It was a beautiful day on the water, and Jen Maxwell was taking full advantage of the weather on a pair of water skis.
Her wife, Kristi, watched from the boat, when suddenly, a small form sailed through the air toward the water. Well, specifically, toward Jen.
Jen and Kristi’s tiny dog, Sophie, had decided that she wasn’t so sure about her mom being on the water skis, and that a rescue was in order.
“Sophie cannot swim,” says Kristi. “Of course, we jumped in and got her.”
Sophie’s tiny frame belies a unique confidence that the two San Francisco locals first saw years ago, before they ever met their dog. Kristi and Jen fell in love with the starring canine in the movie, “As Good As It Gets.” Wiry-haired, light brown, with large, wide-set eyes, Brussels Griffons are independent and smart. Their cuddly look has prompted Star Wars fans to compare the breed to the adorable, fuzzy tree-dwellers called Ewoks.
Even though they’d known immediately which breed was for them, Jen and Kristi waited 13 years to become dog owners. They’d had cats in the past, but they knew this would be a bigger commitment. Finally in 2004, they drove to San Jose to pick up a three-month-old, two-pound Brussels Griffon of their own. Sophie was immediately the center of their lives.
“We don’t have kids,” Kristi says, “so we spend a lot of time with our pets.”
Sophie’s personality immediately shined through.
“She is confident, but a little hesitant,” says Kristi. “We grab her and kiss her and hold her, and she’s like, I can’t wait to get down. But she loves to be with her humans.”
Now 12 years old, Sophie has traveled frequently with her moms. She goes boating, hangs out in the snow, and visits her grandparents.
Luckily, Sophie doesn’t have to travel far to hang out with her best friend, with whom she has a standing daily commitment.
“Every morning, Sophie finishes her breakfast, waits by the back door, and up she goes into the neighbor’s place. They have a cat that’s the same age as Sophie, and the two of them hang out. They roll around on the floor. We can be in our flat, and hear her up there.”
As Sophie got older, she began to have health issues. She had a heart murmur, and her teeth were sensitive, so she struggled to eat. Jen and Kristi’s veterinarian didn’t want to risk treating anything because of the adverse effects it could have on Sophie’s other problems.
“I thought last year she was on her way out,” Kristi says.
It was pure chance, an emergency visit, that brought Sophie to Mission Pet.
“I thought that Sophie’s heart disease would continue to go downhill rapidly,” Kristi says.
But Dr. Curtis Press didn’t see it that way.
“He said, ‘No, we can manage this,’” Kristi recalls. “He said he wanted to look at this holistically. He was the first one to give us hope.”
Throughout the year, Sophie had a heart murmur. She never liked her mouth touched. There were some dental issues, but Kristi and Jen had been told that the heart condition should be prioritized.
“But we were doing it completely backwards!” says Kristi. “Until we met Curtis, no one addressed that these were the problems we should be looking at.”
As a general practitioner, Dr. Press could see the way that each specialized problem affected everything else.
“He had all these fantastic ideas,” says Kristi.
Hearing a radically new approach with your pet’s health on the line is understandably scary. But after they spoke with Dr. Press, Jen and Kristi were convinced that they wanted to tackle problems that they’d been told were impossible to treat.
When he went in for oral surgery, Dr. Press had to remove 16 teeth.
“It wasn’t the heart that was killing her, it was the teeth,” Kristi says. “He pulled her through it. Coming to him was the best thing we ever did.”
Jen and Kristi suddenly saw a dog that, for years,
they had thought was gone.
They noticed a new brightness in Sophie’s eyes.
“That was the turning point where she was a new dog.
I really believe that working with Curtis has given her a new life.”
Kristi and Jen say they felt “ashamed” at first, knowing that Sophie was suffering for so long.
“But on the flip side of that, it’s so awesome,” Kristi says. “Sophie is back to having her quality of life, even at her age.”
Now, at age 12, Sophie might be a little slower than she once was. But she still can’t wait to play upstairs. She once again eats “like a machine.”
And most important of all, she’s at-the-ready to save her moms if they even think about hopping onto any water skis.