Sofia's Journey

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This is Sofia. On July 14, 2003, at 8 weeks of age, and weighing only one pound and 5 ounces, she was dumped at an LA shelter to be euthanized.
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The reason...she had a heart murmur and was worth nothing to her owner. The good folks at the shelter gave us a call to see if we would have any interest in trying to save her. Without hesitation, because we're crazy, we scooped her up, took her to Arbor Animal Hospital in Irvine, and found out she had a Grade 6 PDA heart murmur. Heart murmurs range from 1-6....6 being the worst.

She is a very sick little girl.

Thanks to the generous help of our Little Dog Rescue supporters, we were able to take her in for an echocardiogram and x-rays... She was diagnosed with a PDA and will need surgery. There is no survival alternative. The good news is that in spite of her small size, she is a candidate for surgery and the long term prognosis is for a very normal life.

Our vet, Dr. Daryl Mabley, of Arbor Animal Hospital in Irvine, explained to us that due to her size, the best facility for her surgery would be at UC Davis Veterinary School. Dr. Mabley (what would we do without this good man!!!) contacted Dr. Sara Miller in the cardiology unit of UC Davis and on Monday August 4, at 10 AM, we will meet with her to begin our journey to recovery.

There are 2 surgical solutions for Sofia. One is by threading a "coil" or plug through the carotiod artery in the neck to the heart and "plugging" the hole. The other is "cracking open the chest" and tying off the leak. Dr. Miller feels Sofia's size, and the angle of her ductus (hole) probably rules out the coil alternative and she'll most likely need open heart surgery.....we will find out on Monday. If she IS a candidate for the coil, she will have it done on Tuesday, Aug 5 by Dr. Miller. Dr. Miller did tell me that they have never done a coil on anyone this small. We also learned that time is of the essence, because if the murmur reverses, it will no longer be repairable. OHHH, my sweet baby!!! If not the coil, she will need to go to the cardiac surgical team and will hopefully be scheduled on Tuesday or Wednesday. Recovery, of course, would be a lot quicker with the coil.
And so we begin our journey!! Please join us, as we document it. We will be taking pictures throughout the trek and posting them for our wonderful Little Dog supporters. We thank you all for all your love and support. Sofia wouldn't have a chance without you and she thanks you from the bottom of her broken and soon to be mended little heart!!

Here's Sofia booking her Monday morning flight to Sacramento.

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Today's project was finding just the right carry on bag for our flight. Here's what we found!!
This one was wayyyyy too big.

This was wayyy too small.

This one was just right!!!
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And she's decided that it would be a lot more fun using it like this!

She's got all her bare necessities packed and ready to go!!

With house sitters and dog sitters in place, we're just about ready to go. Since Sofia probably won't be able to have a bath for a while, we thought we'd clean her up before we go. She was MAD!!!!
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OWW!!! Don't you know I have a bad heart!!!! Stop it!!!
There, now we're ready to go. WE've decided to drive (UGH!) because it will be less stressful on her. She's up to 1 pound 11 ounces!! So, we're on our way!! Say a little prayer for us, please.
We made it and we're nervously awaiting tomorrow morning's appointment.

Disappointing news today. After ANOTHER echocardiagram and more xrays, Dr. Miller decided that not only is Sofia not a candidate for the coil, but she has fluid in her lungs. The sent us home with medications and we will return on Thursday for Sofia's Friday heart surgery. We'revery disappointed and sad because we can see her going down and getting weaker.  But, we're determined she'll get through this with flying colors.
Here's Sofia with Dr. Miller

We've just arrived home from our long drive home from Davis. We're going to be home long enough to unpack, do laundry, and repack. We'll leave again on Thursday AM to make our apt. with the surgeon at 4 PM. Her surgery is scheduled for Friday at 10 AM. My heart is dying, watching her go down and not being able to do ANYTHING!! She's lost a couple of ounces and it's very important that we get it back on her. Please say a little prayer for our girl. The last few days were extremely stressful and hard on her, so I'm hoping that being home will be easier on her.  

We're on our way to the airport, with our little girl. Four PM apt. with the Dr. today and we're saying our prayers. Sofia needs this surgery very badly.
We've arrived in Sacramento and although Sofia slept most of the way snuggled in my arms, she was a hit with the crew. She, of course, was upgraded to first class..... we had to grovel to sit with her!!

