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Friday, August 11, 2017

Sophie, my Beautiful Gibraltar

Many times I have said that I could go on and on about what Sophie means to me. Tonight, following a particularly stressful day after an intrusively probing interview yesterday with a probation officer from Denver, I will do just that.

First, to specify, the only reason I am meeting a probation officer is due to a violent crime committed against Sophie and I in the Arizona desert six months ago.

A trigger-happy federal officer, a young psychopath armed to the teeth and clearly suffering from a mental deficiency attacked Sophie and I under the premise that I did not have her on a leash.

As an amputee carrying a water bottle and T-shirt with my only hand, insisting I hold a leash was not only dangerous given the rocky, sandy trail we were on, but unreasonable, too.

After Sophie cued me that I was in danger, something she is trained to do, I turned and began running away, desperately searching for safety.

The officer chased me through the deserted campground, tackled me and, while kneeling on my back as I lay on the rocks, he pepper sprayed my Sophie. Sophie is my seizure dog and, seeing that I was down on the ground, she was approaching me to stand by me and make sure I was OK and safe. It’s what she’s specifically trained to do.

I was dragged by this young man across the sand, my legs cut and bleeding from sharp, half-buried rocks. Laying face-down in the sand, the officer stood above me and deployed to his Taser in the middle of my back.

It was the last time I saw Sophie for a week while I was incarcerated in Flagstaff jail, charged with assaulting this officer who had beat up Sophie and I as well.

The last I knew of Sophie she was confused about what was happening and in agony with the chemicals burning her eyes.

While in the jail, I was presented the ultimatum of deciding between pleading not guilty for a crime I did not commit or face Sophie being euthanized at the animal control shelter.

The cops involved were all complicit in covering up an assault on a disabled man and his service dog. They had no conscience, and rightly banked on me pleading guilty so I’d be released to save Sophie.

It was a reprehensible act, supported by the court system which always sides with the cop’s version of events. And all any cop has to say is “I was in fear for my safety,” and they gain automatic immunity for their crimes.

Cops are well aware of this and, as in our case, an unscrupulous cop will seek protection from their actions by uttering this one, simple phrase.

Naturally, I didn’t think twice about saying whatever I needed to say to be released so Sophie and I would be reunited again. I plead guilty.

Horrible stories about my conduct were concocted by this officer and his cronies at the sheriffs department. These were widely circulated, from the magistrate to the probation lady and everyone in between.

This cowardly officer, of course, also claimed to be in fear for his safety because of my physical threats and actions and that he was attacked by Sophie as well.

The young federal officer even went so far as to intimidate the only two witnesses there who possibly could see what happened. Though they were at least 100 yards away, the report from one of them said I was “a nut case for sure.”

This, despite having had a pleasant conversation with them the previous evening.

This couple, probably in their mid-to late 60s, were “campground hosts,” people commonly found on public land campgrounds whose job consisted of monitoring campers.

Their safety was, in large part, in the hands of the federal officer. If they didn’t play ball and cooperate with whatever he told them to do, he could look the other way or fail to show up if ever they found themselves in danger.

Given some of the sketchy-looking people at that campground, I would imagine that they’d need some sense of protection from such people.

The officer who assaulted Sophie and I provided that protection – and also had the power to deny it. The older campground hosts had little choice but to comply with his fictional statement in their police report.

For all I know, those fictional police reports weren’t even written in the presence of that older couple, but concocted in the squad car or station house long after the fact.

Just like the violent assault the officer committed on Sophie and I, there would be no witnesses to prove his behavior otherwise. Hell, I might as well have been charged with murder or arson or who-knows-what-else he could think of.

Given the awful and reprehensible and outright intimidating things this officer said to me during his attack, it’s obvious that bullying people is his MO.

Plus, anything the older couple saw him do to Sophie and I is something they realize he could do to them as well and never be punished. In this manner, the officer bullied them, too.

The officer is not that bright – how bright must you be to assault a disabled man and his gentle service dog? – and any transparency he may have thought he had was a mistake.

This man’s assault on us, which he then turned around on me, led to the court’s determination that I needed followup mental therapy by probation authorities, therapy I’d scheduled long before this awful attack happened.

On paper, it was put forth that I was a lunatic and the magistrate bought every word of it. So did the probation officer in Denver. These federal people stick up for each other, and anything less is tantamount to a betrayal of one to another.

Ever since that time, the Denver probation officer also buys into this fictional story about me being a crazy person, a nut job, and has had her nose up in my business about it ever since.

