This is the version of Annie's story that I have sent to "Best Ever Dog Stories"
This is the story of Annie - a little black poodle who was dumped in the parking lot of a local mall the Saturday before Christmas one year. I kept an on-going diary while I had her. She was a special little dog and she taught me a lot about love, and unfortunately she also taught me a lot about letting go - and way more than I ever wanted to know about soul-wrenching grief.
I brought Annie home on Christmas Day from the SPCA to foster her. She had a really bad eye infection, ear infection and something neurologically had happened to her - a stroke or something like that because she could barely walk and couldn't feel her legs. She was having bad kennel strees and wasn't dealing well with living in a cage which had been placed in the kitchen area at the SPCA which is just about the most social area in the whole building - has the most humans passing through it. She was crying all the time. Little dogs need love or they die. And little dogs when they are sick need extra love. Any dog who's sick needs extra love and should not be in a kennel situation and should go into foster care immediately unless they need to be totally immobilized.
I had received a call the day she arrived to see if I could foster her and I said no because I was already fostering a dog which brought my total up to maximum capacity - 4 dogs. But on Christmas Day I was at the shelter walking dogs and Annie - which is what they had called her - because of "little orphan Annie" I assume - was still there! No one had taken her home to foster. I couldn't believe that people had been walking by her cage for almost a week and not been swayed enough by her absolutely forlorn condition to immediately scoop her up in their arms and walk out - which is basically what I did! The staff had been carrying her around and keeping her outside while they were there but they hadn't been able to find anyone who would take her home to foster - a geriatric paralyzed stinky incontinent absolutely perfect and delightful black toy poodle. I picked her up, said "I'm taking her home" - then I walked dogs for an hour to fulfill my commitment for the day - and then wrapped Annie up and took her home with me.
Her prognosis was that she would either dramatically improve or deteriorate and probably die.
December 29, 2003 9:46pm
I'm happy to say that she seems to be improving! Every day she is getting stronger. She is still totally fumbling around and can't feel her legs at all at this point , but I have faith that she has a strong spirit and will be able to overcome what happened at the previous place she lived at.
I also want to tell the story of a dog who was discarded too easily. A perfect little dog who people clamour for - that people ooh and aah over - everyone who meets her say they can't believe that someone could do anything mean to her. I want to tell the story of how easy it was to make her physically well again, and how love and connection with an animal can make you accept and work with any problems that may come up. You may see a black dog stumbling across the lawn but I see a majestic poodle with a puppy clip prancing with all 4 legs moving and her feet not turning under as she looks directly in my eyes with a big smile on her face and comes directly towards me so she can give me a big stinky kiss!
December 30, 2003 12:00am
My Dad worries that taking in fosters will get me into conflict with my neighbours. I try to placate his fears by telling him that where I live is just a place, it's just a space to put my stuff - the dogs are way more important - if I have to leave because of my dogs I'll just go somewhere else that's more dog friendly, it's not that big a deal! And then I always end the email by saying - "but if you want to lend me the money for a down payment on a little trailer, I wouldn't turn that down - that sounds like a win-win situation to me - I could have all the dogs I want and you wouldn't have to worry about my living situation anymore!" That usually shuts him up for a couple months! But this time I also sent him the following poem, because I think it's appropriate to Annie's situation:
ONE BY ONE - A Tribute to Mandy
One by one, they pass by my cage,
Too old, too worn, too broken, no way.
Way past her time, she can't run and play.
Then they shake their heads slowly and go on their way.
A little old woman, arthritic and sore.
It seems I am not wanted anymore.
I once had a home, I once had a bed,
A place that was warm, and where I was fed.
Now my muzzle is grey, and my eyes slowly fail.
Who wants a dog so old and so frail?
My family decided I didn't belong,
I got in their way, my attitude was wrong.
Whatever excuse they made in their head,
Can't justify how they left me for dead.
Now I sit in this cage, where day after day,
The younger dogs, get adopted away.
When I had almost come, to the end of my rope,
You saw my face, and I finally had hope.
You saw thru the grey, and the legs bent with age,
And felt I still had life, beyond this cage.
You took me home, gave me food and a bed,
And shared your own pillow, with my poor tired head.
We snuggle and play, and you talk to me low,
You talk to me dearly, you want me to know.
I may have lived most of my life with another,
But you outshine them with a love so much stronger.
And I promise to return all the love I can give,
To you, my dear person, as long as I live.
I may be with you for a week, or for years,
We will share many smiles, you will no doubt shed tears.
