Saturday, October 14, 2006

Good-bye to a Great Friend

Her name was Annie. Her hair was soft and black. Her eyes were brown and full of kindness. It didn't matter to me that she walked on all fours, had a big nose, and wagged her tail everytime she saw me.

My wife and I weren't looking for a dog when we found Annie. We went to Petsmart that day to buy fish food. It was Saturday - the day they truck in the strays from a nearby shelter. We turned down the aisle and there she was.

Annie was a Schipperke (little sheperd). I had never heard of that breed before. She looked like a black fox to me. Neither her ears nor her tail had been clipped, and there was a bit of red in her fur. Later we would discover that this branded her as imperfect. Nothing was further from the truth.

There was one thing wrong with her, we discovered. She limped on her left rear leg. We were told she had an infected toe - nothing serious. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Our vet informed us that Annie's hip was dislocated and that she needed an expensive surgury to correct it. Man, had the dog only a couple of days, and already she was costing us! The shelter told us they would take Annie back and give us a refund if we wanted.

We knew what would happen if she went back. A date with a needle. We couldn't stand the thought of that. But we didn't have the money for the surgury.

My wife started calling around, seeking for any kind of finacial aid we could get. A couple of days later we received a phone call from the shelter. Because we were willing to keep Annie despite her injury, they decided to cover the cost of the surgury.

Annie was good as new. For four years she filled our lives with ineffible joy. From the way she would stand on your feet and lean on you so you'd have to stay and pet her, to the way she would grunt when you rubbed her ears, to her mistrust of squirrels ... I could go on forever.

And she never complained; never gave us any grief. She was by far the best dog I have ever known.

A couple of months ago Annie stopped eating. She weighed twenty pounds at her heaviest, but quickly dropped down to sixteen. That may not seem bad, but you lose 20% of your body weight and we'll talk. A blood test told us two things. Annie was older than we thought (five to eight years older), and her kidneys were no longer functioning like they should.

Our time was short.

We didn't want to put her to sleep. My wife and I agreed, we’d do it if we had to, but we hoped we wouldn’t have to.

Last Saturday Annie had a bad day. She had trouble walking, but what made it worse was that when she saw you, she’d wag her tail. Her eyes were as bright as ever. Her mind was there, but her body was just not holding out.

My wife held Annie on her lap, crying, and asked Annie what we should do. She didn’t seem in pain. No whining, nothing. Always a wag, though. We knew she wasn’t going to answer us, but we were wrong.

The next day, October 8th, Annie had a better day. She was walking fine. She drank some water, even ate some ham (it was the only thing she would eat at this point). My wife let her outside to sit in the sun. I went to check on her a few hours later.

Annie had dug herself a little hole under the deck stairs years ago. She loved to lay there in the cool dirt. That’s where I found her. I called her name. When she didn’t wag her tail I knew.

Annie - ever faithful, never complaining, always loving - gave us our answer. She spared us from having to make the decision.

She still looked like she was asleep. I buried her under the trees where she guarded against an army of squirrels - protecting us perhaps.

I have never felt so heartbroken over the loss of a pet. She was a wonderful friend, and I am thankful for every day of the four years we were blessed with her.

So if someday you are reading a story by me, and you come across a little black dog that looks more like a fox; one that is intelligent, loving and faithful - everything a dog is supposed to be - know that it is the spirit of Annie.

And know this: No matter how well I portray her, I could never give her justice.

Thank you, Annie. I love you.

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