(cross posted from Beyond Elsewhere – apologies to those of you who see this twice)
I thought she’d live forever.
I mean, I knew that wasn’t going to happen, but Annie was oddly Benjamin Buttonish as she got older she became younger. She was more playful, active and puppyish with each passing year. It seemed like she’d never get old. The only indication we had that she was “old” was right after her 12th birthday last year, she started to slow down a little. Yet she still took off like a banshee and romped through the dog park that we started going to in the spring. She hobnobbed with the Bernese Mountain Dogs and the Rottweilers. They were her kind of people. She would just hang with them as they slowly trundled through the park.
Towards the end of the summer she stopped wanting to eat her dry food. We figured her teeth were bothering her so we started mixing wet with the dry after a while and she’d gobble it up. She’d try to eat anything other than her dry food so we weren’t concerned. When the snow came she perked up like she always did. Winter was her season. It was tasty and cold and tasty and cold. After Christmas however she started going on hunger strikes again. There were a couple of weeks in January where I was certain this was the beginning of the end. There were some other complications aside from the picky-ness in food. I was worried. Then it all went away and she ate everything in sight for almost two weeks. We couldn’t buy the food fast enough. She was eating the amounts she should have been eating and it gave her more energy.
The last two weeks have been tough. She was even refusing to eat her favourite things. I had hoped she’d stick around, unsuffering, until her 13th birthday on March 7th, but after this past weekend it wasn’t looking too promising. Monday night, even though she came down to the basement with us while we watched the news, her eyes started squinting. Shawn carried her back up the stairs because her legs were weak. We started having that talk, the talk no one wants to have because we didn’t want her suffering. All day at work yesterday I thought about it and I had come to a decision, it was like I knew, we had to go to the vet. When I got home from work I wanted to look at Annie and wait and see what my gut said. One look at her when we came in the door – she didn’t even get up to greet us, first time EVER – we knew. I said “We have to call the vet now”. Shawn agreed. He’d been working up the courage to tell me he felt the same way all day. But that look on her face when we came home made the decision for us. She was ready and we would listen.
Aside from the insanity of the price of the visit ($182!! JEEZ!) it was a good visit. Annie was calm and quiet the entire time. She didn’t shake when we got there like she normally does. She just looked at both of us as if to say, Thank you. Shawn went in with her, I couldn’t. I sat in the waiting room, called and cried to my parents to tell them where I was. Texted my closest friends and left a message for my boss at home, she knew this was coming and she understood. Thank the gods.
We are sad. We are crying. Jinx isn’t quite sure what is going on, but we’re trying to give him as much attention as possible. He’s out a big sister that will wash his face and ears every night after dinner. I have never been in a two animal home before when one passes. I have always only had one at a time. This is new territory for me and Jinx is a very sensitive and wussy sort of guy so I know he’ll be depressed for a while. Once he figures it out that is.
I have had other dogs in my life and I have loved them deeply. But Annie was The One. That one animal you have that you connect with so strongly, the one that fits just perfectly with you and your soul. That’s who Annie was for me. She was my perfect dog. She was beautiful and judgmental (ha) and sweet and gentle. If I’d been a witch or a magical whatever, she’d be my familiar. She was mine. My girl.
Shawn and I were talking last night about how normally when you lose a dog you have all these reminders all over the house of them. With Annie – none of the toys were hers, she couldn’t care less about them – we have her bowl and other than that? The baby gate that was set up in front of the bathroom on the main floor because she’d go in and steal all the toilet paper for a snack. When I went to the bathroom last night and didn’t have to move the gate I started crying. It just hit me. Annie was gone, we didn’t need the gate anymore. The other thing is the coffee table. The coffee table, people! She’d run laps around it when she was excited, anxious or scared. She loved to run laps around it when she emoted. And when she didn’t want to be found? She’d lie between the table and the couch. We called it her Table of Invisibility. You could still see her, the table was open underneath, but she thought she was safe.
Annie came to live with me at a time in my life when I was on the edge of losing myself. She came after a rotten year of losing another dog, a relationship, friendships, health and more. She was the gift I can never thank my friend enough for. She helped save me. She had the first litter of Finnish Lapphund puppies in Canada in 2002. She was so small and beautiful and shiny. She was cheeky and a diva and you had to go to her for attention, not the other way around.
She developed a much more demanding yet lovable personality after living with my in-laws for a year when she realized she had to compete for attention between Jinx (just a puppy) and my in-laws’ very spoiled Standard Schnauzer (whom Jinx idolized). She started wagging her tail, confused as to what it was doing (ha!), she started barking when we’d get home. A couple of little woofs to greet us. She started coming over and body checking the other dogs out of the way for her own pets. She made sure, in the most subtle and gentle ways ever, that every one knew she was the Queen of the Pack and she always, always, stood beside me. I was her Mummy and I was the problem solver and the comfort and the safety.
She loved her belly rubs, hence the name Annabelly. There was a time all Shawn would have to do was move his arm in her direction and her back leg would go up to expose her belly as if on a string. We used to laugh so hard at that and do it over and over, letting her do leg lifts like an exercise video.
She loved bananas. If you even picked one up off the counter and she was in another room, as soon as you turned around she was sitting right at your feet staring very intently on your banana. It was as though she teleported there. You’d make no noise at all picking it up and there she was. Like frickin’ Jaws of the Banana.
It doesn’t feel like she’s only been part of our life since she was 4. It feels as though all of these 13 years have been spent together. I did meet her when she was 7 months old when I went down to adopt my first Lappie. I remember being so smitten with her and joking about stealing her in my suitcase when I left. I had no idea that 4 years later I’d have Annie in my life full-time.
She was our flower girl in the wedding. She’s come on vacation with us to New Brunswick. She’s always been there.
I miss her like anything, but I’m going to be ok. I slept oddly well for what I was going through last night, but I think the absence of the anxiety over how she was feeling and if she’d be there when we woke up helped me sleep better.
When we turn our kitchen calendar over next Tuesday it will have a photo of her and the caption “Month of the Belly” since it’s her birthday month. (This month is Month of the Winxish.) It will be hard to look at her for 31 days but each day will get easier and we’ll stop crying over things like the baby gate and we’ll laugh over the silly things she’s done or that we’ve done for her in the past. We will snuggle Jinx and hold hands and recall all the smiles she’s given us.
We miss you Annabelle, you were the most special dog I have ever had.