In September, we had to put Sophie down and it was an awful thing to have to go through. To get to that point, I need to backtrack to what happened in July. We woke up one morning and she wasn’t responsive, so we took her to Mike’s work for some tests. A mass on her spleen was discovered, and Mike and I made the decision to have it removed. Mike did the surgery with the help of his boss, and they removed her spleen, which had a baseball-sized tumor on it. Sophie did great with the surgery and recovered well. About a week after the surgery, we got the results back from the lab – it was cancer. We knew before we did the surgery that there was a good chance it was cancer, and if it was, we’d be looking at another month or two before it was back. Mike and I focused on the positive – she could have left us in July, but she didn’t. Mike took her to work with him everyday for those last two months, and she was so happy to go to work every morning. Mike would tell her in the morning it was time to go to work and she would start talking and wag and wag and wag, then she’d hold really still while Mike put her collar and leash on. Before they left for the day, she would come over to me and give me a kiss. She absolutely loved going, and I think that Mike’s coworkers all enjoyed her, too. She got lots and lots and lots and lots of love over those last couple of months.
Then, one morning in September, we knew. She was acting like she had that day in July, and we knew it was bad. Mike carried her to the car to go to work that morning and wanted to run a couple of tests just to be sure. Over the course of that day, we decided that putting her down was the right thing to do. She wasn’t herself, and even if Mike could limp her along with fluids and other things, it wasn’t the quality of life we wanted for her. We agreed that after I got off work that day, I would drive out to Mike’s work and we would have one of the other doctors put her down.
Sophie still had one surprise for us, though. When I got to Mike’s work, I expected her to be laying around, barely moving, just as she had left with Mike that morning. She heard me come in and ran out of Mike’s office talking to me in her normal way and jumping all over me, out of her mind excited to see me! I was stunned, and so was Mike. He had given her some fluids throughout the day and she responded so well to them that neither of us had the heart to put her down that night. We just couldn’t when she was acting like herself. So we took her home. We knew that at best we had days, probably hours, so we rearranged our bedroom that night to put our mattress on the floor so we could have a Sophie sleepover without her having to jump on the bed. Mike got up early the next morning to go to his volunteer shift at the USO and he left me a note saying that she was energetic and bouncy on her walk that morning. When I got up to go to work, though, she was more lethargic and I got concerned. I knew – today would be the day we said goodbye. Mike came home from the USO early and we spent some time with her in the apartment, just laying with her and enjoying our last hours together. She got to the point where she started taking a deep breath every once in a while and Mike and I knew it was time. On our way to Mike’s work, we stopped at the park on our street that we went to almost every morning with her. She laid in the grass for a while and enjoyed watching the people walking on the path and the kids running in the park. Mike and I spent that whole day snapping pictures of her, as if we could just freeze time like a picture does. Every time I picked the camera up that day, I couldn’t see the viewfinder through my tears. I snapped and I snapped and I snapped. After about 30 minutes in the park, we left.
We got to Mike’s work and they already knew what was going on. Honestly, we walked in and the techs and the doctor who would administer the drugs were all teary-eyed. I felt like such a jerk for a minute. We knew in July she was going to die and Mike started taking her to work every day and let everyone fall in love with her – just in time for her to leave us. Then I realized that this display of affection was for Sophie, yes, but also for us. They cared. They were compassionate. And I couldn’t have appreciated it more. Mike and I said our goodbyes and then it was over. Oddly, I felt so relieved after she was gone. I realized that seeing her struggle and not be herself was so much worse than living without her. I loved her so much that I was able to let her go. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
We have the pictures from that last day, though, and I’m so so so so glad we took them. They document our last hours with an incredible companion, and they also document what I truly believe was Sophie’s parting gift to us – a little more time. I’ll cherish that forever.
Sophie left us with more memories than I can count. She was about a year old when she came into our family, and we had her for 12 great years. She was my first dog – after I graduated college and moved out on my own, she came to Columbus to live with me and never left. She began her life in Ohio, and was one day away from being euthanized at the Warren County shelter when someone adopted her. She ended up with us, and then with me, then we got Sadie, and then we got Mike and Paco. 🙂 Sophie moved across the country with us and got to see Colorado Springs, the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest, the Grand Canyon, and best of all, the Pacific Ocean. She lived a great life, and I’m so glad that I had her along for my ride into adulthood. Mike and I will hold her in our hearts forever.