This is the day that I have dreaded since that very first moment I gazed into your soulful eyes.
Your gray whiskers were the hint that you had already lived out the majority of your days. At the time, I guessed that you were about 9 years old, a few months later I was able to confirm that you were 9 1/2, but I never thought twice about bringing you home and giving you the life that you deserved.
I wish we could have had more time.
I wish your previous life was not so difficult.
I wish I could have known you as a puppy.
I wish we could have marched in the Rescue Parade.
I wish you didn’t have to be afraid of so many things.
I wish I could have fixed you.
You taught be me so much about love, trust, resilience and forgiveness.
You were strong, stoic, gentle, affectionate and so, so sweet.
You inspired me to write your story.
You invited me in, and let me be your person.
You were everything I could’ve asked for.
You were like no other.
I will never forget you, I will always love you and you are forever in my heart.
Every time Annie does something remotely “dog like”, I take note.
Behaviors that might seem completely normal and maybe even annoying in other dogs, are behaviors that she is learning. She wouldn’t take a treat from my hand. She wouldn’t come into the same room with me. She wouldn’t go through new doorways. She wouldn’t go upstairs. She wouldn’t voluntarily leave her crate. She wouldn’t leave our yard to go to the car or for a walk. Slowly, as she got more comfortable with us and her new home, she started doing these things. One day at time. Sometimes she would regress, and we would start over, trying to make her comfortable.
She still won’t roll over for a belly rub. She still barks out of fear when someone other than my husband or I walks through the door, even if it’s someone she knows well. She still hides behind me when we are out for a walk and someone is walking towards us.
Imagine my surprise Sunday morning, when I heard a commotion at the front door. Maisie and Winn were crowded together with their tails were wagging and I could tell they either saw someone on the sidewalk or even on the porch that they knew. Annie was in the middle of the living room barking her alarm bark.
I went to the door and my next door neighbor was there. He didn’t ring the bell but when I opened the door, he said one of them was wandering outside in front of his house and he had just brought her back. Winn had recently brought in the paper and maybe I didn’t latch the door all of the way. I was a little surprised, but thanked him for returning the rascal. I figured it was Maisie. As he turned to go down the stairs, he said “it was the dark one”. The dark one! I said, “Annie?”. “Yep”.
I couldn’t believe it! I was cleaning the bathroom when I heard her barking, and that’s when I went around the corner and saw the other two with their wagging tails at the door. Apparently he had returned Annie, she ran inside and then started barking which led the other two to check out whatever was happening. I can not believe she actually left the house and went for a stroll. That is something completely new!
I certainly don’t take it lightly that she got out, but there is a part of me that can’t help but smile because it’s one more little sign that lets me know that she is confident enough in her surroundings that she thought she would go say hello to the neighbor.
Annie and I had a big day today. A day that changes everything!
It was time for her rabies shot so our big date was a trip to the vet. Annie and I have made many of these trips over the last year and 1/2, but this time was very different.
When Annie was surrendered to rescue, the only document that came with her was her 2014 rabies certificate. By the time she came home with us a year later, the rabies tag was long gone and the certificate we received was in pretty rough shape but the story it told was clear to me.
It’s a copy of a fax and is crooked and faded. On multiple occasions I’ve had to pull it out of her file when asked to show proof of vaccination. Each time I pull it out, the anger bubbles up because it is a reminder in black and white of her life before us.
The owner’s name and address belongs to the man that operated the kennel/puppy mill. It’s easy for me to say that even though I’ve never met him, I hate him. Her name is listed as Anne, but “Paris” is written next to it. Why does she have two names? I don’t know. Her age is listed as 7, although she had just had a birthday and was actually 8. Her weight is listed as 00. Record keeping was obviously not a priority with these dogs. There are other notes that are hard to read, but are the vaccinations that she received after she was rescued. At the top are the words Annie Paris, blaze and orange collar. The final glaring bit of information is the list of vaccinations done which only includes 2 things, the one she received that day and another rabies shot she received May 23, 2008!
These are all broad strokes that paint a picture of neglect. After 6 years, what compelled him to seek out a vet to administer a 3 year rabies vaccination? Who knows, but what really bothers me concerns the veterinarian. There is no way he could have examined her and thought that she or any of the other dogs from that kennel were receiving proper care. The conditions they were forced to live in were unsanitary and disgusting. Knowing Annie as I do, they would have had to drag her to him, with her trembling and cowering.
