Angel in 2001, the week of her adoption.
September 20, 2001: Angel’s adoption day. September 20, 2019: Angel’s death.
I’m profoundly saddened to announce that Angel’s heart stopped beating at 2:24 a.m this morning. Angel had a medical emergency late Thursday night and unfortunately, we left the emergency veterinarian hospital this morning (Friday) without her. My heart feels heavy and broken. My eyes are swollen. There are not enough words to describe the deep sorrow I feel.
Angel yawning / Aug. 2019
Today, September 20th, marks Angel’s 19th birthday, 18th adoption birthday and now her death. It’s a poetic trifecta. We don’t even know if she was actually 19-years-old. When we adopted her in 2001, the city pound vet said she was not a puppy but at least one-year-old, so she could’ve been older. We don’t even know what breed she really was. All that we do know is that we loved her so much and she had a rough beginning in life.
I was seven-years-old when I went to the city pound with my mom, sister and neighbor. We saw a plethora of dogs but when I saw Angel— it was love at first sight. It sounds cliche, but it’s true. I looked into her brown eyes and knew we needed each other.
Angel was obviously traumatized from previous violence and neglect. She was 19 pounds; you could count the bones in her rib cage. She flinched when most people would try to pet her. But when you’re a child, you look past the “bad.” At least, I did because I didn’t see any of that. I took one look at Angel and knew she was the one for me.
Angel in 2001, her first Christmas with the Andersons.
I don’t know why I named her Angel but I did. Nor do I know if she lived up to her name or if I just knew right away she was a special dog.
She had every reason to hate humans but she opened up her heart and gave love another chance. Angel and I had a special bond from the beginning. She did normal dog things such as sleep with me in my bed, cuddle with me, lick various body parts (“kisses”), eat my leftovers from dinner and stay by my side when I was feeling sad or sick.
But she also went above and beyond to show her love and loyalty to me and my family every single day. Angel protected our home from several attempted burglaries and even woke me up when there was an electrical fire outside of my window. She even scared off burglars when my mom, sister and I were home alone one late night. She ran into the backyard and the two bad guys jumped our fence faster than a rat running away from a stray cat.
Angel and Nic from photobooth in 2010.
When we first brought Angel home, she was scared. She had every reason to be, she’s a dog; she didn’t know if our home was going to be like her last one. Luckily, she quickly realized within a few months, we were going to give her nothing but love.
Angel was the funniest dog I’ve ever met. She did the weirdest things. During the first year of us having her, she used to chew only my left shoes. Sometimes she would chew the left feet of my Bratz dolls. Never the right, only the left. Still to this day, I have no explanation as to why or how she knew left from right.
Angel hogging Nic's bed. Fall 2014.
Once she became comfortable with us, her personality really shined through. When we would come home from anywhere, even if was for 30 minutes, she would run laps around the house in excitement. I mean laps. The wooden floors in my parents’ home have physical proof of this. When one of us would hug another, she would gently jump and place her front paws on us and begin wagging her tail. She would not bring her paws down until we gave her some love too. She then trained us to say “up, up” whenever we wanted a hug from her. She never turned one down.
Angel used to be an incredibly athletic dog. My sister and I used to set up miniature obstacle courses in our small backyard. Angel always completed them with ease; sending a wave of awe through both of us each time. She could jump more than four-feet in the air. I know this as a fact because our fence used to four-feet tall and she sailed right over it with room to spare. She did this a few times.
Angel excited to get pets. Spring 2015.
My family and I used to joke that we didn’t walk Angel because Angel walked you. She never learned how to properly walk on a leash and goodness gracious, she was so strong. You would hope that she didn’t see another dog on your walk because she would take you for a run. She was just too excited and ready to pee on every square inch of the neighborhood. One time, for a reason unbeknownst to me, I thought it was a great idea to walk Angel while riding a bike. It was a train wreck. Luckily, I was wearing a helmet so I only suffered road rash. Angel was unscathed and waited patiently for me catch the breath that was knocked out of my lungs.
Bringing people over to the house was almost like a test; if Angel didn’t like you, something was wrong with you. She loved almost everyone and everyone who has ever met her (with the exception of one person - they didn't like her because Angel didn’t like them), loved her back. They knew she was a sweet girl in search for all of the loving, pets and food she could get.
The best passenger. Summer 2014.
Angel also had a horrifying sweet tooth. Several years ago, my mom had a stash of dark chocolate hidden in her closet. She came home to find it empty with wrappers on the ground. She said that she was about to yell at my sister and I when she noticed a chocolate dog print. It obviously wasn’t a full-on dog print, but it was enough to know it was her. Angel had some loose poops but was otherwise fine. After that incident, we became more aware of where we put the chocolate but that never stopped her.
