Ivan the Husky was our first dog. My cousin offered him to Dave and I when he could no longer keep him. I agreed under the strict condition that I could still get a lapdog. Ivan hated being left alone when we went to work so getting a second dog was as much for him as it was for me. I’d never owned a dog before and knew less than nothing. I was looking in pet shops for a teacup Yorkie or a miniature Dachshund, to no avail. I contacted French Bulldog breeders and matter of factly told them I wanted a fawn puppy with a black mask. I balked at the idea of having to wait a year for their next breeding. I wanted a dog now godammit! While looking in the Trading Post I saw a photo of a white dog that was at Staffy Rescue but when I called up they said she’d already been adopted. They called me back a few minutes later and said an 18mo black brindle girl had just come in from the pound if we wanted to come and meet her. It was a wet and wild June night. We were told we could let ourselves in and she was in the first pen. Angel, as they’d called her, bolted out and jumped into my lap. I mistook her stress for affection – which Ivan gave me none of – and didn’t hesitate to pick this anxious wreck of a dog as our new family member!
Before I start posting photos I need to point out that most of them are very old, a lot are snapshots and Angel hated any type of camera being pointed at her – don’t judge me!
She went for desexing before we could pick her up. During the procedure she was found to be pregnant and the litter was aborted. We felt very sorry for her, which is probably why we didn’t drive her straight back to the shelter when the first thing she did when we got her home was take a shit on the sofa. While Dave was getting something to clean it up with she did a piss in the hallway. This turned out to be her signature move, the stealth wee, which continued until she became incontinent 14 years later and had to start wearing a diaper.
Lure coursing photo by Pinnicle Photography
Angel was a great starter Staffy. She was as bold as brass, cheeky as all hell, no issues with other dogs and did her job of keeping Ivan company as well as we could have hoped. We used to joke that he probably wished he hadn’t made such a fuss about being lonely because now he was stuck with this little bitch who’d stroll out of the Husky size kennel every afternoon while he lay in the rain, too big for the Staffy size kennel!
Walking Ivan every day was non-negotiable but we found that Angel would plant her bum on the ground and refuse to move. We thought it was a fear of traffic so she wasn’t walked during the week but on the weekends she’d get to go to Centennial Park where she’d happily chase swallows around Federation Valley for considerably longer than we wanted her to. Angel always did what Angel wanted.
I signed her up for obedience classes and when the instructor saw her name on my badge she remarked “A Staffy called Angel? Someone was having a laugh!” She was not wrong. This dog was the furthest thing from an Angel but I loved that about her. She had the biggest personality. She used to do this thing, before I had an iPhone, where she’d run down the hallway, drop her shoulder and do a commando roll, then quickly look around to make sure I was watching her. It cracked me up every single time.
We fostered and adopted Chopper 3 months later and that’s when I realised it was time to learn a bit more about dogs because he was a cyclone of destruction. Our neighbour told us Chopper and Angel’s rough play sounded like a colosseum when we were at work. I got a call from another neighbour one day to say him and Angel had dug under the fence and could I come and get them from her garden please. I had to bring them back to work with me and tie them up under my desk. Not a lot got done that day.
Her digging became an issue for me another time … we were having a party at home that was still going when the sun rose and we suddenly realised Angel was nowhere to be found. We all sobered up very quickly and spilled out onto the street to try and find her. I don’t know how long we looked, it felt like forever, but then I remembered she had a fondness for tunnelling under the deck so I checked and there she was, lying in the cool dirt. Relief and fury all at the same time!
Angel and Chopper were fiends for fetch. Angel had no interest in toys before Chopper arrived but now she had some competition it was game on mole. The dog that hated leaving the house would pull the whole way to the park if she saw you had the ball thrower. Once the back gate was open when I opened the back door and she ran all the way to the park without me, she was so proud of herself. They played fetch so hard it’s amazing that they lived such long and injury free lives. Angel almost never got the ball but when she did she’d take it to the water bowl and leave it there while she dug out all the water. Then she’d lay in the puddle with her head on the edge of the bowl and her foot in whatever water was left while she gently lapped it up. Chopper was definitely not her bitch but he knew not to attempt to steal that ball. We all had to wait until she decided it was time to play again! Despite this crazy ball drive she would only play fetch with Chopper. If you took her to the park on her own she’d fuck off home once her leash was unclipped. You feel like a real arse standing in the park yelling “Angel, ANGEL!” while the least angelic dog ever looks over her shoulder laughing at you while she’s running away. (She really did do that, the little shit.)