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Next stop, 4 PM, Davis.. surgery dept. Now, we hope that they'll accept her for surgery.  We'll repost after her appointment tonight.
We're back from Davis with good news. Another echocardiagram and blood taken. She will undergo surgery in the AM. We were able to take her back to our hotel room, so she won't be stressed by being in a cage tonight. We will meet her surgeon, Dr. Margo Mehl,  and her anesthesiologist, Dr. Linda Barter, at 7 AM. Sweet dreams, all!

Sofia had a quiet night. She slept hard. We got her up for a 3 AM feeding because the Dr. said that was the last time she could eat. And because she's so tiny, she needs to eat often. WE arrived at the clinic at  6:45 and we were met by Dr. Linda Barter. She took our little bird down for prep. Now, we wait. We're both a wreck because we know the risks are huge with such a tiny body. But, at least she's able to have the surgery.  She wouldn't last long without it.  PLEASE, LET IT BE GOOD NEWS!! We'll let you know as soon as we hear.

12:30 SHE MADE IT!!!  SHE MADE IT!!!  SHE MADE IT!!!!! After a long and stressful surgery, Sofia is in ICU. Dr. Mehl (my heroine) said that the ductus was huge so it took longer than they expected. She isn't out of danger yet, but late this afternoon we'll have a better idea of how she's doing. We were able to take a quick peek at her in ICU and here's some pictures.

 Dr. Mehl

This ICU incubator box is heated to 87 degrees

My little bird. She doesn't have much hair left, so she really does look like a little bird now. Our gorgeous swan!!!
As you can tell, we're pretty excited. I'm sure Dr. Mehl thought I was going to squish her.. I hugged her so tightly. Yep, we know she's not out of the woods yet, but she's on the road to recovery.

Thank you, friends. Without all of you, Sofia wouldn't have had a chance. Stay posted. We'll take more pics and update as soon as we know anything.

8 PM
Just spoke with Dr. Mehl (I don't think she ever sleeps!!) There's a POSSIBILITY that our little girl may be discharged tomorrow.  Although she's in a lot of pain, The drain from her heart has been removed, and all is going well. Barring any unforeseen complications, they may let us drive her home tomorrow and turn her over to our vet, DR. Mabley. Her heart is now mended, so we'll just need to control her pain while she's recovering. She's young, and should recover quickly.  We have an apt. with Dr. Mehl at 9 AM and we'll update when we get back to a computer, which, hopefully, will be from home.

This morning we're packing up and getting ready to go over to the hospital, hopefully to discharge our little girl. I checked my email, and much to my surprise, I discovered this wonderful note.
Hello, I am an animal health technician working in the ICU at UC Davis Vet School Hospital. I was assigned to work with Sofia overnight. I just finished reading the "article" on Sofia's journey. She's out of surgery and recovering well. I will be sitting with her throughout the night and I will never be far away. Just to give you(the parents) some comfort. SHe's an adorable little baby, I see why you cherish her so much. What a little character.
Billy Vernetti
What a wonderful surprise!! Such fantastic people, all of them. UC Davis  is AWESOME!!!!! GO AGGIES!!!!

8 PM
We're home!! We're exhausted.... and we're thrilled!!!!
With instructions for future care, Dr. Mehl discharged her patient this AM, as long as we didn't fly home. The pressurization wouldn't have been good for her newly operated on heart.  So, we made arrangements to drop the rental car in LA and drove home. Francois constructed a condo in the back seat of the car....
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 Sofia just wanted to be touched...comforted... she was in our laps most of the ride. By the time we got home, needless to say, she was wiped.
Here's a picture of her incision, but if you're at all squeamish, please do not go any further or enlarge. The small incision under the large one is where the drain was.


We're being very lazy today.... chewing our chewers and dragging around newspapers that are supposed to be used for potty.....doing all the things that normal, healthy little puppies with good hearts do. A lot of itching from the incision, quite sore, and very tired, but all very normal. Dr. Mehl told us to keep her quiet for 2 weeks, until her stitches come out!!! Right!!! Maybe if we conk her over the head with a baseball bat!!!
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Well, we've all recovered, the suitcases are unpacked and the laundry's done. Sofia is doing so well. She has soooooo much energy, and making up for lost time. We had a terrible problem with her incision itching. She just couldn't stop. So, our dear friend Sally Stack from Villa Park, designed a little shirt for her to wear. It's made of t-shirt material. She steps into it and it velcros on top of her. It goes around her chest so it won't slip back. Here it is and it works like a charm. Sally always has just the right fix for all our problems!!
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Sofia has recovered so very well. As of today, she doesn't squeak anymore when we pick her up. I think that her pain is totally gone now. Let me show you how well she's doing. Here's her incision. As you can see, it's healing beautifully. I've decided that if I should need heart surgery, I'm going to Dr. Margo Mehl at UC Davis!!!!
She plays and plays and is just a silly, happy, lively puppy.

