Meet Sophie, a ‘hero’ dog who helped save her Montreal owner from flesh-eating disease

Click to play video: 'Meet Sophie, a ‘hero’ dog who helped save her Montreal owner from flesh-eating disease'
Meet Sophie, a ‘hero’ dog who helped save her Montreal owner from flesh-eating disease
WATCH: More than a decade after one Pierrefonds man rescued his animal companion, he believes she has paid him back in kindness – saving him from a fatal disease. Global News’ Olivia O’Malley was there for the pair’s long-awaited reunion. – Mar 2, 2022

Andrew Lee had no idea that when his beloved senior springer spaniel woke him up one winter morning last December, that she was about to save his life.

It wasn’t a rare occurrence for Sophie, his 14-year-old rescue dog, to need to be let out in their Montreal home’s backyard in the middle of the night.

Lee, 55, said he didn’t understand why she wasn’t following him to the kitchen to the back door. That’s when he turned on the light to help guide the way since she doesn’t see as well in her old age.

“And I looked at her and the light from outside was shining on the floor of the kitchen and I see several pools of blood on the floor,” Lee said. “Which I quickly realized was coming from my foot.”

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The puddles of blood tracked through the kitchen, down the hallway and into the bedroom he shares with his wife Cathy.

“I knew I had a serious situation,” Lee said.

What happened next was swift. They called for an ambulance as Lee bandaged his foot and paramedics showed up within minutes shortly after 2 a.m. on Christmas Eve Day.

The ambulance rushed toward the closest hospital accepting patients into its emergency room, about 30 minutes away in Verdun. Until he arrived, Lee had no idea why his foot was bleeding profusely, as there had been no symptoms of necro leading up to when Sophie woke him up.

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“And sure enough, I was diagnosed with flesh eating disease, invading my foot, spreading the bacteria,” Lee said.

Andrew Lee and his dog, Sophie. She alerted him to a life-threatening condition by waking him up in the middle of the night. Global News

Necrotizing fasciitis is a rare and life-threatening bacterial infection that spreads quickly through the body. The British Columbia government reports that about one in four people who contract the disease die from it.

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Upon hearing his diagnosis, Lee said he knew he was going to “lose something out of this.” A wonderful surgeon pledged to do her best, but she was honest about the disease’s trajectory.

“She said, ‘Mr. Lee, I’m going to do my best to save your foot, but you might have to lose half your leg,'” he said.

Lee underwent two surgeries within as many days. His toes and part of his foot had to be removed in the second operation on Christmas Day — but his leg ended up being saved from the aggressive bacteria.

“I realize that people go through far worse situations, in particular dealing with this bacteria but I consider myself somewhat fortunate,” Lee said.

It all goes back to being woken up in the middle of the night by his dog and “those hours may have made a difference,” in a disease where time is of the essence.

“Sophie’s a hero,” Lee said, adding that he thinks the animal companion was paying him back in kindness after he adopted her more than a decade ago.

In the months that have followed, Lee has been recovering in hospital thanks to the efforts and care of his medical team. He has had rehabilitation therapy at LaSalle Hospital, where he has been focusing on his balance, co-ordination and walking.

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For the past three weeks, he has been practicing skills he never thought he would have to learn again.

“It has been a brand new thing for me,” he said. “You take these things for granted.”

After being released, what Lee is excited about is to make up for lost time. He is looking forward to a meal out and to gain more mobility.

He is also excited to spend time with his loved ones, including Sophie.

Lee plans on giving his furry friend a “gold pass” for her role that night, which means ice cream cones and walks when spring arrives. He also encourages anyone who is looking for a dog to consider rescue organizations.

“Please look to adopt,” he said. “I was certainly lucky to get Sophie.”

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