While I was sick and nauseous, recovering from the lumbar puncture and “headache” that followed, my dog was dying. And, once again, my family stepped in.

I got Sophie when she was 10 months old. She was a rescue. A small, Shih Tzu mix. I got her before I was married, or divorced, and before my son was born. She was loved and spoiled, with lots of cuddles, and endless games of fetch, the evidence in streaks along my walls. When I was pregnant, she sat next to my belly, on guard. When my son was born, she was ever present, curious, sniffing, and laying by his side. As he grew and started walking, she was cautious and kept her distance. I often felt guilty that she was neglected after he was born, but my camera reel is full of trips to the park with us, my son petting and snuggling her, and she is photo bombing most of his photos and videos over the last seven years.


In November of 2018, Sophie wasn’t able to use one side of her body. I had to carry her up and down the stairs and she struggled to get around the house, choosing mostly to lay in her bed. The vet said strokes are unusual in dogs, and after some blood work, said it was likely blood cancer. The only way to know for sure was to do expensive tests and the only thing that could be done was expensive treatment to slightly prolong her life. So instead, the vet gave us steroids to help with pain and mobility. I wasn’t sure if she’d live through the holidays and almost changed our vacation plans because I was so worried something would happen to her.

But, the steroids worked quickly and she was up and about. Sometimes she would struggle walking or getting up and down stairs, but the steroids helped. For the most part, she was a normal, albeit aging, dog. After a few months, I no longer gave her steroids and she seemed to be doing fine.

In the spring of 2020, in the the throws of COVID, she had a seizure. We were sleeping. My son and I in my bed, and Sophie snoring under the bed, as usual. I woke up to some banging noise. I listened and tried to decipher where it was coming from. And, then I realized it was Sophie. She was having a seizure. She slid out from under the bed, thrashing around my room, into and under the bedside table. I grabbed a towel and tried to hold her down, to stop her from hurting herself, and to protect my hands. My son woke up, and watched, terrified, as she convulsed. It felt like forever, but it was probably two or three minutes. I thought she was going to die. So, did my son.

She was fine again the next day, as if nothing happened. My son was constantly worried about her and anxious that something might happen. He started biting his clothes and fingers. I knew he was anxious about something. COVID? My health? It took a while for me to realize, he was anxious about Sophie, that she would die, that he would see her die.

Almost a year after Sophie first got sick, I lost vision in my right eye. The next week, I had a lumbar puncture to see if my vision loss was due to MS. After the lumbar puncture, I was nauseous and dizzy whenever I stood or sat up. So, for several days, I laid on the couch. That’s when Sophie got really sick. She started puking and having accidents several times a day. I had to pull myself off the couch and get on my hands and knees to clean the messes out of the carpet. I called the vet, but they had no appointments for weeks because of COVID. I tried the emergency animal hospitals, but they all had six-hour waits. I was sick, my vision was blurry, and had a seven-year-old with me, so I stayed home and cuddled her.

Then, she stopped eating. I tried baby food. She ate it, then got sick, then wouldn’t eat it again. I made her chicken. Then tuna. Each time, she’d eat the new food, get sick, then refuse it. Then, she just didn’t eat for days. I called the animal hospitals again, but again, six-hour waits. More than once, I thought she was dying. I talked with my son about it so we could get our cuddles in and say good bye, but she kept holding on. She’d even hop up and run around the house as if nothing was wrong. And then, she’d get sick again and spend a day laying in her bed, barely moving.

My mom had taken my son for a few days so I could rest. I was home with Sophie. She hadn’t eaten in days. She was thin and I could feel her bones. Her breathing was labored. She was hanging on, but she was clearly uncomfortable and it was only a matter of time. I was scared she would die. I felt like I should put her out of her misery, but wasn’t sure if I could. I was afraid of it happening when my son was home. I needed to take her to the animal hospital, but I wasn’t sure if I could safely drive. My mom offered to help. My sister offered to go with me. My dad offered. Then my dad drove to my house and said he was going to take her for the night so I could sleep and not worry, that he’d cuddle her and if needed, take her to the animal hospital. My step-mom called and talked me through it, whether to keep her home or let my dad take her, to put her to sleep or cuddle her as long as we could. I cried. And, I let my dad take her. And, cried some more.

My dad texted and said she was sleeping comfortably. I would later learn he thought she died in the car, and again later that night. They took her to the animal hospital the next morning and put her to sleep. They came over later that day and told me in person. They didn’t want me to have to deal with the stress and sadness of putting her to sleep when I was dealing with my own health issues. I am thankful, and feel guilty. But, mostly thankful. When my son came home, I told him and we talked about her being happy in “doggy heaven,” running in the grass and chasing balls, we shared our favorite memories, and we cried.

Shortly after Sophie passed, the side-effects of the lumbar puncture subsided and I was feeling better. And then the neurologist called to tell me the results of the lumbar puncture were “unexpected” and it might not be MS.

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