The name Sophia means “wisdom” in Greek and is also the name of one of the greatest actresses to ever grace the silver screen. At the time I gave that name to her, I had no idea how fitting it would be. Her story starts in Kentucky, where she was born, and has presently found her in New York. She was born in a shelter in Kentucky to a mother who was brought to the shelter as a cruelty case. According to her papers, the mother had been left chained outside with no food or water. She was severely underweight, was raw around the neck from the chain, and to top it all off, she was pregnant with 5 babies. The beautiful creature that holds my heart was born on December 6, 2010, 3 states away. That same day, I was home in Upstate New York just trying to figure out how to navigate real life, having graduated from high school 6 months prior. I had no idea that my life would drastically change in just a little over 2 months.
Sometimes you have no idea that you’re drowning until someone throws you a life preserver. She was my life preserver.
Prior to her coming into my life, I was unemotional, distant, and closed off. I was scared to death of allowing anyone or anything near my heart because I didn’t want to feel the pain. I had been stung several times before by some really bad relationships in high school mixed with a severe blow to my heart as a result of the passing of my beloved grandmother, coupled with my naturally quiet, introverted nature, it resulted in the closing off of my heart and my distancing myself from anyone who could possibly get through the wall I had built around myself. I wasn’t an affectionate person, not because I didn’t want to be, but because I was scared stiff of expressing any kind of affection due to the fear of rejection or experiencing pain later on, after I had already gotten attached. I told myself a million times that I didn’t need anyone, that I was perfectly fine on my own. I didn’t think there was a problem with the way I was conducting my “heart life”, so as the saying goes, why fix something that ain’t broke? It’s truly amazing how we can go on living and doing and not realize that something is broken until someone walks up and hands us a wrench and some superglue.
Somewhere between December 6, 2010 and February 14, 2011, she was shipped from the Kentucky shelter where she was born to a shelter here in New York. I’m not sure why she was shipped here, maybe overcrowding? I believe it was by the hand of Providence. God knew I needed someone to break through that wall of mine and he knew that this sweet, furry creature was the only one that could. I’m always amazed at how He works and makes things happen. You see, I was never really a dog person (something anyone who has only known me since having Sophia wouldn’t believe). I liked dogs, don’t get me wrong, I was just never someone who wanted a dog for my own. I grew up with family dogs, and my aunts, uncles, and grandparents all had dogs, but for me, I never had the desire to have one of my own. My twin sister on the other hand loved dogs, and had always wanted one. Her first dog was a Golden Retriever named Lady, she was a stray that was found in a field. Fast-forward to 2011, my sister who had lost her latest dog a few years prior was looking to get another dog. Yes, that’s right, Sophia was originally supposed to be my sister’s. She had found a puppy that she was interested in and was going to drive the two hours to take a look at her, and she asked if I would go with her. So on Valentine’s Day 2011 we made the two hour trip in a snow storm to go see this puppy. Looking back, I find it incredibly fitting that we got her on Valentine’s Day, because she ended up stealing my heart. (Valentine’s just happened to be a day that both parties had off). A little back story on how we found her: My sister had a mutual friend with a woman who worked at the shelter where Sophia was, that shelter was planning on getting rid of Sophia for some reason or other, so the woman took her home, planning on finding the puppy a home herself.
When we got to the woman’s apartment, we found Sophia hiding under the kitchen table with a kitten. She was scared to death of everything and they ended up dragging her out from under the table so we could see her (which immediately caused me to feel bad for her). My sister informed me in a hushed tone that she wasn’t so sure she wanted the puppy after all, with her being so skittish and all. Ashley (my sister) was use to happy, playful, outgoing puppies and dogs. She wasn’t interested in a “special case”. As soon as I saw that cute little face, I felt compelled to take her home, so I talked my sister into getting her. She rode the two hour trip home in my arms (Ashley was driving), and was absolutely perfect. She was the perfect passenger and slept most of the way home with her head hidden in my coat. We got her all settled in at home and quickly learned several things: 1) She was scared of EVERYTHING. 2) She felt safest in small, covered places like behind the couch or in her crate. And 3) She was scared of her own water dish. I worked with her a bit and found out that she was scared of the water dish because it was metal and the sound of the metal on her collar hitting the dish whenever she drank scared her. It was a problem easily solved, we just got her a plastic water dish, one that she still uses today (she’s a creature of habit). We also started picking out a name for her. Several names were thrown around including Juliet in honor of Valentine’s Day, but none of them seemed to fit. My mother threw out the name Sophie, and it was the one that seemed closest to fitting her…… But then I came up with Sophia, as in Sophia Loren (the name of the Old Hollywood legendary Italian actress). Sophia seemed to fit her and she seemed to respond to that one the best as well. So Sophia it was.
