We never own our dogs. We only reside with them by ancient covenants that bond us. Life is defined by events that include both joy and pain. All human emotions apply in our close relationships with our dogs. It is thus appropriate that we honor these special friends as we would our beloved human family members with stories, photos, monuments, and sincere reflections of gratitude.
Pat and I have already had three canine companions in our married life, and they have been as dear to us as our own three daughters. A super intelligent Border collie came to us as an overnight guest after she had been spayed by the Watauga County (North Carolina) Humane Society. Pat, a member of the board at that time, and I were delivering blankets and needful supplies to the animal shelter when a member, who had just returned from the vet with a small black dog just out of surgery, approached us. She said that she did not want to return the still groggy female to the kennels and begged us to take her home for overnight care.
We were then living in a rented condo that specified no pets, but we thought that we might get away with a one-night stay. We tried to bed the little dog down in a bathroom with a barrier at the door, but the dog jumped over it, and her incision site began to bleed. As a former Army veteran with medic training, I took the dog onto my lap to bandage her. She was so patient and trusting that we were amazed, and Pat remarked that she was an angel. That night we realized we were hooked, and that we must adopt her, so we arranged with our landlord to keep her at an added deposit fee. Her name was self-evident. She was Angel.
Angel was seldom on a leash, and she went to work with us every day. At that time we had a retail store with an upstairs office, so Angel was both our home and office dog. Angel loved to leap into my lap as soon as I sat in my easy chair at home. She could be trusted to be let out to do her necessary business, never crossing the street or wandering off.
Angel was a wonderful hiking companion on the Blue Ridge Parkway trails. She kept us in sight and never got into trouble when presented with other dogs. In a high mountain meadow she delighted us as she raced in a zigzag pattern as if to raise quail or sheep from the high grass. For fourteen years she was our constant, ever faithful, ever loving companion. Her disposition was always playful and affectionate, and she was obviously the smartest dog we had ever known.
The last months of Angel’s life, however, were challenging as she struggled with cancer. Her passing was mourned as that of a beloved family member. To memorialize her, we erected a wooden black silhouette of her wearing her collar and tags at the foot of a granite gravestone engraved with her name. The shrine site sits in a front-yard garden across from a two-person rocking chair bench. In this way, we daily honor and remember a wonderful friend who happened to be a Border collie.