Around 3 months ago I lost my beloved Black Lab x Heading dog, Sophie. I have had her since I was 3, and my first ever memory in life is going to see this litter of puppies one night with mum and dad, and bringing back a little black puppy, who I affectionately called "Soapy" until I could pronounce Sophie. Many of my first life memories and photos include her and I, out in the rain with her purple lead and my pink barbie gumboots and jacket. All of my photos, Sophie was in them, I remember her stealing my baby brothers pacifier and sitting on the lawn with it sitting in her mouth, I remember her stealing luncheon out of the car on grocery day, swinging off mums sheets on the washing line. Sophie never ate shoes, and she was never once tied up or put in a crate, or a kennel and run. We never needed to. Ever since Day one she would happily roam around our house, never leaving the easily escape-able boundary fence and open gate.
Sophies best friend was my pet lamb, Lavender. These two best friends would curl up at night by the back door in Sophie's bed and be fast asleep when we got up in the morning, right up until one day Lavender Disappeared, she had drowned in a water trough.
Even when we moved houses, Sophie would never leave the boundary of the house without me, she never needed a leash to go for walks, never needed to wear a collar.
A few years went by on our dairy farm with our "well proportioned" "working dog" - everybody laughed at that, who has a Labrador as a working dog, Labradors don't work. Well, this one did, she would round up those cows and bring them to the cow shed where my dad would wait, all by herself as long as the gates were opened. She never had any formal training for any of this, she just knew and did it.
Fast forward a few years when she was around 10 years old, after many pet days at school, many stolen snacks and water trough swims later even when the bathtub was the biggest fight ever, she slept underneath our workers Bighorn where it was shady, while the cows were being milked. Unfortunately, she didn't wake up in time to move as the bighorn drove off, dislocating Sophie's hip as she went. She was in so much pain, but yet she was so patient and forgiving, as dad single handedly loaded this 30kg dog into the back seat of the car for the trip to the vets. She never got aggressive, she never resisted anything even though it hurt her to be moved and she wimpered the whole way. Her hip was fixed and she was brought home, and this was when she stopped being our top and only working dog on the farm.
Sophie became an indoor dog, her bed was moved into the lounge. It was only meant to stay there while she healed, but that bed never left the lounge after that, and she slept inside most nights, either under the computer desk or on her mat in the lounge on cold nights.
This was when the cat food stealing started. In typical Labrador fashion, Sophie would eat anything and everything she could get her teeth on, and her favorite food was cat food. She started by waiting for the cats to leave their bowls before going in to clean up the remains, but as time went on and she started to lose sight in her left eye, she said screw the cats, and would push them (and us) out of the way to get to the cat food, even though she was being fed the best quality dog food available!
At 13 we thought we were going to lose Sophie, she went downhill quickly during one winter, and after her hip dislocation, getting in the car was a struggle, so any vet visits were always at home visits. We got her better, and apart from the arthritis forming in that one hip, her left eye, and a non-cancerous tumor forming on one front leg, she was as good as gold. She never complained, never showed any signs of pain or discomfort, and never lost her appetite, so we kept soldiering on as it was obvious she wasn't ready to go.
At age 15 we thought we were going to lose her again, a few months ago she started having trouble getting up, scrambling to get her feet under her, and always sitting down very slowly. We couldn't shift her bed in the lounge, as she got confused and a little lost, but that was ok, she was still happy, still loved attention and was still eating more than my horses.
About a week after that she went downhill very badly, we had a vet out to put her to sleep and he arrived, we had all said our goodbyes and taken our last photos with her, all cried with her and she knew. She knew what was meant to happen, the look she gave I will never forget, it was one of pleading, she wasn't ready to go yet, she wasn't finished here. When the vet got here I was so prepared to lose my beloved dog, and then he couldn't do it. For whatever reason, that vet refused to put my dog to sleep that day, saying she was still happy and as healthy as she could be at this point. I have never seen a look that was so positively expressed as relief, come across any dogs face, as it did on Sophie's face that day that the vet left and she was still with us.
All went well for a few short months, until one day I was an hour away, and sitting in a hospital waiting room waiting for x-rays of my wrist that I had injured the day before. I got a text, one that I had been dreading for a long time coming, one that I knew would come about one day.
Right at the time when I couldn't be there, when I was bailed up in a hospital waiting room, I got the text to say that a vet was on his way, and this time that was it, this was actually happening, I was going to lose my dog and I wasn't even there.
That was it, I left the hospital and my bf drove me to my house where my beloved Sophie was lying flat on her side on a foam mat. She hadn't eaten her breakfast that morning, and she couldn't get up, she couldn't drink, and she looked miserable, she wasn't my Sophie anymore. She was still alive at this point, but she was very very flat. Knowing exactly what was about to happen, I said my goodbyes for a second time, and sat with her, trying to coax her into eating, drinking, anything, but she wouldn't, she couldn't.
The on call vet was rung, it was a sunday. He refused to come out because it was a Sunday, and I could not believe my ears, a vet with such a high rating in the town was refusing to come out while he was on call "because it's Sunday" i'm sorry, but if you don't want to travel out on a Sunday that you are rostered onto, then you shouldn't be a vet, its as simple as that. I will never forgive this particular vet, my dog was suffering and he didn't care enough to get off his lazy backside and do his job. I will forever look at him with my soul filled with disgust.
So dad went to his personal phonebook, being a dairy farmer he knows many vets personally, so he called one. The vet he called was the same vet who couldn't put Sophie to sleep the first time, but this vet is dedicated and compassionate, on a day where he did not have to come out, he got his kit and he came out. He arrived and Sophie knew. Her eyes said it all, she was ready to go this time, she wasn't scared anymore, and she was saying goodbye. It was all over very quickly, and very peacefully.
The house is so empty now, we have so many animals, but none of them have ever held such a big presence in our hearts, though every one of them does hold a presence in there.
Sophie was absolutely one in a million and I will never forget the dog that I have lived with ever since I can remember. I thought I had run out of tears to cry now, but apparently not because I can't see my computer screen anymore.
Sophie is now resting peacefully under our biggest tree on the front lawn, she has a rainbow colored windmill on top of her, and sometimes I catch it turning, even when there is not a single gust of wind about.
Most of the photo's we have are not on the computer, they are printed, but here are some that I have gotten onto the computer
This turned out a whole lot longer than I expected it too, so cookies to anybody that read all of that, it took a bit longer than I expected to be able to let go and actually type this without having a meltdown, and even now I'm struggling