Sunday, April 12, 2009

The story of Angel

Angel came to us from a rescue organization in Florida in September 2003. She was the perfect big/little sister for Sampson and a wonderful addition to her family. We had to say our final goodbyes to her in May of 2008. It was a hard day for us all, but we are left with lots of funny and heartwarming stories and wonderful memories. She showed us what it means to survive! Below is her story through an archive of old blog posts...

SERIOUSLY...I did that for my dog (and I am glad!)

January 14, 2008

I have been getting a lot of strange looks, comments, etc. these days. So, I figured I would try this new-age-blogging-thing (ha, ha) to send a message to anyone who's curious.

As most of my friends know, my dogs have health problems--serious health problems. Just the quick run-down--Sampson has had a sensitive stomach since the day I brought him home (yeah, he puked in the car that day). Yes, some of his most expenisve problems were when he ate a 99 cent ball from PetSmart and we had to have a specialist do emergency surgery to remove it. His problems have somehow developed into a major problem with his pancreas. He has had pancreatitis 3 times (that we know of) since November. The doctors aren't sure what's wrong, but say as long as he responds to treatment, that's the route to keep your fingers crossed that keeps bringing good results.

Angel, on the other hand, has had some even bigger issues. She, too, has had a sensitive tummy...but that is the least of her problems. We got her from a rescue organization and her "previous life" she was tied up to a tree outside of a crack house, which brought a multitude of problems. But she survived that and some additional health problems that followed. In 2004 she had malignant melanoma removed from her mouth twice--the second time getting clear margins (a good thing because it means they got the whole tumor). I was made painfully aware about the grim statistics for THAT type of cancer in THAT part of the body. They say many dogs don't live more than 6 months and as much as 99% of them are dead within 2 years. Well, you can do the math--she made it past the odds.

On December 20th of last year, we had a biopsy done for a tumor on her neck. The day after Christmas we got the news that Angel had cancer AGAIN. And this time it was a very rare form and the odds were, yet again, stacked against her. To make this long story somewhat shorter, after a lot of phone calls and tears and a trip to Florida, Angel had surgery on January 3rd to remove her right salivary gland. The surgery was successful and, again, the margins were clear. This is very bitter-sweet (to say the least) "good news." Why? Chest x-rays are standard before surgery for a fast-spreading cancer in dogs. When we had those done on January 2nd, the doctor gave us a good report. But the next day, when the radiologist read the results, she saw what she thinks could be early lung cancer--of which dogs rarely survive many more months after diagnosis. We went ahead with the surgery on the chance that it is something benign in her lungs. She has come through the surgery with flying colors--and I mean FLYING. We have not been able to keep her calm. She is back to her old self again. She and Sampson even in the midst of their illnesses are the same "puppies" we know and love.

So, why am I writing this...and why is the subject LIFE instead of PETS???I am learning a lot through this experience. First of all, I am indirectly facing my biggest fear ever (cancer). Also, I am learning a lot about priorities and myself. I am so tired of hearing "it's just a dog." I am also tired of people thinking I am crazy for spending all of this time and money saving a dog that may only have a few more years of "normal" life-span even if nothing was wrong--and possibly only a few months with another illness. I am crazy--but for other reasons. :o) My pets are a part of my life--of my family. Regardless of whether either of my dogs live another day or another decade, they teach me something new just about every day. I see strength in these animals that we could all learn from. Angel has beaten the odds too many times to count. Sampson can find something exciting (or just go to sleep) in just about any situation. They teach Kaitlyn things. Because of these dogs, my daughter loves animals and she does not fear them.

Do these dogs know something we don't? I have long contended that animals are smarter than us. As a sociologist, sometimes I think maybe it is because they are just themselves without the constraints of society. Maybe they don't fight their instincts like humans sometimes do. I have also always agreed with the bumper sticker "The more people I meet, the more I like my dog." These dogs are SO MUCH more than "just dogs"...they are my friends. Think I am a crazy old lady if you want. But how many people (other than pet owners) can say that they always have someone to listen, always have someone who loves them unconditionally (even if you get mad at them for something stupid), and who always has someone greet them when they get home like it is the most exciting thing that could ever happen? I venture to say, human nature does not always allow for this type of unconditional love...or forgiveness. Of course, I love my family and friends and would be nowhere without them...but where would I be without those floppy ears in the middle of a rough night without my husband? How could I have made it through morning sickness without the comfort of a four-legged mother? Who would have gotten me through move after move with the consistency of and laughter from kidney bean dancing?