A few years ago after Valentine’s Day, I had put some chocolate I received on top of a five-foot credenza-type piece of furniture in the living room. I went upstairs to grab something and when I came down, this freaking funny dog of mine was standing on the coffee table trying to get to the chocolate. I remember that I laughed and said, “Angel! What are you doing?” She just looked at me, wagged her tail and jumped off the table. I never saw her do that before or since.
Angel and Nic in 2014.
Later in the same year, my dad and I bought some Halloween candy and placed it on the portable island in the kitchen. I made sure to push it all the way to the back. The island is approximately four-feet tall and two-and-a-half-feet wide. We left to go get more candy and came back no more than 30 minutes later. But somehow, someway, this funny girl managed to reach the chocolate and eat all of it, leaving the wrappers (and awful diarrhea a few hours later) for us to clean up.
We kept any sort of sweet on top of the fridge from then on. Angel was probably annoyed but we couldn’t allow her to keep nabbing chocolate.
I’m not-so-secretly convinced her occasional chocolate consumption was one of her secrets to living a long life. However, every single time she consumed chocolate, it took about five years off of my own life from panic and worry. Let me be clear: I, 100 percent, do not recommend for any dog to eat chocolate.
Angel in 2014.
As the years passed, the signs of age showed on Angel. She went from a mostly black dog with a white patch on her chest to a mostly salt and pepper dog. She developed arthritis in her legs and no longer completed backyard obstacle courses, gave hugs or ran laps around the house when we came home. She would rapidly wag her tale from her bed instead. Her days of being an athlete were in the past.
She stopped sleeping in bed with me because she had a tough time going up the stairs and jumping on the bed. I don’t think she seemed to mind aging, if she did, she never let us know.
Angel had claimed a spot in the basement (my dad’s “hangout spot”) and would watch TV. She seemed to really enjoy TV.
Angel on her couch - maybe 2015.
She became more gray and her physical movement slowed down. Her hearing seemed to decrease by the day and accidents in the house became more frequent.
The vet told us she had bladder cancer but it wasn’t causing her pain. He prescribed medication to help keep the tumor at bay but told us to watch her and come back for check-ups.
We didn’t have an estimate of how much longer we had with her.
I knew this day was coming. I did. I told myself that we were lucky to have had her for as long as we did. I convinced myself that I was at peace. I was not ready in the slightest. I don’t know if I would have ever been ready.
Angel wanted to come back inside - maybe 2015.
We continued to bring her to the vet to make sure she wasn’t suffering. He said she wasn’t. My family members and I made a promise to Angel and to each other a long time ago that we were not going to let Angel suffer. She had a painful beginning in life and we refused to let the end of her life end in pain too.
My mom called me late Thursday night to tell me Angel wasn’t doing well and they were going to bring her to the hospital. They picked me up on the way. The hour that my parents and I anxiously waited for the vet to tell us what was going on felt like an eternity. The tumor obstructed her urethra and she had not urinated in over 12 hours.
Angel spying on Nic - maybe 2015
The vet explained, when an animal doesn’t urinate for more than 12 hours, it’s a medical emergency. Her bladder could rupture which would make Angel’s discomfort turn into excruciating pain. He gave us two options: insert a catheter into her urethra to drain the urine, which would only be a temporary fix and possibly kill her in the process, or end her suffering by euthanizing her. We kept our promise and chose the latter.
We waited for my sister to drive up from Champaign. I don’t normally condone her speed-demon tendencies but this was a special occasion.
Angel thought all water (except drinking water) was evil. Maybe 2015
The vet explained what was going to happen. We knew this was the best decision but I wasn’t ready. I was, and still am, inconsolable. The sounds that came out of my body this morning were unfamiliar to me. I’ve experienced loss before. I’ve gone through death of a grandparent, many family members and several friends. I’ve had my heart broken from past relationships. But when the vet put his stethoscope on Angel’s chest and told us her heart stopped beating... I lost any control I had left.
Holding my lifeless dog’s limp head in my hands made it all too real while simultaneously making it feel unreal. I know she’s dead but a part of me doesn’t want to believe it. I’ve had her for most of my life. People say that dogs are humans’ best friend for a reason. Jeez, it’s true.
Angel and Nic in 2016.
I love Angel so unbelievably much. Sure, she couldn’t talk to me but she was my best friend. She kept me safe, laughing and always made me happy. She was my sweet, funny old lady. Her farts were the stinkiest smell I’ve ever smelled and her snores were my own personal white noise. I’m sad that she won’t see me through her dog eyes turn 25-years-old tomorrow.
I don’t know how to end this blog post because I don’t believe that death always signifies an end. A few years ago, someone once told me that when someone (or in my case, a dog) you love very much dies, you are not upset that they’re dead because it’s a natural part of life. You’re upset because you don’t know how to live your life without receiving their love. I can agree with that.
Family photo from Nic's graduation - May 2019.