Old Dog teaches me about storytelling being interactive

Grateful for the Sognefjord and Sogna Sue

So I just posted this on Facebook this morning:

“It’s seriously challenging to assemble thoughts and energy when grieving, yet it’s also good and beneficial to have good things to plan and prepare for…while seriously challenging…
I have several really good such things coming up! Tonight is one: A gig for which I get to tell my favorite story: “Looking for Grandpa’s Island.” (More good things to come…Watch this space…)
Good Things in the Midst of Sadness Gratitude”


My beloved dog of nearly 16 years died last Friday. That statement is the very top crystal on the tip of a huge and complex iceberg. I’ve shared something of our story in bits and pieces on Facebook the last couple-few years, but have not blogged about it.

I’m thinking to change that, for a couple reasons…

Like every relationship, ours was unique. And yet there are of course common, some universal, aspects shared with other dog lovers, animals-in-general lovers, and in fact anyone in any kind of companion – and I dare say, love – relationship.

Writing can be a fruitful way to process emotions and experiences, whether grief or anything else…hence my Facebook bits and blurbs…and I am having growing thoughts of perhaps writing a small book on the journey I took with her…

But I hadn’t previously thought to blog about any of the myriad aspects and experiences, as I strive to have this blog primarily connect to storytelling/storytellers’-concerns-and-interests in most-if-not-all posts, rather than have it serve as an outlet for whatever-the-heck I’m thinking of and feeling like writing on and putting out there…Some blogs/bloggers are like that and that can be just fine, just not what I generally aim for here. [She did inspire one of my early blog posts, back in March 2014 (she was already an old dog back then!): How My Dog Reminded Me: “Storytelling” is Not Just a Compliment]

But suddenly there’s an in-my-face connection, indicated by that Facebook post above…

Faeroy route ccYou see, the story I’ll be telling tonight, “Looking for Grandpa’s Island,” is the true, first-person narrative of my experience in 2000 of traveling to Norway with my husband on our honeymoon, and seeking the coastal island from which I knew both my paternal grandfather and my last name came. That trip was an experience of a lifetime, and has become my favorite story to tell – not in small part because audiences love it!

Every. Single. Time. I have told that story over the past 16 years, at least one person (sometimes several) comes up to me afterward and tells me some variation of either: “I did that, too! – Went to (insert name of country) and found relatives!” or “That is so inspiring! I’m going to take such a trip, too!” [Previous blog post on the story here.]

Sogna Sue beautyThree months after that beyond-wonderful trip, my husband Keith and I adopted a sweet 8-week-old puppy, a lively and excruciatingly-cute little mutt: primarily Australian Cattle Dog (“Aussie Cow Dog”) and Siberian Husky – with some Norwegian Elkhound and Doberman Pinscher thrown in (which could explain a few things…we did a doggie DNA test once).

Keith had such a great idea for her name…

We had indeed found my grandpa’s island, Faeroy, located in the mouth of the Sognefjord. (I’d love to tell you the story sometime.) In Norway, I heard/learned at least two different ways that place-name was pronounced: “SOWN-ga-fyord” and “SOWN-ya-fyord.”

We found ourselves considering naming our new puppy Sonia (or Sonya, or Sonja)…Keith suggested we name her that, but spell it like that beautiful Norwegian fjord, from which my grandpa…so, my dad…and I…came, and where Keith and I had had such a profound and wonderful adventure of family discovery with which to begin our married life together.

Sogna Sue! cSo we named her Sogna. Sogna Sue. [REMEMBER: Pronounced “SOWN-ya” (notSog-na”-!!!)… Think “lasagna”…or “poignant”…same gn=ny pronunciation… Sogna Sue, the poignant lasagna dog…Her “nom-de-Facebook” was “Old Doggie,” as I didn’t want folks to read about her and hear in their mind’s ear “sog-na”…and the explanation/pronunciation bit was longer than I felt like constantly repeating for the casual FB-friend’s benefit…Very meaningful to us, but a bit of a pain to always explain – No one’s fault but our own!]

And tonight? Tonight, one week to the day after her passing, as I currently move slowly and am disoriented with still-fresh grief at the loss of a near-16-year and woven-deep-into-my-life companionship, I have the always-welcome opportunity to tell the beautiful story of looking for – and finding – my grandpa’s island.

I will tell the story of discovering love and deep ties on the island of Faeroy in Norway’s Sognefjord…which gave us both my family name and our name for this beloved dog, to whom I have been deeply, lovingly tied these nearly-16 years, journeying with her especially intensely these past 2+ years as she descended into old age, dementia, frailty (but she always ate all her food! and tried to chase squirrels!)…and was ever more deeply my loving and constant doggie companion.

I may very well write more of our story here as time goes on; some of the depths of the iceberg…We shall see.

Sweet Sogna Sue (poignant lasagna dog, remember). Thank you. Good dog. Good, good dog.

– Pam

Featured photo at the top of this post is one of my favorites I took of Sogna Sue, looking out at the Wild Kingdom, back in early 2014 when I already called her Old Doggie.

Below, here’s a snippet of play, also from early 2014, when she barely ever played with toys anymore. Good dog.