So, I guess I should end this because I could go on forever. I do owe a lot to my dogs--and it is worth every penny and every mile to give them every happy, pain-free day they have in them. To explain my final comment (and the song on my profile--Bad Boys theme song), when we first got her, Angel used to shake her boxer tail and go crazy for that certain theme-song. In closing, I will just say "Angel-girl, this song's for you...shake your tail-feathers, bitches!"

Doggy Heaven is Brighter Today

May 31, 2008

Today was Angel's day to go. She had developed a horrible disease in her spine. We did not think she would make it through last week, but the doctors helped us to give her a few more happy days where she was our Angel-girl. Over the last day she lost all feeling in the lower half of her body. It was time.

I am crushed and I miss her more than words can say. She taught us what it means to truly rescue a dog and she brought us many happy years. Even though I miss her now, I picture her running and jumping again pain-free--wagging her boxer tail. She was so full of life until the end. She brightened so many days for us and others. I feel guilty for every time I got frustrated with her, but I think she forgave me for being human. Even though it has been a long, tough journey, I still cannot believe she is gone. But I am thankful that we found each other and I am grateful for every day she gave us.

Thanks to everyone who reads my crazy animal blogs. Maybe I am already a crazy old lady, but Angel and Sampson are members of our family. Thanks for your love and support. We know we did everything that we could. She knew she was loved. Doggy heaven is a little brighter today.

When it Storms

July 5, 2008

Since September 20, 2003, storms have had a new meaning in our home. That was the day we adopted Angel...and her storm phobia. I had never seen anything like it--and it got worse as she aged. She would get SO nervous and shake; her heart would race and she would breathe so fast and heavy I thought she would pass out. She had "calm down pills" that helped some--especialy earlier on--but barely phased her near the end of her life. Sampson, on the other hand, could sleep through it all. In the early years, he would notice her nervous fits, but as time passed, they became normal to him. But everyone that knew us, knew of Angel's problems. When we lived in the Real Jacksonville where it stormed, oh, about every afternoon in the summer and still occasionally all year long, even our closest friends helped us out. I remember being out during terrible storms and our neighbors/closest friends calling to see if they needed to check on her--they knew us so well.

When Angel was here, I always remember thinking how nice it would be not to have a dog who was so scared. I always felt sorry for her--I am sure her fear came from early on in her life before the boxer rescue found her when she was tied to a tree...even through those terrible Florida storms. So even though I pitied her, I selfishly wished I didn't have to deal with it. Now she is gone, and what I wouldn't give to be popping calm down pills down her throat when I hear thunder and trying (always unsuccessfully) to calm her down.

It is storming now...Sampson is passed out in the living room and Daisy is sleeping in her crate. (Her crate, by the way, is Angel's.) It's quiet and calm but I can't help but take a break to feel sad that Angel is not here. Even though we never calmed her down totally, I think that she knew we would keep her safe. And we did.

I miss her so much, but I am thankful for Sampson and Daisy...and, as always, Angel has taught me a lesson. Sometimes blessings come in strange packages. I hesitate to think I will ever sit through a storm without my mind on Angel--and I will work harder to cherish every situation with those I love (four-legged and two), not knowing what they might teach me or how I might miss what I think are hard times later down the road.

In the meantime, I will get back to my cleaning--even though just about every spot on our floor has already been cleaned in the past week. Daisy is not quite house trained yet. :o) Luckily for me, I have a two-year-old who tattles quickly so I can clean it before it gets out of hand. Oh, and Sampson is a pro at his new big brother role. We always joke that Angel is looking down on us and making fun of our decision to bring a puppy into our home. And I admit, I always feel like I am on some silly reality tv show. I know I look ridiculous most of the time. My house is a total zoo now, but I enjoy it and so does K--and Sampson does, too--most of the time...more funny doggy stories to come....

For now, I will use the sound of thunder as a constant reminder of our four-legged Angel watching over us, probably laughing her boxer tail off. :o)
Adapting and Overcoming From If Dogs Wore Braces...
November 13, 2008
My dogs have been the masters of adapting and overcoming! When Angel had her surgery in January, they were concerned that they would severely damage some facial nerves. It was not nearly as bad as they thought--the surgeon located the "main" one and didn't touch it--but there was some temporary damage. Her face did droop on the right side and she could not control the muscles on that side of her mouth for a while. Within TWO days, she had learned to press the right side of her mouth against the bowl when she drank to be able to keep the water in her mouth and not make a mess. She would get food stuck in her flappy-jaws (as we call them) at first, but within a week, she had learned to chew on the other side of her mouth or something because her face was still droopy, but her flappy jaws stayed clean. Don't ever underestimate the abilities of our canine friends! I mean, one ever explained to her how to do that; she just did it on her own.

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