Slowly she moved and stretched at the bottom of the bed then wiggled and manoeuvred to snuggle in between us hoping for a cuddle and the possibility of reaching our pillows.
Though the winter sun had not entered the room, I knew what time it was by her routine. Soon she would jump off the bed and run to the back door and wait for it to be opened then after a quick dash into the cold outside, she would briskly run back to the bedroom. Standing beside the high bed she would focus, balance, try and then try again until her damaged hip and her aged legs were ready to jump back onto the bed and the warmth of her blanket. Her name is Angel and she is a rescue dog, an affectionate Staffie who had been returned to the shelter by her first three rescuers before being chosen by the owners she has loved now for nearly 14 years.
Meeting Angel for the first time was a daunting experience as we were seeking her approval to be accepted as her carer and provider while her owners travelled abroad for six weeks. After sharing a delicious home cooked meal with her owners, we joined Angel on her afternoon walk and returning home, she gently lay across my feet to acknowledge her acceptance and assure her owners of their choice. It was an anxious experience for her owners as it would be the first time they had left their home and their precious pet in the care of others.
Initially Angel’s owners faced many obstacles when they rescued her including the fact that she was expelled from every obedience and training course they enrolled her in. She was proving difficult to manage and train and eventually they too decided to return her to the shelter only to be told that they had been her last chance. Not wanting the unthinkable to be Angel’s fate, they decided to keep her and give her another chance. Over the next 14 years she has shown them loyalty, enormous affection and sometimes utter chaos.
We were delighted to have the opportunity to spend six lively and fun-filled weeks with Angel during which time she managed to capture our hearts and our love. Her unique personality, combined with her guttural barking and her stiff hind leg will always be with us. We became familiar with her different noises – the first noise in the morning as she woke when she wanted a cuddle, the unbelievable song she sang when it was time for breakfast, the nagging whimper when it was reward time to the hullabaloo when it was time for her daily walk. Each vocalisation was slightly different in pitch and tone yet nothing like we had ever heard before.
The weather was rather wet and both she and Greg would be muddy from their walk. After lunch each day, Greg would change into his “walking” trousers which would immediately excite Angel and she would run round and round in circles, her nose held high and the clamour would begin. She was so intelligent that she recognised these “walking” trousers when Greg was wearing them even when it was not her walk time and he was simply going to the shops. He would have to pretend to be doing something else, like reading a book, until she settled in her day bed before he could quietly leave the house without her.
She was definitely an optimist and would test us by starting to beg for her dinner at about 4 o’clock each afternoon. Greg thought he would teach her to tell the time and so began their daily ritual of her starting to beg and him telling her “Look at the Clock – what time is it?” “You have one and a half hours to wait”. She would look at him with her big brown eyes as if he was joking then reluctantly return to her bed until a short time later, she would try her luck again. During our time with her, we managed to stall her feeding from 5.00 to 5.15, to 5.30 and even as close as 6pm on at least once occasion. She enjoyed this game with Greg and once she understood it, would just move from her bed and look at the clock and then wait for his speel about the time.
Angel’s life revolved around rewards and she certainly received them from us. On their return, her owners did comment that perhaps she was looking a little heavier than before their holiday. When we left her alone in the house, she had her Kong and though it was always empty on our return, she would greet us with it placed firmly in her mouth because she knew when it was returned to us, she would be rewarded with a biscuit. She was familiar with the sound of the kettle boiling and knew that a cuppa for the humans meant it was biscuit time for her.
On one of her daily walks, the path became rather muddy and Greg decided to move in a slightly different position but as Angel was running in front of him, it took her a little while to realise where he was. Taking a short-cut across the path and mud to join him, she fell into a small hole where the ground was soft. Apparently she was rather horrified that this had happened to her and with her head held high, jumped out as quickly as possible and continued to run to Greg, pretending that this embarrassment had not happened to her.
Angel showered us with so much affection and we came to appreciate how brave and intelligent she is. When her owners returned from their travels she was delighted to see them and for a few hours before we departed, she had four humans to fuss over her and she loved every minute of it. We will always cherish the memories of our time with Angel and the love she showed us.