Sophie was always ready for a new adventure. Whether it was taking the 3-mile walk around our neighborhood, exploring new houses during our “house hunting” phase or barking hello to dogs during a car ride, our little girl’s outgoing personality shined on; even after the paralysis took away her mobility. One of the favorite places Sophie liked to visit, after she stopped walking, was our local park. She enjoyed it because she could be with people and while Sophie liked everyone, the people who found her the most interesting, were the children.
The five of us must have been quite the spectacle when we visited the park. I would have Shadow and Cody jumping at my heels waiting for their walk to start, while my husband Ken maneuvered Sophie in her harness. She would walk on her two front legs while Ken hoisted her mid-section in the air with the harness, so that her dangling back legs didn’t scrape the ground. We always got lots of attention from people at the park. One by one you would see their hands flip toward us as we escorted Sophie to her regular spot by the tennis courts.
I’m going to take a detour here to talk about Sophie’s fascination with tennis. While I took a walk with Shadow and Cody, Ken and Sophie would watch whatever tennis match was being played. She would lie on the grass with her elbows propping her up and smile as the crack of a tennis racquet sent a ball flying over the net. Her head would turn back and forth following the ball and she would get excited when the small group of spectators would cheer the winner.
The five of us became regulars at our community park and we would see many of the same people there each time we visited. Some would smile with sympathy on their faces when they saw Sophie, a few would approach us to ask about her condition and a handful would come over to share their story about a beloved dog that had become paralyzed.
Overall the adults kept to themselves, but it was a different story with the children. Whole groups of them would stop playing on the jungle gym or swings and point to our dog. Then one or two of the bravest would slowly walk over and timidly ask if they could meet Sophie. That would soon bring the rest of gang to her side where all of the kids would eventually sit down in a circle around her.
The kids would pet and caress Sophie and take turns asking all about her condition. They would be very direct with their questions, asking if she had been in an accident or if she was in any pain. Ken and I would explain all about Sophie’s illness and reassure them that she was not hurting and enjoying life.
Some of the kids would share stories about their own pet or a pet that had died. Others would explain how they were trying to convince their Mom and Dad to adopt a dog and a few even called their parents over to meet Sophie as part of their “get a dog” campaign.
After a while children would recognize us and come running to greet Sophie. They would call out, “Remember me? I met Sophie the last time you were here.” Then they would sit next to, her stroking her fur and telling her she was a good dog.
Our family went to the park dozens of time during that period and every single child who met Sophie was very gentle and loving to our dog. It left a deep impression on me.