Rheumatoid Arthritis Warrior's Angel Puppy, Gabriel | Rheumatoid Arthritis Warrior

Rheumatoid Arthritis Warrior’s Angel Puppy, Gabriel

The story of my angel Gabriel

Holding my dog Gabriel One year ago today, we lost our dog Gabriel. Had he made it through last summer, he would have been 19 years old. I bought him on New Years’ day with Christmas money. I was 7 months pregnant with my firstborn. I always told Gabe he was my “first adopted”.

Gabriel was a Bichon Frise. Even though he was a purebred, I purchased him for only one hundred dollars. There were two reasons that he was such a “cheap” puppy.

First, he had little freckles on his nose and foot pads. These coloring “imperfections” made him too flawed to either show or breed. He fit in perfectly around here – we aren’t show offs either.

The second reason I got such a deal was that I traveled out into the country to find him. Gabe was born on a farm an hour outside of town. It was a funny scene when we found him. There were seven tiny white balls of fluff bouncing around like ping pong balls in this dull sitting room. It was a blur of fur. He was the one that I caught.

Over the years, I spent hundreds of hours grooming Gaber. I quickly discovered that professional grooming is very expensive for Bichons, so I learned how to do it myself. That is how I use to always handle everything – just tackle it by myself. I got a book from the library. And Gabriel and I figured it out.

He was gorgeous and tried to cooperate with me. His favorite part was running around after a haircut listening to us say how handsome he looked. He posed for lots of pictures. Even family portraits.

Gabe had a lot of unusual qualities.

my dog Gabriel's faceHe loved visitors so much that he often threatened to go home with them. We had prayed he would always make visitors feel welcome. He certainly did.

One of Gabe’s funniest tricks was to bounce straight up like a basketball in front of the window in our front door. The window was four feet off the ground. It was so funny to see the reaction of people when they rang the doorbell. Within seconds, they were face to face with Gabe. Not what they expected. And then he was gone. And then he was back. Up and down…

Gradually, Gabe slowed down.

Eventually, his bouncing days ended. But he found other ways to express his ebullient personality. He helped me raise four of my children. It was obvious that he saw himself as one of the parents, not one of the kids. Firstborns are like that—even when they are adopted.

We grew old together overnight.

During the last years we had Gabriel, he developed arthritis all over the place.  I became unable to care for him and he became unable to do the things that showed people how cheerful and funny he was. Neither of us gave up though.

When his hair got so long he could not see out, I would painstakingly groom him. He would patiently stand still. It might take hours. He was my angel. I used to sing to him the song by Sonny and Cher, I Got You Babe. But, of course it went like this: I Got You, GABE.

I miss my Gabriel today. I think of him when I get in bed each night and my hips and shoulders pull out of place the same way that his did. I think of him whenever I hear the songs I sang to him every day. And I know better now than I did 20 years ago: he definitely was a first quality dog.

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Kelly O'Neill

Kelly O'Neill (formerly Kelly Young) has worked about 12 years as an advocate helping patients to be better informed and have a greater voice in their healthcare. She is the author of the best-selling book Rheumatoid Arthritis Unmasked: 10 Dangers of Rheumatoid Disease. Kelly received national acknowledgement with the 2011 WebMD Health Hero award. She is the president of the Rheumatoid Patient Foundation. Through her writing and speaking, she builds a more accurate awareness of rheumatoid disease (RD) aka rheumatoid arthritis (RA) geared toward the public and medical community; creates ways to empower patients to advocate for improved diagnosis and treatment; and brings recognition and visibility to the RA patient journey. In addition to RA Warrior, she writes periodically for newsletters, magazines, and websites. There are over 60,000 connections of her highly interactive Facebook page. You can also connect with Kelly on Twitter or YouTube, or LinkedIn. She created the hashtag: #rheum. Kelly is a mother of five, longtime home-schooler, NASA enthusiast, and NFL fan. She has lived over fourteen years with unrelenting RD. See also https:/rawarrior.com/kelly-young-press/

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19 thoughts on “Rheumatoid Arthritis Warrior’s Angel Puppy, Gabriel

  • May 29, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    So sorry to hear about your little Gabriel. Dogs are such wonderful companions and balms to souls.

    Hang in there – RA is an extremely tough disease to have.

    Grace happens, really,

    my blog is under my nom de guerre Mamamull

  • June 28, 2009 at 2:55 am

    awww I know exactly how you feel. I love your Gabriel too! Thanks for the pic.

    I have 2 labs – Austin and Lucky (Male and Female). They are my grounding and my home. Recently they had two pups – Alex and Laadli. Alex – the male – got adopted real quick – but when the little guy went it was like he took our air with him. I miss him – he was a little arrogant guy who knew how good he looked and used it to his advantage too – we miss him.

