Thoughts of Princess Sophie Rose ~ Companion Animal

Sophie and Me
Sophie and Me

It’s a year now since my beloved King Charles, Sophie, was facing her last night before I had to have her put down. She was a true companion for thirteen a half years ~ years that brought many highs and lows.

We called her Princess Sophie Rose after a character in a much-read children’s book and it suited her perfectly.

Sophie probably knew me better than anyone ~ she was always there with those beautiful eyes watching my every move and was empathy dogified.

She left her mark in so many ways: every hardback book chewed like the most delicious bone; paw prints on my heart marking the days and nights that she sat with me knowing I needed her.

I’m just glad she didn’t have to suffer and that I was with her right to the very end, holding her soft spaniel ears. Her ashes live here in the Study with me. I’d intended to scatter them out in the woods but couldn’t bring myself to do it and I’m glad now that I didn’t.

I can’t imagine how she’d have got on with puppy Stan, who came into my life just ten days after she died. I hope she’d be pleased to know that he has pulled me through the sadness of losing her ~ both physically and metaphorically.

Puppy Stan
Puppy Stan

However, I hope she also knows the extent to which her love was beyond special and will always, always be part of my very being.

Dogs have been a fundamental part of my life since I was a child and I think tonight of a research paper I co-wrote with a psychologist some years back about the whole issue of pet bereavement and the extent to which the death of a companion animal can be a highly significant event in the owner’s life, especially if the animal is the last connection to humans one has loved.

Sophie certainly fitted into that category as she was greatly loved by both my parents and always tugged to go cross the road to call into their house in the years after they had died.

I have both my parents to thank for introducing me to a love of dogs ~ yet another of those priceless gifts.










Happy Birthday, Dear Friend


Dear Stan,

It’s hard to believe that you are a year old ~ a whole twelve months of dogginess.

It’s even harder to believe the way you managed to bring pure joy and sunshine to my shattered heart after Sophie died in January. I had absolutely dreaded that terrible day and it was beyond terrible but your arrival here just ten days later on January 21st brought new hope and the promise of a new friend.

You understood from the very beginning  that no dog would ever ‘replace’ Sophie, with her thirteen and a half years of Cavalier King Charles empathy, solidarity and amazing female intuition. She was there for some of the toughest times and never, ever failed to care.

I’m sorry I doubted you so much  but I didn’t think such a tiny black bundle of fur could possibly lick my wounded heart and lift the darkest of dark storm clouds.

But you have and you’ve done it with panache. How could you have known to look at me through the banisters those first few weeks, just like Sophie used to? How did you know how much I needed you to snuggle up and let me gaze at your piercing brown eyes?

So many doubts that January evening when we first met ~ but you clung on and implored, bringing me back to the first meeting with all the precious dogs of my life, Beauty, Tiffin and Soph.

Your mother was one of the most beautiful dogs I’ve ever seen, a golden Cocker Spaniel and your father a very friendly, handsome brown and white Springer. Sometimes I see their colours gleaming in your shiny coat but most of all I love your long  spaniel ears that blow in the wind as you race along the beach.

When I say that you’re ‘pure joy,’ I must mean it. No one else would get away with eating my poetry books, camera batteries, emptying the bin all over the kitchen floor, waking me at all hours when the moon is bright, demolishing my furry boots…..

Thanks again for all your fun, friskiness, knowing looks, uplifting springing and most of all your forever welcomes.

Here’s to lots and lots of years of health and happiness,

Love you more than you could ever know,




The Comfort of Nature and Poetry

After yesterday’s post, I felt the need to connect with nature in all her beauty.

I took to the woods with Stan:

Contemplative Stan
Contemplative Stan

From there for a deep cleanse in the sea as the sun was setting.

Soothing Garrarus Beach
Soothing Garrarus Beach

And home to hot juiced apples with cinnamon and, of course, poetry:


A state you must dare not enter
with hopes of staying,
quicksand in the marshes, and all
the roads leading to a castle
that doesn’t exist.
But there it is, as promised,
with its perfect bridge above
the crocodiles,
and its doors forever open.

(Stephen Dunn: from Staying Alive, edited by Neil Astley, Bloodaxe Books).









Bridges of Life ~ Gatherings from Ireland # 267

Dear Dad,

Today has been one of those days when I’ve missed you terribly and thought about you a lot.

It all started when I heard Sophie barking at 4am.  When I went down to her I just knew she wasn’t herself and when a King Charles is  thirteen,  it’s time to be on one’s guard, isn’t it? You were always my first port of call on doggy matters, given that you grew up as a vet’s son and had such instinct about dogs and their ailments.

I know it won’t come as any surprise to you that there has been a lot in the paper over the last week or so about a woman in Dublin with Alzheimer’s Disease who went missing and when she was eventually found, unfortunately dead, her beloved King Charles was sitting with her and died within a few hours of being discovered.

Anyway, I took Sophie to the vet this evening and all seems reasonably okay. I know you’d have said ‘give her a few hours and if she’s not right get her checked out for the pair of you before you face into what could be a very long night.’

I realised today, more than ever, how much the dogs in our lives connected us.

I was looking through some of your photographs earlier and happened upon this one of the pair of us on the wooden bridge over the River Nanny. Imagine it was just a year or so before we shared lifetimes of dogs!

On the subject of lifetimes, I have been fascinated recently by different ‘takes’ on grief on social media. I’d love to be able to hear your views after such a long life ~ all 91 years ~  in which you saw so many loved ones die.  How do you feel about the idea that while we have no control over the losses we can control our responses to them?

I can’t really buy into that and in many ways this letter is living proof of it as I didn’t expect that Sophie being under-the-weather would have you so, so much with me today.

Lots of Love,

jean xx

PS. You’ll be glad to hear that the pampas grasses that we planted in October 1991 are in full sway. They make the garden look like an extension of the sea at high tide.

Princess Sophie Rose ~ Gatherings from Ireland # 115

Princess Sophie Rose ~ Sophie for short ~ has been my constant companion for twelve and a half years now.  Undoubtedly, she knows more about the highs, lows and everydayness of my life than anyone else. Sitting in her soft red bed under the kitchen table, she’s seen and heard all the raw emotion ~ the jigs danced having just pulled good news out of envelopes that have clattered through the letterbox; tears over tough losses; saucepans kicked across the floor in sheer fury over injustices; gasps of delight when smelling the first hyacinth of the year; late nights cradling cups of treble expresso trying to stay awake to finish a report …..

Our daily constitutional to Newtown Wood just outside Tramore is our precious ‘girls’ outing.

Sophie in Newtown Wood, Tramore, Co. Waterford.
Sophie in Newtown Wood, Tramore, Co. Waterford.

“The dog represents all that is best in man.” 
– Etienne Charlet