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Sofia started out at 1 pound 5 ounces and you can't believe what it's taken to get her to 2 pounds. From chicken, ground beef, syringing baby food into her mouth, and practically chewing food for her.. she just had no interest in eating......and now we've come to this. She's now eating only dry puppy kibble...... she eats 3-4 times a day......eats like a horse....... attacks my hand if it doesn't come fast enough....(yep, we hand feed her, and  love it!!) ..... plays like crazy all through her a child with the airplane thing.....
But, today, we finally got to 2 pounds!!!! We've been teetering on it for the last couple of days, but she played very hard the other day and lost an ounce!!!! Sofia has absolutely no idea that she had a bad heart. All she knows is that she's got a TON of energy!! We think that the doctors at Davis implanted a TURBO CHARGER into her heart. She's quite a dynamo!!!  Tomorrow she gets her stitches out and from then on, she's just like any other dog....just a bit smaller!!!

Sofia is now 2 pounds and 2 1/2 ounces!!! She's growing by leaps and bounds (well, maybe not leaps and bounds!)  and has more energy than all of us put together. We are constantly amazed at how much energy she has. She eats like a horse, plays like mad and sleeps like a rock. She's had her stitches removed and her incision has healed beautifully. She's really a little miracle girl!!
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This is Sofia with her friend, Margie, whom we rescued from an LA shelter. She was dumped there because she had mange from the hundreds of fleas we found on her.  Now, most dogs like to lie NEXT to their friends, right?? Not Sofia, she has to sleep on TOP of her friends!!! Nice friend, huh?


Sofia has a new friend, Shelly, who was rescued from an LA shelter. She's now healthy and playful, so she and Sofia "go at it"  a few times a day. Although Shelly is a little larger than Sofia, Sofia is ALWAYS on top!!!!  Very bossy and she has NO idea how tiny she is!!!

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PSST!!! Hey, Margie.  Wanna go for a swim. They'll never know!!!

Oh geez,  Margie.. I think we got BUSTED!!!


Here's Sofia with her new "do". Because she loves to swim in her bowl every day, it seemed much smarter to keep her in a summer "do". She now is weighing in at 2 pounds and 12 ounces.

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Here's Sofia tipping the scale at just 3 pounds and wearing the  newest creation from our dear friend Sally Stack of Villa Park. (she's just as bossy and sassy as ever)  Sally designs, makes, and donates our beautiful jackets. Not only are these jackets gorgeous, but they have kept many of our bald little orphans from being cold but feeling beautiful, after being buzzed down.   
Here she is sporting her new "swim" coiffure. (She swims in anything that has more than an inch of water) And Sofia absolutely must have a treat when Sally comes visiting with her jackets. Having been brought up in a barn, or so it seems, Sofia goes looking for her own treats (in Sally's purse)  because Sally is so darn slow (with the treats!!) Sofia certainly has a mind of her own!!!

 Friday November 7

Today was Sofia's final follow up visit, with an echocardiogram scheduled.. Our appointment was with Dr. Karen Sanderson from Advanced Veterinary Care Center in Lawndale. Dr. Sanderson is a graduate of UC Davis and specializes in cardiology. We anxiously awaited the results of her procedure, and were told that she passed with flying colors. She will now lead a perfectly normal life with a normal lifespan. What wonderful news!!! Watching her on a daily basis, we were sure the results would be good. We've pretty much known from the third day after her surgery, that the "turbo charger" that Davis placed in her, is supercharged and there for good!!!

Here's a picture of Sofia having her final echocardiogram with Dr. Karen Sanderson on the left


Here's what your roll of toilet paper looks like:


Here's what our toilet paper looks like!!!



Sofia actually has her own bed and Pepper DOES have bigger beds to choose to lie in. Buuuutttt...... this is the favorite and Sofia needs to be warm and cuddly at all times!! 

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On those cold mornings, when you just don't feel like starting the day, the sleeve of a bathrobe is a great place to hitch a ride!!  


Sofia and Pepper

We lost our beloved Pepper 3/05 after a long battle. Rest in peace, dear Pepper. We all miss you terribly.
We lost our precious Sofia 6/16. Words can't describe how much we miss her.