Angel’s Angel

Angel’s Angel

From Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover's Soul

Angel’s Angel

When we first met Frisbee, she wasn’t much to look at—a black-and-white lump of fur, being half-dragged and half-pushed by an impatient veterinary technician. Someone had left two six-week-old puppies in a box behind the hardware store outside of town. It was April in Texas, so the pups were lonely and hungry, but luckily not frozen. We agreed to foster them.

Over the next month, while the puppies grew, our family volunteered at the local shelter’s Saturday adoption days and held the leashes of older dogs waiting for permanent homes. For three weeks in a row,my husband held an affectionate, gray and white one-year-old Weimaraner/cattle dog mix named Angel. A volunteer had found Angel lying at the side of the road. No one knew whether she had been hit by or thrown from a car, but in addition to her injuries, she also had heartworms and spent months at the veterinarian’s office undergoing treatment.

Sometimes when a dog is adopted, the chemistry with the adoptive family isn’t right, and the dog is returned to the shelter. We were surprised to learn that Angel had been returned three times for “erratic behavior,” and was considered a “hard to place” dog. We held a family meeting and decided to bring Angel home. The next weekend, a family adopted one of our puppies, leaving just one: the girl we had named Frisbee. She and Angel got along well. In fact, we wondered about the other homes Angel had been in because she didn’t act erratically with people or other dogs. Her only fault was that she tried to keep close to us, so we were constantly tripping over her. Her head appeared between the rungs of my chair. She leaned against my legs while I worked at the sink.

One evening, about a week after we adopted Angel, our family sat down to dinner. Angel and Frisbee lay under the table. Suddenly, there was a thump, followed by scraping as the empty chair next to me mysteriously pushed back. We heard more thrashing and saw Frisbee scramble out from under the table. I assumed the dogs were squabbling and bent down to scold them.

I had never seen a seizure before. Angel’s eyes were dull and her head cartwheeled against the floor. Her legs twitched and thrashed as if she were racing from unseen demons. Our kids cleared the chairs, I cushioned Angel’s head against the tile floor, and my husband dialed the vet. We hoped the episode would be a one-time event. Maybe she’d eaten something someone had thrown over the fence. Maybe she’d eaten a poisonous plant. (Sometimes she chewed on trees like a beaver!) But that evening’s vet visit was the first of many.

Angel’s seizures came more frequently. We tried a range of medications, read, contacted canine acupuncturists and visited specialists in Houston where Angel had a spinal tap. Angel was diagnosed with idiopathic epilepsy, a cruel diagnosis meaning that she suffered seizures for which there was no identifiable source. We could treat her symptoms, but not the cause. The veterinarians said that Angel’s seizures were unusually severe, and she might live another year or two at most. At that point, we decided to adopt Frisbee. We reasoned that we would be able to bear Angel’s loss better if we already had another dog.

Although medication eased Angel’s seizures, several times a day she stiffened and stared into space in a petit mal seizure. Then she shook her head, as if to put her brains back in order, and continued as if nothing had happened. The grand mal seizures weren’t as easy to watch. These episodes came unexpectedly, with brutal ferocity. If left alone, Angel sometimes hit her head on the floor until her jaw bled. We tried to rearrange our lives to be home more, but even so, we returned to disaster several times each week.

During the week of Thanksgiving, Angel had multiple grand mal seizures. I had to cut back her favorite activity and stay closer to home after a seizure midwalk left me struggling to carry her sixty-five-pound deadweight. Our family was heartbroken.

By then, our “puppy” Frisbee was a muscular seven-month-old, fifty-pound dog. She had grown up watching Angel’s struggles, hearing “go sit” and “stay back” while I held Angel’s head. One evening I heard Frisbee bark. It didn’t sound like a “stranger at the door,” or “squirrel in the yard” warning. I followed the bark and found Frisbee pinning Angel to the floor.

Some dogs have the innate ability to detect the onset of seizures. People use these dogs to detect their seizures so they can get to a safe location before a seizure starts. Other dogs, though not able to detect a seizure before it happens, stand over their charge during a seizure until the person regains consciousness. They hold their person steady and keep them safe. This is what Frisbee was doing for Angel, though she had never been trained to do so.

Frisbee has continued to assist Angel during her seizures. I don’t know what Frisbee “tells” Angel when she holds her down. All I know is that if a seizure begins when my husband or I aren’t in the room, Frisbee leaps into action. Apparently she watched us hold Angel and decided she could help. We used to worry every time we left the house, not knowing if a seizure was imminent. Now Frisbee fills in.

Frisbee is also Angel’s “spare paws.” Our dogs don’t bark to go out or come back in. Instead they “tap” on the door. Angel loves her walk and does fine as long as all four paws are on the ground. However, her medications make her unsteady and she has trouble balancing on the back steps to tap on the door. If both dogs are outside, Frisbee taps on the door and then moves behind Angel, letting her go in first. If Frisbee is inside and sees Angel waiting outside, she taps as if she has to go out and then lies down when someone lets Angel in.

Frisbee isn’t perfect. She hates to have her feet wiped. She growls at dogs she doesn’t know. She pulls on her leash when we go for a walk. But that’s okay. Thanks to Frisbee, five years after her grim diagnosis, Angel is still a tail-wagging, snack-snitching, treasured family member. What Frisbee can’t do doesn’t matter. For what she does, she’s Angel’s angel.

Wendy Greenley

You are currently enjoying a preview of this book.

Sign up here to get a Chicken Soup for the Soul story emailed to you every day for free!

Please note: Our premium story access has been discontinued (see more info).

view counter

More stories from our partners