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Angel Dogs, Louisiana Swamps, and Living to Tell the Story

| February 8, 2022
Category: Life Lessons
golden retriever dog named angel
golden retriever dog named angel

As a kid, I dreamed of having a large dog. And by a large dog, I mean something that could run, fetch a ball, go swimming in a pond…basically a dog that could live life with you.  

My parents resisted my request as my first attempt didn’t end well. I used my well-earned grass-cutting money to purchase an English Springer Spaniel for $250. I named her Molly. She was the last dog left in her litter and she was wild. At 11 years old, I wasn’t ready for all the training it would take to make her an indoor dog. With the assistance of my parents, I admitted failure to help her adapt to our family and living situation. We located another person to take care of her, and I never saw her again when she drove off that day. 

Fast forward four years to a new house with a large backyard. An admittedly depressed Brian wanted a dog again. At 15, I had a new school and new friends. 10th grade was a super tough time in my life.  

My parents surprised me for Christmas with a tiny red puppy and she was perfect. She was my Angel – an appropriate name. Her momma was an Irish setter and her daddy a black lab, but for all intents and purposes, she was a golden retriever. That’s what she looked like anyway.

She made the choice to be an outside dog when she peed on and ruined a pillow in my room. It was a sad day putting her outside, but she was much happier and never had another accident inside that wasn’t my fault after that.

Life With Angel

Each morning, I would get up and spend 30 minutes outside with her playing. I’d rush home from school to spend at least an hour a day outside playing with her. We went on long walks throughout the neighborhood. Angel opened doors with her friendly demeanor that I never would have opened. Something about a puppy always draws people in.

What kind of dog is she? How old is she? Questions that always led to learning more about my neighbors as they shared stories about the puppies, children, and grandchildren in their lives. If my parents ever wanted to know what was happening in Dalraida or who someone was, all they had to do was ask me because of Angel.

Fast forward 10 years later and Angel was with me and my bride in our new home in West Monroe, LA. It was an amazing first home for a couple, situated on a pond with a large lush green backyard. It had a chain-link fence all the way around with a gate leading to the pond in the front and one on the side. 

Angel and I, along with her new baby sister, a ginormous Chocolate Lab named Jasmine, or Jazz for short, spent many days walking the neighborhood. Fishing and pond swimming were our normal activities. 

When it was freezing at night, I would bring the dogs into the garage so they could stay warm. Sometimes I’d bring them through the house, but sometimes I’d go to the side gate and walk them in.

The Incident

One cold December, I moved the dogs from the backyard to the garage but made a mistake. I left the gate open. The next morning, I walked the dogs through the house and into the back yard not knowing that the gate was wide open.

I went to work. When I got home that evening, I went to the backyard to check on my dogs, but they didn’t come when I called. I discovered my mistake and immediately went into frantic search mode. Jasmine wasn’t far away and returned when I called fairly quickly. I locked her securely in the backyard and continued my search for my Angel.

I walked the streets for hours that night calling her name and shining my flashlight in back yards everywhere. Around midnight that night, I gave up my search and returned home. I looked again the next morning and swore I saw her riding in the back seat of a Chevy Malibu.

The next evening after work, I searched again. With Jasmine by my side, I walked the streets with an empty leash and fading hope that I’d ever find Angel or even know what happened to her. At nearly 11 p.m., a car passed me. A beige Chevy Mailbu. He stopped up ahead and his bright reverse lights flickered on. He backed up to me and Jazz and rolled down his window. At this point, I was desperate and I was willing to talk to anyone in hopes that maybe they had seen her.

“You can’t just give away my dog!”

The man asked what I was doing walking the streets so late. I explained that I had lost my dog and that I was searching for her. “Son, can you describe her?” he asked. I responded that she was a greying golden retriever. His reply floored me: “I gave her away today to my daughter. She’d been wanting a dog just like her.”

Immediately and defensively I replied, “You can’t just give away my dog! Where is she? I’ll give you cash to get her back.” 

“I took her about 2 hours south and if you want to ride with me, we can get her.”

At this point, logic escaped me and I said, “Let me get my dog back to the house and locked up.” 

Yes, I was about to ride with a complete stranger who had found my dog and given her away in the past 48 hours. Looking back on this moment, it definitely was not the wisest decision of my life.

The man followed me back to my house where I secured Jasmine, picked up my wallet, and got in his car. He asked that we stop by his house before we left. 

He lived about three blocks over in a simple square brick house. He invited me in to which I obliged. Walking into his house, I discovered plastered across the walls pictures of the man in a police uniform. 

“Are you a police officer?” I asked. “No,” he replied. “I’m a volunteer.” 

I’ve seen crime TV shows where people are profiled. Red flags pop up in my mind that maybe this guy wished he was a police officer but for some reason was not eligible. Again, I should have left, but this man had the keys to getting my dog back.

A Long, Weird Drive

We got in his car a little before midnight and started the drive south. 

If you are familiar with Louisiana, you should know that water is in abundance. Quickly we were traveling through swampy areas. My mind began to wonder if I was going to survive this trip. This man could easily take me out and push my body in a swamp to never be found again. While I stared out the window and confronted internally my impending death I heard a loud thump.

“What was that?” I questioned.

“A raccoon. A big one too! Do you eat roadkill?” 

“Of course not!” I replied.  

“I’m going to turn back around and put that one in the trunk.”

“I’d really like to get my dog tonight and it’s already super late,” I replied.

“Have you ever hit a pig before? It’s the worst sound. I hit one before but it wasn’t a wild one. I’m pretty sure it was someone’s pet. I didn’t stop because I didn’t want to deal with someone being mad.”

I sat stunned and reflected on how I loved this dog so much that I was sitting by a road kill-eating pig killer. Time crept by as we continued down the road.

Rescuing Angel

Finally, we pulled up to a small white house. It sat on a conventional foundation with about seven steps leading up to the front door. 

“Let me handle this. You can just wait here,” he told me gesturing to stay at the car. It was nearly 2:00 in the morning as he walked up the steps opening the screen door. He balled his fist and started banging on the front door shouting his daughter’s name. A familiar bark rang out. It was Angel. An angry man, most likely her husband, answered the door and a shouting match began as the man explained that he needed the dog back as I had offered him cash for her return. 

Angel came out of the door, tail wagging, and walked to the Chevy Mailbu. I opened the back door and she hopped in. I walked to the passenger side and got back quickly into the car. The door to the house slammed and the man joined me back in the car. 

“Do you have the cash?” he asked. 

“No sir. But I can get it for you.”

“He wants a $100 too.”

“I can do that,” I replied. “Let’s head back home and I’ll get you the money. I’ll let you settle up with him later.” And with that, we backed out of the driveway.

I slid my left arm into the back seat and patted Angel’s head as we drove home. We arrived at nearly 4 a.m. after stopping at an ATM to settle my debt.

Angel and I went into the house, and I brought Jasmine and her into my room where I collapsed into the bed for a nap before getting back up for work in a few hours. 

Angel lived until she was 16 years old, passing away peacefully in our backyard as she slept beside her friend Jasmine. 

Many have asked if I would take this trip again to get her back. Yes and no. Looking back on it, I should have followed the man versus riding with him. But the results were totally worth the risk because of the years I got to spend with Angel after this that I would have lost. 

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