By MARY TOBIA

tneditor@tnonline.com

This is a story about Angel.

Angel is not a real celestial being. She is our daughter's family's seven year old Australian Shepherd dog.

When the family decided to get a dog, they researched and concluded they should get an Aussie because they are known to be highly intelligent, kind, loving and devoted to their family.

The family had their hearts set on a blue merle. These dogs are multicolored with tan, grey, copper and some white. They usually have one or both eyes that are blue.

Our daughter found a reliable dog breeder selling a litter of puppies in their area. They arrived to find one black, and twelve multicolored little Aussie puppies which swarmed around their feet. The family played with the puppies to help them decide which personality and color they would take home. As they were choosing, all of the puppies, with the exception of the small black one, returned to playing. This puppy, the runt of the litter, did not leave them, but instead laid down at their feet. As our daughter will tell you, Angel picked them. The dreams of a multi-colored with a blue eye went out the window. This puppy was all black with a little white on her belly, feet and a very small stripe on her nose. No blue eyes, but very intelligent-looking brown ones.

Our granddaughter named her Angel. It was a snowy December evening when they picked her up so she was officially named Angel Snow Lowe. Angel came home to live with her military family near Fort Drum, New York.

Angel lived up to her reputation as highly intelligent, devoted to her family, and an excellent watch dog.

Our granddaughter taught Angel to retrieve her stuffed toys by name. She would line up all of Angel's stuffed toys and then ask her to bring them as she called them by name. She also taught her to jump through a hula hoop on command. Our grandson taught her to catch a Frisbee or a tennis balls in midair. Australian Shepherds are known for their eagerness to work and please their masters. Angel was no exception.

It is also in her nature to protect their property and does show cautious guarding behavior, making her an excellent watch dog, keeping all deer, fox, squirrels, skunks, and occasionally humans, off her yard.

Angel has given her family anxious moments, or hours, as well. Like the time she chased a deer into the woods. It took a few hours, and help from the neighbors, to find her and bring her back home.

Another time, the family was leaving for the day and was ready to put Angel in her crate. Angel was nowhere to be found. After spending much time looking, our exasperated daughter decided the dog must have gotten off the property somehow. She decided to get into the van and drive around the neighborhood. When she opened the garage door to get into the vehicle, Angel was sitting in the driver's seat looking back at her. Evidently, the kids had opened the van's sliding door to get in but then got back out to help look for the dog. During this time, Angel got in the van and the door automatically closed her in.

The family had a decision to make a few years ago when they were leaving on a two-year deployment overseas. What were they going to do with Angel? It was unanimous! Angel was going with them. After hours of complicated paper work, strict documentation and precise planning, Angel was loaded into her crate, placed in the cargo hold and was on an eighteen-hour flight to Seoul, South Korea, with her family.

Living on the army base meant Angel had a very small back yard, so walking her every day, or going to the dog park, was a must. But leaving the base for walks was another matter. The first day the family took Angel with them to walk in the city they noticed Korean people stared at them. Buses passed by with all faces looking at them and pointing. Young adults with little known English would say "Humogo" and run to the opposite side of the sidewalk. Old Korean men with their eyes on Angel, stopped on the sidewalk to let them pass by and mumble things they didn't understand. Realization soon set in that they were now in a country where a few decades ago they ate dogs. It was still considered a delicacy with older generations of Koreans, especially the men. Seeing a 55-pound, medium size dog had the Koreans thinking of a delicious meal. From that point on, Angel's family watched over HER until they returned back to the United States.

Angel has traveled about in her seven years. She and her family are back in upstate New York now where they will stay.

This dog does not sprout wings and wear white. She has black fur and a cold wet nose. But she continues to be an angel that watches over her family day and night.