I remember the days leading up to when she would be ours. We said a hundred names aloud to try them out in full sentences. "Mildred, welcome to your new home." "Good girl, Mabel. Good girl." "Loretta wants a treat?"
Then we saw her and just knew Sophia was to be her name forever. Our little Shih-Tzu was given the name of one of the most glamorous and beautiful women in the world, Sophia Loren, and she has lived into the persona that comes with such a title.
From a young age she was a diva. Nights spent at the Ritz-Carlton in New Orleans, naps on her luxurious fur blankets, and dinner from her herringbone china dishes all confirm that she adjusted well to her life as our star. Nobody loved the heated seats in my Shih-Tzu chariot more than Sophia—not even Mama who loved them a lot—and once she even won first prize in a beauty pageant wearing a custom-made designer pink evening gown. I mean the dog, not Mama, although she was pretty, too.
Yes, she pees and poops on the floor occasionally like most canines (can I say that in the newspaper?), making her daddies frustrated now and then. She even chewed the legs off several antique settees when she was a pup. We love her just the same.
She is in her golden years now, outlasting both of her grandmothers who called her Miss Sophia. She is slower these days when summoned, but that could be arthritis or attitude since Shih-Tzus are rightly not esteemed for their interest in compromise. I guess if I were bred for centuries to serve as beloved companions to Chinese royalty, I probably wouldn’t worry about coming when I’m called either.
Her eyes stare blankly more than they used to, and I wonder where her mind wanders. Is she looking backward or forward, or just hoping I won’t ask her to move off of her special geriatric day bed? Old age has set in with debilitating arthritis, and she has traded in her younger runs through the house, now preferring to be carried to and from her favorite spots, either the chaise by the windows looking down the brick streets of Vicksburg or the ample lap of one of her daddies while watching “RuPaul's Drag Race” and eating Doritos. She prefers hers without bean dip.
She has cheated death at least twice, first being pinned beneath a falling file cabinet and then being stomped by her baby sister, the 140-pound Great Dane Naomi who often inflicts more harm than she intends. She has been with us through many milestones—births, deaths, a Colorado blizzard.
All she really wants now is to sleep under the covers way past breakfast, gourmet cookies with sprinkles, and belly rubs. I cannot argue with that. About once a month she gives me a kiss, a restrained, half-hearted one. Winning the affection of a Great Dane requires nothing more than passing through the room, and she is slobbering all over you. Winning a kiss from a Shih-Tzu, however, that’s much rarer indeed.
If dogs are man's best friends, then Miss Sophia Loren Creel-Gilmer is surely one of mine, and her canine sisters aren’t bad either.
Contact David at [email protected]