Now, again, the puppy was still technically Ashley’s dog at this point. Two days after bringing Sophia home, my sister left for two weeks on a house-sitting job, which left me to take care of Sophia. My sister was gone the majority of the time that year, rarely spending anytime at home, and when she was home she rarely spent time with her new puppy. That left me to take care of her and train her. Through learning all of Sophia’s quirks and preferences, and training her, she soon bonded to me and not my sister. I potty trained her, I taught her how to approach anything new to her in a way that made her feel safe but also helped her acclimate herself with it, I taught her not to be afraid of every single thing and that she could trust that this environment was a safe one. I also taught her how to sit, stay, and come, and how to ring the bells on the door that I had placed there to let us know when she wanted to go out, because she had yet to learn to tell us in any other way. We were together literally 24/7 that first year (and have been pretty much inseparable ever since). I learned about her needs and how to read her body language, she learned how to read mine, but more importantly, she learned how to get to me in a way that no one else could. Looking back on that first year, I can’t pinpoint the exact moment it happened, but somewhere along the way, Sophia managed to break right through that wall around my heart without me even knowing it. I didn’t realize what had happened until it was too late. I was already totally and completely attached to that beautiful little furry creature. It was clear whose dog Sophia really was, and with that, my sister signed ownership over to me…… and to think, just a year ago I didn’t think I wanted a dog! ;)
It has been just under 6 years now and I cannot imagine life without my furry baby. I taught her to be braver and gave her security and love, and she taught me about unconditional love and patience. She taught me that showing affection is healthy and feels really good, and it’s also a necessity. She is treated like the princess she is, totally spoiled rotten (as it should be). She quickly took charge of the house hold and even made friends with my mother’s toy poodle, Jackson, who was less than enthused when she first arrived. She has wormed her way into the hearts of every single member of my family. None of us could possibly imagine life without her. She not only broke through my walls, she also demolished them. There’s an old saying “It is better to have loved and lost, then to have never loved at all”. I never really believed this saying and, quite frankly, didn’t see the logic in it. Why risk the pain? Since Sophia came along, I can understand that saying. I know that when the day comes when God decides to take her, it will hurt…. And by hurt I mean I’ll be a complete basket case. It’s going to hurt like no other hurt on earth…… but I’ve come to realize that it will be worth the pain. I’m so blessed to have these years with my Sophia, to have experienced the pure love of this dog. It’ll be hard to let her go, but it would have been much worse had I never experienced her at all. I hope everyone gets the chance at least once in their life to experience the love of a dog, it’s the best kind of love.
I have a lot of people comment on my ridiculous, crazy love for this dog. They can’t understand how I can love this dog like my own flesh and blood child. The thing is I can’t begin to explain it to someone who has never experienced it for themselves. She is my best friend, my constant companion, my confidant, my sidekick. She’s always up for anything, as long as she gets to be with me. She goes hiking and walking through the mountains and woods with me, she loves rides in the car, she picnics with me, sleds with my kid sister, plays in the snow with us, and adores going on our annual daddy-daughter camping trip. I couldn’t ask for a more perfect dog. She’s a diva, no doubt about it, she’s incredibly smart (maybe a little too smart haha), and it’s usually her way or the highway, but then again, her way is always more fun. ;) Yes, Sophia is a very fitting name for this photogenic, intelligent, furry diva. I thank God every day for sending her to me. He knew we needed each other. <3
It’s official, 2017 is here. Let’s hope this year is a lot better than last. I pray that anyone reading this will have a safe and happy year filled with love, joy, and laughter, because after all, that’s the only way to go through life. I hope all of you have an extraordinary year, but remember, ultimately we are responsible for the year that we have. We may not be able to have total control over what happens during this next year, but we do have control over how we react to situations and how we face them. We can choose to have a negative attitude about things and wallow in our defeats, or we can face life head on with a positive outlook and a can-do attitude. We can choose to pick ourselves up every single time we get knocked down. We can choose to keep pushing even when we feel like we don’t have the strength to keep doing so. We can choose to keep dreaming, trying, and moving forward, no matter what.
