In Memory of Sophie and Aprilia
Today I’m morning the loss of my 14 year old German shepherd, Sophie. I’m drinking coffee and indulging my need to be melancholy and cry.
“Dogs’ lives are too short. Their only fault, really.” ~Agnes Sligh Turnbull
The view out my large window of fields and trees spotted with rain washed snow, is mirroring my inner landscape. At times the rain rages and screams, then calms and whispers, and then dyes down to a soft mist, just to rage again unexpectedly.
By degrees, I notice that the grass is a lovely shade of green, the only color in this otherwise grey and brown landscape. Green is the color of life and growth; it is the color of renewal. My crying eyes rest on the color of renewal and I find myself reflecting on growth. Sophie and my other girl shepherd, Aprilia, who passed two weeks ago, were my teachers. They modeled for me, unconditional love, patience, authenticity, joy, presence, perseverance, and loyalty; I could go on and on.
In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn’t merely try to train him to be semi human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming partly a dog. ~Edward Hoagland
Their ability to be totally “in the moment” was a gift to my learning to be present. I would walk with them and act like them. I would notice the sounds, standing motionless, to determine the location of the squirrel or the bunny. I would sniff at the air trying to discern the fragrance of the recently passed deer or turkey. I would get curious about the tracks in the snow or the lair of some little critter. Sometimes I would bark at the Canada geese and chase the swans into the water just so that I could feel the exhilaration and joy that the dogs seemed to feel.
They didn’t care in what condition my body was, or take my moods personally. If I was angry, they gave me space, and sad, they were by my side as a comforting presence, not concerned with “why”. Sometimes, in my isolated moments, I would talk and talk, and they would listen with their heads tipping from one side to the other. They never had much to say, but they were really listening.
If I walked in Aprilia’s direction she would lift her head and clap her tail with delight, and when I came home they barked, laughed, and greeted me with enthusiasm, their entire bodies shaking with joy. Upon my leaving, they stood very still watching my movements, and showing me their sad faces, although there was always a bit of mischief behind their beautiful brown eyes, and independence, and self-sufficiency.
My girls were not from the same breeder; Sophie was a wedding gift and Aprilia came from the dog pound. They were also not the same age; Sophie was 14 and Aprila was 12 (past the expiration date for Shepherds). And yet, they appeared to die from the same fatal rupture of the spleen. Aprilia, the first to die, had a difficult passing. We didn’t know what was happening, thus she lingered in agony for many hours, dying at home at 3 in the morning. Sophie on the other hand, was found perched regally in a mound of snow on the hill overlooking the pond. It was as if she wanted to reflect on her life before she passed. I believe she knew she was leaving us. When I found her she looked up at me with a peaceful and contemplative look; it was like she was just hanging out their enjoying the scenery until I got home. It wasn’t until my husband picked her up that we knew she was dying. She was hypothermic and, although conscious, had cloudy eyes and a firm abdomen. We had her peacefully put to sleep. Both died with us loving them and holding them, and for that I will be eternally grateful.
Some unknown author once said, “My goal in life is to be as good of a person as my dog already thinks I am.” I say yes and, my goal in life is to be as good a person as my dogs were. They were the best! I will miss them terribly.
May you rest in peace and joy Aprilia and Sophie Fernyak. I love you!