The Life of Annie – A Very, Very Good Dog

On February 13th, 2019 I had to say goodbye to my dog, Annie. This will be an extremely long post, so if you aren’t interested in the life of a beautiful, sweet, white labrador/husky mix, feel free to skip this post. For those who are, I want to tell you the story of the most perfect dog I’ve ever known.

Happy Annie

The Puppy Years
Annie was born, as near as we we’re able to determine, sometime in 2008 in the small town of Ennis, Texas. I don’t know the details of her upbringing as a puppy or what was done to make her into the dog she grew up to be, but I certainly wish I did. It would be the definitive guide of how to raise a puppy to be a good dog.

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This is either her mother or her grandmother as a puppy, so she probably looked somewhat similar to this.

What I do know is that her owner had at least three dogs; Annie, her mother, and one other. For whatever reason, once Annie was weaned and had grown a bit, her own mother and the other dog began to pick on her. I don’t know specifics of what this means, but it’s what I was told. It was because of this that her second owner offered to take the puppy and give her a new home where she wouldn’t be bullied.

All Alone In A Back Yard
Sadly, sometime in 2011 if not 2010, this owner was placed in a retirement home due to Alzheimer’s. Her daughter wanted to take care of Annie, but the family’s own circumstances didn’t allow them to take the precious dog into their home. Instead, she came by the house on her lunch break to make sure Annie had water and to feed her. She asked my aunt if she could check on her in the evening and give her some dinner. Annie was all alone in that back yard, her igloo style dog house cozy inside a storage building, but still alone.

Now, my aunt has always been leery and a little afraid of dogs. Annie, at 50 lbs, was a little small for a labrador, but large enough for my aunt to be concerned. Still, she agreed to help and would go over in the evening, telling Annie to be a good girl, to stay calm, and my aunt would quickly step into the back yard, put food in her bowl, and get back out of the fence gate as quickly as possible. All the while, Annie simply sat and watched and surely wondered why this woman wouldn’t give her a scratch or a pet.

I learned of her during Thanksgiving 2011 where my aunt told me that Annie needed a home and I should take her. She said the family held an estate sale to clear out the house in preparation to sell the house itself and a sign was put on the back fence: “Free Dog” and yet…nobody took her. I was living in a 2 bedroom apartment at the time with my cat, Toby. I certainly couldn’t take a dog home, but I was planning on buying a house the following year and told my aunt if she still didn’t have a home by then, I’d take her.

By this point, my aunt had grown to love Annie. She had stopped quickly putting food in her bowl and had started spending time with her at dinner, petting her and talking to her. She started taking her for walks in the evenings, giving my aunt a routine to get in some exercise each evening and Annie absolutely loved those walks.

My aunt had told me one time her real fear had played out when Annie’s gate was left open and she had gotten out of her back yard. She chased one of my aunt’s cats and even caught it. Once she had caught the cat…. that was all there was to it. The game was over. Annie didn’t pin down the cat, she didn’t bite the cat, she wasn’t rough with it. She just wanted to play chase a little bit.

Another time she got out of her back yard was when a lawn care team had left the gate open to mow and then closed it when they were done without realizing Annie was out of the yard. My aunt found her laying in her yard across the street and when she came outside, Annie walked up to her then turned around to head straight for her fence to be let back in to her own back yard.

Finally someone offered to take Annie and give her a home. She was taken out to a house a little out in the country, but when my aunt went to check on her and see how she was doing, she found Annie was covered in ticks. She immediately told the people who took her that wasn’t going to be acceptable and took Annie to the vet to be dipped and back to the back yard across the street until a better home could be found. I suspect with her covered in ticks, my Aunt knew I would be a better home for her once I bought my house.

My Home Is Her Home
In April 2012, on a Wednesday, I finally closed on my house. By Friday, I was driving to pick up Annie and bring her to her new home. My aunt had recently had surgery, but when I arrived at her house, she was outside with Annie on her leash giving her a walk along the street. I remember opening the door to my car and Annie jumped right in as if everything was perfectly normal. After a year, if not longer, of being alone with nobody to love and truly care for her, it was as if she knew she was getting a new home.

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Annie seemed happy with her new home

I brought Annie to my house and let her inside. She had free reign to explore and sniff around the house to her heart’s content – my first guest and first pet to come into the house while Toby, the cat I had owned for years, remained at the apartment waiting to move. At first, she slept outside in her new back yard.