I have a very good feeling about 2017, I’m not sure why, but I feel like this year will be a brand new chapter, a turn in the bend. I’m looking forward to it. There may be struggles (because what would life be without struggles to remind us of how precious the good times are?), but I truly believe that this year will be fruitful…. This year is going to be different. You want to know why? It’s because I’m choosing to make it different. I’ve spent the past year making my own plans and trying to make things happen. At every dead-end or roadblock, I’d press on and either try to climb over the darn thing or try a different route/path. But alas God seems to have other things in mind (after all, he keeps putting up roadblocks to my plans and paths). I’ve felt him strongly push me down one particular path, but it’s a path I’m scared to take. It’s not practical nor is it easy, but it seems that neither factors into His plan. So, after spending years trying everything else I can think of, it’s finally gotten through my thick skull to trust in Him and go where He leads. So this year is going to be different because I’m finally handing over the steering wheel to Him completely.
Though I don’t generally make New Year’s Resolutions, I’ve made a few for this year. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because 2016 was so horrible and draining that I felt I needed a change. Maybe it’s because I’ll be turning 25 this year and feel like I need to take life in hand (or rather give it completely over to God) and start living it to the fullest. Most likely it’s both reasons.
When it comes to New Year’s Resolutions, most people fall into one of two categories: They either make them and then get depressed when they can’t follow through or they don’t make them at all. I use to fall into the latter category, not seeing much point in making resolutions. I think the reason most people screw up on the resolution thing is because they’re not realistic in what they want to achieve. We have to sit down and think, “Can I really achieve this within a year?” or “am I truly capable of getting this done before the end of the year?” As I mentioned in my first post (Writing Just In Case: An Introduction), I’ve made a few resolutions that I can finish or achieve by the end of 2017, and I’ve made a few long term ones, ones that I probably or definitely won’t get done before the end of the year, but ones that I can at least get a start on and work on throughout the year. In the spirit of honesty and openness, I’m going to share a few of each with you:
Fun/short-term (will finish) resolutions for 2017:
- Learn to play the fiddle – I’ve always wanted to learn, but talked myself out of it a million times, fear of failure and all that.
- Learn to Quilt or Knit (or both) - I just think it would be fun. I already know how to sew and crochet.. I’ve always loved Quilts.
- Complete Bible in a year plan. – Simply because I love God’s word and want to do this.
- Read 100 Books by the end of 2017 – Just because I can haha
Long-term/serious resolutions for 2017:
- Change my name – I’ve wanted to do this since I was 16, I think it’s about time I did it, but it costs $300 to do it. Yikes!
- Be healthier, continue to take care of myself – for obvious reasons (and this is more a continuation from year to year), along with not so obvious reasons (you’ll soon learn if you keep following).
- Write a book (or at least get a good start on it and keep working on it) – I’ve always wanted to write books, and have several stories in me, but I’ve always talked myself out of it, so this year is going to be different…. Hopefully I can muster up the courage.
- Make some plans – Vague isn’t it ;)
I have my resolutions written out on a piece of paper that is pinned to my bulletin board, and at the bottom of this list I’ve written something that I believe is important: “Above all else: Keep trying and pressing on, and don’t lose faith, in God or yourself”. I wish this for all of you.
Happy New Years To All! :)
Born and raised in Upstate NY, Liz is a freelance writer. She has written for websites, blogs, and magazines for the last 10 years. She also acts as a proofreader and beta reader for several authors, all the while working on her first book.