To Sonya With Love

Jackie and Sonya

I’ve heard it said that we select our parents and so it was with Sonya. As a frightened little blonde pup among many prospective pets, she made her mark on her caretakers by wetting the blouse of the young woman who held her. After a few moments of tears Jackie convinced Steve to take Sonya home with them.

There is a humorous explanation for naming their new pet Sonya. Previously, they both had male dogs named Conan, from the comic hero, Conan the Barbarian. Red Sonya also called Queen Sonya first appeared in Conan the Barbarian, Marvel Comics. She became the archetypical example of the fantasy figure of a fierce and stunningly beautiful female barbarian, clad in armor resembling a bikini; thus our Sonya was born.

“She had her own personality, like a human trapped in a dog’s body,” said Jackie. If you weren’t feeling well Sonya would stay right by your side. She warmed up to women, but was cautious around certain men in the family, especially those with facial hair and not too interested in other dogs until she met Sam and Lex.

Sonya was known to be very smart and sensitive. She had her own language aside from barking. I called her the talking dog, because of the variety of sounds she made requesting food, to go outside or anytime she wanted to communicate a thought. She may have been part German shepherd or possibly have the blood of an African Basenji.

We do communicate on some level with our animals. They are companions to the young and the old. One friend tells of his dog, Lilly, sleeping in the car with him when he was temporarily homeless; and the need to get up and feed her when he was sick with depression. He attributes Lilly’s love and companionship to saving his life.

Sonya was low maintenance and did not stay in the puppy stage of chewing shoes for too long. It was a standing joke among friends and family that if any one of us had been a dog we would have wanted to be Sonya. She had a clean and fresh scent about her, almost like baby powder. Sonya had the run of the house with her own chair in the bonus-room, sleeping in the beds and on the couch of her choosing. She was spoiled but not demanding. In her early years she loved chasing Lilly, the cat.

Though Sonya’s life was not as dramatic as some, it was every bit as valuable. Steve would say she was loyal, affectionate, playful, stubborn and proud. To us, royal rather than mutt, would be a more fitting description, like the character she was named for – Queen Sonya.

Sonya stayed with Eva, Steve’s mother, when he and Jackie were out of town. Eva even cooked her scrambled eggs. Though Sonya loved Eva, she would not eat much until her caretakers returned. She also liked to play in Eva’s flowerpots outdoors to stay cool in the summer.

Sonya and Lex

Now more than ever we are realizing that our pets are part of the sacred life on planet earth. Rather than viewing us as their masters, we are seeing ourselves as their caretakers. With their loving and healing energies our pets have become members of our families: Hey Darling, a petite kitty, showed up on the doorstep and was invited in. She became Katie’s house pet and friend for 18 years. Silky, a female dog with clout named for a famous doctor from the 1930’s, was companion and playmate to a family of four. Pocahontas a.k.a. Pokie, a golden retriever, greets her companion and guests with a humanlike smile that is irresistible. Bella (beautiful), unaware she’s a dog, is playful and acts as the family protector. She fits in mom’s purse and likes to be pushed in a doll stroller. JR, a sleek, stunning black and white majestic cat loved to take long walks and rides in the car with his companion of many years.

My friend Suzanne, a pet sitter, says that pets have taught her unconditional love by their example.

Sonya liked rides and was a frequent passenger in the family’s cars. Besides being verbal, she barked loud and liked loud music. Hovering close to the TV or stereo may have contributed to her impaired hearing over the past couple of years.

With daily spiritual affirmations and hard work at each of their individual jobs, Jackie and Steve prayed up their new home, built to their liking. Among the trees were an abundance of birds, rabbits and deer. Sonya was happy with plenty of room to roam. She soon met Sam, the Lab next door, with whom she bonded. Sam would come over to get Sonya and you could catch a glimpse of their blonde fur as they went traipsing through the woods together.

“Sonya Girl was in euphoric bliss”, Steve said, when he was doing yard work. She would stay out there with him for hours, following him around, though sometimes sore the next day. Her mood darkened if it rained and she couldn’t go outside with him. “Steve was special to her,” Jackie said. “She was one of the proudest dogs I have ever seen,” exclaimed Steve, even when she couldn’t see or hear well toward the end of her life.

At Christmas 2007, Lex, also known as “Mr. Wiggles” arrived on the scene. It was a big name for a tiny pup, somewhat sickly, yet he grew into a beautiful 80 lb. Boxer, all muscle, spirited and all boy. Sonya, who Jackie called Sissy after Lex arrived, was not impressed. He would have to earn her affection and that he did. Though she might disguise her love for him by showing her teeth, at the same time she was wagging her tail. In the last few months there were few friendly skirmishes. Lex probably extended Sonya’s life by pestering her and prodding her upward and onward.

Daily prayers of protection over their home and animals as they set out for the day certainly contributed to the well being of all.

In the last few months Sonya approached us with tired eyes. She seemed to be trying to tell us something. The sounds, even the barking, had diminished. Her hearing and eyesight were greatly impaired. It had become a struggle for her to get up from her bed and go outside. Still proud, even though she had stopped eating for the past few weeks. We tried feeding her by hand and with a spoon, but she refused. She was ready to lay her head down. After prayers and intuitive thoughts were received the decision was made.

Losing a pet is heartbreaking. Sonya Girl had been a member of the family for 15 years. She made her choice of caretakers and what wonderful care she was given. Her life span chronicled Jackie and Steve’s relationship since their first year together up to the present time, through moves, their marriage, their new home and new career. With some reluctance Sonya shared her caretakers with other pets – Buddy, known as Pretty Bird or Bad Bird and Lex, who came with a protest from Jackie until she saw him and her heart melted. The way she talked to them, they were like her kids.

Sonya chillin' in Eva's flowerpot

Today, we can visualize Sonya and Sam playing in the grass, their blonde furry bodies weaving in and out of the trees. Sonya leaves us with wonderful memories. Her energies of love, joy and healing still resonate in our midst. We’ll never forget her calm demeanor and regal stature she portrayed in her maturity and her role as the playful puppy hiding under the couch with just a hint of her little tale exposed. She is loved and we will miss her.

In the tradition of John Grogan, author of Marley and Me – We gave Sonya our hearts and she gave us hers.

Maureen Ramsay Hughes

Maureen Ramsay Hughes is an inspirational writer, a former member of the advertising sales team for Fayette Woman magazine, and a devoted mother and grandmother. She invites your emails to

August 8, 2010