I’m grateful that she tried to help me in her final days.
I had a black lab who, at 11, got an aggressive nasal cancer. Nothing could be done without severe consequences, so my family decided to give her the best last months ever. We adored her, so we made accommodations. When her smell started to go, we gave her strong foods to help her appetite. If Sophie wanted attention, we gave it to her right away. Sophie also had an anxiety disorder, and after the tumor started getting bigger, she was too anxious to sleep alone. So we took turns sleeping on the couch with her every night.
I got back from college, and after an adjustment period, I was put into the shift rotation. I didn’t mind too much since the couch was ok, and it was for my childhood dog.
However, I never got any sleep.
Sophie would consistently wake me up. Every night, she’d nudge me and scratch my head, disturbing my sleep. I was a little cranky, but put up with it, even though I was exhausted by morning. We’d snuggle, before I’d go back to sleep, with her waking me up sometime later, to repeat the entire cycle.
I asked my family if Sophie did this to them. Nope. Maybe she would ask to go outside, once in a blue moon and be quick about it, but no one in my family dealt with Sophie waking them up at random. It was just me. Sophie and I did had a particularly close bond, so maybe she just depended on me more.
Over time, I couldn’t even nap. If I napped on the couch, Sophie woke me up like she would at night. I tried sleeping in my room. Sophie would scratch the door if it was closed. If it wasn’t, she’d wake me up during my naps, anyway. It was as if this dog didn’t want me to get any sleep. Hey, I still loved her. I was annoyed and tired, but she was my furbaby.
Sophie passed away last summer.
In the fall, I returned to school and got a new roommate. It was a week or so after, when she said she noticed that, when I was asleep, I’d randomly stop breathing for a moment. Sometimes I’d be asleep and sound like I was suffocating. At first, I told her I’d keep that in mind and see what happens, but I suddenly remembered Sophie. I had this feeling like she had a connection to this somehow.
I went to the doctor. Turns out, I had a sleep disorder and my brain would ‘forget’ to breathe sometimes. If it had continued on any longer, I could have been depriving my brain of oxygen and causing some serious damage over time.
Sophie had known about this.
She wasn’t waking me up because she was anxious or wanting attention. She woke me up because she knew I wasn’t breathing. My dog was terminally ill and no doubt in pain, yet she passed on sleep to protect me every night I was on the couch, and checked on me during the day when I napped. Sophie really did love me.
I still miss her but I’m grateful that she tried to help me in her final days.
By Kay Proell