Sophie glared at me from her hiding place inside a 7-11 Big Gulp cup. She had backed butt-first into the cup so that only her head was poking out of the mouth of the cup. Her huge Papillon ears were back, a sure sign she was angry and afraid. And no wonder. She was prisoner in a cage with dozens of dirty, squawking, pecking birds. The noise was deafening. The smell was overpowering. She shivered and tried to retreat further into her cup.
She had been in the cage for weeks and I had just found her there. Horrified and guilt-stricken, I beat at the horrible birds with my bare arms and hands. They flew at me, pecking, pecking, pecking at my face and eyes, drawing blood. As I fought off the next wave I stretched out my hands to reach Sophie. She was just beyond my reach.
“Come here, My Precious!” Yes, Gollum-like, I often call her My Precious. She stared at me from inside the revolting cage. I couldn’t reach her. I watched, bleeding and helpless as the birds consumed her.
Of course, My Precious Sophie was not in the cage. She was right here with me, as she is now.
I have created a quasi-altar in my bedroom. Atop a rough-hewn wooden bench are candles, a couple of Buddha figurines, a cross, some shells, a vase of dried pussy willow and My Precious. She is in a wooden box ornamented with carved flowers. Her name is engraved on a brass plaque. She has been there since April 18 when she died in my arms following a sudden health decline and one horrible night.
Sophie often visits me in my dreams. Sometimes she just sits beside me, leaning her small body against my thigh as I read or write in my journal. In my dreams I catch a whiff of her ripe dog smell. I like that smell.
Other times she is staring into my eyes. Sophie excelled at gazing into my eyes, beaming her thoughts to me. I usually received the message loud and clear. We were like that, me and My Precious.
One night a couple of weeks ago Sophie and I went swimming. We were in a beautiful pool, surrounded by exotic plants under thousands of twinkling stars. We were alone, but it didn’t matter because we were content to be together. We clung to the side of the pool and took turns launching off and swimming back, splashing each other and laughing as best girlfriends will do. Side-by-side we kicked our legs—my two, her four—and talked and laughed some more. I don’t remember what we talked about. It doesn’t matter. We were talking about happy things that made us laugh until tears ran down our faces and our sides hurt.
It was the most joyful dream I have had in many years.
I was recently talking with some friends about being visited by the spirits of departed relatives. They believe. I am skeptical. But I told them about my dream and they said Sophie’s spirit was visiting me. The idea gives me some comfort.
I have a rich life that comes into full bloom during the dark hours when I close my eyes. I sometimes think of that life as just another version of me—like the flip side of a record—no less real for being on the flip side. Now, rather than keeping me company as I go about my day at work, around the house and in the garden, Sophie is part of my life on the flip side.
I still grieve. But there is comfort there in the dark, where Sophie and I can walk—or go night swimming—and talk and have adventures together. Friends forever.