A True Love Story
This is a love story. It’s about a lonely, single woman who decided to open her heart and her home and found true love. The love transformed her in ways she never thought possible… but I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning.
It all started about ten years ago. I was a reporter, living in Los Angeles, working for one of the top television news stations in the country. I was full of blonde ambition and big ideas. I was 39 years old. I lived alone. I worked a lot. At the end of those long days, when I often reported on the worst of humanity, I would walk in my door and simply collapse. Not because I was exhausted—but because I was depressed.
It was the kind of depression that would keep you in bed with the covers over your head. The depression that would make you cancel last minute on friends because you just couldn’t fake happy for even a second. It was the sort of sadness that made you question your self-worth, your purpose and yes, it was the kind of depression that would make you feel that the world would be a better place if you weren’t in it. This was my life. A cycle of getting up and falling down.
Finally, I knew I needed to reach out.
I turned to a really good friend (who just happened to be a Real Housewife). Her name is Adrienne Maloof. I shared with her my personal drama. She decided it was time to set me up with a guy. But it’s not what you think. She introduced me to a shrink.
Dr. Charles Sophy is a Los Angeles-based psychiatrist—and he’s also is the Medical Director for the County of Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services. He’s a very busy man, who is constantly in demand, but he made the time for me.
The interesting thing about therapy, is it’s called ‘work’. And believe me when I tell you it’s a really, really, hard job. You have to get up for it even when you don’t want to. You have to work outside your comfort zone and once you start, quitting is a bad idea. The whole thing is a process, and along the way, Dr. Sophy suggested—among other things—that I get a dog.
A dog? I had always loved animals. But I was just too busy. Worked too long of hours. Didn’t have the time. And a hundred other reasons why a dog simply would not work in my life. Still, Dr. Sophy prescribed a puppy (and some Prozac).
Then one night, while watching Sex and the City, I noticed a King Charles Cavalier named Elizabeth Taylor. I mentioned how much I liked that breed to my friend, Adrienne… and then next thing you knew, she got me the greatest gift I have ever received. A dog.
We named her Sophia Loren. “Sophy” for short. (Yes, my psychiatrist and my dog had the same name… and at the time, that made perfect sense).
And, so it began.
A true love affair.
A snuggly puppy who climbed into the hole that had been in my heart. There was no more sleeping the day away… because a puppy needs to play. My condo was no longer quiet. It was filled with squeaky toys and barks, and whimpers and whines. Sophy was always by my side, my constant companion who never needed a leash.
That first winter, I was worried my puppy would get cold… so I bought her a leopard printed coat. Then a scarf. Shortly after that, I’ll admit, I fell off into the deep abyss of doggie fashion. Sophy had collars studded in crystals and a costume for every occasion. This dog wanted to go places, and if that meant putting on a dress… so be it.
Back then, it was just the two of us. Me and that little girl. Yes, I know she was dog, but she was one of those rare breeds that seemed more human than most people I knew. Those big brown eyes could somehow see into my soul. If I was sad, she made it her job to make me smile. If I was sick, she comforted me until I was well. And my lonely times, well, I simply didn’t have many of those anymore.
I was happier. I started dating. I met a guy.
For me, it was love at first sight. For her? She hated him. (And ladies, let this be a warning: your dog will ALWAYS be a better judge of character than you). I should have listened. But, I was 40 and ready for the next chapter in my life, one which I hoped would include love, marriage and a baby.
So, began a six-year relationship with a man, who by all accounts, was the Mr. Wrong I was determined to make Mr. Right. Sure, Sophy barked every time he came in the room…. and not in a “hi-I’m-happy-to-see-you” kind of way. But she put up with him, because I wanted him around (although, I’m pretty sure she slept with one eye open).
That dog must have been exhausted, because for the next 5 years I was an emotional rollercoaster. Up one minute. Down the next. No, it wasn’t depression this time around, it was they cycle of fertility treatments. I wanted a baby so badly, and everything was working against me (mostly, my age). Somehow, that little dog could sense my heartache, my fear, my frustrations. She curled up by my side when I needed comfort and licked away my tears during all those years.
And then finally… IT happened. I was pregnant.
Come to think of it, Sophy was the first one to know (she was there in the bathroom when I took the at-home pregnancy test—because no good dog lets you go to the bathroom alone). As my belly grew, she still found a way to lay right across it. Her head would rise, and her little ears would lift when she heard the baby’s heartbeat. And… somewhere in the middle of that pregnancy, Mr. Wrong decided to move out. That’s when Sophy moved in closer.
My friends and family were worried I was alone during my pregnancy. I’ll admit, there was a void, but my wonderful little dog helped to fill it. And when the time came, to bring my baby boy home… Sophy was waiting by the door to greet him.
From that day forward, Sophy made the baby her number one priority. She hovered over him, barked at me if he was crying and licked up the spilled milk (and there was a lot of it). The two shared a love of bouncy balls, goldfish crackers and long naps.
When he began to crawl, she was right by his side. When he was learning to walk, she learned to get out of his way. She put up with her ears being pulled, hot wheels being ‘parked’ in her dog dish and being buried under stuffed animal. I bought a stroller that had room for the both of them. It was kid-tested and dog-approved. And it goes without saying, mealtime was the best time (although both She and I put on a little baby-weight).
Before I knew it, my son, Brady, was running faster… and I guess that’s why I didn’t notice just how much Sophy was slowing down. The vet told me her heart was twice the size it should be. Which, looking back, seems appropriate based on how much she loved us. He prescribed some heart medication and told me we’d have more time.
But the heart has a funny way of deciding things for us. One afternoon last Spring, Sophy was restless. She just couldn’t get comfortable. So, I took her on a drive. She loved the car. I remember she reached up to look out the window, looked over at me, laid back down and settled in.
And she was gone.
The end was peaceful.
But that hasn’t made any of this any easier. There is this huge, gaping hole in my heart where something warm and furry used to be. The day after she died, I couldn’t get out of bed. I couldn’t go to work. I was so depressed, so sad, so empty. But then I remembered, all that little dog did over the years to make me happy. In her memory, I had to get up and get going again. Plus, I think Sophy knew she was leaving me in good hands—or at least the sticky ones—of a 3-year-old.
Brady asked me the other day, if we could get another dog. He says he wants a big dog. I said it’s too soon. But lately, I’ve remembered all the wonderful reasons why it’s always time to welcome a four-legged love into your life. Experience has taught me:
If you are depressed, you should get a dog.
If someone you know is depressed, you should get them a dog.
If you are lonely, you should get a dog.
If you are single, you should get a dog.
If you are dating, you should get a dog (they are great judges of character)
If you are trying to have a baby, you should get a dog.
If you are pregnant, you should have a dog.
If you have a baby, you need a dog (they make great sitters).
If you have a toddler, they love having dogs around (can’t say the same for the dog).
If you have a kid, they should grow up with dogs.
And if your heart is broken, because in this unfair world, dogs change your life but don’t get to live all of it with you… well, then, you should definitely get another dog because they are very, very good at licking away your tears.