An Animal Rescue Story-Searching for Angel’s history

rescue dog story cover

*This story appeared February 12, 2018 in Wayne County Press, a newspaper in the area where my dog, Angel was found in Southern Illinois. She celebrated her 12th birthday and adoptaversary on March 18.


By Tracy Ahrens

Angel in Southern Illinois shelter after she was found rescueThis story is about a search. A search for the previous owners of my adopted rescue dog.

By no means would I ever return her to those owners, for over the past year she has become part of me that I could not live without. But as the anniversary of her being picked up by an animal control facility is upon us, I would like to know why this geriatric gentle soul, without a name, was discarded or never searched for after she left what she knew as “home.”


Nearly Euthanized

Her deep brown, calf-like eyes have made me look inside of her mind many times, wondering why she was nearly euthanized because someone didn’t want to look for her when she was lost, or if she was purposefully abandoned.

I am curious why she has a large scar on her left shoulder if she ever had puppies, where she came from, when she was born and what breed her parents were.  I wonder if she ever slept in a human’s bed, played with stuffed squeaky toys, has been professionally groomed or if you have photos of her from her younger years. I simply wonder what her name was.

This is what I know about my geriatric girl who is now named Angel.

Angel at Cache Creek Animal Rescue in Frankfort Illinois rescue

On February 11, 2017, she was picked up as a stray by Wayne County Humane Society and Animal Control in a southern Illinois town called Fairfield. She was not wearing a collar and was not microchipped. Noted as “elderly” and a “catahoula/heeler/shepherd/husky mix” she was classified as an “escape artist.” If you know Huskies, you know they like to keep going in one direction “on a mission” if they run off. If you know Angel, she’s arthritic and fairly slow, so the label of “escape artist” makes me laugh.

Angel sat at animal control waiting for someone to claim her. When her “hold” time was up and euthanasia was scheduled, animal control workers couldn’t bear to kill her. She also spoke to them with her soulful eyes and gentle demeanor. She didn’t deserve this fate. So, they networked with an animal rescue worker closer to my home which is over 200 miles north.  This rescue worker, Donna, is known for transporting shelter animals facing euthanasia in remote towns, to help increase their chances for adoption.


Deserved to Live

Angel the day she met Tracy Ahrens rescue

Donna also took one look at Angel and knew she deserved to live. On February 23, Angel traveled by van over 200 miles to Cache Creek Animal Rescue, then based in New Lenox, Il…

A young shelter volunteer, Jason, sat in a large cage with her for at least an hour researching names on the Internet to find one that suited her. For adoption purposes, he named her Aira, which means “of the wind.”

My path crossed with Angel as I was filled with sorrow. Cache Creek Animal Rescue advertised another dog that reminded me of my dog, Trucker, who had passed away from cancer in January. He battled cancer as I battled breast cancer. My home was empty without him and my heart was shattered. I started casually searching shelters to find another dog that touched my soul.


Broken Emotionally

Angel in her new yard rescue

When I walked through the kennel to see that advertised dog, I saw Angel lying on a bed in her cage. She was broken emotionally, ears drooping, eyes expressing great sorrow and worry.

I stood in the shelter waiting room thinking, then I asked if they could bring this aged girl out to see me.

I still remember her eyes meeting mine as she walked slowly with the shelter worker. I dropped to my knees, hugged her and cried. She was just as broken as me.

We sat together alone in a cat rescue room to see if she interacted well with felines. I have three cats, so this was vital. Angel didn’t care about them. In fact, she stuck to me like she had known me for a lifetime. I captured her in a photo that day with her head lodged between my knees and her eyes piercing my soul. I placed that image in a frame that says “Best day ever.”

Tracy Ahrens kissing Angel after adoption rescue

Angel had to be vetted before I could bring her home, so I visited her again before she moved in with me on March 18. When she saw me the second time, her ears stood up and she danced a bit, touching me that she found me so comforting. Estimated to be 11 years of age, Angel was lumpy with fatty tumors, limped with arthritis, had missing and worn down teeth and was clearly not spayed.

I worried about her fatty tumors being cancerous, as my dog had fatty tumors, including one that contained mast cell cancer. Losing another dog so quickly after meeting was something I couldn’t imagine facing. Tests, however, showed she was cancer free.

I also knew, because of her breed and an unknown senior age, that her time with me would be limited. But none of this was her fault and I knew she deserved unbridled love for what little time we may have together.

Because of her age, a myriad of health issues, and perhaps because the shelter workers knew my story of fighting cancer and losing my dog to the same disease, they waived her adoption fee. This “free” dog is worth more than any fee I could have ever paid.

Sure, she is hard of hearing, has a thyroid condition (she takes medicine daily), is a bit overweight, has arthritis, and a paralyzed larynx – but with love and security, she has blossomed into a puppy again.


Brings Tears

Angel on her new owner's bed rescuePeople marvel over her smile, a smile and perky ears that sprouted almost immediately in my care. She responded quickly to the name Angel as if it was meant to be.

She still dances in a circle when she sees me after being apart; her bond with me brings tears to my eyes.

I wonder if she was discarded because of her coughing and sometimes vomiting after drinking (due to the paralyzed larynx), or maybe because she sheds enough fur to stuff king-size pillows, or that she is often as stubborn as a goat.

I wonder if she ever played with toys, as it took her over two months before she picked one up with excitement. I wonder if she ever had her photo taken, as she slightly feared me taking her photo for the first couple months we were together.

She has a sense of shyness when meeting new people, but with assurance, she loves children, adults, other dogs and cats.

I know she likes pizza, peanut butter, and ice cream. The word “no” means little to her. She talks and whimpers like a husky. Rabbits excite her. She also seems to love water, as she walked without hesitation into the river beside my home.

Angel has become a bit of a celebrity in my care. I write about raising my pets for several online and print publications. She also has a following on Facebook and Instagram ( and

If someone truly lost this beautiful girl and misses her, I want you to know that Angel has a basket full of stuffed toys, five Angel's first adoptaversary photo rescuelarge dog beds throughout my home, a wooden stool to climb up onto my bed (where she sleeps beside me every night), food and water bowls hand painted with her portrait, designer collars, an unending cookie jar full of bully sticks (her favorite), she wears hats and other attire to be photographed for holidays, she goes on daily walks, is professionally groomed, has a neighbor who babysits her (at my neighbor’s house) when I’m at work, and without question, she has immeasurable love.

If you could share with me anything more about her history, I would love to know. I realize that her history may include neglect that I cannot fathom, but due to Angel’s loving demeanor, I think she had to know some degree of love.

Rest assured, for the rest of her days I will bring her love and peace.


Two phone calls were received from people in Wayne County who read this story. Neither of them knew Angel from the past, but they wanted to tell me:

  1. “I really enjoyed your story”
  2. “I wanted to tell you how touched I was by your story – and I praise you for taking this old dog. I enjoyed your story honey. Bless you.”

I also contacted Wayne County Humane Society and Animal Control to see if they had any more information on Angel. All of the workers who were at the rescue shelter when Angel was found are no longer working there.