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Saying goodbye to Gabriel, a guardian angel dog

Mike and Kathy Underwood with their dogs. Gabriel is in the middle.

Sometimes a dog can be more than a beloved companion – sometimes a dog can be a guardian angel.

On May 19, a very special Sheltie named Gabriel went to the Rainbow Bridge after a short illness. He belonged to Kathy and Mike Underwood who run Camp Bow Wow in Lawrence and who are partners with Pet Pals TV. Gabriel, who was 11, was especially close to Kathy, who got him as a puppy from a reputable breeder. He was her protector.

“I got him in December 2007 when he was just 12 weeks old,” says Kathy. “He was from a breeder in Ohio whose dogs had champion bloodlines. I wanted him to compete in obedience . . . I was having physical issues and needed activity and I thought this would be a chance to do something. We had such a special bond and it hurts so bad to lose him. He was my soulmate. He would sit on your lap with one leg over you, like he was protecting you. If I got sick, he would get up on couch and lay with me. His AKC registered name is Bach Guardian Angel of my Heart. Gabriel.”

Gabe was a great obedience dog but developed a thyroid condition. He began to slow down, and it was too hard for him to jump, so he retired from the obedience ring. His next chapter was a happy one for him and many others.

“I took him to see my mom in memory care and he was wonderful with her, so we joined the Love on a Leash pet therapy team,” says Kathy. “We did nursing home visits a couple of times a month. He enjoyed visiting and he’d go from one patient to another, put his head on their laps and let them pet him. We also did school visits at exam times so the kids could unwind and de-stress with the dogs.” As Gabe got older, he retired from being a therapy dog.

Gabriel died from an intestinal blockage after being on fluids all night at an emergency vet care facility. Kathy says he had been eating everything like he was starving, even inappropriate things.

“It should have been a sign that something was wrong,” says Kathy. “On Saturday he threw up all over the place and behaved like he was choking. Then he hid and wouldn’t let me touch him, and he was panting. We took him to emergency care; by that time he was dehydrated and X-rays showed a blockage. They put him on liquids and pain medicine to make it pass. By morning it hadn’t moved and they suggested exploratory surgery. I just couldn’t do it.

“If he had been younger with the expectancy of a good quality of life, I would have done it. But this would have been a long recovery and hard on an older dog. So we elected to hold him close and say goodbye.”

Kathy believes that paying better attention to Gabe’s symptoms might have helped to save his life. She hopes that their experience with him will help others when their pets show abnormal behavior.

“We kept thinking, is there anything we could have done differently? We attributed his deep sleeping and all-over cantankerousness the past few weeks as his age, some medication he had been on for intestinal issues, and the fact he had a tooth absces and was scheduled for a cleaning. But now I think these were signs that something was very wrong and we just didn't see it until too late. The hole in our hearts is large and very raw.”

The Underwoods have three other dogs: Kara, an Australian Shepherd rescue; Captain, a Shetland sheepdog; and Whisky, a sheltie.

Mike Underwood is a certified dog trainer and often appears on Pet Pals TV in a segment called Mutt Manners. Camp Bow Wow also does doggie daycare and boarding. If you’re interested in any of these services, visit

Gabriel (right) and his best buddy, Scotch, who passed away in 2010.


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