When we first brought Sophie home to our suburban New Jersey home, we knew only this about her: she was about 3 years old, she had been rescued from a high-kill shelter in West Virginia, and she was rather shy and anxious. In time, she settled into a life of being the center of our family’s attention and over-the-top affection. She lost her shyness, and was only anxious when in the car. Although she deigned to be friendly to two-legged people who were not mail carriers, she was less so with the four-legged kind. Perhaps that had something to do with the two cats who also lived in our house at the time: Hope, who didn’t like anyone, and Toby, who could never seem to stay still enough to make friends. Sophie came to understand the suburban rule of never being off-leash when walked, although she much preferred being allowed to race ahead when we went hiking where she could be set free. Sophie was a happy dog. Little did we know that she secretly pined to be something else…a farm dog.
Her wish came true four years ago, when we bought our farm. Sophie seemed to know exactly what to do from the moment we opened the car door. She bounded out without hesitation and spent the rest of the day racing up and down our pastures and through our woods, stopping every now and then to sniff around and get her bearings. By the end of that first day, she had settled in and established her favorite positions from where to survey her domain: the front porch, the stone wall behind the farmhouse, and the porch overlooking the lower pasture:
And, she had set in gear the twice a day ritual that was to mark every farm day, a long walk in the woods:
Sophie has been my shadow every farm day, whether I’m gardening or hanging up the laundry to dry or writing on the porch or sitting on the front steps listening to the coyotes on a full mooned summer night.
This past year, however, has been a steep decline for Sophie. She has lost most of her vision and some of her hearing, arthritis has set in and movement has become painfully difficult. Her appetite is not what it used to be, and her preferred activity now is to sleep by the wood stove. Squirrels no longer interest her, moonlight walks no longer entice her. She still loves her farm, though she is learning to enjoy it in a different way. This is something I am having a rather difficult time adjusting to…