Soldier Home from Iraq Is Reunited with Dog Treated for Brain Tumor

Sophie and Her Soldier

Sophie with Brandon

Sophie at LSU
Sophie with glasses


Originally published September 27, 2022

Brandon and Sophie, the family’s miniature schnauzer, grew up together as best friends. Sophie slept on Brandon’s bed, kept him company in the garage when he rebuilt his car in high school, and followed him wherever she could, according to Brandon’s dad, David. But she couldn’t follow Brandon when he was deployed overseas with the U.S. Army for nine months. 

During the time Brandon was stationed on the other side of the world, Sophie was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

“I didn’t know if my son and Sophie would see each other again,” David said.

Brandon flew home to see Sophie at Christmas 2020. Before returning to Louisiana, he had to quarantine in Alaska. Meanwhile, Sophie was undergoing treatment at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine’s oncology service.

“We treated Sophie with radiation. Our first goal was to get her to see Brandon again when he came home for Christmas,” said Jennifer Merkle, DVM, radiation oncology resident. 

When Brandon finally arrived at the New Orleans airport, Sophie was there to enthusiastically greet her best friend after a lengthy absence.

“Watching Sophie see him again was the best Christmas gift for us,” said David, who sent Dr. Merkle a video of the reunion. 

“I love the joy she shows when she sees him after so long. It’s always wonderful to see happy moments when the quality of their life is good. It’s the most rewarding of what we do in oncology,” said Dr. Merkle.

The first indication something was off with Sophie came in May 2020, when she had a seizure. Seizures are caused by inflammation associated with a tumor and happen when the brain gets overwhelmed and sends out too many signals at once. 

David Moores, DVM (LSU 2003), Sophie’s primary care veterinarian at Tchefuncte Animal Hospital in Madisonville, La., diagnosed her with the tumor. She was also seen by veterinary neurologist Roy “Boogie” Yates, Jr., DVM, of Baton Rouge Veterinary Specialists. Sophie was referred to the Oncology service at LSU Vet Med for radiation therapy.

“When we radiate dogs with brain tumors, we expect the seizures to continue but with less frequency. Along with radiation, anti-inflammatory steroids and anti-convulsant drugs are prescribed. Dogs like Sophie remain on the medications for the rest of their lives,” Dr. Merkle said.

With treatments, survival time is expected to be about one year or more. Sophie’s seizures became less frequent, an indication the treatments were helping. 

“It takes a few months to see a difference,” Dr. Merkle said.

Sophie was a favorite when at LSU Vet Med. “She stayed near us when at the hospital. She worked her way around to all of our desks. The same students took care of her on each visit because they have a bond with their patients,” Dr. Merkle said.

When Brandon’s parents brought Sophie to LSU Vet Med in January for a checkup, Brandon had already returned to Alaska.  

As of May of 2021, Sophie has been seizure-free since January. Her monthly treatments were reduced to once every three months because she has been doing so well. 

“We’re thankful for everyone at the LSU vet school,” David said


Sandra Sarr, MFA

Communications Manager