Mike and Alyson

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‘We brought forward Xmas for our dying dog’

When Alyson Page discovered her Christmas-loving pooch was terminally ill, she treated her to an early Yuletide with all the trimmings

Animal lover Alyson Page was devastated when she was told her beloved St Bernard dog Sophia was terminally ill.

But the devoted owner vowed Sophia wouldn’t miss out on her favourite time of year and moved the family’s Christmas celebrations forward.

Alyson, 31, lives in Leigh, Lancashire, with husband Michael, 37, a handyman, their daughter Lillyth, one, and their other dog, Yogi.

Alyson says: “We were heartbroken when, in June, Sophia was diagnosed with bone cancer and given only weeks to live – but we were determined to give her a good send-off. Sophia had always loved Christmas, so

we recreated it for her. Her tail didn’t stop wagging! I feel comforted knowing she had the send-off she deserved.”

The couple, who met in 2005, got Sophia in 2009 as an eight-week-old pup. “When we saw her, we fell in love,” says Alyson. “She was very playful.”

SNOW-LOVING SOPHIA Alyson soon noticed Sophia’s love of Christmas. She says: “Cold, snowy conditions are a St Bernard’s natural environment. With her big, warm coat, Sophia adored the cold weather, which meant that Christmas was her favourite time. For a fewyears, we had heavy snow in the winter, and she loved it. She also loved ripping wrapping paper and opening bones. She enjoyed turkey and roast potatoes, so

Christmas dinner was perfect for her. We’d get her an advent calendar of doggy treats, and she wore a Santa hat every year.”

A year later, the couple adopted a second St Bernard, Yogi, now five. And last November, after their first cycle of IVF, the couple completed their family when they welcomed daughter Lillyth, now one.

Alyson says: “IVF was hard but Sophia was a wonderful support. Whenever I was upset, she was there for a cuddle. Sophia was very maternal with Lillyth too. She’d check on her when she cried and was always by her side, especially when we had guests.”

DEVASTATING NEWS Sadly, in June, Sophia became unwell and was diagnosed with untreatable bone cancer and given just weeks to live.

“It was absolutely devastating,” says Alyson. “But instead of dwelling on our sadness, we decided to make Sophia’s last days count by bringing forward her favourite time of year to July.

“We cooked turkey with all the trimmings. And we took her to Chill Factore, an indoor ski centre. When the management heard her story, they allowed Sophia to roll around in the snow. She loved it and was yelping like a puppy. I was sobbing and laughing at the same time.”

Sadly, just a few days after her final “Christmas,” Sophia died with Mike and Alyson by her side.

Alyson says: “It broke my heart to say goodbye. Christmas will never be the same without her, but we take huge comfort from knowing we made her last Christmas special.”


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... HOLLYWOOD.HOLLYWOOD, CA.AUGUST 21, 2004..ALYSON STONER.MIKE JOHNSON

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