1. News

Biggest item on Angel the dog's bucket list: done

Shelley Ziegler and Tim Kehoe sit with their new dog, 12-year-old Angel, on Tuesday at Boyle’s Backyard in Palm Harbor. Watch Angel’s farewell celebration at
Shelley Ziegler and Tim Kehoe sit with their new dog, 12-year-old Angel, on Tuesday at Boyle’s Backyard in Palm Harbor. Watch Angel’s farewell celebration at
Published Sep. 10, 2015

PALM HARBOR — Angel sashayed down a red carpet, met first-graders and donned a glamorous scarf for a convertible ride.

She got love letters — "You are one of the prettiest dogs I have ever seen" — and more than 1,200 Facebook fans to follow her bucket list adventures, all in the past few weeks.

But a certain item on the list remained unchecked, despite nearly six months with Suncoast Animal League and all her newfound fame.

Twelve-year-old Angel was still looking for No. 50: her forever home. And the shelter workers were starting to wonder: When will Angel find a family?

• • •

On a Saturday morning in late August, Shelley Ziegler unfolded the Tampa Bay Times.

Angel's story — the idea for the bucket list, her quest for a family — ran with a photo of the Australian cattle dog mix, drowsy in the middle of a massage (No. 6).

"You've got to read this," Ziegler told her boyfriend, Timothy Kehoe. "This is the dog."

"Let's go," he said.

They drove to the shelter in Palm Harbor, where they took Angel for a walk and watched her break into her toothy smile, her tongue flecked with black spots.

Ziegler had been hesitant to get another dog after her chocolate Lab, Jack, died last winter. But they'd always been dog people.

"We were waiting for a special reason," Kehoe said, "and it showed up in the paper."

Dog caretaker Sue Silver watched Angel meet the couple.

"She had a glow about her," Silver said. "I was like, 'Oh, this is it.' "

• • •

Angel came to Suncoast in early March and, with her laid-back, gentle demeanor, quickly became the staff favorite.

But finding adoptive homes for senior dogs is tough. Weeks passed, then months.

At a dinner in mid August, volunteer Tara Smith said Angel needed more adventures in her life. What about a bucket list?

Soon there were 50 items and a Facebook page. Annette Dett­loff, shelter co-founder, became Angel's voice online. Then came the seed of hope: Would this help Angel find her family?

"Yippee, friends," Angel posted in late August. "My scheduler is scratching things off one by one. I cannot believe my lucks that so many people care about little ole me. ME!"

Angel saw deer while hiking, lapped water from a wine glass and peed in the Dunedin Blue Jays outfield (honorary No. 51).

She went paddleboarding, saw a double rainbow ("DOUBLE MAGICAL!") and walked along the Gulf of Mexico. Hundreds of commenters cheered her on.

Still, the shelter hadn't found the right fit for her forever home.

• • •

Fourteen items left unchecked. Awaiting Angel's arrival, the volunteers hung Angel's bucket list at Boyle's Backyard restaurant.

When she came loping across the patio Tuesday, her new family was there to greet her.

Ziegler and Kehoe crouched beside her, cooing and nuzzling behind her ears. They had kept the adoption a secret since signing the papers last weekend, following all the adventures on Facebook. Now, they could finally take her home to Treasure Island.

"Whatever time she has left on this good earth, I just want her to be in a good home," Ziegler said.

First, a special meal: an off-menu grilled grouper sandwich. Angel inspected the lettuce but decided to leave it alone.

"We have a lot in common, lady," Kehoe said, laughing and feeding her fries. Ziegler broke up the fish into smaller pieces.

"Pretty cute, mom's already taking charge," said Dettloff, the shelter co-founder.

Angel panted happily, a sash slung around her torso: "50 LOOKS GOOD ON ME." She was less tolerant of a feathery tiara.

"She is such a little diva," Ziegler said.

Kehoe pledged to keep the Facebook page updated as Angel finishes her bucket list.

"We feel really fortunate that we're the ones who are going to be No. 50," Kehoe told the group. "We will do out best to fulfill everything you've started."

After Angel's feast, Ziegler drew a wobbly black line through No. 50 on the list to a smattering of applause.

"She's the perfect dog," Silver said, eyes watery.

"And they're the perfect adopters," Dettloff said.

"I don't know about Angel, but we're exhausted," said shelter executive director Rick Chaboudy.

After their goodbyes, the couple drove off to the pet store with Angel in the backseat, panting happily at the open window.

Then the staffers began to cry.