Little did we know when we opened our Westfield NJ door on a sunny Friday in November 2000 that the tan and white little fur ball of energy who raced into the house and proceeded to run in circles around the living room, would steal our hearts and make the past 10 years of our lives so memorable. She might as well have been shot out of a cannon. Noticing our growing shocked expressions, I think Phyllis and Carolyn, the two Hudson County Animal League volunteers who made the drop off, feared we would change our minds. (Apparently, the last person who had adopted Angel was a senior citizen who returned her because of her high energy level.) I remember them pleading with Angel to calm down.

She was already named Angel when she arrived, but, as we would learn, there could have been no better name for her.

Joe and I both learned, rather quickly, that training a pup -– she was only 10 months old —- especially one not used to living in a house, would not be an easy task. I remember we called the HCAL volunteers several times with concerns. They were always very helpful in training tips and helping us to realize that Angel would calm down once she got used to her new surroundings. Thank goodness we listened and gave her a chance, for over the course of 10 years, Angel not only became a member of our family, but she quickly won over the hearts of friends, family, neighbors in two states, and a big-headed, stray cat named Tom Tom.

Angel loved women because it was two women, driving along a crowded East Orange highway on a freezing January evening who followed a limping dog (Shirley, Angel’s mother) back to where she was keeping her 4 week old pups, who saved her life, and most of the volunteers at HCAL were women. Whenever women entered the home, they got a much warmer welcome than the guys, though she also liked guys, especially gay men. We claimed that Angel had gaydar: one friend used her to see if she would “warm up” to his younger brother, whose sexual preference was still not really known. Angel loved him. Case closed; we could cease wondering.

We intended to keep Angel down in the rec room, but, she had other ideas. Howling at night, we moved her crate up to the kitchen. Within a few days, the house became Angel'’s and she allowed us to live there with her.

Angel bonded with us quickly and wanted to go everywhere we went. We would plan vacations to places where we could take her along like the Poconos and Provincetown MA, but, unfortunately, while Angel liked being with us, she didn'’t like being away from her den. Eventually, we opted to find a house-sitter when we wanted to take vacations so Angel could stay in her own home. She had play dates in NJ with several neighborhood dogs –- much safer than taking her to local dog park where a larger dog once attacked her, nearly causing her to lose an eye.

In 2008, Angel’'s rear leg started bothering her, requiring a costly TPLO surgery. While doing the surgery, the vet discovered she had a mast cell tumor. The TPLO was successful, but, the recuperation period was long. The tumor was removed, and a second surgery was done to gain cleaner margins, but, we were warned, that like any cancer – there are no guarantees it would not return. We put her on a regime of Prednisone and hoped for the best. Later in 2008, she needed a 2nd TPLO surgery on her other leg. In both instances, we took turns sleeping on the floor next to her, since she couldn’'t manage the stairs or hop into our king size bed.

For two additional years, Angel appeared to be healthy and continued to brighten the lives of everyone who crossed her path, including two cats who we adopted and a stray puppy we took into our home in 2009 when he showed up in our development. At first Angel hated the two cats. When she saw them on the deck, she would chew on the wooden windowsill to get at them. Slowly, but, surely, Joe trained her to get used to them and before you knew it, she became their protector, especially when our new pup Gabriel would charge after them. TomTom returned the favor by sleeping next to her during the weeks her mobility was impaired while recuperating from her two surgeries. Suddenly, though, on December 30 – a few weeks after her 11th birthday, Angel became ill. She began shivering, couldn’'t eat, vomited even water, and exhibited overall malaise. The vet took blood and urine tests which indicated liver dysfunction. X-rays on day #2 of her illness showed a mass. We had previously determined that when Angel stopped eating, we would know she was not well. Besides sneaking up to guests and pulling off one of their socks as a means of extortion –she would only drop the sock after getting a treat - eating was her #1 passion in life. Though we fed her the best dog food, pizza crust, peanut butter, and bananas made her day, when she wouldn’t eat anything for 3 consecutive days, we knew it was time.

We found a vet who came to our home on Sunday, Jan. 2 to end Angel’'s suffering. Gabriel remained kind of aloof, but, Tom Tom remained by her side and to this day, still opts to sleep in the exact spot Angel was given her final needle to end her suffering. While Angel’'s suffering did end quickly that grey misty Sunday afternoon, ours was just beginning. We will always remain very grateful to the dedicated folks who make up the Hudson County Animal League, for they had brought a special gift from God into our lives: Angel.

Bob DiCorcia

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