There’s nothing I could say about Annie that hasn’t been said about other special dogs, but that’s true of parents talking about their children, too. Redundancy doesn’t stop us. Love is always new when it’s our own.
Annie has come so far since I adopted her from Pima Animal Care Center on 10/27/11. On that day, I tested the patience of shelter volunteers by taking about a dozen other dogs out of their kennels into the “getting to know you” pens. I was open to any size, any breed. All I wanted was a steady, easy-going, even-tempered companion. One of the last dogs I took out was a black and tan shepherd mix who was, in all ways, perfect. He was interested in me and in playing, and already knew several commands. Just as I was about to commit, the shelter volunteer said there was one other dog I should look at and led me to a kennel where two older puppies were frolicking around a curled up ball of red fur. The volunteer called out a name, “Monster”, and the red ball didn’t respond at all.
I learned that “Monster” had a brother who was recently put down for being ill. He was known as “Monster II”. The intake form said that the dogs, Chow-Retriever mixes, were kept outside for the whole two years of their lives and had no experience being inside of a house. The reason for surrender was foreclosure.
It seemed to me that “Monster” was ill. The kennel worker agreed and said she would probably be heading to sick bay if she didn’t show signs of improvement, but it could be that she was also despondent over the loss of her brother and a new environment.
I knew that the perfect black and tan shepherd mix would have no problem finding a home, probably one with children who could keep up with his playful side. But Annie? (Yes, I’d already renamed her.) I feared she’d be put to sleep like her brother or that prospective owners might hesitate to adopt a two year old that wasn’t house trained. Besides, she’d need a calm space to recuperate and I had that. My apartment was almost too calm for me—it needed the addition of another life—and I needed something to do other than stare at the walls or my computer screen.
The next day, Annie came home with me. She was very sick (parasites, respiratory infection, worms) and seemed to have lost the will to live. The vet bills were high and the medications were many for the first month, at least until we found an antibiotic that worked. Even then, she seemed somewhat hesitant to re-commit to life and to bonding with another person. She tolerated everything quite well, from my excessive attention to multiple vet visits, but it was a month before I saw her wag her tail.
She seemed to understand no commands when I attempted to train her. She wouldn’t sit for a treat or come when called. I tried both English and Spanish, but she would just stare at me as if I was asking her to perform some algebraic equation. That all changed the day I brought home some bologna from the store. She’d never been curious about groceries before, but kept sniffing the bag. On a hunch, I opened up the deli package, took a slice out, and asked her to sit. Immediately, she complied. Shake? Yes. Lay down? Yes. Sit up? Yes. Suddenly, my Annie was a genius!
We’ve both come so far since October. Annie is now back in love with life and I’m totally in love with her. She’s never had an accident in the house, knows all of her commands, and will walk by my side without a leash. She doesn’t play fetch and seems to have almost no use for toys, but loves interacting with other dogs and their keepers at the dog park. Nearly everywhere I go, she goes. She loves walks, car rides, visiting friends, hanging out at Starbucks, and trekking through the foothills. When I’m working at home, she lies in her bed, napping or chewing on a bone, patiently waiting for me to finish. The dog who once feared jumping up on my bed now looks forward to the sound of a light clicking off. That’s her signal to come on up and get her belly rubbed.
When I had to go to Chicago to work on The Rosie Show, Annie stayed with friends in Lake Tahoe. She enjoyed her stay, and Janice and Van took excellent care of her, but I didn’t think it was possible to miss a creature as much as I missed her. Life just isn’t the same without:
- Unconditional love. (Some people think dogs don’t love. I think those people don’t pay attention.)
- Someone who’s always happy to be with you, regardless of where or when.
- Someone who doesn’t care where you’ve been, how much money you make, or how impressive your credentials are, but only wants you to love them back, care for them, and tap into your silly, playful heart on occasion.
- Someone who warns you when there’s a stranger outside.
- Someone whose loyalty is unquestionable and boundless.
- Someone who never holds a grudge.
- Someone who’s always there for you, in good times and bad.
Someone who always laughs at your jokes.
Well, you can’t have everything. But having a dog makes me feel like I have more than many people do.
UPDATE! This is Rigby. Annie and I met him at the dog park today. He’s a Tucson Cold Wet Noses rescue who was adopted for two days and then sent back. He was being boarded at Broadway Animal Hospital pending another foster home. He lost his sister to euthanasia; Annie lost her brother. I just picked him up fifteen minutes ago. So far, although Annie’s looking a little confused, they are getting along very well!