Sophie was the fulfillment of my wife’s lifelong dream of owning and loving a Standard Poodle.
Well, I guess she owned her, technically, and she certainly loved her. Sometimes, though, it seemed Sophie owned us more than we owned her.
Delaine, my wife, had fallen in love with the big poodle breed when she was a youngster and visited Texas relatives who had somehow wound up living in New York. They had a black Standard Poodle. Playing with that “dog” (we generally refer to them as babies, as we do not have children together) on that summer visit started it all.
Later, when she was a teen, Delaine worked and earned money to buy a poodle, although it was not a Standard Poodle. She loved that baby all of its long life, though.
For a long time, she wanted a Standard Poodle.
She later bought a Cairn Terrier and named her Katy. Later, he saved a mixed dog from certain death in an Arkansas dog pound. That was Dixie Belle, believed to be a mix of Sheltie and Pomeranian--I called her a Shelteranian--who was always cute and puppy-like, even at the end of her long life.
Those are the two Delaine had when I met her and persuaded her to marry me. We had both been through divorce, and she had no human children. I had two grown children. So, we had our two babies, Katy and Dixie Belle.
Within months, though, Delaine found online a notice that some folks way up in the upper peninsula of Michigan had some poodles for sale. The Reiniches (their name) were not breeders; they loved Standard Poodles, and their pair had babies. Mrs. Reiniche was intent on adopting out the babies they could not keep, to people who met her standards for Standard Poodle parenthood.
Delaine passed the test and we drove up to Michigan, the upper peninsula, way up there under Lake Superior, to get the baby we would name Sophia, Sophie for short.
The story of how she got her name is an embarrassment to me, but I’ll tell it anyway.
Talking about what we would name the new, black puppy that we were going to go pick up in Michigan, we tossed around some names. Delaine said the best names for canine babies end in “ie” or “ey” or “y.” She had read that the little ones respond best to names with an “e” sound at the end.
“Well,” I said. “She’s a black poodle. Let’s name her for that black blues singer, Sophie Tucker. Let’s call her Sophie. Her real name on her registration can be Sophia, but we’ll call her Sophie.”
Delaine thought that was a great name.
Imagine how I felt a couple of years later when I found out that Sophie Tucker was actually a white Jewish torch singer, not a black blues singer. But such a mistake was unimportant, and we didn’t care. We just loved our Sophie.
I called her the “clown of the canine world,” because she was comical. I don’t remember exactly now what she did that made me laugh; I merely remember a lot of laughing at her antics, a lot of it.
Such a beautiful girl.
It didn’t take much for me to laugh at her, though. For instance, from my easy chair in the living room in our old house, I could look through the dining room into the kitchen where there was a window to the backyard, a window that Sophie could look through and see me when she wanted to come in.
“I see a big giant head looking at me,” I would say, laughing and getting up to go let her in.
She often slept between Delaine and me. I loved the times I woke up with a head next to my shoulder and soft breathing in my ear. Yes, it was always Sophie, not Delaine.
On Saturday mornings I would sleep a little later than normal and then let the babies out. Then we’d all get back in bed together. Sophie often would get back between us to be petted and talked to, first by her Mama and then by me.
She was the biggest lap dog I had ever experienced. When I was a kid, we had a little pound puppy named Susie who sat in my lap, but she was small. Sophie, though, was a 65-pound girl who would jump on my lap when I sat down in my recliner and put my legs up to read or watch TV. She would usually lie down lengthwise with her face down by my feet and her tail up on my chest. Yes, occasionally she would burn my nostrils and eyes. I’d gladly put up with that again, if I could.
Katy and Dixie Belle loved her. She was about the same size as they when we got her, but it was not long—too soon, in fact—that they were able to easily walk under her.
Sophie and her Mama loved to have matching
fingernails. Yes, those are fingers on Sophie's
hands, not paws.
Those were the three we had several years. Then Katy, a cantankerous old girl, died after a long life. We got Henry, a white Standard Poodle to fill that void, and he is the subject of many other stories. After Dixie Belle passed, we got Grace Claire, or Gracie. That meant we had three Standard Poodles at once.
Henry and Sophie loved one another, like a son and mother. Sophie loved Gracie Claire, too. Henry tolerated her.
As Sophie aged, her black hair began turning gray. She seemed to begin losing her eyesight. Her hips began to fail, and she had trouble getting up to walk. That meant I had to lift her up to get her on her feet. She could walk to the back door and go outside. On the grass of the back yard, she seemed more sure of herself than on the hardwood floors of our old house.
Eventually, she was unable to walk on those floors without falling, so I would have to bend over put my hands, clasped, under her belly and hold her up while she walked to the backyard, like a wheelbarrow, where she could manage on the grassy surface.
Eventually, I had to carry her to the back yard, where she could walk, although that ability began to falter, too. I had to pick her up sometimes and put her back on her feet.
Many weeks, I picked her up and carried her to the back yard. I also picked her up and stood her in front of her food bowl and held her while she ate. I think I even fed her by hand sometimes.
Towards the end of her life, we adopted another baby from an animal shelter. That is Roland Dudenhoffer , the Little Dude, who is a terrier mix of some sort. He loved the big black Standard Poodle who spent most of her time on her mat on the floor, asleep; The Dude loves everybody and everything, including Buddy the cat.
Finally, on that morning Delaine two years ago texted me at work that our sweet Sophie had passed.
I really miss that baby. I give God credit for all the good things that come to or happen to me. So, I thank God for Sophie and the whole crew.
All of our babies are special to us, but Sophie might be the most special of all. She must have been, for she turned me into a poodle-loving man.