So now, here’s the good news. Annie came to us with a broken spirit on the mend thanks to her rescuers and now she is a completely different dog. She’s happy and loving, she has a spring in her step and a twinkle in her eye. She regularly approaches me and nudges my hand for a scratch behind the ear. She walks on leash beautifully and loves our neighborhood patrols. She comes running when she hears the scoop in the dog food or the word “treat”. She doesn’t hide in her crate anymore but instead sprawls out all over the house, moving around, finding a comfy spot on the cool tile or under my feet or on the rug in the next room. She’s quick to come when I’m having training time with Winn and she will do her two tricks, sit and down, with precision so she can also get treats. She joins me in the kitchen when I’m cooking, confident that she will get a nibble now and then. At the end of every day, we climb the stairs together, I give her her eye drops and then she collapses on her Big Barker bed and lets out a sigh of contentment.
So this time going to the vet was different. Yes, she trembled as we were waiting, it took a lot of gentle coaxing to get her into the room and she wasn’t overly enthused about the attention she was getting but we both eagerly left with a treasure in my hands. I now have a proper certificate with both of our names in print. It is signed by a Dr. who lovingly cares for her and is genuinely invested in her well being. The final reminder of her previous life can go in the trash. We belong to each other, and we have no reason to ever look back again!
Wow! Another year has gone by and we are celebrating Annie’s birthday. This birthday is a big deal, she’s 11 and is still in really good health. Last year before her party, we had just come from the vet. She had her stitches removed from the removal of a cancerous lump as well as an EKG to evaluate an irregular heartbeat that appeared while she was in surgery. Not only did she have a clear pathology report, her heart rate was normal which was a huge relief.
Since then, she has had a couple of ear infections but nothing else major and she continues to let her personality shine. She has also responded so well to Winn. She’s actually more lively and playful with Winn around, and she seems so happy.
We invited one of the neighbor dogs to join us, I baked pup cakes using the same recipe I used last year for her cake, got pictures of everyone in party hats and had a very fun party with lots of laughs.
It’s no surprise, Winn was not a fan of the party wear.
She was excited about the pup cakes, but then saw Maisie’s hat, snatched it off her head and played keep away.
Annie LOVED her treats and kept coming back for more. She even started pawing at the plate in an effort to bring them closer so she could grab them!
Our guest wasn’t sure what to think about it all, but she seemed to have a good time and got a pup cake to take home and enjoy without being stared at by other dogs.
I have never registered or shown my dogs, and prior to adopting Annie, my only impressions of the show world were formed by the movie “Best in Show” which I found hilarious.
The NCA (Newfoundland Club of America) and the South Central Newfoundland Club were in charge of Annie’s rescue, and as a result of adopting Annie I have become acquainted with so many people who are passionate about this breed and they have shared their experience with me.
Last year at this time we had only had Annie for a couple of months and I was in frequent contact with her rescuers and fosters. They were a great support for us as we were all getting used to each other. My Facebook feed started filling up with pictures from National, and all of these gorgeous dogs that looked to be having so much fun with their owners, and I began to appreciate how many people around the country are in love with this breed. Up until then, I didn’t know many other Newfie owners. I was one of a few owners in my area and we (the dogs and I) would get a lot of attention when we were out and about because they are so big and unique.
As I started to learn more about the NCA (Newfoundland Club of America), what truly ethical breeding means, draft work, obedience, water work and therapy, I began advanced obediance and therapy classes with Maisie. Annie, she’s different and special and classes would not be right for her, but there is one activity that I want to do with her–the Rescue Parade. When I saw that on the agenda last year I immediately set that as a goal for us for this year. Unfortunately, Newf National is in Oregon this year and that is simply too far away for us. The Rescue Parade is today at 3:00 in the main ring and I really wish we were there. Next year it will be in Michigan, and while I have been very careful to keep my expectations in check because of her age, I am going to put it out there that I want us to be there next year.
Annie deserves to strut her stuff in front of all of those beautifully bred Newfoundlands. She worked hard, producing hundreds of puppies in terrible conditions for most of her life. Now it’s her time to enjoy life and I would love nothing more than to enter the “Rescue Ring” with her and shine the spotlight on her for others to see. Annie turns 11 in June, that’s our next big day on the calendar, and then who knows, hopefully we will be on to Newf National 2018!