Good night, sweet prince.
Today, after 16.5 years of unconditional love and adoration, my beloved Angel gets his wings.
Some of you may or may not know this about me, but I love dogs. Like, capital-L Love dogs. While some children have first words like “mama” or “dada,” my first word was “dog.” While I grew up around my grandmother’s dog, my great aunt’s dogs, neighbors’ and friends’ dogs, all I really wanted was a puppy of my own.
I was 12 years old and on summer vacation when my mom called and said she was coming home with a surprise. I’d spent actual, literal years begging and researching shelters and adoptions and different breeds. But I never expected her to bring us home a little Cocker Spaniel puppy that day. I remember Becca and I were so excited, we probably terrified this tiny beige ball of fur, with his big brown eyes that were already droopy at just a few weeks old. He immediately peed on the carpet in the living room. It wouldn’t be the last time.
We contemplated a dozen or more names for him. His father’s name was Homer, so we briefly considered Bart. I was in a phase where I loved Buffy (who am I kidding? I still love Buffy) and wanted to name him Angel (because I didn’t hit my Spike years until college). Spike was briefly a contender. Toaster was thrown in, as well. But Angel stuck, even if everyone assumed he was a girl dog for his entire life (including a groomer, who got a little too close for comfort to his poor little manbits and left him traumatized of grooming for the rest of his life). I couldn’t wait to tell everyone I knew that I’d finally gotten a puppy of my very own.
I remember his tiny puppy cries when we tried to crate train him at night. It was very quickly determined (because we’re softies) that he’d sleep with us. He instantly became a space heater of a dog, curling up behind the knees of whichever one of us he chose. In later years, when he was bigger, he still thought he could just fit anywhere. He was like a cat, always seeking the sun, always wanting to curl up on you.
I remember leaving the house to go on a trip with the Girl Scouts and having to leave him by himself for the first time, and how I stood outside the front door while he cried and howled. Eventually, he learned to be home alone. But he was always the best greeter when we returned.
Suddenly I was in college, and being away from him meant I lost my exposure immunity to his dander. My allergies flared in full force every time I was home. It was misery. Mountains of tissues piled up; boxes upon boxes went missing. But I didn’t care; he was my puppy. He was worth the watery eyes and the asthma and the stuffiness. I guess it’s appropriate that now I’m going through one last box in his honor, even from three thousand miles away.
And then Kali came along, and who knew how this middle-aged dog would deal with a baby crawling around in his territory and pulling on his fur? But they were instantly friends–probably because she was a baby and dropped all sorts of delicious treats on the ground for him. Angel was a big fan of human food, and suddenly he had a human who was happy to share. Well, and who he could steal from.
Angel had a long, happy life. He made my life happier just because he was in it. Even Bingley — who hates the existence of all other dogs on principle — was able to hang out with Angel because he was simply The Chillest Dog.
So good night, sweet prince. Thank you for being my puppy for nearly 17 years.