And when the time comes, that God deems I must leave,
I know you will cry, and your heart it will grieve.
And when I arrive, at the Rainbow Bridge all brand new,
My thoughts and my heart will still be with you.
And I will brag, to all who will hear,
Of the person who made my last days so dear.
December 30: 10:00am
I have 2 different scenarios of how Annie ended up in the parking lot of Penhorn Mall. One of them has me crying right along with her previous owner, and the other one has me as outraged as any animal lover should be.
The first one is that she is the beloved pet of some senior citizen who just didn't know what to do with her anymore because she seemed so sick and she loved Annie so much and was just so heartbroken that she couldn't bear to have her put to sleep and the person thought that if she left Annie in a safe public place like a parking lot some one would take care of her. Annie had a bad eye and ear infection along with the paralysis so she would have looked really bad when she was dumped. I did the same thing to a bicycle when I was about 5 years old. I loved that bicycle a lot, but the pedals were broken and the chain kept coming off and it was really hard to ride and it really broke my heart to do it, but I left it underneath an 18 wheeler truck along the waterfront of where we were living at the time hoping that someone would find it and take it home and fix it up because I couldn't ride it anymore the way it was. But I loved that bike with all my heart. I remember walking home crying like crazy. Stupid, isn't it? But that actually is a true story! But I digress, back to Annie's story... so in this version her previous owner is absolutely heartbroken that they had to give Annie up. They didn't see any alternative because they didn't know there were any options and they couldn't afford to take her to a vet and they figured that it would be really expensive to fix the health problems that she obviously had. So they did what they thought was best for Annie and left her in a public place knowing that someone would take care of her. With a face like that how could anyone ignore her?
It's just super unfortunate that what they failed to realize is that there is no fairy god-mother for dogs and one didn't appear that day for Annie. I actually have met a couple people who found their dogs abandoned in parking lots. But on this day the person who found Annie took her to Animal Control instead and she ended up in a cage after going to the Emergenecy Vet Clinic - she could just have been put to sleep right then and there, but luckily that face did save her life!
I say in this version I'm crying right along with the owner because for a lot of us - there but for the grace of *** go us. It's easy to feel overwhelmed when a loved one is sick. We can feel like we have no options, and we can't deal with taking care of them - especially when they're as small and fragile as Annie is. And in my version of this the owner is a senior citizen who's own health is bad so they can't take of their own bad health let alone Annie's bad health. I'm sure the person thought they were doing the right thing and the only thing they thought they could do - but unfortunately it was the coward's way out in my opinion. They were putting all the tough decisions on someone else's shoulders. If Annie was sick enough that she needed to be put to sleep the original owner should have had the courage to be there for her when Annie needed her there.
But luckily Annie is not that sick and she's got alot of life left in her as far as I'm concerned. But every dog and cat who comes into the SPCA has a story at least - if not more interesting and definitely as tragic and most certainly as stupid as this one!
My second version of how I think she might have ended up at the shelter is a little more violent.
December 30, 8:30pm
The vet at the Emergency clinic said that Annie is probably "ancient". What that means is open to interpretation - she could be anywhere from 9 - 15 years old. Her breath is SUPER stinky and her teeth are really bad. She's obviously had bad nutrition her whole life and been fed a lot from the table. Table scraps aren't a bad thing and are what keep a lot of dogs alive so my second scenario involves Annie living the major part of her life very happily in a nice home but something happened - the owner died probably, or had to go into a nursing home and Annie got sent to a relative's house who didn't care about her and she got severely neglected and none of her whims were indulged anymore. I say this because Annie has the cutest dinner dance you'll ever see! When I am at the kitchen counter doing anything - or when there is the hint of impending food she will sit up on her haunches and swing her front legs back and forth. It almost makes me think that she's been paralyzed for awhile, and she's learned to adapt to her disability in different ways. She'll sit up on her haunches quite often - like rabbits do when they sit up and sniff the air. Especially in the last day or so as she's starting to feel better. Today she's been feeling really good and has been actually exploring the house a little bit. She can't grip the floor at all though, and is continually splaying her legs on the floor.
But back to my evil owner story - she's being severely neglected and she's now got a really bad eye and ear infection and she stinks and she can't walk and she's pissing and shitting everywhere and Christmas is in a few days and I don't need this hassle anymore so when I'm on my way to the mall I just open the door and toss her out - there - that's done! Now we can have some peace! We've finally gotten rid of the last remnants of that bitch no-good mother-in-law.
