Meet Sophie: The Sweetest Dog Ever (And Winner Of Our Pet Portrait Contest)

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To celebrate National Dog Day earlier this year, we ran a pet photo contest on Facebook. The grand prize? A commissioned pet portrait from UGallery artist Lesli DeVito

We received a flood of adorable pet photos. Too many to choose just one! So we held a vote. The people spoke. And a winner was crowned (ahem, painted).

Meet Sophie, the most adorable rescue sheltie.

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Over the last month, while Lesli was hard at work, we got to learn about Sophie and her mama, Debbie. Her story is so sweet and wonderful that we had to share it here. Our voters couldn’t have picked a more deserving winner!

How did you come to adopt Sophie nine years ago?

Since I already had rescued two shelties, a friend contacted me saying the Houston Sheltie Rescue Sanctuary had just received a puppy in need of a home. When the rescue group brought her out for a meet and greet, I fell in love with her and adopted her that day. Sophie is the most playful of all my shelties. She LOVES, and I really mean LOVES, to give kisses! I tell everyone she kisses on the first date!

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Adorable! What is it about shelties that is so darn irresistible?

While I had dogs growing up as a child, I didn’t have them as an adult until my mid-40s. I adopted my first sheltie when a family going through a divorce needed to find a new home for their dog. I had Emma for two years before she died of cancer. I had another rescue sheltie that passed away a few years ago, and currently I have four rescue shelties. Sophie and Oliver, my latest rescue, are from the same local rescue group. Emmalea is from the Dallas area and Celie is from the Kansas City, KS rescue group. Celie was actually featured on Sarah McLachlan’s Million Dollar Rescue Commercial. She was rescued from a puppy mill and had a heart condition and was going to be euthanized. Money was raised to rescue her and the rescue group selected me to adopt her. They even drove all the way to Texas for me to adopt her!

Shelties have such sweet temperaments and are very easy to train. They are very loyal and friendly with all people. That is why I decided to get involved with pet therapy.

Here are my sweet pups. From left to right: Sophie, Celie, Oliver and Emmalea.

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Tell me more about your involvement with pet therapy.

The therapy group I am involved with, Faithful Paws, requires they be trained to “Canine Good Citizen” standards. Emmalea, Sophie and Oliver passed with no problems at all. Celie has a medical condition that prevents her from being trained as a therapy dog. Shelties want to please, so training them is very easy. It doesn’t hurt, when you reward them with a treat or two!  

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Do you have a a favorite Sophie story?

My sweetest story occurred during a recent pet therapy visit. I usually arrive a couple hours before the scheduled therapy visits so I can sit in the crosswalk and let visitors love on them. On a recent visit a man stopped me and said the last photo of his father being conscious was of him and my pups. The man was getting ready to go take him off life support. 

About an hour later as I was making visits, a nurse asked if I would assist in a patient’s passing. While always difficult for us humans, I knew my pups could handle it. The patient was that father of the man I had just spoken with. I placed Sophie and Emmalea in bed with the unconscious man and Emmalea stared very intently into his eyes and took her paw and patted his hand as if to tell him “everything was okay she was there for him”. 

Sophie, my sweet little kisser, went right up to him and kissed him on the cheeks. The family, the medical staff and I just laughed at seeing this sweet exchange. When they took him off life support and he passed, Sophie knew something had happened and her whole countenance changed. She became very sad and just got up and laid across his hand. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room. The family thanked me for allowing “my angels” to help him cross over to heaven. A beautiful moment I will never forget. 

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What role do your pups play in your life?

I got involved with pet therapy after realizing that I needed to give back to the community. It is a long story, but a blind woman at an airport taught me the importance of giving and meeting her changed my life. Just after I started pet therapy, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Something about hearing the news “you have a brain tumor” makes you search for the meaning of life.  

My pups have been with me on this journey from day one. As a matter of fact, I would not have found my Neurosurgeon Dr. Britz at Houston Methodist Hospital had I not been doing pet therapy. My pastor calls this “spiritual divine appointment.” Besides being a brilliant surgeon, Dr. Britz is a big dog lover as well. He always lets me bring my dogs with me to appointments. 

I always knew Sophie was amazing and now I have a very special painting to remind me of how special she is. Thank you Lesli DeVito….God has blessed you with an amazing talent and I am grateful you shared it with me!

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Thank You

Debbie, for your story and for sharing your beautiful dogs with all of us.

Sophie, for being such a good friend (and kisser). 

Lesli, for painting such a charming portrait of Sophie. 


We love learning the stories behind the artwork. If you’d like to commission a painting of your own, contact one our art advisors.