(If you missed Part 1, here’s the link: Part 1)
Twenty eight year old William Patrick Cosgrove had been one of six handpicked for sniper training in the 4th brigade combat team, then qualified into the elite hundred for the entire 82nd Airborne Division. He had been twice decorated for heroism before that fateful September day in 2012. He was leading the team as they patrolled an area known to be heavily rigged with IEDs. With them was a beagle that never left his side.
“She ran into camp from over the hill, and made a bee-line directly to Will, and jumped up and down, barking and whining, as if she’d been looking for him and was so happy to find him. It was the damnedest thing,” recalled a friend of Cosgrove. “Then she’d never leave his side, and he named her ‘Angel’ – we assumed because he thought she was his guardian angel. In fact, Will placed the angel medallion from his necklace on her collar. Only later did we learn the real reason, or at least the ‘rest’ of the story.”
Angel had clearly been trained in explosives detection. She’d warned them countless times of traps, and would literally go berserk at the hint of acetone peroxide. She was drawn to him and they bonded immediately, likely saving him and many team-members, dozens of times.
But that day there was no acetone peroxide , and no one suspected the cart full of sticks had so much dynamite underneath. But they recognized the words shouted as the teenager pulling the cart waved to the approaching soldiers.
Specialist Cosgrove’s wife Katie had just returned from T-ball practice with her sons Billy and Brian, and she scrambled to get the big dinner fixed before people started arriving. Her daughter Lindsey turned 6 today and the in-laws would join them after they picked her up from gymnastics. It had been such a hectic week.
Katie had grown so close to Will’s parents who had been such a big help, with him off on his second tour. They ran errands, helped cook, watched the kids, and had even taken their dog to the vet last year for a check-up and shots.
That had been such a horrible day for everyone. Since William Sr. had also been military, his base privileges included vet services, so he had taken Angel over to Ft. Bragg. Katie was so well trained, she was almost never on leash. After the exam, William Sr. opened the door, and as he fumbled with his cane, she bolted out as if she had seen a ghost. The dog took off running and never even looked back. They all assumed she had seen a uniform in the distance and ran off towards who she thought was Will.
Katie knew William would be devastated to find his dog gone, but after 6 months, they’d just about given up hope. Angel looked like every other pitbull and although nobody said it, everyone knew she’d been euthanized in some shelter between Goldston and Ft. Bragg. As bad as they all felt, William Sr. was simply devastated.
God, how she missed that dog – Katie used to talk to her as if she was Will. Something about her was Will, the way she looked up at her, the way she was always there when Katie or one of the kids needed a hug, she just seemed to sense their emotions.
As Katie looked down at the empty corner where she always lay, she smiled and said wistfully, “You’re the worst dog ever!” But then she felt guilty, even though he used to always say that. Because she wasn’t, she was the best dog ever. Maternal misgivings about having a pit-bull around the kids were quickly forgotten, and everyone in the family considered her their best friend. William was going to be be so upset. As she turned the frying chicken, Katie drifted off to the day they adopted her.
Their oldest child had just turned 9 when William decided a dog would fit into their family. He had always had dogs as a child and so wanted the kids to grow up with them. Katie hated the thought – jumping up and scratching everyone’s legs, shedding on the floor, and demanding to be walked, and so she resisted as long as she could. The family had planned a wonderful weekend at the beach, and drove the two hours from Goldston to the Outer Banks the Friday before his first tour to Afghanistan. William had the whole thing planned, they were staying at a condo his high school friend offered, and he knew exactly where the Humane Society was, just outside Raleigh. She rolled her eyes as he pulled into the parking lot, with really no objection. She had been expecting it for such a long time.
But Katie had been expecting a Beagle puppy, not an adult Pit Bull. As the gate to the kennel run opened, the dog actually jumped into Lindsey’s tiny lap, whining and crying as if they were long-lost friends. The boys agreed, the decision had been made. No-one was surprised when William announced her name, ‘Angel.’ ” He pulled out his necklace and kissed the two medallions, a crucifix and an angel. I’ll be gone a while, its just perfect; She’ll be your ‘guardian,’ your protector.”
The knock at the door startled her. Katie assumed it was the in-laws and Lindsey. Suddenly she realized that she hadn’t wrapped Lindsey’s present.
“Come on in!” she shouted from the kitchen, stashing the unwrapped gift under the counter, but not wanting to leave the frying pan on the stove. At the second knock, she dashed towards the door, but froze at the sight through the living room window. Katie fell to her knees at the sight of the two dress uniforms standing on her front porch.
“No! No!” she screamed on the floor of the foyer.
As the chaplain heard this, he considered opening the door, and then saw Groves parents pull into the driveway. Tears trekked down the face of William Senior realizing immediately the news these men must bear. The woman in the passenger seat wept uncontrollably as the confused child in the back seat kept asking her what was wrong.
I suppose we’ll never know how or why Angel made the 700 mile, 2 year journey from Ft. Bragg. Or the pain surrounding her filed off canine teeth. Or how or why His divine Providence directs so much of our lives. But I’m quite certain that He does. The bittersweet joy at their reunion would be surreal. But these “gifts left behind” give us great comfort. When I say, “Thank God” for something, I really mean it.
And some things we do know. But we all know why William Patrick Cosgrove Sr. was in his car and drove all night to Orlando. When my clients met us here early that morning with Angel, we unraveled the whole story together. When Will’s father shared the part about the medallion, two faces drained of color as the boy reached from his pocket. “This was around her neck when we picked her up off the street,” he said as he opened his hand.
ed. note: The names in this story have been changed to protect their privacy. Also, when Angel and William Sr. arrived back in NC, although Katie was stunned by the co-incidences and symbolism, she said the medallion Angel wears (still) is not the same one her husband wore around his neck.
Perhaps they looked different, but I’m not convinced.