Today’s Short Story

Our dog Angel passed away this morning. She was something special. Humble, accepting of her limitations and always grateful to have a home, she adapted to all of the chaos that is sometimes our home. We will miss her.

Angel

Kathy and I have had dogs since before we were married. Our first two, Charlie and Amigo, served as best dogs at our wedding. Since then, we have found and befriended rescue dogs of all types, aptly named because they rescue us. I often joke that if there is a dog in distress anywhere in the world, Kathy’s phone will alert her to the pup, and we are soon on the road to bring them home. That was the case with Angel.

Angel’s mug shot and rap sheet came to Kathy’s attention a few years ago. She was a small Bichon Frise located at a rescue home in Colorado. Angel was blind the info sheet warned and might need special care. Kathy called the facility but was told that the policy was to only adopt out to people and families living in Colorado. Disappointed, we thanked them and moved on. A month later, Kathy got an email asking if we were still interested in this pup. Because of her disability, they were having trouble finding anyone to take her. We were on the road by the weekend.

Arriving at the home of the woman fostering the pup, we were certain that the dog had been well cared for and loved, and we introduced our current pups to Angel to make sure that everyone was going to get along. Once inside the double-wide trailer, Kathy and I sat down on either end of the couch. The woman in charge brought out this small, white puff of fur and set her down between us. She immediately moved toward me and snuggled comfortably next to my leg. She never left my side after that. On the ride home, she insisted on sitting in my lap for the entire 450 plus miles as I drove.

At this point, I think I should say that we generally adopt older dogs because they tend to be less likely to find homes. It didn’t start out that way, but the more abandoned or problematic they were, the more desperate Kathy was to bring them home. We had Sid, rescued from a puppy mill and fearful of everything. There was Tyson and Tillie, given away for no reason by their owners after growing up in their respective homes. That had to be traumatic. Li’l Sam came to us because his owner began to suffer from dementia and moved away and Big Sam was stuck in the city animal shelter because he was old, oversized and unwanted.

Dylan was sprung from a small town death row by the Animal Humane Society. We took Havi in because if we hadn’t, he was going to be sent to the city shelter. Porthos was just plain old as was my boy, Scooter who our adopted daughter, herself a stray, brought home from the groomer as he was being cleaned up before being be sent to a shelter. Cary and Cory came from El Paso because their owners were moving to Malaysia. Angel was blind. She would fit right in.

In our tiny little house, she would ping-pong down the hallway like a pinball in search of me. If I was in the living room, she might stumble over a sleeping old and deaf Scooter much to his annoyance. He would growl and she would hurriedly move off in another direction. I would pick her up and set her on the couch next to me where she would attach herself to my leg, her favorite spot. At night she would sleep between us, inching me closer and closer to the end of the bed as she tried to get the most of me. I began to get more and more attached to this little dog. I gave her nicknames like Little Boo, Little Bit, Baby Girl. I doted on her, feeding her by hand so that the other dogs wouldn’t crowd her out.

And so, we moved forward as a family. Many of our dogs passed from various old age maladies. Kathy and I bought an RV to travel in to make things easier on us and so that we could take our menagerie with us. By this time, we were down to three, Scooter, Cary and Angel. Scooter passed away the day we hit the road and so Cary rode shotgun and Angel plopped herself down next to the driver’s seat. She would raise her head occasionally and I would reach down and pet her. Assured that I was still there she would go back to sleep.

Traveling in that big wheeled house was tough on Angel. One moment, it would be closed up and rumbling beneath her and later in the day, it would be wide open. Nearly every day we were somewhere new and she would have to adjust. It was as if we were deliberately changing the room on her. The only comfort she had was Kathy, Cary and me. We went for walks every morning, noon and night, Cary leading the way and Angel close to my side hoping I would protect her from this ever changing landscape.

Once we were home again, she fell back into her routine. Every morning, she would wake me up with a series of low whimpers so that I could put her onto the floor where she would stumble about until she would find her way out the doggie door. Because Angel was blind, I grew attuned to her sound. I could tell when she was drinking, taking short, swift laps as opposed to Cary who drank as if there would never be any more water in his bowl. This whimper meant her food dish was empty, that one meant that I needed to open the door or that she wanted to sit on the couch with me. When I came home from anywhere, she would stumble around until her nose found me and then leap and paw at me until I picked her up. At night, she would look at me with unseeing eyes to let me know it was time for bed.

As she got older, she began to lose her hearing and then her sense of smell, but she never lost her enthusiasm for me or her queen of the couch enjoyment, curling up next to me. If I got up, she would stretch out, lying on her back, tongue out, legs splayed. She never knew she was blind and when she began to lose her hearing, she accepted it as just part of life. She began to lie in the sun in the back yard to warm herself and spent most of her time sleeping. Even in her last hours, despite her legs collapsing beneath her weight, she still insisted that I put her on the ground so that she could go outside so as not to make a mess. She knew the rules and wasn’t about to make extra work for me. When I went outside to retrieve her, afraid that she wouldn’t be able to find her way back in, her head swiveled left and right as if she were surveying the yard for the last time and then feeling my presence, she looked up at me.

Copyright 2024 by Jose Antonio Ponce