Beauty without Vanity, Strength without Insolence, Courage without Ferocity, and all the Virtues of Man without his Vices.
--Lord Byron, from "Epitaph to A Dog"
Angel was my mother's dog, but my mother didn't choose her; Angel chose my mother. On a walk around the neighborhood, a pesky, dirty, long-haired dog followed my mom home. Mama and Papa Salem took her in thinking that there would be signs posted soon enough looking for a lost dog. None ever appeared.
Angel directly and indirectly blessed the lives of the Salem Family. Indirectly, she gave birth to three dogs that eventually ended up (and still remain) in the our (Johnston) household. Angel also had a daughter whom my parents kept, Ning-Ning. Constant companions, mother and daughter were playmates, sparring partners, and mischievous cohorts. As the years passed, Angel slowed down and Mama and Papa Salem's household increased with canine additions. But, no matter, Angel's presence and standing was still felt and respected in the Salem household.
By August of 2008, it was clear that Angel was ill. I was pregnant with our daughter when I paid a visit to Tulare, and I saw how emaciated and depressed Angel was. Seemingly on the verge of death, my parents allowed me to take her back home with me to San Diego to get her properly diagnosed and to allow her to enjoy some creature comforts that they couldn't provide, especially if it were to be her last days on this earth.
Glen and I expected and braced ourselves for a grim diagnosis. We lost a beloved canine in 2006 to lymphosarcoma, and we were almost sure Angel exhibited the same cancerous symptoms our deceased dog had. A few veterinary visits later, it was determined she was diabetic and would need to go on insulin. She also had pancreatitis, a heart murmur, renal problems, and cataracts bilaterally (rendering her blind in on eye). Lastly, Angel was a geriatric--twelve years old based on dentition. Even with proper interventions, Angel wasn't expected to recover fully nor to exceed more than a couple months.
By the strength of sheer will to live, along with proper medication, diet, care and love, Angel grew strong. She became energetic, and her personality burst to the forefront. She was not passive. In fact, she was domineering. Our other three dogs (Angel's progeny), while larger in size, seldom challenged their mother, because she wouldn't hesitate to put them in their place. Angel could often be found at the entryway to our master bedroom, but the other dogs in the house could not get by her to enter unless Angel allowed it. Oftentimes, we would have to intervene and "escort" the other dogs into our own bedroom. She was never an overly-affectionate dog in general, but with Glen, she could afford him a lick or two. While she loved to be petted and scratched, she never gave you the sense that she needed to be.
Angel loved outings, especially to the beach or park. She'd do a little tap dance of sorts, in excitement to go for a ride in the car. Once at our destination, she'd walk very little and would tire easily, so Glen would end up carrying her. I believe Angel loved that part of her outings the most...being carried.
When our daughter, Lynnea, arrived, Angel had to size up her competition. She took to Lynnea quickly, and we sometimes found her standing "guard" over her when she was in her crib, in the car seat, etc.
Up until a couple of days before her passing, Angel was spry and participated fully in the Johnston household activities. We made adjustments and accommodated her limitations, and Angel never seemed to mind. When on strolls with the baby, Angel always had her place below the stroller. She enjoyed peeking her head out from under, always content to be riding rather than walking.
Angel passed away on Tuesday, July 21, 2009 from acute renal failure secondary to her diabetes. She was thirteen years old.
During her final year spent in our (Johnston) household, Angel became a significant and constant part of our lives. She was a source of comfort and companionship, of unconditional love and acceptance, of fun and joy. Although Glen and I are still very much affected and exhausted from the events that led to her ultimate demise, we, the bereaved, are grateful that she blessed our lives for almost a full year and that she was happy to have spent her final months with us. Once the tears subside, the memories will only be cherished as happy ones.
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