It is with a heavy heart that I report that our dear supper club mascot, Tillie, was hit and killed by a car while Roger and I were out of town. As you can imagine, Roger and I are very sad about losing our dear friend. She would have been 11 in another month, but she was so young-at-heart, we were sure we would be able to enjoy her for a few more years.
We adopted Tillie in 2010 from the Humane Society (HSWM). She was 3 years old and had been returned to HSWM 3 times. At the time, I was volunteering for HSWM and I decided that I might have room in my heart for another dog. We loved our Sophie but she was getting older and we thought it would be nice for her to have a companion. We’d adopted Sophie from HSWM as a puppy so were a little anxious about getting an adult dog. However, when I took a tentative walk around the kennels, this crazy dog was the first one I saw. And guess what, her name was Sophie!
There was something about her goofy demeanor that appealed to me. She had just been brought in and she seemed cheerful, which was not at all the story I heard from my friends at HSWM. They felt that she’d been surrendered under duress–that she was protecting the woman who had brought her in. Her former owner was sobbing. One look at her dog collar with all the proper IDs and registrations and phone numbers told us that Sophie had been loved by her previous owner, whatever the reason she’d been returned.
It didn’t take long to decide. ‘Sophie’ would come home with us. There were a few minor problems: she needed a new name, of course. She was afraid of cats. And men. And fear aggression in a German shepherd is not a good thing. But we figured with love, things would turn out all right.
For some time, she had that crazed look that I’ve come to know in shelter dogs. They just have no idea what is what and they are wary. We weren’t sure what to do with her, but she pretty quickly got us into a rigorous training program of walks, baths, brushing, feeding and lots of big furry cuddles.
Shepherds are both sensitive and smart. Tillie needed lots of stimulation and she got it, with 2 teen-aged boys and Roger and Sophie and me and our cat Fig. Fig gave her the evil eye a lot so she knew not to cross him…we gave her lots of toys to compensate for Fig’s bullying…
After a while we settled into a routine and the new normal began to take shape. Sophie wasn’t thrilled but she accepted Tillie and, in return, Tillie always let her be the alpha dog, even when she was old and frail.
After Sophie died in late 2014, Tillie comforted us as best she could. It was hard being alone. She preferred being in a pack, but in recent years, she was proud to become a registered canine good citizen and to complete the West Michigan Dog Therapy training.
Most importantly, she was my therapy dog, always sensing when I was upset and laying her head on my knee as if to ask if there was anything she could do. She was truly a constant companion. Since Roger started his administrative job last July, we’ve taken many daily walks, made therapy calls and just hung out together every single day. Anatole France once said: Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened. I also believe that grief is the price you pay for a close and loving relationship. Tillie loved us completely and unconditionally. And she loved the supper club! If only someone would bring sausage!
I’m thinking maybe when we gather in July we’ll do some sort of collection for HSWM in her honor–treats or toys. Until then, stay well! And warm. And join us in remembering her fondly. This is the last photo I took of her and it seems representative of the way she was with me. That is, close and adoring.