Angel’s Story

My precious Angel, I can’t even begin to describe the sadness in our family since you left us yesterday, January 23, 2010, just before 4 pm.  Your life with us was a gift from God, given on the day you were born.  We tried to prepare ourselves to return you to God on that very day since you were born with a cleft palate and couldn’t nurse.  But God had a job for you to do on Earth and gave us the ability to save you so you could live a happy, normal life.  Your job on Earth is now complete and you had to return to Heaven to be with your mother, DeeDee, and your baby sister, Tabitha, who didn’t make it in order to give you a chance to live.

Your little heart was a ticking time bomb according to the vets at the emergency clinic where we had to rush you last October.  It was leaking badly in two places and it was only a matter of time until the leak became so large that it would fill your lungs.  The vets said you probably would be gone before Christmas. But you were always so headstrong and you insisted on always doing things your way, so you decided to wait until my birthday a month later to begin your journey to the Bridge.  Knowing you as I do, you probably chose that day thinking that I would have to always think of you on my birthdays in the years to come.  But this time you are so wrong – I will think of you every single day for the rest of my life.

You tried very hard to be a little devil in disguise, but you really weren’t very good at it. Your temper tantrums were always ignored by the others, and your loud howling whenever you found yourself in a room alone really didn’t get the results you wanted.  Well, maybe I’m wrong there.  Dad and I would always run to see if you were in some kind of trouble, but there you were – sitting in the middle of the room all by yourself waiting for someone to answer your howls.  When you saw us, you were satisfied that you had won and would wave that tail in the air like a flag and walk out of the room ahead of us.  You sure did have a lot of very unique behaviors that you used to wrap us around your little paws.

You did a lot of good things during your eight and a half years on Earth.  There were so many walks around Lake Hollingsworth year after year to raise money for the SPCA.  And of course the walk for the Heart Association representing the Winter Haven Hospital back in 2003 will never be forgotten.  You looked so cute with your hospital t-shirt and your stethoscope around your neck.  If only there was more research being done to repair the hearts of dogs, then maybe we could have once again saved you.

We will always love you and we will never forget all the joy you brought to our lives for nearly nine years.

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Angel’s life story continues below…….

Even though April and Angel are sisters, Angel’s story is very unique and must be told on a page of its own.

Weeks before Angel’s birth, she was already engaged in a fierce fight for life.  A week before DeeDee’s due date, we had a precautionary xray done by our vet. The xray revealed three puppies, but only two of them were completely formed.  The third one was not as far developed as the other two and, therefore, wasn’t given much of a chance for survival.  DeeDee, however, didn’t give birth on her due date.  She actually went ten days beyond her due date.  The extra ten days gave little Angel a chance to catch up, and her lungs developed enough to give her a better chance to survive in the outside world. Unfortunately, the extra ten days also cost the largest puppy we later named Tabitha, her life.  Tabitha was too large to be born and became stuck in the birth canal.  We tried to get to the vet to have a C-section performed, but we couldn’t get there quick enough. Tabitha suffocated and died before she was born.

Tabitha was a beautiful white powderpuff Chinese Crested who gave her life in order for her sister to live. Tabitha is now buried in our pet cemetery with a memorial marker, just as our other beloved pets.

Angel was very tiny at birth but she appeared to be fully formed and able to breathe on her own. She was born with a broken tail and, as we discovered much later, no cartilage in her ears which gave her no ability to stand her ears up like a normal Chinese Crested. When she didn’t attempt to nurse as most newborns do, we examined her further.  Shelly immediately noticed that the puppy had a cleft palate.  A wide trench was carved out on the roof of Angel’s mouth from the very front all the way down her throat.  There was no way this pup would ever be able to eat.

After learning of this grave disability, I held her and gave her the name Angel because I was sure she would have to be put to sleep and then become an Angel at Rainbow Bridge.  I gave her to Shelly and asked her to take her to the vet’s office.

A little while later Shelly called me from the vet’s office.  My vet knew how much my dogs meant to me and offered a possible solution. There were no guarantees of success, but the vet said if I had the patience to tube feed Angel until she was about 3 months old, she was a possible candidate for surgery to close the cleft.  Of course I said YES, I would do whatever it took to save my Angel.

Things definitely did not come easy from this point forward.  Angel basically had to be removed from DeeDee except at night.  I left her with her mother at night so she could still form a bond with her and her sister, April.  I went to the vet’s office the next morning to learn how to take care of Angel.  I was given a very narrow, 8-inch-long tube and was instructed on how to literally thread the end of this tube down Angel’s throat until it reached her stomach.  A syringe with puppy formula was attached to the end of it and had to be injected at just the right interval to keep the milk from coming back up.  As if this wasn’t enough of a challenge, I was told to be very careful when inserting the tube because it could very easily be directed into her lungs instead of her stomach.  If this happened, I would drown her.  I was also warned that this type of feeding could also lead to pneumonia and death.

