Angel, Our Beloved Girl
2006 - 2019
"Because of the dog’s joyfulness, our own is increased. It is no small gift. It is not the least reason why we should honor as well as love the dog of our own life, and the dog down the street, and all the dogs not yet born. What would the world be like without music or rivers or the green and tender grass? What would this world be like without dogs?" - Mary Oliver, Dog Songs
April 18th would have been our beloved Angel’s 13th birthday. We were so hoping she would be here to celebrate it, but unfortunately her illness took her far more quickly than we were anticipating, on April 3rd, which had us commemorating it without her, and still grieving her terribly. We send so many thanks to Lasting Paws for treating her with care and compassion, and for exhibiting such kindness to us too.
She was our miracle, a truly special girl and precious little soul. Saying I dreamed of or wanted a dog my entire life doesn’t even fairly capture it - I yearned for a dog, more than anything else that could ever be offered to me. There were multiple obstacles that made this impossible while I was growing up, so it remained my fondest continual wish. By 2006, the onset of chronic illness had radically altered my life. I was suffering so much from the pain and frailty of my body, and from the sudden isolation. My mom and I decided to start looking in earnest for a puppy we could bring into our family, and eventually the timing perfectly aligned, and we found our girl.
She was 14 weeks old, so sweet and yet also very feisty and stubborn. She had been the smallest in her litter, and her five brothers and sisters pushed her around and never let her eat enough, so she had to learn to stand up for herself. The first time we met her, she perseveringly climbed up onto the back of the sofa to be as close to us as possible, to sniff us and kiss our faces. She was silly and affectionate, and of course I instantly fell in love with her. She was meant to be ours.
The gate to temporarily keep her in the kitchen overnight didn’t work at all, she was too smart for that. She squeezed out and promptly came into my room, whimpered on my floor until I turned to look at her, and waited for me to pick her up. I put her on the bed, she stole a pillow, and that was our story almost every night for the rest of her life. She was the best companion and cuddler from the start.
She was the most incredible blessing, and every day, no matter how sick I was, no matter how devastated I felt by anything else happening in my existence or the world, she gave me a reason to get up, to carry on. Not only because she depended on me - and that’s no small thing, having a dear, bright life that needs you to look after her - but because she was so boundless in her exuberance, her light, her love for everything and everyone. She believed all people and animals (I would say obviously other dogs, but honestly she seemed to like kitties most of all) should be her friends, and did her very best to charm them. She was excited to wake up in the morning, and she would bounce on me with her tail wagging in circles. She loved cozy things, pillows and stuffed animals and blankets and warm laundry; she loved soothing instrumental music and would settle right down to sleep when I put on her favorites (we even made sure to play music for her on her last day). She loved to play and growl and zoom around from room to room at top speed, she loved to lay in the sun and look out the window, she loved baby carrots and apple slices and was the cutest when she crunched them. She listened to me sing to her with rapt attention, and when we talked to her, she liked to talk back with various small barks and grumbles while inquisitively tilting her head. She had a mind of her own and liked to arrange things however she wanted them; she waved her paws constantly, and it meant different things depending on what she was asking us. She never stopped giving kisses, and this went double whenever one of us was crying, as she saw it as her comforting duty to lick away our tears. In her very last hour, when she hadn’t had anything to eat or drink for almost two days, when I was suddenly forced into making a decision I wasn’t ready to make, when all I wanted was to bring her home and tears were streaming down my face, she still sat up to kiss them away. It’s been hard having so many endless tears to shed since we lost her, and not having her in our laps to take care of us.
I’m convinced she did take care of me, more than I did for her. I called her my little nurse a lot, because she always knew when I was more sick than usual, and she worried and fussed around me, and tucked herself in by my side, and wouldn’t leave me. Even as isolated as I am due to being homebound, I was never lonely while she was in my life, she was always there to reassure me. She sensed so many of our moods, and she was so empathetic that we’d try not to get too upset around her because she would react with concern. When my anxiety and panic attacks began getting worse, and when my POTS became more severe, I truly began to realize how much she helped me, how her being near me calmed my tension, eased my physical pain, how running my fingers through her incredibly soft curls immediately lowered my heart rate, and that’s when I had her certified as my emotional support animal. She’d been doing that job from the start, so she deserved the title officially.
When I dreamed of a dog as a child, I wanted to use the name Angel because I love angels, because it made me think of sweetness and light, so that was the obvious name for her, and it was so true. She was my guardian and my salvation and truly my Angel all these years, but she was something else that word connotes too. She was a warrior Angel. She was unbelievably strong and courageous, she fought so hard to live, and all she wanted was to stay with us. She was made of that pure goodness, and she was also brave and resilient. We called her bunches of nicknames - our diamond, our flower, our princess, our sugar, our baby, but she was profoundly an Angel most of all.
She and I had a unique relationship because we were almost always together, every minute, every day, every year. Not everyone understands the depth of connection knitted deep into our spirits that one can have with a beautiful living being, but experiencing it was a gift beyond any measurement words can give. I never left her for more than a few hours at the time. I never spent a night without her, except when she was in the hospital. She was my constant; my warm, fluffy baby, my treasure, and that life and happiness was everything. My dad acknowledged that, for me, losing her was much more like losing a child, because we were so bonded, so unbreakably close, and that is irreplaceable. For my mom and me, she was our world.
I read Dog Songs as we were losing her, and Mary Oliver captured the adoration and the acute sadness exquisitely. "So, that deepest sting: sorrow. Still, is she gone from us entirely, or is she part of that other world, everywhere?" One of her poems was for her own Bichon, Percy, and these lines conjured Angel: "For she was made small but brave of heart. For she could be silly and noble in the same moment. For she listened to poems as well as love-talk. For when she sniffed it was as if she were being pleased by every part of the world. For when she sickened she rallied as many times as she could. For she was a mixture of gravity and waggery. For there was nothing sweeter than her peace when at rest. For there was nothing brisker than her life when in motion. For when I went away she would watch for me at the window. For she loved me. For when she lay down to enter sleep she did not argue about whether or not God made her. For she could fling herself upside down and laugh a true laugh. For I often see her shape in the clouds and this is a continual blessing." She also wrote: "It is almost a failure of will, a failure of love, to let them grow old - or so it feels. We would do anything to keep them with us, and to keep them young. The one gift we cannot give."
As anyone who has suffered the heartbreaking loss of a furbaby family member, we wish so much that our Angel had never been sick, that we had more time (though it would never have been enough), that the capacity of all our love could have saved her. Despite losing the entire semblance of and hopes for my “normal” life when I became chronically ill, despite mourning people (whether they passed out of my life literally or figuratively), even still we have never undergone this level of grief and heartache. We long to hold her in our arms, to hear the padding of her adorable popcorn paws and the jingling of her tags, to kiss her irresistibly soft head (which smelled like her sugar cookie conditioner). She always had such an exceptionally strong heartbeat - the little heartbeat at my feet - and when it stopped, while I embraced her with my hand against her chest, a huge part of me went with her. She gave me so much purpose and grace and helped me survive. She lit up every day with joy, and we will never stop missing her. We'll love her eternally.
Angel was the truest, most precious love we have ever known, and how lucky we are to have been blessed by such a wondrous girl.