The indignity of this violent crime Sophie and I endured continues still. Each interaction with this federal probation officer triggers the violent experiencing of this crime anew.      

Seems like a lengthy precursor to the story about Sophie and how wonderful she is and how much she means to me, doesn’t it? But that’s the short version.

This evening, I was in a state of bliss. Following a particularly bombastic, day-long display by the elements, which included hail, heavy rain, and lightning, early evening brought a quiet stillness to our neighborhood.

After a quick walk through the cool evening air in search of bunny rabbits, Sophie and I had a perfect time to unwind together.

Given Sophie’s afternoon trauma of dealing with lightning, one of the rare things that frightens her, she was ready to relax by my side.

She accepted my invitation to climb up and lay down next to me on the fold-out bed where I was about to begin writing. My writing is something that calms me, particularly when I am upset about our interactions with people like the probation lady.

However, given the warm feel of my soft and furry best friend in the dark, I postponed my plans indefinitely.

There she sat, first licking my hand and arm, meticulously grooming me as if I were her puppy. I do believe Sophie would have made a great mom dog and though she might be stern at times, her puppies could only benefit from her guidance.

Anybody that had any interaction at all with any of Sophie’s puppies would be a lucky person, indeed. And anyway, the world could always use more great mom dogs, if you know what I mean.

When she was done grooming me, she lay down next to me, her head in the crook of my arm. Because of my years of adapting to using one hand for everything, my wrist and fingers have an unusual ability to flex more than most people’s do.

With her head on my arm, I could rub her ears, which she loves. I could also reach over and massage her paw or rub her nose, both of which she also loves.

It was a special moment, one we rarely share because of her natural inclination to always be on guard. But this evening she made an exception, as if to reward me for calming her for a change, as I did during the lightning storm.

During such storms she trembles, but afterward she always shows me her gratitude. It almost makes me wish we had more lightning storms so that we could share more of these moments.

There we lay on the bed, as she adjusted her head occasionally to find a softer spot to put it. Lately, soft spots aren’t hard to find on me.

All I remember then was how wonderful I felt, and I told her so. I told her how much I love her, how much she means to me, how grateful I am that she chooses to be my friend, how lucky everyone else she comes into contact with is, how beautiful she is and so much more.

I tell her most of these things every single day, but I rarely get the chance to do so while she’s laying here next to me. This evening, I followed up each of my statements with specific examples from today.

Afterward, I spent some time marveling at all of the things we’ve done and gone through together. The violent assault I described above and one other night of violence at another Arizona campground were thankfully unique and isolated examples of mental and physically painful experiences.

Regarding these times, I take responsibility for putting us both in a position of danger. Whether I knew it or not, they ended up being times when Sophie either needed to bail us out or suffer pain, too.

I apologize profusely to her for the danger I created for us and for the hell I’ve put her through as a result. Though I can’t be sure if she remembers these things, I certainly do, and the pain of it hurts each time it crosses my mind. I can never tell her I’m sorry too many times.

Then again, I can never tell her I love her too many times, either. Over and over I tell her, I massage her paw and play with her ears and kiss the top of her head. Sometimes I just look at her face and tell her how beautiful she is.

I marvel at her natural beauty, how she always looks stunningly gorgeous, and how nature can create such a beautiful being, inside and out. I constantly ask her this question, half expecting her to answer me. “Well,” I imagine she’d say, then finish her explanation.

But I never forget to tell her how downright smart she is, and how grateful I am for her ability to communicate with me. I tell her it’s so unfortunate that we humans often refer to our animal counterparts as ”dumb friends."

But an inability to speak as humans do isn’t an accurate indicator of an ability to communicate. Sophie has a vast range of communicative skills, including a verbal vocabulary unequaled by any other dog I’ve met.

In fact, she’s so adept at communicating this way, both in terms of actual sound as well as tone that I often understand what she needs right away.

At other times, she uses body language to indicate a specific need. Usually licking my hand means she needs something, though tonight was special in that grooming my hand and arm is also a gesture of love from her.

Of all her nonverbal messages, her licking my hand out of love for me is my favorite. I consider it the highest compliment she can pay me and I hope she feels the same way when I tell her how much I love her.

See what I mean? I could go on and on and on with specifics about how much I love Sophie, and I am glad I have begun doing so here. There will be much more to come in the future.

Until then, I will consider myself the luckiest person alive just to get to be with her, even as she lies snoring like a freight train in the bedroom..!

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