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Sora

Sora Hocholongo, née Gracie, and affectionately also known as Borba, Borbatov, and the Toffee celebrated her chosen birth date on January 24th 2005. With bravery, dignity, and yes, grace, she made her way peacefully to the Rainbow Bridge on October 10th, 2018. Picked up as a three-year-old stray in 2008 in Tri Cities, WA, found herself at Family Dogs New Life shelter in Portland, Oregon where her sky blue eyes seduced her Pappaz, Dave Hoch to come and meet her.  Smitten by her piercing stare, he took her home that same day, February 9, 2008..

In the weeks following, she lived up to Dave’s mission of rescuing a project dog: she chewed the drywall in his apartment, cried all day while he was at work (nearly resulting in an eviction), and took out some of her boredom on her brother, Maxwell. Dave had to have his apartment carpet replaced when he moved thanks to daily welcome home pees. Sora introduced Dave to the power of positive reinforcement and treats (lots of treats). Working together, Sora overcame her fear of being alone.

Uncertain how to behave like a pet, Sora feared stairs, linoleum floors, had never seen a dog bed, nor received affection from humans. Her brothers Maxwell and Tucker who guided her toward learning to trust people and act like a normal dog. She participated in agility, hiking, backpacking, overnighters at retired fire towers , and sheep herding. Sora excelled in sheep herding and the activity left her mentally exhausted and more confident with her fears. She eventually reached the highest training level and found herself less and less afraid of people and new dogs.

Before you hit the trails with your four-legged pal, read these tips on running with a dog.

In 2012, Sora was introduced to her Mammaz, Jen Sotolongo and bonded with her immediately. Absolutely enamored with her Mammaz, Sora would wait by the door when she was out of sight, whether she was in the bathroom or at work. And when they were at home, together, Sora sat velcroed to her side.

Together, they covered at least a thousand miles running over wooded trails. Sora joyously served as a dutiful training partner to Jen’s long marathon and ultramarathon training sessions, even joining her for the 20-mile Peterson Ridge Rumble in Sisters, Oregon. In an astonishing feat in her senior years, she enthusiastically completed not one, but two 15+ mile runs, shortly after recovering from surgery and cancer treatment.

More than a project dog, what Dave sought was an adventure dog. Sora embraced the role with enthusiasm, prancing along mountain trails, sticking her face in the snow, and putting mountain goats to shame with her rock scrambling skills. She rolled in dead and putrid things, including a skunk on her first outing with Dave. Even during her final days, she perked up at the sight of a dirt path.

Most famously, Sora convinced her humans to take her on the adventure of a lifetime: a bicycle tour across Europe and South America. For two years, the three spent nearly every second together, camping under the stars and in the rain, pedaling some 10,000 miles through the woods, over deserts and salt flats, and up grueling mountain passes. This journey inspired humans around the world to bring their dogs along on more adventures.

Sora met hundreds of people from all different cultures and changed the minds of those who don’t care for dogs, exemplifying how animals are members of the family. She offered comfort to travelers who missed their pets back home by offering a soft, warm body to pet.

Up for any adventure, Sora adapted beautifully to life on the road. She once had to sneak across international borders, concealed by her bicycle trailer. When hotels turned her away, she slept with her humans in abandoned homes, shipping containers, farm houses, and police stations. Many welcomed Sora and her humans into their homes, entering as strangers and leaving as good friends, some ignoring the rules of religion or assumed beliefs about dogs. She stowed away as a passenger on a bus in Peru, dodging the careful eye of the police. Sora summited heights of more than 16,000 feet and huddled together in between her humans in temperatures below 20°F.

Over the course of her bicycle journey, and travels before and after the trip, Sora visited 29 countries on three continents, arriving by bike, train, car, plane, and boat. Stories of her travels are shared in various publications and she was selected for the cover of the April 2018 issue of Adventure Cyclist magazine.

An proponent of adoption, Sora accepted the job as the Spokesdog for Adoption in the city of Medellín, Colombia. Working with animals rights group Defenzoores, she advocated for the adoption and rescue of the abandoned animals roaming city streets and crowding shelters. She stood in front of city council, was the honored guest of a community panel, and made a television appearance, demonstrating the benefits of rescue while her humans shared her story.

Sora's Rise to Fame: Promoting Animal Adoption with Defenzoores in Medellin | Long Haul Trekkers

A typical Aussie, Sora cautiously approached new people, learning to understand the good in others during her two years of travel. She met people of different cultures and religions from all over the world and slowly learned to trust humans after living in fear for much of her life. Her loving personality and vivacity touched the lives of tens of thousands of people.

Aside from spending time in the outdoors with her humans, Sora was most passionate about food, especially bread. She was known steal it from your hands if you weren’t careful. After food, Sora indulged heavily in sheep poop. She especially enjoyed when camping in herding paths in Greece and Turkey.

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Above all, Sora adored nothing more than her humans, her affection unmistakably evidenced by the doting gaze they would exchange throughout the day. In the mornings, she would do “roly polies” where she would squeeze between them in bed, roll on her back, and proceed to demand belly rubs.

Sora’s youthful appearance fooled anyone who asked her age. No one believed she was a senior dog, for she hiked, jumped, ran, and played like any young pup. It wasn’t until the last few weeks of her time on Earth when she began to prepare for her next adventure. Having faithfully completed her duties to her beloved humans, and to all the friends she met along her life’s journey. She will be reunited with her brother Maxwell and feline sibling, Nima at the Rainbow Bridge.

Sora made friends with her oncology team in Spain.

Her bravery and strength emerged during the last three years of her life, as she fended off a recurring nerve sheath cancerous tumor that presented in her right leg. The first two occurrences were small tumors, both removed during the bicycle journey. The final two were larger and more aggressive, requiring different treatment methods. Ultimately, it is likely that the cancer spread to her lungs six months after her final surgery. Still, her intrepid spirit overshadowed the cancer and she left this world in high spirits.

She leaves behind her Pappaz, Dave Hoch, who dedicated hours upon hours to transform his anxious project dog into an exemplary canine citizen; her Mammaz, Jen for whom Sora was the greatest gift in her life; and her sister Laila, who tolerated Sora’s twice daily, post meal humping sessions.

If you feel so inclined, please consider a donation to the Brodie Fund in Sora’s name. This incredible organization provides financial assistance to families who have pets fighting cancer. They believe that no pet should be denied the treatments they need in the fight of their lives because of the owner’s inability to pay. A recipient of a Brodie Fund Grant, Sora’s family expresses profound gratitude for the organization.

 

Jen Sotolongo

Jen is the Chief Storyteller and Photographer for the Long Haul Trekkers. Born with the travel bug, she has lived in Spain, Chile, and New Zealand. When she’s not galavanting around the world by bicycle, she is running long distances in the woods, exploring nature, or whipping up delicious vegan meals. She is always planning her next adventure.

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