It has been a little over 2 years since my dear black Labrador, Angus, passed away. Even just typing the sentence makes me cry. When you get a dog the probability is that you will outlive the dog. But, it does not make the end any easier. He was more than a dog to me. He was a vehicle to learning, growing and healing. He was a companion when I needed one. He was comfort. He was given to me by God for healing and moving forward in my life.
It started when Richie and Angela (my husband and daughter) conspired to convince me to get a black Labrador puppy. They told me the puppy was already in the house, so by the time I arrived home I was used to the idea. In fact, the puppy was not there and was only 5 weeks old. We went to the house where the puppies were to pick out our new member of the family. I knew I wanted a male and there were three to choose from. Angus was the only one with a white bib of fur on his chest. He curled up on my lap and fell asleep. I knew he was the one. We would bring him home week eight. During the 10 minute drive home this puppy vomited and defecated in my car. Little did I know the significance of this moment in my future.
Over the next six months Angus turned into an energetic terror. I had successfully trained numerous golden retrievers and assumed a Labrador was similar, was I wrong. He was a running, chewing machine. After obtaining a books on his breed I realized the mistake was made by bringing a high energy dog into a low energy household. I needed to change my mindset and increase my energy level to successfully train him. I started walking him daily and playing fetch until he was tired. It was during this time that the training now started to kick in and he became a calmer dog to live with. The chewing stopped and he would actually lay down and calmly accept affection. All was good until he was 14 months. That was when I discovered I had an insecure, fearful dog. What I experienced in the car when he was 8 weeks were warning signs I did not know about. My life was about to change.
We bought a camper to enjoy NASCAR weekends in Dover, Delaware and Concord, North Carolina. We wanted to take our dogs with us to enjoy people and the campgrounds. Angus, however, would get car sick. As most people I went to my local vet and the solution was to give the dog medication. I did not feel right about this and began researching the reason for canine car sickness. I discovered it was about stress and not motion. I started to take Angus for long walks before putting him in the car. It worked! However, I discovered Angus was fearful of people and would avoid them and growl. I saw the warning signs and started researching how to deal with his fearful issues. Change number two to my life.
Through researching Angus’ issues I discovered I liked reading about training dogs and dog-related issues. I decided to obtain my dog training certificate. I worked with Angus and although I was not able to totally alleviate his fears I was able to make it more manageable. We would enjoy 4 years with Angus and our golden Amber until my life would change drastically.
On 4/1/2008 Richie would pass away suddenly. I was devastated and in shock for months. However, knowing dog behavior I knew keeping calm-assertive and maintaining their routine would allow them to move forward and prevent any behavior problems due to the loss of Richie and my grief. I would continue to walk Angus 3 miles every day and when I was with the dogs I would stay in the now. I believe this was emotionally life-saving for me.
I was successful in moving forward and enjoying my life. Amber was old and passed within a year after Richie died. It was just Angus and me. My life changed drastically from then on. I went out more, I developed new friendships and pursued male companionship. Because my life changed so did Angus’ life. He now had to deal with me periodically gone on trips or dates and more strangers came to the home that Angus had to deal with. He mostly would hide upstairs when I had company. But, when I was alone and it was quiet my Angus was always there for comfort. He slept next to me and was always by my side through my journey.
When George came into my life in 2010 Angus accepted George within weeks of our relationship. George grew to love him through the years and accepted Angus’ quirks when it came to others. George could not believe how devoted Angus was to me and how much a dog could love one person.
George and I moved into our home in 2014 and this was another big change for Angus. Angus took the move in stride, but did not accept George’s son on weekends. I assumed there would be an adjustment period but after almost 3 years, still no acceptance. He would bark at Junior and run in another room. Occasionally, Angus would lay calmly in the living room if Junior was just sitting on the sofa, but not as often as we would have liked. By now Angus was getting older and having trouble getting up due to old age. I knew the time was nearing and just prayed God would give me a sign and make it as easy as possible.
On December 19, 2016 the day had arrived. George was home from work and Junior was getting ready to go to school. As usual I let Angus out and made coffee. When I let Angus in he collapsed on the floor, he could not walk. I was able to get him to the family room where he laid by my feet. I had Junior pet him before he left. By the time George returned from taking Junior to school Angus was vomiting and quite panicked. It was time. We loaded him in the car and I sat in the back to comfort my dear friend in his final moments. I vowed I could not stay in the room to put another animal down due to how upsetting it was, but I could not leave Angus in a room with strangers. I wanted his last moments knowing I was holding him and hearing my voice before he left this earth. So I stayed.
Angus was there for me to help me grow. He was there to comfort me when I was grieving the loss of my husband. He was there with me. The 13 years he was with me were probably the most eventful and life-changing times of my life to date. God sent him to me for growth and change and God made it as easy as it could be for me to say good-bye. I will miss him always.