I established a routine where I would get up in the morning and lock Toby in the bedroom while Annie came inside. I’d play with her a little, pet her, and then get a shower and ready for work. She’d go back outside and Toby would be let loose in the house for the day. After work, I’d get home and put Toby in the bedroom again and let her out to explore for a while until she was put out for the night and Toby was given free roam of the house again. This way the two could start to pick up each other’s scents in the house and start to get accustomed to each other.

The First Scare
Within one week, I got home and brought Annie in, then put her outside again. I went out to check on her about 20 minutes later and found she had dug out of the back yard and was missing. In a panic, scared I had lost this dog I had taken in to my home within a week, I went looking for her. She wasn’t far and came happily running when she heard me call her. I called my dad and talked to him about it and he said to show her the hole and give her a smack on the rear with a paper to show her that was not okay. I did so, smacking her on the rump at the base of her tail, not even hard but a swat. She fell to the ground on her belly and looked at me as if she was scared I’d hit her again.

My heart shattered. I remember ultimately crying because of how she looked at me.  This dog had been taken from what she knew as her home and brought to this strange neighborhood and me, essentially a strange new human, had just thumped her on the butt when all she wanted was to explore her new surroundings. I felt like a horrible person.

After a little bit had passed, so as not to confuse her with polar opposite reactions, I spent the next half hour on the floor petting her and comforting her and I knew right then and there I would never raise my hand to that dog for any reason for the rest of her life. It was sort of the moment that everything fell into the place that I would do everything in my power to protect and care for her from then on, no matter the circumstances.

Cheesy as it may be, after seeing this video, this kind of became “her song” in my heart. Every time I hear it, I think of her.

She was too gentle hearted and sweet to discipline and I’d have to find other ways to tell her what was and wasn’t acceptable behavior. Little did I know how easy that would ultimately prove to be.

I dug out the hole where she escaped and placed bricks to form a stepping barrier under the gate. Like all good dogs, she had forgotten the whole thing within an hour.

The First Challenge
Within the first month of buying the house, and bringing Annie home, her first visit to what would become her regular vet determined she was positive for heartworms. I hadn’t realized this, but it was previously known she had them. Her previous owner just couldn’t afford the treatment. I don’t know how long she had them, or how much damage the parasites had done to her heart, but I wasn’t going to leave them untreated. Like I just said, I would do anything in my power to care for this dog. Ultimately, the full treatment would take 6 months and cost around $1,000.

We also discovered this 4 year old dog who had been in the back yard with a few times of getting out and wandering a bit was not spayed…. so we had to get that done too. Fortunately, my vet did it for a minimal price since she had to be under for other tests to prep for the heartworm treatment.

Within the same month, I got up one morning and opened the door to let Annie in after a storm the night before. Annie was used to being an outside dog, so I thought with her dog house in the back patio corner, she’d be fine, and she was. She came in, same as always, and we went through our routine. Only when I went to put her outside again for the day did I notice we were missing about 1/4 of the back fence. The storm had blown it over. And Annie had not gone out of the back yard despite that. Another $1,500 in all for the fence replacement.

So we changed our arrangement again. I put her kennel in an empty bedroom and put her in there at night and while at work when Toby had free reign of the house. Eventually, I moved the kennel to the living room so they weren’t just smelling each other, but could see each other as he roamed the house, and eventually started letting them both out together under supervision.

Obedience Training
Annie was enrolled in obedience classes at PetSmart and we started going on Sunday mornings. She proved to have a bit of a problem with one other dog in the class, as she’d often bark at him until they had to block off her view of him until they’d calm down. Once one dog in a class barks, they all start barking! She became great friends with one of the younger dogs in the class. She also wanted to play with a puppy that was in the store once.

The challenge we had in teaching Annie basic commands like sit, stay, lay down, and such was her lack of food motivation. Treats did nothing to interest her, even when offered freely before training began. What proved to be her motivation was attention; petting and love did more to reward her than treats that we had at the time. However, later at her vet we would discover freeze dried liver treats that were extremely motivational!

She learned very quickly and I suspected she may have been trained before. She knew sit very well, though lay down was met with a little more hesitation before she’d decide if she was going to do so. Stay was hard for her as she wanted to follow me wherever I went. We never did master heel, as I never put much effort into that. She was so good on a leash that, while she preferred to stay ahead, she never pulled on the leash or resisted my gentle tug to keep moving.

