January 2011-March 12, 2023
spayed female 1/2 Lab mix, 1/2 Australian Shepherd

I had been watching the website of the Walton County Animal Shelter since we adopted Nellie, our black mixed breed pup, from them in December 2010. I don't know why I do it because it generally makes me so sad to see entire litters of puppies dumped there, the dogs their owners surrender to the Shelter because they are tired of them for some stupid reason, and the old dogs whose owners have passed on and left no provision for their pets. When one gets adopted (they update the site multiple times per day) it is a huge relief. Thankfully they have a great network of local rescues working with them, so a lot of dogs do get adopted rather than euthanized.

The week of May 16, 2011 a puppy appeared on the site who looked very much like Nellie but with more hair. Being black, she did not have a good chance at being adopted. Sure enough, day after day, she was still there- until it was 5 days past her hold time. The shelter doesn't usually keep them that long but sweet, adoptable dogs they do try to hold longer if they have room. It was just eating at me; I was so worried she was going to get put to sleep. I mentioned her to Jim but said I knew we couldn't take on another mouth to feed and asked if he knew anyone who was looking for a dog (he didn't). Early one morning a few days later, he said to me "so when are we going to get the puppy?" I kind of looked at him funny, said I didn't think we could "do" 3 dogs, and went back to bed. Jim left to go pick up a load of hay before it got hot. I could not sleep, and I knew why. I called Jim and said "isn't the Shelter on the way home from getting hay?" He said yes, so I asked him if he was going to look at the puppy. He said he had thought he would. "But what about a collar and leash?", I asked. He said "I brought one with me". Ah, the truth was out- he was going to go get her all along!

The Shelter was calling her "Tanya" but I couldn't keep that name- it would just remind me of Tonya Harding! We thought she was a Border Collie and Poodle cross, as she had a wavy coat. The Shelter was calling her a Curly Coated Retriever/Border Collie cross; some folks thought Portuguese Water Dog when they saw her pictures. Our vet thought she had some Cocker Spaniel in there. She was very unique and I have never seen another one quite like her. For Jim's birthday two years go I got him an Embark kit for Sophie, to solvethe mystery once and for all. The results showed that Sophie was half Aussie, half Lab mix (mostly Lab but a bit of Border Collie and other breeds). She was negative for every hereditary disease that Embark tests for. Embark also connects you to any relatives of your dog that are in their database. We discovered that Sophie had a sibling near us in Watkinsville, though I never heard back from the owner. But I did hear from the owner of a cousin- a beautiful Aussie named Skyecove's Over the Rainbow, who lives in VA. A quick search led me to the Skyecove website in NC, home of many lovely Champion Aussies. I heard from the owner of Skyecove, Juli May Wiseman, a very kind lady. She sent pictures of Sophie's likely relatives, all beautiful multi-titled show Aussies. It has been a great pleasure to follow the progress of Aussies from Juli's fine breeding program via Facebook.

Sophie was one of the kindest animals I have ever known. She would come up to us while we were working on the computer and just rest her chin on our legs, quietly asking for attention. If ignored she would give a gentle nudge. She loved to hunt varmints and caught many in her younger years. The mailman was her nemesis- she would hear the truck coming down the road and erupt in a cacophony of barking. If she was outside she'd chase that evil mail truck along our front fenceline. She "won" every time, since the mail truck left! Nellie was the dominant dog in the relationship and often could not resist lording it over Sophie. Sophie was happy to be submissive and just let it roll off.

During Sophie's routine dental in November, our vet found lesions under Sophie's tongue. We decided to watch it closely. Biopsy results were suggestive of histiocytic disease. Over the next two months the lesions spread to her gums, the front of her lip, her third eyelid and her ear. At that point (February 2023) she was started on immunosuppressive doses of prednisone, after being on doxycycline for a month to prevent infection of the open sores (she would bleed whenever she ate) or to kill off any possible Lyme or other insect related cause. She was fine the first week on pred, then crashed overnight the weekend of March 4. Day after day she became progressively weaker. Jim built a ramp for our front stairs because she could no longer navigate them. I took her back to the vet this past Tuesday (4/7/23) and they did not think much of the weakness (thought it was a side effect of the pred) but the lesions were greatly reduced/gone so we could taper down the pred dose. Our vet then noticed Sophie'sr gums were pale so did a quick check of her blood and discovered she was anemic. They scheduled us for an ultrasound Friday (3/10/23). Which showed nothing, but her RBC count was 8. As in needing a transfusion. So we had two choices: let her go, or referral to UGA. I was ready to let her go, Jim was not. So off to UGA we went. Their ultrasound and other imaging showed a blood clot near Sophie's spleen, slightly enlarged heart, and pancreatitis (maybe from the pred?). They suspected ulcers too which is odd as she had no signs of that (still eating well, no vomiting, stool normal not dark or bloody as you would expect with GI bleeds). Yesterday AM's update pre transfusion was bleak but Sophie perked up after the transfusion which we hoped would buy us more time to find out what was going on. It was not to be and overnight Sophie declined and passed away early this morning (3/12/23). We are heartbroken. We tried everything, but sometimes everything is not enough. RIP,beautiful Sophie.

