The story of Angel Joe begins in 1976. My family and I lived on the county line between Fort Worth and Everman Texas. We had a very modest home but we were rich with loving family and friends. There was a wheat field behind our house that provided ample playgrounds for my friends and me. Our house did not have a fenced in backyard, so it was open to the field which meant my brother and I, as well as our friends, had direct access to frolic amongst the wind tossed wheat anytime we wanted. I remember spending many hours spinning around and around while my hands gently grazed the top of that soft wheat until I would fall over on my back dizzy with happiness. I would remain on my back hidden from sight nestled in my own tiny crop circle for what seemed like hours staring up at the sky putting together cloud shapes and listening to the wind make beautiful rustling wheat music.
It was on one of these playful carefree days that I was stopped in my tracks by the sight of a rather large German Shepherd staring straight at me with nothing between us but open air. I was 13 years old at the time when he just appeared out of nowhere. He and I stared at each other long enough for me to assess his personality. I didn’t know him but he seemed to know me. He didn’t have a collar or tags but seemed in excellent health. He had a gentle and kind way about him as I extended my hand in friendship. He and I soon became inseparable. I called him “Joe”. Joe and I would pal around for hours playing in the Fort Worth sun. He was one of those dogs a person meets from time to time who seems to have an old soul that shows through in their eyes. They always seem to possess a kind of knowledge about the world that the rest of us are oblivious to. Soon summer was over and it was time for us kids to go back to school. Joe would wait at the school bus stop with me until it was time for me to go. He would be waiting for me every day at that very stop where the bus driver would deposit us kids after school. He and I would happily greet each other with hugs and kisses. Off we’d go to find more adventures.
I swear to you I believe Joe knew exactly what I was saying when I would tell my troubles and joys to him. He had just the right look when I would tell him I was picked on at school or ate a yummy lunch of Salisbury steak and an ice cream sandwich. He seemed to conspire with me that I toss my still full mini milk carton in the school trash bucket because I couldn’t stand the taste of plain white milk. Joe knew that chocolate milk was better for a body anyway! One day Joe and I were on a big adventure when another huge hairy dog appeared in our play space. He was bigger than my Joe and had hair that would remind you of Tina Turner on a humid day in South Texas. Joe and I looked him up one side and down the other. Joe then took the lead and walked up to that big hairy dog and I don’t know what they talked about, but the new dog knew where Joe stood. Turns out the hairy dog belonged to the new neighbors down the block. They didn’t have a fence either because he came to visit Joe and me almost every day from that point on. We all played together and the two of them would “play fight” over me. One would get my sleeve cuff in his mouth and the other my pants leg…and a game of tug of war in the snow would ensue. I loved being “play fought” over. I would laugh and laugh as they would pull me back and forth.
One day I was informed by my parents that we were going to move to a new neighborhood. I panicked and went into begging mode…begging that we take my best buddy Joe with us to the new house. My mom was in total agreement with me but my dad was another story. I can remember lots of tearful nights wondering if my precious Joe would be able to move with us. If my father had said “no”, I already had a plan to runaway to a far off land where a girl and her dog would be safe and live happily ever after. But to my surprise, my father gave in to the pressure from Mom and me…and I’m sure Joe’s big brown eyes as well. I knew Joe and I would miss our hairy friend, but he would be fine without us as there were plenty of other kids on our block. Mom was busy packing moving boxes while my brother, Joe and I passed our time with fun activities. Plans were being made and new houses were being viewed until just the right home came along. We were all excited to move to a larger home with a game room and a fenced in back yard. Joe would finally have a proper parameter to call his own. I just knew he was going to be so relieved to know he would be with us forever. It was official, Joe was “our” dog. It felt so good to say that.
Just before moving, I was getting old enough to care about my appearance and sunbathing was all the rage. On a really hot dry sunny day, I decided to try and tan a bit. I retrieved a lounge chair from the garage and arranged all of my sunbathing necessities around me. Joe was by my side in a spot of shade provided by a nearby tree. Joe and I were in our own little world when all of the sudden I opened my eyes to see a stranger to my right. The man didn’t say a thing when he crept up on us which I thought was highly suspicious. My gut told me this man was up to no good but I was too frozen with fear to move. He stared at me for a moment and then proceeded to ask me if my parents were home. Just as he finished his sentence, Joe placed himself between me and the stranger and looked bigger than ever. Joe stared straight into the eyes of this man so much so, that the man backed up a few paces in fear. The man stammered a bit trying to get out the words “Will your dog bite me?”…I honestly replied, “I don’t know.” The truth of the matter is I had never seen Joe go up against a human before…he never had a reason to during our time together. He was always gentle and anger free. I did my best to calm down and get my wits about me while Joe held the stranger at bay. As the man stood there in fear of my dog Joe, I summoned the courage to ask the man what he wanted. He backed up even farther and then took off like lightening. Joe didn’t move a muscle, he just stood his ground. I sprang up off of that lounge chair and ran in the house to tell my mother what just happened. Needless to say, she was even more fond of Joe after that and if my father even thought of going back on his decision to take Joe with us when we moved, well he’d have another thing coming!
A few days went by and my faithful pal Joe disappeared. He just vanished into thin air. I was frantic and heartbroken to say the least. I looked everywhere and asked everyone if they had seen my best buddy Joe. To my astonishment, most of our neighbors said they had never seen a German Shepherd in our yard or any other yard on our block.
I never saw Joe again. We moved and went on with our lives but none of us ever forgot him. I’ll always be grateful for the wonderful times we shared and the bravery he showed that sunny day in Fort Worth Texas. I’ve always had reason to believe in guardian angels, well heck, I’ve cheated death more times than Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones! In other words, I’ve had my fair share of close calls, including that day the stranger appeared in our backyard. So someone IS watching over me and I will always suspect that Joe was really “Angel Joe”. He was there to protect me, and then once he completed his mission, he was gone.
‘Angel Joe’ by Christy Lynn