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She just wanted to sniff all the things, not tug on the leash.

PetSmart trains with positive reinforcement, which I took to since, as I mentioned, I refused to ever raise a hand to discipline her. Over the next years, however, I never found need to reprimand her beyond a sound we had established in place of “no” or simply asking “Annie, what’re you doing? Stop” to distract her.

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Graduated with flying colors!


An Amazingly Good Girl
When I realized I had left chicken bones in the trash can, I worried I’d come home to trash strewn through the house and potentially worse problems if she had eaten them. She never touched the trash. She only knocked it over once or twice in her life and never pulled trash out of the bin.

She never chewed anything other than her bone. Occasionally she’d pick up other things, like a sock or house shoe, maybe a plush toy and toss it or carry it to the back door. Sometimes she might paw at things, but she never chewed or destroyed anything.

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First toy in her new home

She never went to the bathroom inside the house out of spite or rebellion. The only time she did so was when I didn’t get home in time and forced her to go too long without a bathroom break or when she had stomach problems. Even with these few occurrences, she always went in the same place on the linoleum in the kitchen, where it was easy to clean up. I never reprimanded her for these incidents.

She never so much as growled at Toby, or anyone else for that matter. She would bark at other dogs when we walked, but she was never really aggressive towards anyone or anything. She even ignored dogs barking in back yards during our walks. Out of sight, out of mind.

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Toby wasn’t sure about this new addition to his life, though.

Of all the concerns that come with dogs, she never brought any with her. I had thought I’d have to determine the right way to teach her what was and wasn’t acceptable behavior. Annie never once showed any unacceptable behavior needing correction.

The Long Road of Heartworms
Heartworm treatment is hard on dogs. In the simplest terms, you inject them with strychnine to kill the parasites. After that, they have to stay calm for 6 months to the point that they’re advised to be confined to a kennel, taken to the bathroom on a leash, and put back in the kennel. If the dog gets too excited, the dead worms can break off in clumps and be pumped through their system, clogging an artery somewhere. Instead, if they’re kept calm the dead worms will be dissolved and flushed out by the immune system.

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With spaying ahead of it came the cone of shame

The fence had been repaired, but now Annie had to stay in her kennel by doctor’s orders. She had already started clawing at the door more often, not wanting to be locked up, so we once again rearranged our home. Her kennel moved back to the spare bedroom and I pulled the mattress off the bed and put it on the floor next to her so she had me close to her to keep her calm. She would still claw at the gate, but I managed to calm her down to go to sleep in the kennel with me by her side.

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She liked my bed more than the kennel (taken on a crappy phone camera in low lighting)

However…..

I came home from work one day to find my beautiful puppy girl greeting me at the door, her tail wagging, ears perked and just so happy to see me. I remember reacting with a big, happy smile of my own, saying “Hello, Annie! Wait, how did you…” then I had a brief second of panic. Toby and Annie had been together in the house under supervision, but I had never left them alone together yet. I still wasn’t sure about this larger dog and my cat loose together. I looked up and saw Toby casually walking around the corner as if nothing was out of order whatsoever! The two had apparently gotten along just fine.

How had Annie managed to get out of the kennel? Well, this is how:

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Bed in disarray, cone of shame left behind, and the door off its hinges!

After this, I decided to take a different approach to her “confinement” by leashing her to the leg of the couch. She could hop on it to nap while I was gone and had a little bit of slack to move around but couldn’t chase Toby or get worked up during the day. At night, I unleashed her and let her free, but kept an eye on her, then leashed her for the night. When we went into the vet for one of her follow up visits, they gave me a side eye for not keeping her in the kennel, but after showing them the photo above, they agreed my solution was probably best for her.

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Ah, yes, much better than a kennel.

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Much better indeed.

Annie came through heartworm treatment with a clean bill of health and never really had any struggles with it. She didn’t like being confined and restricted so much, but she managed to adapt to becoming an indoor dog. Yes, in fact, after her six months of being medically required to stay inside, she came to the conclusion that it was a much better deal than living outside with only occasional visits in. For the rest of her life, she primarily lived inside with me, though she did love going out and laying in the sun…or in the cold. She actually loved curling up in a ball and sleeping in the cold and would even ignore me when I tried to call her in!

