When Peggie Ergle adopted Sophie from the SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare in February, she had no idea that her new companion would soon save her life. Peggie had been widowed for the past couple of years and decided it was time she got a dog to keep her company. She came to the SPCA Albrecht Center looking for a larger dog, but fell in love with a two-year-old, Jack-Russell mix, who she ended up adopting.
From the moment Peggie took Sophie home, Sophie settled right in to a new routine. “The first night we got home, I told her ‘goodnight,’ and she beat me to the bed,” Peggie recalls. For the first month of their new lives together, everything was normal for the pair. They played catch, rode in the car and cuddled at night. But a month into their companionship, Sophie would do something that proved to her new mom how grateful she was for being adopted.
A couple of weeks ago, Peggie woke up at 1 a.m. to find her power was out. She checked all around her house for the source of the outage, but could not find anything out of the ordinary. Peggie decided to go back to bed with Sophie and figure out the issue in the morning. Not long after the pair got settled back into bed, Peggie heard a loud bang coming from the door to her carport. At first, she thought it was a fire, but little did she know, someone was trying to break in. Peggie clearly remembers how startling the sound was, “I never heard a sound like it. It sounded like something blew up. It didn’t sound like breaking in.”
Peggie looked to Sophie and told her “we’ve got to get out of here,” still thinking her house was on fire. Peggie made her way to her cellphone, and then down the hallway to the kitchen to grab her car keys, but Sophie sensed that they weren’t in the house alone and took off after the intruder. Peggie didn’t realize yet, but Sophie had chased the burglar down the street and came back home before Peggie even had the chance to call law enforcement.
As the police arrived, the pieces of the early morning’s events came together. Law enforcement showed Peggie where the burglar had taken down the meter to her house and cut all of her wires, perhaps thinking it was wiring to security cameras. They showed her the door that had been forcefully knocked clean off its hinges, sending some of the door pieces 18-feet and damaging her carport stairs’ wrought-iron railing. They also told Peggie of the prints they found leading to the tire tracks of an alleged getaway car, where Sophie had chased them off.
After 49 years in her home without any issues, Peggie was finding it hard to believe what just happened, but one thing was clear; Sophie had just saved her adopter’s life. Peggie is beyond grateful for her companion’s loyalty: “She was out of bed and out of the house before I could get to the kitchen. She was gone and she took off after them. If it wasn’t for her, there’s no telling what they would have done to me. I know she saved my life.” Until sunrise, the police stayed near Peggie’s house, her daughter came to check on her and her son stayed with her until her power was fixed and they could get her a new door. Peggie’s kids were livid about the break-in, but thankful for Sophie’s quick actions, “My kids said I need to reward her because she saved my life.”
Law enforcement told Peggie they had reason to believe that the intruder knew she lived alone and probably staked out her residence. An SPCA employee, living in the same area as Peggie, saw a Facebook post warning single women of multiple other incidents in that area:
Peggie was unaware of this post when she told SPCA employees she noticed some men allegedly collecting cans on her road for five hours. She felt it was suspicious, but did not take action at the time and wishes she had. With watchdog Sophie by her side, Peggie is now taking extra precautions and police are on standby to ensure nothing like this happens again. Good girl, Sophie!
Claire Grimes is the SPCA Albrecht Center’s Development Director. She is an Aiken native, but spent some college years in Charleston, interning with Charleston Animal Society. She is excited to be working in animal welfare in her hometown and is proud of the community efforts to better the lives of Aiken’s animals. Her family includes her husband, Logan, a SPCA adopted black lab, Ozzy, a SPCA adopted Siamese mix, Luna, and Claire’s first love, Anakin, a 17-pound rescued Maine Coon mix.