Terrier flies home to Kentucky

Sophie, the missing Yorkshire terrier, was in safe hands all along.

Thursday, the little dog boarded an American Airlines flight to Kentucky, completed her 2,200-mile trek and was back in her owner's arms.

"It's an absolute miracle," Tim Sandifer, 44, said Friday from his home in Louisville, Ky.

Four months ago Sandifer was struck by a truck as he sat in a North Carson Street vacant lot with the 21-year-old Sophie. Sandifer lapsed in and out a coma for a week at Washoe Medical Center.

When he was well enough, he came back to Carson City on a futile search for Sophie. Dejected and battered, the heartbroken Sandifer boarded a bus to Kentucky and went home.

He didn't know that caring strangers had taken in the tiny silver dog when they spotted her running across Russett Street a block from the accident. The date was Aug. 1. They called her Augusta.

For Ray and Colleen Greeninger, Augusta was a blessing. She lightened the spirits in the couples' west-side apartment.

"We became so dog-oriented," Colleen, 71, said. "Ray even built a little rack for Gussie to sit on in our motor home so she could look out the window."

Colleen fashioned clothing for Gussie out of infant jumpers she bought at FISH. The Greeningers took the dog for a checkup, where she got a rabies shot and, just in case, puppy boosters. They had no idea she was nearly a quarter-century old.

"Gussie just became a part of our lives. She went every where that we went. We loved her dearly. She was the most adorable little creature," Colleen said.

Colleen read a story in the Nevada Appeal on Nov. 5 about Sandifer's search for Sophie. She sent him an e-mail.

"Call this number and ask for Gus," she wrote in the e-mail. When Sandifer called and inquired about Gus, Colleen told him: "We have your dog."

Now that Sophie had been located, though, the dog needed a way to get home.

John Weinrich of Dayton had read the same Appeal story. He and his fiancée, Jody Pruitt, went looking at the apartments near where Sandifer's accident happened. They eventually met up with the Greeningers.

Through a series of phone calls, Weinrich made arrangements with Jay Bates, general manager at Michael Hohl Motors, to pay for a plane ticket. S & W Feed donated a kennel, and Sierra Veterinary Hospital offered to do the free health exam required by the airlines. American Airlines agreed to allow Sophie to ride in the cabin with the passengers.

On Thursday morning, Weinrich picked up Sophie from the Greeningers and put her on a plane in Reno.

She was greeted in Louisville by a tearful Sandifer.

"I opened the cage and she started licking me in the face and started kissing me," he said. "And she kept looking around. I think she was looking for Ray and Colleen."

Colleen said she and Ray are glad to be able to give her back to Sandifer.

"We were just so happy that she is being reunited with her rightful owner and everything's fine," Colleen said.

When Yorkshire terrier breeder Clara Jones in Silver Springs heard of the Greeningers' situation, she offered them another Yorkie.

Colleen was excited by the gesture.

"Maybe we could look at the doggie and, if she likes us, we can bring her home," she said, a lilt in her voice. "You know, we didn't do anybody a favor; it was a favor to us to have Gussie."

During their first night reunited, Sandifer fed Sophie her favorite cookies. He said she always hides them because she doesn't want other dogs to get them. Everywhere she went in the house, she found cookies she'd hidden before.

"Didn't neither one of us sleep last night," he said with a chuckle Friday. "Sophie had cookies to bury and I kept waking up to see I'm not dreaming."


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