  • July 24, 2010 at 1:16 am

    I know it’s been a while now, Kelly, but I saw this post while doing some back reading on your site, and I wanted to say how sorry I am that you lost a family member. I’ve always had a furry family member, currently a mostly black lab – brother I consider him since we live with mom. I love that you refer to Gabe as your first adopted, I just can’t see eye to eye with those who don’t like dogs. Mine is seriously my best friend. He sleeps in bed with me, goes for walks and drives with me…if he were allowed in the super market, I’d take him shopping with me. I ran into a man at the park a couple of days ago, and Bailey was walking towards him – he got about ten feet or so away (not very close at all) and the man started lecturing me. He told me that he’d been bitten twice and he’d “not hesitate to take out my dog if he came after him”, and that he “doesn’t care for them” (meaning dogs). I simply stated that I didn’t care for HIM, and if he touched Bailey I would kill him with my crippled hands. He gave me the nastiest look I could imagine and didn’t say another word… I can only imagine the pain you felt losing Gabe, but trust me when I say I know how much he meant to you.

  • January 5, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    OMG. The more I read on this site..the more I connect with. I am sitting here looking at my 14 y/o senior girl, named Wags. Wags shares the same joint pain I have, as you did with Gabe. Wags and I make the slow crawl up the stairs to my office each day. She is my “dog of the world”. Even when we encounter others who just don’t get it, our wonderful pets seem to instinctively know how to be there for us. I am glad that your family enjoyed that same kind of special relationship that I and many of us, share with our pets. We have a funny African Grey named Molly who belches and makes us laugh…but there is nothing like the love and loyalty of a dog. 🙂

    • January 6, 2011 at 11:09 am

      Thanks Sandy. I’m really wanting to get another puppy. I keep waiting for my condition to improve so I can care for him myself. Youre right, they give more than they take! what a blessing.

  • February 6, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    We lost our bichon a while back. They are such happy dogs. We do have anew puppy a year old now. She is Havanese which is a cuban bichon and also has some maltese in her. So I guess that makes her a Havamalt. She also has all the bichon fun behavior. She is bringing us many smiles everyday.

  • February 6, 2011 at 6:50 pm

    Kelly great story. I have four dogs. They are all small dogs. But each with a big personality!When I am not feeling well, they somehow know, and will sit on my lap. The comfort seems to make everything better. I also have four cats. I am a volunteer at a local animal shelter, when my RA is not taking control. Animals are wonderful additions to our life. They make me stop and slow my hectic life down. I hope you find the strength to get another one.

  • February 6, 2011 at 7:32 pm

    Kelly, I’m with Sandy….the more I read here, the closer the connection. So sorry to hear about your special Angel Puppy. We, too, had one of these! Our puppy was destined to be put to sleep because she was born deaf to a dalmatian breeder, but our oldest son came back from the breeder’s home, with this puppy in his arms and tears in his eyes, to tell us all what was about to happen to the puppy–he begged us to let him keep the puppy. Well, with much trepidation because the puppy was fragile, we told the breeder we would take her. The breeder was a wonderful woman who had also fallen in love with this puppy, but she just couldn’t keep her in this condition. She gave her to us and helped us to train her–she insisted we never let her run free because she would never hear traffic, shouts etc, and we agreed to all the conditions. The breeder also said this puppy may not live past six months, and for us to be ready, just in case.
    Well, we had our beautiful deaf dalmatian for almost 14 years—she lived longer than her siblings did, much to the breeder’s amazement. Our beautiful and loving “puppy” was at my side and gave me much support during my cancer years, was also a great buddy to my husband, our kids and their friends, and we all worshipped her. She died in our home, with us at her side, on Christmas Eve several years ago, and we still miss her so very much, just as you miss your Gabriel. Love and support bring about many miracles,though, and maybe that’s why I try to keep the faith that this dreadful RA disease will also be the recipient of some miracle treatment. Sorry to be so windy, but you touched another chord today, Kelly!

  • February 6, 2011 at 7:41 pm

    I’m sorry about your loss and understand oh so well how much they touch our lives. I have always been a pet lover and have always had cats. When I was growing up I had dogs and when I got married my husband and I had a dog I rescued off the freeway … but he pee’ d every time he was happy. I lost my husband and 4 year old son in a car accident.(I was 25yrs old) An accident that never should have happened. I became a cat only gal and when I got married again, 25+ years later my husband was not a cat lover. But my Tassy won him over. We rescued another cat and we were in a normal life. We both worked f/t and had a p/t job also. Sadly my husband died at the age of 48. Suddenly and sadly by an error in the reading of a CT scan. If it had been read correctly I believe he would still be here. My Mom had a dog that I would watch when she would go down south to her sisters. I realized that the dog was the only reason I climbed out of my chair and went outside. So ….. I decided to get a dog. I found a great dog with a rescue group, where I also became a foster mom for them, and I found love again. I had major back surgery, was staying with my mom while I got back on my feet and one night Sugar Bear was restless. I got up with him and 30 minutes later he was dead. I sat holding him till the Vet’s office opened (6 1/2 hours) and had them try to find out why he died. It was a surprise to loose him, just like my husband dying, and I had to know. When I called the rescue group to tell them Sugar had died I was informed that they had a dog they were going to call me about to foster. Their words were “He’s just the kind of dog you love” But they had waited 5 weeks before calling me since they knew I had surgery. My Mom drove me to San Jose, I could drive yet, this dog was handed over to me, he laid his head next to my cheek and the rest is history. It’s his face on my profile pic on FB. Between fighting to find out what’s wrong with me and still grieving over my husband I had this wonderful dog that loves my for me and I feel so blessed every single day. Didn’t mean to write this much .. but, oh well …. I did 🙂

