We had our home visit Sat. afternoon and within an hour we got the approval. I called her foster mom, reserved a hotel room, and threw things in a bag for Maisie and we hit the road by 4:00. It was a 6 hour drive and we wanted to be able to get Annie settled back in our house before dinnertime Sunday. We were thrilled!
On our way, I shot off a text to our kids, they both knew what I was up to and I wanted to share the news. Within seconds, I got a text back from my daughter saying she was in Michigan City; she was on her way to our house to surprise us for the weekend! The timing was just right because we directed her to the nearest rest area and within 10 minutes we were pulling in too. Now we could all caravan together, and the option of 2 cars in case we needed to drive the dogs separately seemed like a good idea.
That night, I kept going over my conversation with her foster mom and the details I could remember. Annie had been 1 of 44 Newfoundlands that were rescued from a deceased owners’ Michigan puppy mill in December 2014. That was the winter of the Polar Vortex, with deep snow and below freezing temperatures. The dogs didn’t have heated shelter or fresh water and weren’t regularly fed. It took several trips with many volunteers to get all of the dogs and they were in rough shape. They were all scared, not well socialized, filthy with matted, patchy fur and clearly had suffered neglect and had health issues as a result. It was a haunting, heart-wrenching situation, and I admire the volunteers who went in there and got all of those dogs into a safe place. NCA Rescue started a crowdrise financial campaign to supplement the funds that were used to provide health care for these dogs. Close to 50,000 dollars was spent on these 44 dogs. 50,000 dollars! And that was just in the first few months. At the time we adopted Annie, there were still several in foster care because they were still rehabilitating physically and emotionally. I wasn’t sure what we would be dealing with, but I knew I was willing to do what was needed to provide her with a home in which she was comfortable and safe.
Regarding Annie, I was told that she was very shy but one of the sweetest dogs we would ever know. She would come when called, but not directly, more in a circle that would get smaller and smaller until she reached us. She wouldn’t come into a room with us, but would be more likely to watch us from afar. Because she was so dehydrated by the time she was rescued, her tear ducts no longer functioned and she would need eye drops twice a day for the rest of her life. She suffered from very itchy skin and ear infections, but with consistent treatment both were getting under control. Her teeth were in terrible shape. Her upper and lower front teeth were worn down to the gum line. Her canines were partially worn down and chipped and she had a couple of broken teeth back teeth but she was an eater, and she didn’t have any chewing problems. She wasn’t leash trained, they tried and tried but she was just too scared and didn’t want to follow anyone on leash and would pull out of a buckle collar. She didn’t like doorways, she had one door that she liked to use and that was the only one she would use. She didn’t like doorways? I wasn’t sure what to make of that. She slept on the couch downstairs, she never went upstairs with them at bedtime. Hmm, our dogs have always slept in our bedroom until they couldn’t do the stairs anymore, not because they preferred to stay downstairs without us. She had been adopted once, but the match wasn’t right and she was returned to her foster mom. While I had a hard time understanding some of her behavior, nothing I heard changed my mind. I was sure that with patience and kindness, I could help her, and she would be with a loving family until her last day. Something all dogs should have but unfortunately she didn’t know until her rescue.
When we arrived at her foster home, I quickly realized she had been in a Newfie paradise for the past year. The house had a kennel attached to the side and it was situated on several acres of scenic, open land. They had 5 beautiful Newfies of their own in addition to Annie. 2 days prior, they had to say goodbye to their first Newfie who lived to be 12 years old. I knew they were in a lot of pain, but they were so welcoming and completely focused on our introduction to Annie. Annie was safely tucked away in her kennel, but she did reluctantly come out when called. She didn’t come to us directly but trotted around in circles. It seemed she wanted to come, but she just couldn’t. Her age was undetermined, guessed to be between 7-9 but I knew at first glance she was 9 or more. She moved beautifully, with no sign of joint pain but her gray eyebrow and chin hairs are what convinced me. She had the look of both Bailey and Charlie in their final years. I was disappointed for a split second, only because I knew our time would be limited, but that vanished just as quickly. I was already attached.
She was maintaining her distance with her circle so a lead was put on and she was brought close to me and lay down. I approached her slowly and sat on the floor next to her. She had no interest in the treats I had brought, although all of the other dogs seemed to think it was great that we had shown up with a bag of treats. Maisie was off greeting and running with the other dogs until she discovered the cat. She’d never been close to a cat before, and was now completely focused on this new, small creature. I was pretty sure she’d end up with a smack across the nose but she was fine and it kept her occupied while I was trying to get to know Annie. How do I describe what I was feeling? Her closed off, protective behavior was something I had never dealt with before. I could sense a barrier between us and I wasn’t going to get through easily. She was so sweet, she didn’t recoil when I came near her and began softly petting her, but she didn’t engage either. She was tolerating my presence and waiting for me to be done. I decided to stay where I was but diverted my attention to the chaos around me, the running dogs, my daughter becoming very popular because she was now in possession of the treat bag and Maisie chasing the cat. While I conversed with her foster mom I hoped that she would become comfortable enough with my presence that she might relax. That didn’t happen.
After a while, it was deemed to be bath time. She had to be physically coaxed and lifted into the tub. She knew something was going on and now a bath. She was not happy about it. We all chatted while she was bathed, moved to the grooming table and then dried, brushed and trimmed. We received so many good tips about grooming and I stood near her during the whole process.
She remained stiff as a board with a vacant expression. It was so obvious to me that she was nervous about our arrival and what it might mean for her. My heart was breaking for the sweet dog that was receiving the most loving, tender send off possible. I hoped I could someday get her to bond with us, but I was realizing that might not be possible. She had been with them for a year, and was still so guarded. This was going to be more difficult than I had imagined, but I didn’t waiver for a moment. I knew we were meant to be together and I wanted nothing more than to spoil her and show her that she was loved and valued. She would never be neglected again and we would be with her until her final day. I just hoped that would be enough.
The goodbye was hard on everyone. We were all a little frazzled. She had no intention of following me. I stepped aside and watched as her foster dad led her to our car. They had a very strong bond but she did not want to follow him and it took a few stops and starts to get her there. She was completely stiff when loaded into the car and it was difficult to get her positioned appropriately so that we could close the hatch. She did not want to come with us and she was letting us know. Maisie didn’t know what to make of this whole situation and opted to ride in the middle seat away from Annie. I was so conflicted and trying to hold it together. I didn’t want them to think I was having doubts, I wasn’t, I just hoped she would eventually be happy with us. They were entrusting us with this sweet dog that was as much a part of their household as the rest of their dogs. We were taking her away from a wonderful place with people and a pack that loved her and she was terrified.
Goodbye Connie and Tracy. Goodbye Rio, Reggie, Hope, Rayne and Briar. Annie was going to her new home.