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8 months later, not everyone was thrilled by her staying inside.

One of the Pack

My parents had gotten two dogs, brothers from a litter, who were about the same size as Annie. I took her down to let them all meet and my parents brought them outside. Their dogs, Bo and Willie, seemed curious but hesitant about Annie and she actually wound up jumping up and “mounting” Willie’s head! If neither of them would establish who the top dog was, she would!

Other than that, the three quickly fell in step with one another and Annie was accepted as part of the pack in my parents’ house. The two liked to play ball more than anything, which was never really Annie’s interest. Nonetheless, Willie, the black & white border collie, once trotted off to another room and brought back a third ball for her so she could be included in the game. Every once in a while, she would do her best to play, but she chased the ball on the ground and liked to chew and shake them more than just catch and return for another throw. When they went outside to play a bit, she was content to sniff around the perimeter of the yard while the two played.

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She tried to play their game, though.

Still, they got along great and I was able to leave her with them when I had to go out of town. She even adapted to my dad’s 4am morning schedule and would switch from mine to theirs depending on where we were. When I would house & dog sit for my parents, Annie would come wake me up at 4am to let me know it was time to take Bo & Willie outside. When we were home, she slept until my usual time to get up.

They even taught her about having scraps at the dishwasher, a lesson she brought home with her with much enthusiasm…

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At least they shared with each other and didn’t fight for them.

There was only one notable disagreement and that came at Christmas time. My parents had bought bones for all three dogs and they got their gifts on Christmas morning. Now, Willie doesn’t care about bones as much as his brother Bo does. He’ll often let Bo chew them down until they’re soft, then steal it and chew on them at that point. Until then, Bo will take his bone as well as Willie’s and hoard them both while chewing on one.

Bo decided he needed all three bones to himself and tried to get Annie’s from her. For the first time, it seemed, he was met with a growl because she was not letting him have her bone. Bo went over to my parents’ couch and sulked with his two bones, but wouldn’t chew them. He just kept looking at my mom and then to Annie as if she should be in trouble for not letting him take her bone!

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She enjoyed visiting my parents & their dogs and she loved Christmas!

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She also got to experience snow that year.

Full of Life
Annie was a 50 lb dog with 100 lbs of life in her and she put full effort into everything she did. Of course, she was a dog so she didn’t do too much, but when she sat on command, she would plop her rear down with drive behind it. When she laid down, it often sounded like she had collapsed as she would find her spot and kind of lean over to just flop onto her side.

She had so much energy she would sometimes flop down and roll on her back, legs splayed open for a moment, then she’d KICK! her hind legs straight up in the air about four or five times and in a quick, smooth motion she’d roll over and be on her feet again. This could be at any time, even not long after a long walk, but was most often when she’d go outside and find a nice spot in the grass. She’d kick her four or five kicks and then flop over and just lay there, sunbathing for a while. This “exercise” as I liked to call it is one thing I regret not getting on film and she stopped doing it as often as she grew older.

Annie loved her new life of living inside with a warm bed, a second warm bed, a THIRD warm bed (MINE)….and two warm couches, but she truly loved to be outside as well. She loved to lay in the sun on warm spring days and she loved to curl up and sleep in the cold in the fall and winter. Walks were her favorite thing in the world, whether at a park or just around the neighborhood.

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You wanna go for a walk?

She had a lot of personality as a Jedi Dog, a Too Cool Dog, and….whatever that last one is.

But boy did she look different in her winter coat vs her summer cut. I actually had a neighbor think she was a different dog after her hair cut one year!

 

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Back to the topic of beds, Annie came to love mine and was again an atypical dog from what I’ve been told of other dogs’ habits. Of course, like all dogs, she liked my bed because it was soft and it smelled like me. However, she wouldn’t sleep in it at night. If I were gone or even home on a weekend, there was a chance she’d sleep in my bed….right in the center of it. But at night when I went to bed, I would get in, pet her head next to the bed for a bit, and tell her “Okay, bed time, goodnight” and she’d take that as a signal to head off for her night time snack.

I always left her bowl with food in it and she never over ate. She’d eat and leave some for later, but there was always a bed time snack to be heard in the dining room while I was going to sleep. In the morning, I’d wake up with her next to the bed or at the foot in the bedroom, but not in it.

