New Mexico's Pet Resource SPRING 2003


CANINE CORNER

SOPHIE'S TALE (in two parts)

by Lexi and Beth Petronis and Elsie Whittle

I. On a cold clear day last January, while walking our two dogs, we spied a dirty, worn- looking sheepdog wandering inside an irrigation ditch. We scaled down the ditch's walls in hopes of rescuing her, but our attempts only sent her running in the opposite direction. Lost and scared, she hid in a small culvert and refused to come out.

A few days later, we saw a familiar character standing right next to our house: a dirty, worn-looking dog. Positive it was the mystery dog from the ditch, we grabbed some jerky treats and went to fetch her.

The dog happily accepted the treats and followed us into our yard. It was only then that we realized she wasn't the same dog at all. This one was friendlier, shaggier, less spooked. The fur on her nose and tail was almost gone. She had huge tumors on her chest and her teeth were dull little nubs. But her eyes were full of love and her tail wagged a vigorous hello. It seemed fateful that we should see two stray, almost-identical sheepdog-types within days of each other. It was like the first dog was an omen, showing us what was to come.

We filed “found” reports with Albuquerque Animal Services Division and Animal Humane Association and placed an ad in the newspaper, though we didn't hope the dog's original owners would claim her (what kind of owners would let their dog get to this condition?). Neither ASD nor AHA would have considered placing a senior dog with serious medical needs for adoption, but we knew the foster program at Watermelon Mountain Ranch would.

We named the dog Sophie. After giving her a much-needed bath, we took her to our lifelong vet at Rio Grande Animal Clinic, who confirmed that she needed to be spayed, have her massive mammary tumors removed, and have a thorough teeth-cleaning. He estimated the minimum cost at $350 (not including pre-operation work ups). We didn't hesitate. Sophie was a loving dog, and she deserved another chance. We asked him to take x-rays and do pre-surgery lab work to assess her surgical risk, scheduled an appointment and took her home.

For the next week, Sophie was a great guest. She got along wonderfully with our dogs and loved having company while she ate. She was full of energy, and bounded along beside us the second we stepped outside. Sophie was just overflowing with love - why had her owners let her go?

On the day of surgery, Sophie seemed to know that the vet team was there to help her. She wagged her tail enthusiastically as they led her to the operating room. It took more than two hours to remove her cyst-laden ovaries, uterus, and four mammary tumors (one, larger than a softball, had invaded her chest muscles). In light of the anesthesia risk, the dental work was postponed. When we picked Sophie up that afternoon, despite her post-op discomfort and fatigue, her shining eyes and lopsided little smile said, "Thank you." She slept soundly that night as our three cats kept watch and our dogs respected her need to rest.

Two days later Sophie visited Watermelon Mountain Ranch's adoption center, where she charmed and befriended everyone, including curious children and the other pets. Every day throughout her recovery, we discovered more and more of Sophie's special qualities. She loved riding in the car and would hop right in whenever she got the chance.

Having posted Sophie's picture on the Internet, we soon found out that she was a Bearded Collie/Airedale X (a "Neardie"). A fantastic shaggy dog rescuer in Montana spontaneously sent a donation to help offset Sophie's surgery expense, and the Beardie/Neardie rescue group (BONE Rescue) distributed Sophie's picture and bio to the members. A member culled old applications and found one from the Whittle family, who were considering adopting another rescued dog after their Beardie had died. It was a long shot, but we exchanged emails and, the same day, the family invited Sophie to visit them and their pets.

We went to visit, thinking it would simply be a nice outing for Sophie. But within an hour, she had a new home with dog and cat companions and a wonderful family that was totally committed to her wellbeing. Just 24 hours later, Sophie had been groomed and was scheduled for the dental work that had been postponed. She was already a loved and loving member of the family.

We are involved in foster care for Watermelon Mountain Ranch hoping to make a difference in the lives of our foster animals. Often, they actually make more of a difference in our lives. Sophie certainly did. -Lexi and Beth Petronis

A writer in NYC, Lexi visits her family in NM and often helps with fostering rescued animals, which her Mom, Beth, does for several rescue groups.


II. Sophie came to live with us in February 2002. My husband, Larry, was a little doubtful about fitting yet another dog into our household, but Sophie charmed him soon enough. Unfortunately, the tumors that had been removed came back to her, and biopsies showed they were cancerous. By the time the external tumors showed up, Sophie had cancer CANINE CORNER (continued from page 7)through her liver, kidneys and bladder. We lost her to cancer in August 2002.

She wasn't with us for long, but she left an impression. I still miss her very much.

Sophie didn't walk; she pranced. We walk our dogs every day, rain or shine, and Sophie loved to walk. She was very good on a leash, and tended to stick right next to my side.

She would buck and kick and dance for her supper. She never failed to make me laugh when I emerged from the house with the dogs' supper dishes.

Sophie wasn't much of a barker, but she didn't take any guff from our other two dogs. She liked to sit next to me, watching Lizzie and Deedee rolling in the grass and jumping on each other.

She seemed to prefer the company of cats, and had a funny snuffly grunt she used to talk to them. Of our three, she liked Tiger, the kitten, the best. I loved to wake up to hear the two of them chasing each other through the house, first one way through the bedrooms, and then the other.

Sophie loved to be petted. She would insist on it, nudging our hands or feet in a not- so-subtle request to be rubbed and loved.

She had such good manners, that I know someone must have loved and taken good care of her once. I am curious (yet not sure I really want to know) how Sophie ended up matted, dirty, hungry and abandoned.

We have far too many Sophies. She was a wonderful, loving girl, who gave us so much affection in the little time we had with her. We're thankful that we got to take care of her for a little while. -Elsie Whittle -Elsie Whittle

Larry and Elsie Whittle have provided happy homes for rescued cats and dogs over the years, and expect to do so for a long time to come.

If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went." - Will Rogers

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