Saturday, December 27, 2008


Last May, Sophie was stung by a bee in our backyard. Her face swelled and she looked like the elephant man. Naturally, it was Friday at 6pm and the vet’s office was closed. We went to the emergency hospital where she was treated with a shot of steroids and given some Benadryl. The swelling disappeared as quickly as it happened, but Sophie was really thirsty. After 2 days of non-stop drinking, she started having some accidents in the house and looked really uncomfortable. She couldn’t pee. By Monday, things had gotten worse. We went to her regular vet thinking she had a urinary tract infection. He took a blood sample and x-rayed her looking for an obstruction. There were 3 possibilities for her problem – a u.t.i., bladder stones, or a tumor. The blood sample ruled out the u.t.i., and the x-ray ruled out the stones. Her bladder was beyond full and she needed an ultrasound right away.

That morning her daddy was teaching a class and I knew he wouldn’t answer the phone. He knew we had gone to the vet. I called and called until he picked up. I told him our little girl and I were on our way to Tampa for an ultrasound because our vet wasn't sure about what was wrong with her. Troy left his class and headed to the specialty hospital where they had better technology than our local vet. Then I called my Dad and through tears told him what was happening. He wouldn’t let me drive by myself (you know how dads can be) and since I had to pass his house anyway, he insisted on driving while I sat and kept Sophie comfortable.

We had to leave her at the hospital while they catheterized her and did some testing. We went back that night and were given the news. Sophie had transitional cell carcinoma and the tumor was in her urethra. The doctors were researching the treatment options and would give us more information the next day.

We had 2 options. The first was to end her life. The tumor was inoperable. The second was an experimental treatment at the University of Florida 2 hours away. The treatment was extremely expensive – more than we could afford - and they understood if we decided against it.

Sophie was a Christmas present for me. She was 4 weeks old when we picked her out and visited every week until she was old enough to come home with us. Before her 1st birthday, 9-11 happened. Shortly after, her daddy and two friends formed the K-9 Forensics Recovery Team ( They wanted to help fill a void for law enforcement. They trained every week and have become a part of many high profile murder investigations. The team has volunteered their time to help where ever they are needed - all over Florida, the southeastern United States, Panama, and Aruba. Sophie is not just special to us. She has a job.

We didn’t sleep or eat for days. Every night we took the hour drive to see Sophie. After days of wrestling with this life or death decision, we learned that Sophie was a good candidate for the experimental treatment at the University. She would be the 4th dog in their research. They estimate the bill to be around $16,000 without any complications. We already had a $2,400 tab at the hospital and the first treatment would run roughly $6,000. We had just paid off a credit card and knew we could charge her treatment to get started and take it on faith that we’d find the money to pay the bill in 30 days.

Memorial Day weekend, we loaded up the family and headed to Gainesville, FL to get started. Her first treatment of radiation was a procedure called Stereotactic Radiation. It is used in humans to treat brain cancer. With a CT scan, the tumor is pinpointed and then blasted with a large dose of radiation. This is followed by several rounds of chemo to make sure there are no little cancer cells anywhere waiting to grow.

Sophie's story aired on most of our local news channels, CNN and there have been several newspaper articles over the last 7 months. The Tampa Bay area has donated enough money to pay all of her current medical expenses and her future expenses. For this we are beyond grateful. Troy said it has restored his faith in humanity. (He’s a deputy sheriff and doesn’t always get to see people at their best.) I am overwhelmed. I never expected this kind of support.

I’m happy to say that after her initial radiation and 8 chemo treatments, the tumor has been reduced by 80% and there are no signs of the disease spreading. Sophie hasn’t missed any work.

1 in 4 dogs is diagnosed with cancer and nobody knows why. Nobody knows why humans develop cancer, either. Human and veterinary medicine are an overlapping science. If we can find the root of canine cancer, we can not only save our companions, but save ourselves from this horrible disease.

UPDATE. November 2010.

Our friend Laura Fergueson set word today that Sophie has passed away. You can read the full article from the Tampa Bay Tribune here. Our sincere sympathies go out to Sophie's family and friends.

Sophie's service will be held at 6:30 p.m. Friday at the Thomas B. Dobies Funeral Home, 9944 Hudson Ave., Hudson, FL.

Troy Fergueson plans on speaking about Sophie's life and dedication to the community. Items from cases she helped solve will also be displayed, as will Sophie's urn, which contains her ashes. The public is welcome.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Keep fighting Sophie!! What a beautiful girl.