The only time she woke me up getting in the bed was during particularly strong thunder storms that were directly above us. Those frightened her enough to get in bed and glue herself next to me until they passed. Once they had, she’d leave and go back to the floor or her bed in the other room.

In the last two years of her life, this did change and she started sleeping in the bed with me. I had the bed against a wall and I slept away from the wall, but would find myself waking up next to the wall with her between me and the alarm clock and no clue when she had gotten in nor how she got me to move. I eventually moved the bed back to an earlier position where both sides were accessible and the foot of the bed pointed to the door where she could easily get in. I always kept a sleeping bag on top of the bed for her so the sheets wouldn’t get too dirty or worn.

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“I like to be the center of attention…or center of the bed.”

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Toby hasn’t actually kicked her out, but it looks like it!

She also didn’t get on the couch too often until she was older, despite not being told she couldn’t. I honestly didn’t mind her being on the couch, especially if she’d lay next to me to get her head scratched, but she typically spent most of her time on the floor or on her own bed. Later I would get her a new orthopedic bed as we were seeing some signs of arthritis in her hips. She didn’t care for it much, but once I put it underneath her old bed it was just right.

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Not that she never got on the couch….

In fact, when I was buying a new couch for the front room of my house, I was deciding between a light or darker one. Since Toby is a cat, he’s obviously likely to get on furniture, especially the front room to look out the window. Since Annie didn’t get on the couch too often, I decided to go with a darker once since I didn’t have to worry about her fur on it as much as I would Toby’s dark fur on a lighter couch. Well….

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She adopted it within days.

Her favorite toy was a stuffed duck that would quack if you hit it right. She went through a few of these ducks, the original having actually been my cat’s toy as a kitten. I had gotten it when it was the same size as him so he could hold it and kick it. If I put it on top of his cat tree, he’d bolt across the room and jump up to throw it off. With the toy having lost some interest for him, Annie was happy to take it up. It was the one toy she regularly liked to play fetch and tug of war with.

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You wanna play?

Life with a Cat
Toby just didn’t have the personality for becoming best buds with a dog and I knew that when I got her. I just hoped they’d get along and that first kennel break with no problems between the two assured me they’d make it work. Toby always believed he was the dominant animal of the house, often forgetting Annie was literally five times his size.

She would lay in the doorway to my computer room, blocking his exit (despite there being plenty of room to just walk around her). When she was laying there napping, he would get close and do that full body head bob until he had judged his distance and would do a large arching leap over her to get past. One time she was laying upright (like the couch photo three above this paragraph) above when he wanted to leave. He charged her, that wide hind legged stance cats get, and took a full force swipe at her face!

Annie only moved an inch, her head pulled back to dodge the strike and came forward back to where it was as calmly as could be. Toby completely whiffed his strike and just stood there as though he had absolutely no clue what to do. After a moment, he took a leap over her and continued. Annie just looked back to watch him go.

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I think she wanted him to like her. I think, in his own way, he did.

Despite living together for almost 7 years, they never became close like some cats and dogs you’ll see who bond. He would sit on my lap on the couch and when she came up, he’d look at her like she was a threat and eventually he’d get up and move as if it was too risky being that close to her.

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Closest they ever got, but when he woke up, he wasn’t pleased with the situation and had to move.

She would sometimes be walking through the house and Toby would appear out of nowhere to charge and swipe at her back legs or tail. It would startle her, but nothing more and he never followed up with any further “attacks.” He did jump from a corner at her once and startled her enough to give a little yip of surprise.

She wasn’t a total push over, though. There were times she would see him walking and would give a sudden chase across the room after him. Sometimes she would corner him in the kitchen and I’d hear the hiss of displeasure. When I saw her do it a few times, he would rear up on hind legs, ready to bat with his paws, and she would walk away. Once again, the game was over and she had “caught” him, so she was happy with that.

It’s probably worth noting, too, that Toby does have his claws. He never scratched her, though. He acts tough, but he never did anything to hurt her. I just wish he would have realized she never did, and never would do, anything to hurt him. I truly believe she would have welcomed him to cuddle up next to, or on, her.

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She tried to get him to play.

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The last picture I have of them together.

Health Scares
In late 2017, my mom was cleaning some things out at their house and brought a box of stuff for me to go through. One thing we found was a Superman cape she had sewn for me for a Halloween costume when I was very little. On a whim, I put it on Annie, who didn’t seem to mind at all.

