Elizabeth Steele lives in Lexington, Ky.
April 12 2012
Grieving. Grieving heavily. It was Annie. Annie who has been with me through it all, quiet, loving, never complaining, always in the background as if to say, “I’m here if you need me but I’ll just let you get through it until you do.” Annie, who let me use her for a pillow, drape my legs over her to take a nap, who stepped aside when Boone came in and just let him be the number one dog, knowing that she would just BE THERE hanging out waiting for when I needed her. Annie, who let me cry into her fur and hold her and just sat patiently while I did. Annie, who was scared of everyone else but Tom, Kaity and me, but knew, completely knew, that we would protect her and never let anyone hurt her again.
Annie appeared about ten years ago. We were living on a farm in Richmond, Ky. I went outside to see Kaity petting this furry red puppy, a true redhead, who had come up the driveway. She sat by Kaity, but wouldn’t let me near her. She was scared, scared to death.
“Can I keep her Mommy?”
“You’ll have to ask your Dad, and you know how that will go.” He wasn’t a dog person. Never was. Never would be.
Kaity named her Annie. “Because she has red hair and she’s an orphan.”
He came home from work that day and true to form demanded that Annie be taken to the pound. I have such a vivid picture of little Kaity sitting out by the fire pit, puppy Annie by her side, sobbing. But Annie stayed. Annie stayed through it all.
Annie was shy. Not by nature, half-Chow, but by life, abused before we got her. It was obvious immediately. For the first several months, she would only let Kaity near her. She jumped, ran and hid at the slightest noise. To get her to go through a door you had to stand way back and hold it wide open (Did they kick her going out of doors?). She would easily let any of the other dogs take anything away from her. Nothing was worth arguing about to Annie. She was a puppy but never played. Toys were just an excuse for another dog to come near her and she wanted no part of that. I promised her, as long as I had breath in my body, no one would ever hurt her again. Annie just stayed.
She flourished at the farm, running through fields and through woods, with Zoey, then Izzabel. Never the leader, always the follower, always careful, they chased cows, brought home an array of dead animals, caught frogs, swam in the pond and smiled, always smiled—happy dogs.
Annie stayed through a succession of other dogs. Toby, who lived a long wonderful life, whose life was prolonged by moving to the farm, died an old man of 15 in my arms of congestive heart failure. And while I grieved, it was Toby’s time.
Zoey... I went to the store, I was only gone an hour, and when I came back my first words to Annie were, “Annie, why are you here and Zoey isn’t?” That launched a several month search for Zoey, heartrending, only to finally find her decomposing on the railroad tracks. We think she was poisoned or got into poison somewhere. Annie was there.
Jenny Lynn, who was mean, who locked her jaws on Annie’s back over a bone and I had to pry away. Jenny Lynn DID go to the pound. I hope they put her down. We loved her, but she was mean and would eventually hurt someone. Rocky, the Dalmation from down the road. His owner, a young guy, was beating him so badly that Rocky came up the driveway one day just dragging his hips behind him. I found a Dalmation rescue for Rocky. He went to live on the beach in North Carolina. The woman sent me one picture, of Rocky in a fire truck in a parade. We did good by Rocky. And Izzabel, who, when I fled Richmond, got thrown into the backseat of a car to go live with new owners, a horrible thing to do to her, but something we thought we had to do at the time. And through all of that, there was Annie, quiet, shy and scared. But Annie stayed.
The first time Tom met Annie, he quietly crouched down and just looked at her. He didn’t reach out to her, he didn’t try to pet her, he didn’t say anything to her, he just looked at her on her level. She immediately trusted him. From his past owning wolves, he said. She saw the wolf spirit in him and trusted him. Immediately, Annie decided he was okay, he would never hurt her, and she loved him.
When I left Richmond for Fort Wayne, Annie had to stay behind. Kaity wasn’t coming with me, I thought she would need Annie in my absence and our landlady didn’t allow dogs. Izzabel had a new home. Annie couldn’t go anywhere. Annie would be too scared. She’d never trust new people. It would terrify her. So Tom and I left Annie there. A few months later, Kaity called and said Rich once again wanted Annie to go to the pound. Annie couldn’t go to the pound, she was too shy and scared. They’d put her down. People adopt the cute puppies who lick their faces and bound into their laps. Not a middle-aged Chow mix who cowers in a corner scared half to death. We talked the landlady into letting us have her. Annie came home. And Annie stayed.