As far as manipulation went, Angel was the master. Her other signature move was to roll onto her back at everyone’s feet to get belly rubs. She had a 100% success rate and no one was immune to her charm. While she was there we’d often push her lips back to give her vampire teeth, she’d just lie there and take it because any attention was good attention. She was great with kids, she instinctively knew to behave herself around them and sit quietly with her tongue, that she could rarely keep to herself, kept in her mouth. I don’t know how she made it to 15 with her paws intact, she would lick them 24/7 if you let her (I didn’t!).
Both Angel and Chopper were storm and fireworks phobic so we always had to spend New Years Eve at home and our summer nights out were often cut short by having to rush home because a storm was coming. I do not miss those days.
We weren’t a three dog family for all that long. Trixie joined us a couple of years later. Initially she clashed with Chopper but a few years later we noticed her and Angel’s crates would be pushed away from each other when we’d get home, like they’d been having a go at each other through the bars. In a massive lapse of judgment we left them together when we went out to buy groceries and they tried to kill each other. Luckily our friends were there and pulled them apart before too much damage was done. Even though Angel was on her back she still managed to cause the worst injuries. Bitches sure know how to hold a grudge and they could never be trusted again. There were a few more scuffles over the years but we learned how to manage them and their triggers. Despite their occasional desire to take each other out they’d still snuggle together 99% of the time.
Even though Angel was an anxious wreck when you took her out of the house, at home she was a different dog. She was the matriarch and every foster puppy learned not to mess with her from day one, even Bruno. This is my absolute favourite video of them, it sums her up to a tee! Unfortunately she had pretty much relinquished her crown by the time Butters arrived so she didn’t instil the fear in him which meant, despite her age and failing health, when he tried to play with her and she wanted to play back he’d send her flying. He never hurt her but he probably thinks his full name is BUTTERS TOO MUCH now.
Angel was food crazy and didn’t mind yelling at you when she felt it was past feeding time. Our dogs are only fed once a day, in the morning, but at our dinnertime she would assume position where the carpet met the kitchen tiles and take note of every crumb that fell on the floor so when you took the plates to the table she could go in and clean up. There were so many things like this which she did for years that I didn’t notice she’d slowly stopped doing as she became sick. It was only looking back on videos from 6-12mos ago that we realised how much her sass had diminished.
Angel was supposed to be one of those Staffies that lived to 18 or 20. She was never sick, her whole life. We’re truly grateful for the almost 14 healthy years we had together but I really thought she’d be around for longer. There were only four months between her early renal failure diagnosis and her passing but they were so incredibly stressful. She was tormented. There was not enough water in the world to satisfy her thirst so she had to be monitored or she’d drink until she vomited. She wanted to go to the water bowl every ten minutes. I was losing my mind. We’d spent thousands on vets and no one was coming up with a solution to help her. I cried so many tears and had several panic attacks. It was breaking me to see her like this. I wished she’d die peacefully in her sleep and then I absolutely hated myself for even thinking that. On the Wednesday before she passed I took her to the vet hoping he’d tell me it was time (she couldn’t keep food or water down). He suggested putting her on a drip for 72hrs before making that decision. I naively thought she’d be a new dog when she got home. But she was worse. She came home with a dementia diagnosis on top of everything else. She was now so hydrated she was soiling herself several times a day and it was like she didn’t even know, she remained lying in the soaked diaper and piss laden bed. On the Monday she started throwing up her food again, she must have thrown up about ten times that day. We decided it was time to end her suffering. It was so hard, so soon after Chopper, but even though I don’t know what happens after we die I took some comfort in thinking that they’re together again.
My shit-eating, hole digging, ninja bed wetting, crocodile jaw snapping, lap Staffy. The only dog who never resisted a bath. She was part of my life for longer than any dog I’ve lived with and it’s really weird to not see the little black honey badger every time I turn around, watching my every move. To hear her little tail start thumping when I look over and catch her eye.
I can’t tell if now, while I’m in self-isolation, was the perfect time to write this memorial post or the worst. Either way it’s made me cry my eyes out and I think I needed that.
I put this album together for Dave and I. Considering how much Angel hated having her photo taken I was surprised to have so many photos of her that I love. I’ll cherish them forever. She was a brat but I really miss my baby girl.