...for readers who love animals, and animal lovers who read!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Sophie Shapes My World

by Judy Alter

Every night when I’m ready to go to bed, I ask Sophie if she’s ready for bed. She trots to the dog bed next to my bed. We visit and she gets tummy rubs; sometimes I talk over the day with her, sometimes I just tell her what a sweet girl she is. When I say, “Okay, time to go to sleep,” she jumps up and goes to her crate (she’s housebroken but occasionally unreliable). In the morning the first thing I do is let her out of the crate, and we have another little love session, which me scratching her ears. I begin and end my day with my dog.
Sophie the day we
brought her home.
Sophie is a deliberate cross of a border collie and a miniature poodle. I badly wanted a Labradoodle but my physician-brother convinced me that a woman of my age with mobility problems does not need a dog that would be eighty lbs. at a minimum. So I opted for a smaller cross and, along with three children and three grandchildren, went to the kennel. The puppies were sweet but sleepy and passive—still only six weeks old. Then the breeder brought out Sophie. She was lively, mischievous, playful and irresistible. We all fell in love.
Sophie is not a perfect dog. In addition to occasional housebreaking mishaps, her unbounded enthusiasm and independent spirit gets us both in trouble. If anybody leaves a door a crack open, she is gone—headed for Canada. The only way to catch her is to drive by and open the car door—she loves cars. Even at thirty-two lbs., she is too strong for me to walk, although a younger neighbor occasionally walks her. She gets her exercise in the yard chasing squirrels. She is stubborn beyond belief—sometimes when I call her to come inside, she looks at me with an expression that says, “Really?” And doesn’t move. But she can be bribed with a treat.
She loves people and dogs but is sometimes wild in her greetings, bad about jumping on guests, until she calms down—which, now four, she eventually does. She has her favorites—my daughter and my grandson, a neighbor, the neighbor who tends my yard, almost anyone who gives her attention. Her fans, besides me, are legion.

Because I work at home, Sophie and I spend a lot of time alone together. She’s fierce about protecting me from unseen enemies—about half the time I can’t figure out what sets her off. In her crate, she is silent—off duty, as one neighbor says. If nothing alarms her, she’ll sleep in the easy chair in my office while I work. If I go to the kitchen, she follows, watching from a respectful distance in the dining room. If I nap, she goes to the dog bed. She is my shadow, giving me a much-needed sense of companionship by following me, staying wherever I am. Sometimes I talk over my problems with her—she’s an attentive listener.
She’s also the most vocal dog I’ve ever known. Many intonations and tones, from deep growls to almost a howling, that make us all wish we could speak “dog.” She so earnest about what she says to us. I answer conversationally and that sometimes satisfies her.
I cannot imagine life without a dog. Through a lifetime filled with dogs, I’ve loved them all—but Sophie is special. 

An award-winning novelist, Judy Alter is the author of six books in the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries series: Skeleton in a Dead Space, No Neighborhood for Old Women, Trouble in a Big Box, Danger Comes Home, Deception in Strange Places, and Desperate for Death. She also writes the Blue Plate Café Mysteries—Murder at the Blue Plate Café and Murder at the Tremont House and The Oak Grove Mysteries which debuted in 2014 with The Perfect Coed.
Her work has been recognized with awards from the Western Writers of America, the Texas Institute of Letters, and the National Cowboy Museum and Hall of Fame. She has been honored with the Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Achievement by WWA and inducted into the Texas Literary Hall of Fame.

Judy is retired as director of TCU Press and the mother of four grown children and the grandmother of seven. She and her dog, Sophie, live in Fort Worth, Texas.
Desperate for Death
Just when Kelly's life has calmed, she faces yet another of life's puzzles. Except the pieces in this one don't fit. First the apartment behind her house is torched, then a string of bizzare "accidents" occur to set her off-balance. Who is stalking her? Where does the disappearance of a young girl and her disreputable boyfriend fit in? And why are two men using the same name? Is the surprise inheritance another part of the puzzle? At a time when she is most vulnerable, Kelly can't make the pieces fit. Before Kelly can get the whole picture, she helps the family of a hostage, rescues a kidnap victim and attends a wild and wonderful wedding.


  1. Lovely blog about Sophie! I have a little love of my own who is my shadow as well. She'd loving and playful, and greets me like a long lost love whenever I return home from somewhere, even if I'm only out of the house long enough to walk to the mailbox and back. These precious gifts to mankind never judge, are completely devoted, and are willing to stand between us and danger, even though, like mine, they sometimes barely weigh twelve pounds. What a sweet read this morning! Thank you for sharing. :)

  2. Thanks for sharing your story and love for Sophie, Judy. It sounds like you and I have kindred doggie soul-mates, all stubbornness and fierce loyalty. Like you, I would never want to be without my furry daughter. Without Gracie I would never have made it through some of the challenges I have faced. Thanks again for your beautiful tribute to man's and woman's best friend.

  3. There's nothing like a dog's love and loyalty. One of my Aussies nudges my elbow if I've been sitting at my desk too long. We have backyard play sessions all day. Sophie sounds perfect for you! Thanks for sharing-

  4. We lost our ACD this week and are in deep mourning. Love your descriptions of life with Sophie. Thanks for sharing!

  5. I just asked my Lexie and Mystie what they thought about the topic of this blog and they licked me before telling me to leave my computer and take them outside.

  6. Thanks all. It's nice to meet so many dedicated dog lovers who understand how empty life without a dog would be. Sheri, I had an Aussie--he and Sophie had a year together before he died mostly of old age. He was the sweetest boy I've ever know, though he had been abused and had some baggage. Glad you all enjoyed meeting Sophie.

    1. I couldn't get the regular comments to work. Hope you don't mind I piggy-backed onto your comment.
      My dad had a one-eyed Golden Retriever named Sophie. My daughter, a brand new Vet Tech, couldn't believe when a breeder brought a puppy in with a cancerous eye to have it put down. My daughter asked the breeder if she could have the puppy. (She knew her granddad had a penchant for Golden Retrievers) The breeder said only if she made sure the puppy was spayed and couldn't reproduce. My daughter paid for the operation to get the bad eye removed and then called her granddad saying she needed help with something in her apartment. He set eyes on "Sophie" and they were inseparable until her passing two years ago. Dogs are truly our best friends and confidantes.

  7. I can't imagine a life without my 60 pound collie, who looks like the tricolor one at the top of this blog. Although, she doesn't sleep with me because like the collie I had before, she's afraid to go up the steep wooden steps that go to my upstairs, but when I'm downstairs she's usually close by. She's the sweetest thing who protects me against squirrels, rabbits and the garbage men. She barks at them either from outside close to the house or from the front window, and then beams with pride when they leave the garbage can and drive off. I enjoy my morning walks in the woods with her, too. She comes when called and knows her boundary limits which include my small farm and the four acres next door belonging to my son and daughter-in-law. Her biggest problem is wanting to talk to my youngest daughter or another friend when we talk on the floor. That and thinking she needs treats whenever she does something she thinks deserves one.