Eight days in Louisiana has led to nearly two decades of love between Sequim’s Hope Stime and a family of dogs.
Stime, a retired hairdresser, received some local press for her efforts to support animals following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 in the New Orleans area, where she flew “on a wing and a prayer.”
There she met Sweetie Pie, a frail, nearly hairless mixed chow and shepherd who had been stuck in a mud pit.
Stime adopted Sweetie Pie, and coincidentally years later had an opportunity to adopt one of the dog’s now-grown pups and her puppies from a similar situation.
This is how Stime helped rescue and raise three generations of a dog family.
A native of Sinai, South Dakota, Stime said she always had a love for animals, raising cocker spaniels for decades on the Olympic Peninsula.
She owned Park Place Market in downtown Sequim and retired as a hairdresser. At age 59 she saw the impact of the Hurricane Katrina on television reports and felt the need to help.
She took a red-eye flight on Sept. 19, 2005, and eventually found her way to meet up with crew members with Pasado’s Safe Haven Animal Rescue from Washington state.
On her first full day in Louisiana she met Sweetie Pie, then living in a kennel with a warning sign label because of her reported unfriendly behavior.
“No one could touch her, so they put her in the way back with yellow caution,” Stime said. “I went back there and just talked to her for awhile. Right away, I felt that connection.
“It was one of God’s miracles I was drawn to her and we bonded right away.”
With animal rescue efforts, Stime estimates they were saving as many as 50 animals each night, many of them trapped under porches and in other enclosures.
She told the Peninsula Daily News in a Sept. 29, 2005 story that “every dog that looked at you, you knew everyone had a story. And not a good one.”
Before she left on Sept. 27, Stime said she crawled into the kennel with Sweetie Pie because she didn’t want to leave her.
“In all the days I was there she never licked me, but on the last day she gave me a good lick on the side of the face,” she said.
In an Oct. 26, 2005 interview with the Sequim Gazette, Stime said doctors thought Sweetie pie was pregnant, that her uterus was infected and six times larger than normal and needed to be removed. The veterinarian also believed the dog had puppies prior to the hurricane, Stime said.
Soon after leaving, she learned from her new animal rescue friend Joe Dubois that rescued, recuperate animals were being sent to rescues/adoption centers across the nation, and Sweetie Pie may be coming to Seattle.
At the Boeing Airfield, Stime found Sweetie Pie again in a kennel with a yellow caution sign.
“It was dark so it was hard to see, but I put my hand out on the cage and a wet nose hit my hand,” she said.
“It was probably one of the happiest times of my life.”
Stime adopted Sweetie Pie on Oct. 12, 2005 and lived until June 19, 2008. It’s unknown how old Sweetie Pie was when adopted and who the dog’s owners were despite attempts to find them, Stime said.
Four months after Sweetie Pie’s passing, Stime got another call from De Bois that three dogs were found with an eerie similarity to Sweetie Pie in the same approximate area.
“‘You won’t believe it’ he told me,” Stime said.
She received a photo of the mama, Sweetie Bear, and it looked just like Sweetie Pie.
“I couldn’t believe what I saw, and I felt they had to be related,” Stime said.
The mama dog and her puppies Ella and Lucy were found in a ditch on April 1, 2008, and treated for heartworm, she said.
“He told me about her, and it was like Sweetie Pie all over again,” Stime said.
The three dogs were nursed back to health and shipped to Seattle for adoption on Oct. 12, 2008, the same day as Sweetie Pie’s adoption years prior.
Stime said after a short time the likenesses began to sink in, such as Sweetie Pie and Sweetie Bear’s mutual love for a pink chair.
“(Sweetie Pie) lived in this chair and died in this chair. It was her chair, and four months later (Sweetie Bear) took over that chair,” Stime said.
A mutual taste for furniture was one thing, but she believes their uncommon mixed breed, black tongues, similar demeanor and where they were rescued is too similar to be coincidence.
“I believe it’s a miracle,” Stime said.
“When you think about it, it’s truly unbelievable. I don’t tell many people but I don’t make things up to feel better.”
Sweetie Bear is now about 16-years-old, Stime estimates and possibly in her last years with issues walking and other ailments.
“I believe she’s staying alive for her pups (who are 13),” she said.
Stime is single with no children, but she said she feels her dogs are family and “mean everything to me.”
She said, “I think of this (story) as a continuation of a family.”