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A couple of months later, it would turn out she wasn’t as impervious as a Superdog would be. I got up one morning to go to work and Annie didn’t get up to follow me from the bedroom. I came back in and she just looked at me like something was wrong. She tried to stand up, but fell down again. Her head tilted a bit and she just looked at me again. Once more she tried to stand and stumbled until she fell over.

Looking back, I’m fairly proud of myself for staying as calm as I did. I got dressed, put her in the car, and took her to the vet. I got there just as they opened, but just the technicians were in, the doctors wouldn’t arrive for another hour. By this point, her eyes were starting to roll and she was drooling uncontrollably. They suggested she go to an emergency vet.

I got her back in the car and headed to the recommended vet and Annie threw up in the back seat on the way there, which started to scare me. Once we got her in, I asked if she was having a stroke and the ER technician told me a vet would give a diagnosis, but she didn’t think it was. It was likely something less troublesome and she would be okay if so. The vet confirmed it was not a stroke, but ideopathic vestibular disease, which affects the ear and essentially causes vertigo.

They put Annie on an IV for fluids and kept her to observe for a few days, saying I could come back that night to see her. When I did, they said she was doing very well and expected I could actually take her the following day after work. I took her home and had to help her walk a little bit by looping a towel under her belly in case she stumbled.

She had a second episode a couple days later and I took her to her regular vet so they could watch her for the day since I couldn’t take off work. They didn’t have kennels available, so they put her in an exam room for the day to watch and take care of her. They called me at noon and let me know she was standing up and walking on her own without assistance.

Now, if you read about vestibular disease, a lot of information online will describe that it comes suddenly and clears up on its own, but the effects – a tilted head, wobbly balance in particular – can last for a few weeks. Annie recovered in 8 hours the first time and 4 hours the second with no lingering effects at all. There was a third episode that lasted about 45 minutes before she was walking normally.

About eight months later, she had a urinary tract infection that we had trouble shaking. During the course of diagnoses and tests, we did an ultrasound to see if we saw signs of kidney infection and first signs of Cushing’s Disease. Everything looked good except she had a small mass on her spleen we would need to check again later on.

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The vet & techs loved her and though she liked them, she was always eager to go home.

On Christmas day of 2018, Annie struggled to stand up while we were at my parents house. She managed to get up, but when she tried to walk, her legs almost gave out. I took her home and she seemed to have recovered, but a couple days after I took her into the vet to check on her. He didn’t find anything wrong and expected with her age and her arthritis, she likely had some inflammation along her spine and if she tweaked her back (her legs kept sliding wider on my parents new kitchen floor), it would have caused a problem. We got her on medication and it seemed to help.

The following week, she had another vestibular episode, 15 months after the previous. Just like before, a weaker one followed 2 days after it, but no third one. Her vet was concerned we may need to consider seeing a neurologist, but we weren’t at that point yet.

Things got back to normal and Annie settled back into normal daily routines. I got a video of her dreaming on the couch with cute little whimper barks, a video playing with her duck, one just rubbing her ears as she rested against my leg, and then one I had been planning to get for a long time:

That’s actually rather mild excitement for getting canned food on top of her normal food, but I’m glad I at least got one video of it!

Little did I know everything would change just 2 days later….

On February 12, Annie was acting hesitant to jump on the couch by herself. I tried to help her up and she gave a yelp, but she didn’t like being picked up – even just her hind legs to put them on the couch – so I didn’t think much of it.

She had dinner and went outside before bed. I heard a weird sound and went to see what she was doing and she was inside her old igloo dog house, just standing in it and came out to come inside when I looked outside. However, I noticed her gait was a bit off. Once she was inside, she stumbled and wobbled again. I looked at her eyes and she wasn’t having the typical movement I saw with her vertigo episodes, so I thought she might have tweaked her back again.

I decided to give her a night’s rest and we’d go to the vet in the morning if she was still having trouble. I remember her coming next to the bed and eventually hopping up and laying next to me. I petted her a while and went to sleep. She woke me up getting up and out of the bed and I heard a clang in the living room. Her bed would sometimes hit the fireplace tools when she was in it, which is what I heard.

Her Final Day
The next morning, however, I heard her cry out. Not loud, but a whining whimper. I got up and went to check on her and found her laying half on her bed and half on the floor. She just looked at me. She didn’t even raise her head and I knew something was very wrong.

