ANTIOCH -- When a life is at stake, some look to others to intercede, and others take action.

Sophie's salvation is the story of both. And thanks to the diligence of a group of pet lovers, she is now safe in a foster home.

The young German Shepherd was wandering Antioch last fall when a delivery driver snapped a photo of her and posted it on Fido Alert -- East Contra Costa County, a Facebook page dedicated to reuniting lost pets with their owners.

The alert triggered a response from others who also had spotted the dog with the faded red collar roaming the area from Hillcrest Avenue to Cavallo Road and crossing heavily trafficked East 18th Street.

Although some said they had tried catching the skittish animal, others did nothing.

Sophie (Courtesy of Kim Wagner)
Sophie (Courtesy of Kim Wagner)

"A lot of times people would post saying, 'Why don't you get that dog off the streets?' Or (they'd) say, 'Somebody should do something.' My point is that you should be that somebody," said Catriona Cottle, who helps maintain the Fido Alert website.

More photos of the strikingly beautiful stray began appearing on the Facebook site, followed by reports that it was following a woman with a small dog.

Then one day, a Fido Alert supporter who helps the group distribute food to homeless individuals and their pets saw the German Shepherd at an encampment where the pair was living.

The dog's name was Sophie, they learned, and she shadowed the woman who had been feeding her so closely that passing drivers would throw leashes out their windows and shout at her to restrain her pet.


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More information about the dog's former life surfaced through Fido Alert's network of animal lovers: A man had adopted Sophie from an abusive home, but she escaped the yard one day last August while he was at work. He put up fliers without success and two months later moved out of town.

By now word of Sophie's life on the streets had spread and would-be good Samaritans were showing up at the homeless camp in search of her, so Fido Alert decided it had to act quickly.

"She wasn't ready to go into a home," Cottle said. "She'd been on the streets for eight months or more, and if they didn't have a plan after they caught her and took her to the shelter, she would have been highly agitated."

Last month, the Oakley resident and five other animal lovers began devising their own plans to capture her.

Canvassing businesses in the area that Sophie frequented led them to a sports complex whose proprietor had seen her walk through the front door of the gym and out the back more than once.

He also owned the unoccupied house next door that had a chain-link fence around it; would they like to try to corral the dog there?

And so on June 18, a half-dozen Fido Alert subscribers gathered at the property and, as Cottle videotaped the proceedings, Sophie followed the homeless woman she had bonded with into the enclosure.

A member of the group took over and began trying to lure the wary dog to within arm's reach by tossing chunks of venison, chicken, raw salmon and hot dogs as she kept up a soothing monologue.

"She was not having any of it," said Danville resident Kim Wagner, who would edge closer only for Sophie to retreat.

A half-hour passed. Then another. And another.

But as time wore on, Sophie gradually let down her guard, and after nearly two hours, Wagner gently slipped a leash over her head.

The women quickly loaded the flea-ridden dog into a crate and took her to a local veterinary hospital, where she received shots and deworming medication.

From there, a volunteer for a Livermore-based rescue group drove Sophie to a foster home in Central California that rehabilitates abused and neglected dogs.

Cottle since has created a second Facebook page, called "Be That Somebody," in hopes of encouraging others to get involved when they see an animal in need.

"We were just five ladies who decided we were going to rescue a German Shepherd off the streets, and we did it -- and that was after hundreds of other people seeing that same dog and not doing a thing about it," she said.

Contact Rowena Coetsee at 925-779-7141. Follow her at Twitter.com/RowenaCoetsee.