Saying good-bye to Angel: When a family pet dies unexpectedly

In previous years, I had known that the 4th of July was a terrible day for pets in general. At around 7:30 pm, we closed the front door, leaving our two boys at home while we headed to watch the fireworks at the beach. Little did we know that our lab/catahoula mix, Angel, would not be found when we returned home at 11:00 pm. Our other dog ran out to greet us as we opened the door, but no Angel. Immediately, I drove around the area while my eldest brought the little ones inside and got them ready for bed. Our boys had wandered before, but they always found their way back and never ventured too far from home. After 1:30 am, I called it quits and went to bed praying to hear some good news in the morning. I look back and wish that I would have kept driving around, but he had two contact numbers on his collar and he was micro-chipped.

The next morning, we received a call that no pet owner ever wants to receive. Angel’s body was found in the middle of the 101 freeway northbound and he was gone. I was at work when I received the news and the tears began to flow. My poor Angel baby was so scared and probably just wanted to make it home, but got lost along the way. My heart sank. I called Cal-trans and they told me that they received a phone call regarding a dog on the side of the freeway and then contacted us after finding our numbers on his collar. Having never experienced such a tragedy, I had no idea what to do. They asked if I wanted them to bring him to me and if they should bag him. I broke down crying and explained that I did not know what I was supposed to do. I had no clue whatsoever. They came and brought him to my daughter and I and we simply tried to comprehend what was happening. It was so surreal and unbelievable to see his body. The rigor mortis had already begun to set in and we could see the blood around his head where the blunt force trauma took place. We brought him to the pet hospital in order to say our goodbyes at the end of the day.

As I was driving back to work in order to wrap some things up before taking the day off, I saw a dog crossing the middle of the street without an owner. With tears already streaming down my face, I slowed down and put on my hazards while pulling over to the side where the dog was. While looking around, I tried to find where the owner was. I honestly chuckled to myself and thought, “Is this really happening?” The dog began to walk into the middle of the street and I then jumped out and began to go after her with traffic slowing down on all three sides. Someone shouted to me and asked if that was my dog and I replied, “No, but my dog didn’t make it today, so I’m making sure this one does.”


There are many unanswered questions surrounding what happened, such as how did he get out? Why didn’t my other dog follow him as he usually does? Could someone have opened our door by accident considering we live in an apartment complex? Why did we not see him on any of the complex cameras? How long was he lost for? If someone had reported a stray dog, would that have changed the outcome?

Nothing can change what happened last night, but I know that one person’s actions of simply reporting seeing him would have given me some kind of lead. I had contacted the police department in order to report him lost and provided a description and my phone number. They said if any sightings were made with his description that they would call. Our family said our good-byes and my little ones grieved in different ways. My six-year-old was extremely emotional while the two younger ones were more quiet. They said that he was sleeping and simply stroked his head and said good-bye to him. When I first broke the news to my six-year-old while driving to pick up the other ones, he seemed okay. He simply said that it was okay because all we needed was some lightning and he would be fine (like Frankenweenie). With all the tears that had been shed, the innocence that children possess can make a grim situation shine just a little bit brighter.

While we may not be able to prevent dogs from getting lost in general, there should be something that we can do to promote awareness of animals that are seen wandering. The 4th of July has to be hands down the worst holiday for pet owners as many pets are extremely frightened of the loud noises and sounds going off randomly. In a conversation with my sister, I explained how I wished someone would have called it in that there was a dog wandering. I could tell by his paws that he had been running for quite sometime before his untimely death. Her response was, “I wouldn’t even know who to call.” That is exactly what needs to change. Awareness of what to do and a little kindness can go a long way. I’ve always believed that one person has more power than you would think to believe, but it’s true. Reporting sightings of wandering dogs may not save them all, but perhaps it may save just one and prevent the heartbreak that our family now has to endure. He was not just a pet, but rather a member of our family. The children shared many special times with him and he meant the world to us. Angel’s memory will live on and we will remember him everyday that we raise awareness to others in knowing what to do when they see a wandering pet. Today we lost a family member, but I also saved another family’s “Angel.”

You are always in our hearts my baby boy Angel. We love you.