She was scared in that house. We had a lot of company there, Tom’s kids, their friends, other friends. She spent months in that house lying on the floor behind our bed. It was safe there. But when no one was there, Annie for the first time was TOP DOG. For the first time there were no other dogs for her to stay behind for, just Annie. As my bond with Tom grew, so did our bond as a family, Tom, me and Annie, and Kaity when she came to visit. Annie was safe. And she stayed.
We moved to Bloomington and got Boone there. Annie needed a friend. Boone was her baby. He’d sleep cuddled up by her. They’ve been inseparable. Even though Boone is now twice Annie’s size he was her boy. But still, true to form for Annie, she took a back seat to Boone. When we’d pet her and big lug Boone would push her out of the way, Annie just went and lay down. There was nothing worth arguing about to Annie. If you got them each a bone and Boone took both of them—that was fine with Annie. Not worth arguing about. Annie was so safe with us. She’d lie in the hallway and just let you step over her to get by. No worries. Tom and I would never hurt Annie. Annie stayed.
She blossomed when we came back to Kentucky and moved into this house. She had a nice yard. There are three other dogs here who came to visit every day. She had horses to watch and make friends with, she had Boone. She had Kaity back who visits often. She started doing things that she’d never done!!! Things that most people take for granted out of their dogs. Annie barked at us! Annie barked because she wanted something! That was amazing. Annie never did that. We even called our friend Kerry to tell him, “Hey! Guess what! Annie barked at us!” Annie and Boone had a wrestling match every night in the floor. Annie played? Annie had never played. I caught her one night with one of Boone’s toys tearing the stuffing out of it. Annie never touched a toy. We weren’t sure what it was but Annie felt safe here. For the first time in her life, she felt completely safe and started to relax.
When I would come in the door after work, Boone would always come to greet me. Annie would be somewhere else in the house. I’d say, “Where’s Annie, Boone? Did you eat her?” And Annie would come walking out.
Last weekend, I saw Annie squatting in the yard to potty. I thought she was constipated. I fed her some fat off of a roast, thinking it would help her. On Monday, I asked Tom to just kind of keep an eye out and see if she went potty. She was walking with her tail tucked between her legs, obviously she wasn’t herself. On Tuesday, she still didn’t seem like Annie. By Thursday, she started running a temperature. I put her on the couch, covered her up, watched her, hugged her and loved her. We decided come hell or high water, whether we had the money for it or not, she would go to the vet on Friday to see what was going on. Was it possibly a urinary tract infection? On Thursday night, Annie kept going back in the back bedroom and hallway to lie down. She never, ever goes back there. I told her, “If you’re looking for a place to die, don’t do it. I need you. You’ll go to the vet tomorrow. Don’t you die on me.”
Tom got up Friday to take Annie to the vet. She was in extreme pain. He called me at work and told me to get there as fast as I could. I flew. I was texting people, calling people on the way. Annie is dying. I’m on my way.
Annie’s bladder was full of calcium stones. Sometime Thursday night, while we slept Annie’s bladder exploded in her body. There were paths of blood where she walked the house and looked for a place to die. She wouldn’t get us up and tell us, that’s not Annie. I held Annie in my arms, with Tom, while they put a needle in her and stopped her pain. I paid money, good money, to kill my Annie.
We took her to the farm in Richmond. That’s where Annie belonged. I was ready to find out who lived there and beg them to let us bury Annie there with Zoey and Toby. She needs to run the fields, chase the cows, play in waterfalls and swim in the pond. Kaity was rushing to meet us there. When we got to the farm, it was for sale and vacant. Tom dug a heart shaped hole for our Annie. And there she rests. There Annie will stay, because Annie always stayed.
I listen for the sound of her nails on the floor. I look for her around the house. Boone is lost. Tom is heartbroken, as is Kaity. We are tearing ourselves apart wondering if we could have saved her if we’d done something sooner.
Annie always stayed. What will we do without our Annie?
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