Dog Blog: A perfect life for Sophie Louise

Gary and Gail Westmyer had lost their two 18-year-old much-loved cats two years prior to acquiring a new kitten from a rescue group. This cat ended up being the cat from hell — they finally gave him to an aunt who adored him and spoiled him rotten. Gail and Gary said, good riddance.

Their conversations of pet ownership turned to owning a dog. Many of their friends had dogs, and all of those friends stated that dogs where truly the best type of pet. The dog, they decided, had to be a little one and easy to manage. Of course we all know small dog and easy to manage is an oxymoron.

One day Gail's daughter-in-law, Janet, was coming home from Mile Square Park when she had to slam on her brakes to avoid hitting a small creature running across the road. Once she figured out it was a dog, she stopped to make sure it was okay. After 1 1/2 hours of trying to catch it, the little dog just wore out. Janet put it in the car and called Gail and asked if they still wanted a small dog.

Gail's response to Janet's call was, "Sure, let's take a look at it." Janet came over with a 6-pound scroungie lump; skinny, shaking, dirt-brown all over — and it was literally dirt — with crusted eyes and a tail that was tucked between its legs looking more like a sewer rat than a dog.

Gary was less than enthused and said that "it" needed a bath before consideration of habitation could even be discussed. Gail very defiantly said "I'll just go up to Petco and get some flea shampoo." Dreading keeping an eye on it for any length of time, Gary replied, "OK, just hurry back and be sure you get just shampoo — we have yet to decide that we are going to keep it!"

Off to Petco Gail went for the shampoo. $80-plus later, she came home with: dog bed, collar, leash, toys, T-shirt, food, food dish, water dish, placemat for said dishes, treats, brush, and all of the other not-so-needed dog accessories on the shelf.

Gary saw the bags come into the house and made the comment (accompanied with a heavy sigh), "Well, I guess we're keeping her." Yeah! The "it" was now referred to as a "her" with only one trip to Petco. Just think of the changes that could be made if Gail made a trip to K-mart.

After the bath(s), brushing and much-needed food and water their "her" was exhausted and slept in the little doggie bed next to their bed. That was the only time she ever used the doggie bed.

The next night, an issue came up between Gail and Gary — the dog. They even bought a doggie ladder enabling her to get on the bed. She will, however, whine until she is picked up and put on the bed — much easier than those darn steps and more for her humans to do.

Gary finally came to the realization that this was going to be a permanent arrangement. It had nothing to do with her bouncing in his lap five minutes after her first bath.

Gary asked if he could at least name her since he was feeling slightly railroaded into this situation. He wanted a name that stood out, one that would be memorable and describe her personality. He came up with Sophie. You know, like Sophie Tucker — little with a big voice.

Gail's two best friends who are dog people told her many times that "real" dogs have middle names. Gail consulted her mom and asked her what Sophie's middle name should be; mom came up with Louise. So she became Sophie Louise Westmyer.

They had checked the classifieds and online for quite a while to see if anyone had lost her. Janet had canvassed the neighborhood but nobody claimed her.

Next step — Sophie was off to the vet. The vet initially said they should have taken her to the animal shelter so her owners could find her. But by the time the exam was completed the doctor declared that the condition Sophie was in showed that nobody probably cared or was looking for her, and she doubted Sophie would have survived in a shelter.

The doctor guessed her age at about 18 months; it was her opinion that Sophie had been abused, and looked like she had spent her life outdoors, probably tied in a backyard somewhere.

For the first year the Westmyers' had her she would duck and cringe every time they tried to pet her on the head. Nowadays, ear-scratching and belly rubbing are her favorite things, next to walks, dinner, two Pupperoni treats in the morning, and cuddling with mom and dad in bed watching TV.

Even though the big tough guy (Gary) is not always flattering about their little girl (frequently commenting that she's beginning to look like a reclining harbor seal, fat and happy), he does however, love her.

She doesn't quite look like she did when she came into their lives, thanks to the loving, cleaning, grooming and cuddling care she received.

People have asked "What kind of dog is she?" Gail and Gary's best guess is a Chihuahua-Jack Russell mix.

Sophie's vet card just says "Chi-Mix" but she's actually built stockier than a Chihuahua, much like a terrier, and has Jack Russell colorings. In the beginning, she exhibited the famous "Chihuahua shake" but not so much anymore.

It's taken seven years but she's feeling more secure. Her bravery index is up and down—when someone comes near she shrinks but it is off the chart when they have passed. She's much stronger than she appears, now at 12 lbs tugging on things twice her size.

She loves her walks. The mere mention of the word "walk" sends her spinning in circles, running to the front door, cocking her head and giving that infamous doggie grin. And if Gail or Gary do not instantly follow her to the door the running/spinning/cocking head/grinning is repeated, over and over.

Sophie's two favorite words are "walk" and "dinner." It is suspected that she tunes out most everything else.

Some of Sophie's most notable attributes are: she does not come when called or stop barking when asked (or strongly requested). She has exceptional hearing and can hear the sound of a footstep from at least three blocks away. She knows if the footsteps are headed for the front door and turns on the bark alarm. No need for ADT Systems when you have SLB (Sophie Louise Bark) System.

She has a particular dislike for delivery persons of any type. She is exceptionally protective, probably because she's grateful for being rescued; Gary thinks she just likes to bark.

The Westmyers' go camping quite often and Sophie is at the helm taking her spot in the motor home in her special high-sided doggie bed on the dashboard. She likes to lay in it with her head propped on the (cushioned) edge and peacefully staring out the front window while they are driving. That is, until a white delivery truck comes barreling toward them on the opposite side of the road — then she will follow it from the front to the back window, hoping to catch it, they assume, driving Gary nuts.

The Westmyers' love their Sophie Louise; she is a one-family dog. She's not terribly social, not too crazy about other dogs or people, but she is the perfect dog for them. Perfect is good.

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