To make tube feeding a little easier, my vet made a mark on the tube with tape and said the tube should go all the way in until the tape reached her mouth.  If the tube stopped before getting that far in, then the tube was in her lungs and I would have to pull it out and start over.  Feeding Angel this way every four hours was very hard on my nerves, but I did get quite good at it as I got more and more practice.

During the week I would drop Angel at my vet’s office on my way to work for “doggie day care”.  This way the technicians were there to feed her during the day and I would take care of the night feedings.  This schedule continued until she was about 5 weeks old. Then the feedings were cut down to where she could go without a feeding for several hours until I got home.

I did have quite a few very scary moments during those first few weeks of taking care of Angel.  There were times when the milk would come back up and she would start choking.  Other times the milk would start pouring out of her nose.  When she was a couple months old, the milk was mixed with a special thickener to provide more nourishment for a growing puppy.  The “thickened” milk was harder to push down the tube and Angel was bigger and stronger and harder to hold on to.  At this point it always took two people to feed her.

When Angel was about 10 weeks old, we really started running into difficulty.  She now had very sharp little puppy teeth.  By now she had associated the tube with food and tried to do what comes naturally — chew.  By the time the tube reached her stomach and we would start pumping the food in, she would bite down on the tube and split it.  Each time it got worse until I finally took her back to the vet to try and figure out something else.  He examined her and said it was time to do the surgery to close the cleft.  He would have preferred waiting a couple more weeks, but with her chewing on the feeding tube, there was no alternative.

It was a very hard surgery to perform and took almost five hours to complete.  I went in that night after the surgery to see Angel and immediately broke into tears.  Her whole face was swollen and bloody and she couldn’t even hold her head up.  The vet told me he was taking her home with him that night because she had to be watched very closely.  The next night I was able to take her home.  She slept constantly for almost 3 days.

The feeding tube was now surgically inserted through the side of her neck directly into her esophagus.  It was all taped in place where it wouldn’t have to be removed.  Her diet was changed to a regular prescription canned dog food that was made to be watered down in order to go through the tube.  I was given a 64-ounce syringe to put the food in.  At feeding time we only had to remove the cap from the tube, attach the syringe with the food, and push it through.  This was a lot easier than trying to find her stomach with the separate tube, but it was still risky for her.

Angel was tube fed in this manner until she was almost 5 months old.  She had a complete wardrobe of little T-shirts that we had to keep on her to hide the end of the tube so the other dogs wouldn’t pull it out.  Then one day when she was playing with April, the tube came out of her neck during a wrestling match.  I panicked and we rushed her to the vet.  Upon checking her mouth, he said it appeared to be healed enough so she could try and eat on her own.  He brought in a dish of canned puppy food and gave it to her.

There are no words to describe her reaction to the food.  For the very first time in the five months of her life, Angel could actually eat normally and taste what she was eating. There were no more problems with her mouth. We fed her twice a day, and at each feeding she would eat an entire can and beg for more.

Presently there is still one small opening in Angel’s mouth right behind her front teeth. It hasn’t given her any problems so far, so the suggestion was to just leave it alone.

Angel has grown into a beautiful dog with a great personality.  While Mom was still alive, Angel would do her rounds visiting the residents at the nursing home.  She loves to go on trips and she loves getting her picture taken.  Of all the dogs we currently have,
Angel definitely takes the title of “head mistress”.  She has a way of strutting around with that little broken tail held high as if to say,”HEY EVERYBODY, LOOK AT ME —  I’M SPECIAL”.  And she is!

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ANGEL’S BIRTHDAY- 4/18/01

ANGEL (BOTTOM) AND APRIL

3 WEEKS OLD — HUNGRY

FIVE WEEKS OLD

ANGEL AND TARA

THE PICTURES BELOW WERE TAKEN RIGHT AFTER THE SURGERY TO REPAIR ANGEL’S CLEFT PALATE

APRIL TRYING TO COMFORT HER SISTER AFTER SURGERY

ANGEL HAD A COMPLETE WARDROBE OF T-SHIRTS TO HIDE HER FEEDING TUBE

ANGEL AT FIVE MONTHS OF AGE. THIS WAS TAKEN SHORTLY AFTER THE FEEDING TUBE WAS FINALLY REMOVED. 

CHRISTMAS – 2001

EASTER – 2002

JULY 2002

WONDER WHAT SHE’S WISHING FOR

SAILING WITH SIS

ANGEL’S FIRST HAIRCUT JULY 2003

ANGEL PARTICIPATED IN THE CHARITY WALK FOR THE AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION IN OCTOBER 2003.  SHE WALKED FOR WINTER HAVEN HOSPITAL.  HERE SHE IS WEARING HER HOSPITAL T-SHIRT AND CARRYING HER STETHOSCOPE.

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