immediately play).

sophieball Like any border collie she was splendid with a frisbee, and she liked to use her herding talents on the neighbors' cat, even if she wasn't all that successful. In her defense, she was working under difficult conditions (she was on one side of our fenced-in backyard while the cat was on the other) and with a subject that didn't really respond to the usual repertoire of border collie tricks. But that didn't stop Sophie from carving a figure 8 into the back lawn as she consistently looped behind our garage and cruised back again, all the while barking and staring in that classic hunched-over border collie pose at the uncomprehending feline. When the cat would eventually mosey its way onto our neighbors' back steps, Sophie would finally rest, convinced it was her hard work that had put him there.

Sophie started to calm down by the time she turned 10, but we still had to go walking three or four times a day right up until the end. A little over a year ago she had a cancerous tumor removed from her chest. On the day after being given the all clear by her vet she started lurching around as if she were drunk or had vertigo. It was something called vestibular disease, which affects the inner ear and balance of some older dogs. There is no treatment, but on its own the condition eventually fades. Coming immediately after cancer surgery we weren't sure how she would recover, but in the end she came through remarkably well.

During this past year Sophie was definitely slowing down; stairs were really starting to give her trouble, and a few months ago it became clear that she could no longer get into the car on her own. She stilled loved to walk and play with her tennis balls, however, and overall she was happy. When her tumor was removed we told ourselves that if she gained one more year of good life it would make putting her through the surgery worthwhile. That's what happened, so I'm thankful for that, but I have to admit I had started thinking about how much more time she had left. Another year seemed possible, even if I wasn't looking forward to watching her age more and more. But that wasn't to be.

As I used to tell the her all the time, she was the best.

The original blog post also contains a list of songs I played for Sophie on the program; if you're curious you can find them here.