Here is Sophie's listing on the Shelter website, which gave a little of her story. It really is a bad picture - her front legs were completely straight!

Funny curly pup!

Sophie's first day home. Jim with the "Black Pack" (L-R)- Sophie, Jackson and Nellie.

With her new friend Nellie.

Hunting for windfall apples with Jackson.

August 2011, 7 months old.

August 8, 2011- We fenced off our apple trees in the front yard in an attempt to stop the dogs from eating so many. Well, that worked for one out of the three dogs ;-) Sophie at first was going through the hole she made in the fence (visible just below her in this picture), but she had gotten too big to fit through it. So she just jumped the fence. In the first three pics, she is returning to the yard with her prize; the last one was "posed" as I was having a time getting the camera to focus, so I called her back over the fence a few times for the photo op :-). Look at that beautiful form over the fence! George Morris would be proud!

I had a hard time getting pictures of Sophie, as she always wanted to come to me so I would get snoot views :-) Here is Sophie with Nellie, September 2011. Sophie is 8 months old here.

January 2012- Both Sophie and Nellie were pushing 40 pounds, so a bit on the large side for lap dogs- especially when they BOTH are in your lap at once! Sophie is a year old now.

April 2012- Sophie was considerably more fluffy now than she was when we brought her home.

July 3, 2013- Buddies Jackson (right) and Sophie sacked out on the couch.

2/13/14- We thought it was very cute when Jackson would lay down and cross his paws, and Sophie did it too!

4/19/14- When the mail lady is coming down the street in her truck, Sophie was wired and ready for action!


January 2015- Sophie's favorite place to lay was by the living room window, where she can be on guard against the "evil" mail truck. The crossed paws just crack me up.

June 19, 2016- My friend Cassidy Sutherland brought her 8 month old son Evan out to see the horses. Here Sophie is checking Evan out.

Left, October 30, 2016. Jackson (right) and Sophie enjoying the end of the day together, as was their daily habit. Less than two weeks later, Jackson passed. Right, November 22, 2016- Sophie in her usual spot, watching the world go by... but without her buddy Jackson :-(

October 6, 2017- We had a houseful of guests for the 30th Annual Southern Model Horse Convention. Lisa Garcia's young friend, Destiny, entertained our dogs, who greatly enjoyed the added attention. Here is our "curly dog" soaking up some lovin'.

Jim and his curly dog, September 1, 2019.

November 11, 2019- Sophie and Nellie wrestling like puppies- I don't think they're aware they are 8 and 9 years old, respectively!

November 7, 2020- Last week I noticed a few blood droplets on the living room floor. Oh joy, which of my two dogs is bleeding? I looked them over and could find no wounds, which isn't easy because both are black. It is hard to see blood on a black background. The next day it occurred to me (in my increasingly sleep deprived state) that it might be coming from a body orifice, so I took a tissue and dabbed a little from dog #1's privates. Bingo, culprit found, it was Sophie. We paid a visit to our small animal vet a few days later for an ultrasound. It showed a mass where Sophie's ovary would be, and a larger mass below the bladder. The vet was very doom and gloom. She referred us to a specialist for further imaging, which was supposed to be a CAT scan. A few days later, we arrived to that appointment, after an hour and a half drive in traffic, to find they had no CT machine at that location. Imagine our confusion. Well, we were there, and they said a more in depth ultrasound might give us the info we needed. We agreed to go ahead since the first vet had not sent the initial ultrasound to the referral vets, only the xrays. Their feeling after that ultrasound was that Sophie- who was spayed 9 years ago by our small animal vet- had a fairly unusual condition called Ovarian Remnant Syndrome. It's where a little bit of tissue gets left behind after a spay and turns into a hormone producing "ovary" (not really, but you get the gist). What was left of Sophie's uterus was responding to the hormones and was enlarged- that was "the mass below her bladder". In other words, lil Sophie was in heat. So- surgery was performed which found cystic structures where BOTH ovaries would have been as well as the enlarged uterus. Tissue sent out to check for cancer showed that one of the cystic structures was actually a slow growing cancer. The sample had clean margins though, so we were hopeful that Sophie would be around for many more years.

September 10. 2021- Sophie and Nellie enjoying our new Ruggable machine washable rugs.

December 14, 2021- For years we had wondered what breed(s) our Sophie was. For Jim's birthday this year I got him an Embark kit for Sophie. The results: Sophie is half Aussie, half Lab mix (mostly Lab but a bit of Border Collie and other breeds). Most importantly she was negative for every disease that Embark tests for, which makes me very happy! Embark also connects you to any relatives of your dog that are in their database. Lo and behold Sophie has a sibling near us, in Watkinsville! I haven't heard back from his owner, but I did hear from the owner of a cousin- a beautiful Aussie named Skyecove's Over the Rainbow, who lives in VA! A quick search led me to the Skyecove website (NC), home of many lovely Champion Aussies. I heard from the owner of Skyecove, Juli Wiseman, who was very nice and sent pictures of Sophie's likely relatives, all beautiful show Aussies.

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Jim and Laura Behning
75 Glass Spring Rd.
Covington, GA 30014
(770) 385-1240
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