    • February 6, 2011 at 9:07 pm

      Oh Lacie, I am so sorry you have had so much pain. Bless your heart. I’m so glad you have your puppy & your mom.

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  • February 7, 2011 at 7:53 am

    So sorry of your loss Kelly. We lost our first dog, Molly, to bone cancer. She was a lab/shep, daughter of my best friend’s mutt, who ended up pregnant with – well, we don’t know!! All of Hannah’s puppies were all so different !! 😀 We picked this one!

    Molly was so special! But especially attached to my husband. She sat in HIS chair every day, and NO ONE could go near her while on it except for him – she’d move over for him, and sit right next to him! We miss her dearly.

    Now we have 5 chihuahuas! Yes FIVE! We recued 3 last year from a year of neglect and possible abuse. They are all our babies… I don’t know what I’d do without them. The kids are grown now… these 5 know which joints of mine hurt and since they are small, they curl up on those joints, keeping me warm!

  • January 12, 2012 at 9:09 am

    I love this post. I spend alot of time with my dog.
    They truly do understand. My family is grown, My husband works, so it is me and my dog, Bruno. Bruno is a 9lb poodle/terrier. My husband named him because wanted this little dog to have a big dog name. My dog makes me walk, makes me play ball with him, makes me get out and meet others. Mostly, he distracts me from my pain. He is my best medication and therapy.

  • February 21, 2012 at 11:15 am

    So sorry to hear about your angel dog. I, too, have an angel dog named Neechee. He was with me for 18 years – through two spinal surgeries, a very nasty divorce, two knee replacements, and the loss of my home and my independence.

    He was the apple of my eye – all 12 pounds of him. He was a purebred Shetland Sheepdog, but so small that people called him a mini-collie. He was a beautiful soul, and lived just to please me. In our younger years, we tackled the obedience ring and he was the top-scoring Sheltie in Novice A in 1997.

    I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 1998, and acute microcytic anemia in 1999. Because he was a certified therapy dog, my infusion clinic allowed me to bring him with me when I had my iron infusions and blood transfusions. He’d snuggle up with me on the infusion chair and “hold court” with all the other patients who came over to visit him.

    I fell backwards down a staircase in 2003, and could no longer work due to a spinal injury. I had spinal fusions in 2005 and 2007. While I was between surgeries, my husband of 23 years left me. I was wheelchair-bound at the time. Neechee and I had to move in with my parents, who are NOT dog people. But being the wonderful parents they are, they took us in, and walked Neechee for me.

    During my five year stay with my parents, I had the two back surgeries and two knee replacements. Each time, I had to recover in a hospital bed in my parents’ dining room (my room was upstairs). Neechee was always there with me, cuddling up and just being a comfort by his presence.

    He had a stroke the year before he died. I truly believe he felt he couldn’t leave me until he knew I could take the loss. Just three months after I married the great love of my life, Steve, the day came when Neechee left us. It was the Monday after Easter, 2010.

    In June of 2011, a little over a year after Neechee’s death, I adopted a beautiful, petite five year old Sheltie girl, who had spent her life as a puppy mill mama. Her problems were bigger than mine – she had never been indoors and everything scared her. There’s not too much she’s scared of any more, and she seems to be able to predict my joint flares with amazing accuracy. A couple of days prior to a flare, she begins sniffing at the joint, then licking it. She’s amazing.

    I hope you can see your way to getting another dog. They are such healing creatures!

  • May 29, 2014 at 1:33 am

    I lost my angel, Griffey, last June. He was a bichon frise and I had him since he was 8 weeks old. He was 17, deaf, nearly blind and wore a diaper for urinary incontinence. He was always happy and gave, gave, gave to our family. My 2 boys loved and cared for him as they all grew up together. I was so lonely and depressed for months after her died. I am finally feeling less grief and would love to get another dog. However, I used to walk Griffey 2-4 miles several times a week. Due to my worsening RA, especially in my feet, I am not sure that I can provide a dog with the exercise needed. I hope you are able to get another dog. I will watch your posts for some good news of another angel blessing your life!


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