On November 2, the Austin, Texas Police Department’s Animal Cruelty Division received a report of a dead dog inside a crate at a busy intersection near downtown Austin. When cruelty officers arrived, they found what appeared to be a deceased dog, laying in a crate covered in feces. The female dog was severely emaciated, with her ribs and bones protruding. As officers inspected the body, Officer Ewa Wagner thought she saw the dog’s rib cage move up and down.
“We realized she was alive, but just barely, so we rushed her to the Austin Animal Center where vets began emergency treatment,” described Officer Wagner. “Her temperature was too low to even register on a thermometer and she wasn’t moving at all. We didn’t think there was any way she would survive.”
Sophie, estimated to be about a year old, weighed only 9.5 pounds. Veterinary Technician Elizabeth Mancera remembers the moment she met Sophie.
“The detectives pulled up and said they had a dog who was barely alive. They handed her almost-lifeless body to me and I laid her on the exam table. She was covered in feces and freezing cold and wet. I talked to her the whole time and even though she couldn’t move her body, she looked up at me with pleading eyes. I kept telling her she would be okay.”
For the next several hours, overseen by a shelter veterinarian, Elizabeth gave Sophie lifesaving care. After giving her a warm bath, she used a blow dryer on a warm setting to try to raise Sophie’s body temperature. It took nearly two hours, but slowly Sophie’s temperature began to go up.
“Everyone thought she was going to die,” said Elizabeth. “During those first few hours I just talked to her and told her she was loved and that nothing bad would ever happen to her again. I told her she needed a name and I picked Sophie. When I told her that was her name, she raised her head for the first time and looked at me. I knew then, Sophie would live.”
That night, Elizabeth got permission to foster Sophie in her home. Sophie received around-the-clock care and at first, she had to wear diapers because she was unable to walk or stand. After the first night, during which she could only sleep, Sophie slowly began to slowly come back to life. On the fourth day, she took her first few steps, quickly falling to the ground because she was so weak. Elizabeth never left her side.
The cruelty officers issued a news release about where Sophie was found and the conditions she was in and an animal advocacy group issued a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person responsible for starving and abandoning her.
As the weeks went by, Sophie continued to heal, learning what life was like as a beloved pet. She stayed with Elizabeth and her family, walking a few more steps every day and eventually trotting around the house. Slowly she gained weight, reaching 14 pounds, then 20 and finally getting to a normal weight of 25 pounds, almost three times what she weighed the day she was rescued.
Elizabeth recalls the moment she knew Sophie was going to be hers, permanently. “It was right around Thanksgiving and I was watching Sophie gently play with my dog. She was so happy and I could see a special connection between them. After all Sophie and I had been through, I knew she was going to be my dog. I reached down and kissed her, letting her know she had found her forever home.”
Last week, Elizabeth and her family officially adopted Sophie into their family and she’s a spoiled, happy girl. During the day, she often comes to the shelter and even sometimes accompanies cruelty officers when they visit the community to teach about animal cruelty. As for Elizabeth, she feels Sophie has already given back so much.
“It’s still hard for me to see those pictures from when she was found. It breaks my heart to think of her cold and suffering with no one there to help her. Saving Sophie has done so much for me. I have anxiety and just being near her calms me and makes me happy.”
Elizabeth says Sophie loves to go on car rides and visit her friends at the animal shelter.
“The day I rescued Sophie I promised her nothing bad would ever happen to her again, and now I get to spend the rest of her life making good on that promise.”
This Christmas, Sophie will wake up surrounded by her family – the people and animals who love her. She’ll even have her own presents under the tree. For Sophie, the memories of abuse, neglect and starvation will be replaced with ones of warmth, safety and love.
“She’ll never miss another meal and she’ll never be cold again,” asserts Elizabeth. “That I am sure of.”