She managed to get up and over into the living room floor. I sat with her while we waited for the vet to open and her doctors to be there. I remember having this dreadful feeling that this wasn’t like her previous problems and this was different and serious. I remember petting her head and telling her “Annie, you’ve been a good dog. If you’re tired, it’s okay. If you’re ready to go, then you can go.”

I got her bed moved and encouraged her to come to me. She got to her feet and walked over to me, ears perked and cute as always, and laid down on her bed. In hindsight, this may have taken quite a bit of strength to come to me one final time. Once it was time, I dragged her bed over to the garage and picked her up to get her in the car.

At her vet, her body temperature was 2 degrees colder than normal, so they covered her up and did some blood work. Everything looked fine. They did x-rays of her chest to see if her heart was enlarged, signaling bad news. I always assumed her heart would give out due to the time with heart worms, but they said it looked good, but the mass on her spleen was larger. They prescribed an emergency herbal medicine and if she was showing improvement the next day we would discuss removing her spleen. However, the medicine wasn’t in stock except in another city at their emergency vet. I had already texted my mom and let her know things didn’t look good and we were going to try this, but it was probably best if anyone in the family who wanted to see her should make plans to come that day.

I took Annie there and while there, we got another ultrasound. I waited in a room until the doctor came in and told me the results. The mass had grown very large and her abdomen was full of fluid. She was already starting to suffer and wouldn’t make it til the next day. There was nothing they could do for her. I had to make the decision right then.

They asked if I wanted to remember her as she was or be with her at the end. There was no decision to make as I had decided long ago I would be there with her for her final journey. They brought her in so I could say goodbye. This sweet, gentle, beautiful dog that had been with me for only 6 years and 10 months lay there, her eyes moving but not fully seeing me. I petted her, I cried, I told her she was a good girl and that I loved her. I kept my hand near her nose, hoping she could at least smell me and know I was there for her.

02-13-19 Final photo before saying goodbye.jpg

She didn’t look a day older than when I first met her.

I could feel her paws and ears were starting to feel cold and her nose was dry. I told her again she was a good dog and it was okay for her to go. Part of me hoped she’d take her last breath right there, just the two of us together. I told the vet I was ready and they came in and gave her the injection. I stayed there in front of her, rubbing her head and trying not to cry too much as I said goodbye to the most perfect dog I had ever known. Shortly after, they told me she was gone. I spent some more time with her before I left, my world completely altered and feeling a little darker.

I let friends and family know and later that evening, then I shared the news on Twitter.

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I reconsidered the quote at first. It’s from Watership Down by Richard Adams, a book about a group of rabbits. I thought the phrase fitting, but technically the quote is about a fellow rabbit and Annie, being a dog, would have been one of “the thousand” enemies of rabbits.

But as I considered it, I decided it was appropriate. If Annie had ever met a rabbit, she would have almost certainly been its friend, or a friend to a whole warren if given the chance. And I thought surely even rabbits would have mourned her passing.

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My world felt empty

The next two days were full of tears and uncontrollable weeping, for my best friend was gone. It helped to share photos of her on Twitter while organizing them all in preparation to write this.

I was able to return the last purchase of flea/tick/heartworm medicine to her vet for a refund. While there, her primary vet told me based on everything, he believed the mass was hemangiosarcoma, a blood related cancer.

I read about it and the descriptions seemed accurate. One day they’re completely normal, then suddenly they can’t stand up and within hours they’re gone. In hindsight, I believe Annie put everything she had into getting up that morning and walking to me one last time. Driving to the vet, she tried to keep her head up as her strength slowly faded.

Annie lived out her final months as normal as could be, enjoying “playing” with Toby and playing with her duck, walking around her neighborhood, visiting her “cousins” at my parents, and celebrating one final Christmas with the family and one last New Year’s Eve with me.

A week and a couple of days after saying goodbye, she came home again for the final time.

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Rest in peace, Annie. You were the best dog I could have ever hoped for.

This is not her end, though. It will take time, but I intend to save the money to have her ashes made into a diamond and placed in a simple ring so she can continue to go with me wherever I go in the future. Because she had a diamond on her forehead, and that’s what she was – a pure, beautiful diamond of a dog.

02-13-19 Annie Rest Easy Good Girl

I do believe in an afterlife and I hope above all else that Annie is in heaven, waiting for the day that I find her again.

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Until then, I’ll always remember her.

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