I just can't imagine how awful it must have been for Annie to have been left in that parking lot. How long was she there? What was the weather like that day? How many times did she almost get run over? Was she hungry? What did she think was happening? Every time I turn the ignition off in the car she starts to squeal and freak out. I wonder if she thinks I'm about to throw her out. The first day I got her I put her down in the back yard while I retrieved something out of the passenger side floor and she let out such a yowl that it scared me and it occurred to me then that she thought I was abandoning her and it devastated me that she could think that. That reminds me of another poem:
The Meaning of Rescue
Now that I'm home, bathed, settled and fed,
All nicely tucked into my warm new bed.
I'd like to open my baggage,
Lest I forget,
There is so much to carry -
So much to regret. Hmmmm ...
Yes, there it is, right on the top,
Let's unpack Loneliness, heartache and Loss,
And there by my bed hides Fear and Shame.
As I look on these things I tried so hard to leave -
I still have to unpack my baggage called Pain.
I loved them, the others, the ones who left me,
But I wasn't good enough - for they didn't want me.
Will you add to my baggage?
Or will you help me unpack?
Or will you just look at my things -
And take me right back?
Do you have the time to help me unpack?
To put away my baggage,
And never repack?
I pray that you do - I'm so tired you see,
But I do come with baggage -
Will you still want me?
That's one thing about taking in rescue dogs and adopting them - sometimes they come with issues. A lot of times they come with their issues worked out - especially if they've been in foster care first - which is another good thing about foster care (I think all dogs should be in foster homes and out of kennels personally). But I think one of Annie's main issues is going to be abandonment - and her fear of it. I have to say that I've always had a problem with separation anxiety.
I think I have it worse than my dogs have it. When I've gone to people's houses and they've said that the dogs had to stay outside I've just stayed outside with the dogs while I'm there - I can't bear to be away from them.
And now with Annie it's even worse because there's a sense of urgency to her because she's:
2. a foster who could be adopted at any time
3. sick and could die
So I feel like every moment we have is precious so I don't want to waste any of it.
Sunday January 4th 2004 2:00pm
We did go to the vet yesterday - we got the okay from the SPCA so we went in the morning. It was what the vet said that is causing my current turmoil. It was Dr. Lindsay at Carnegy's - she said that since it's so obvious that Annie needs to stay on steroids to keep the swelling in her brain down then that makes her prognosis very poor and it's only a matter of time until they stop working. She said that Annie is going to die.
Yesterday before I took her in she wouldn't walk at all, it was like her muscles had no tone left, and Dr. Lindsay agreed that in her current condition she couldn't keep herself standing. When I held her she couldn't even keep her back straight. And she'd only finished the drugs 2 days earlier. And she wouldn't eat her breakfast yesterday which to me was a bad sign. Only a few days before she could stand up and walk for 10 minutes at a time - well she could wobble for all that time. Yesterday they gave her a shot of steroids and within a few hours she had enough stability that she could stand up again but even today there's still no spark in her eyes.
I don't think she's in pain, she's still going to the washroom outside and she's eating again and seems interested when I'm preparing food so maybe she'll perk up. But when I hold her it's like she could die at any moment. It is such a horrible feeling to look in her face and watch it.
So long story short right now I'm vascillating between not giving up and then looking in her eyes and just collapsing, but I think that as long as she is physically alive and functioning I have to believe that somehow I'll be able to reach her and everything will be okay. I can't quite figure out why she's affected me so much - it's almost like she's the first dog I've ever encountered who - no matter how much love I've given to her - she's just been too hurt (or something) to realize that everything is now okay and will be okay - and it's just killing me to know that she has no faith in me.
Yes, I'd say that's pretty much what it is. It's always about us and not the dogs though , isn't it?
So all this leads me to the next and inevitable question - is all the stuff I'm doing and going to do for Annie available - or even known about - to the average dog owner? Even if Annie's owner would have been able to do all of this would she have had any idea about any of it? Probably not, and she probably doesn't do any of it for herself either. And maybe none of it will help Annie. Maybe I'm just prolonging her torture because I also can't do what her original owner couldn't do. There's absolutely nothing about Annie that is screaming - "save me" - she's just simply here. And that's why I have to do it. Because I want to see what the real Annie is like - if there's any chance of her coming back. Someone discarded her and she let herself die for some reason. All lost dogs are like that when you first get them. That's why we love our rescue animals so much because we think we've had something to do with them being able to reclaim their true spirit. Annie is just so withered on so many levels.
It undoubtably would have been the right thing for her original owner when given the same diganosis yesterday that I did to have her put down. She should have been put down instead of being dumped in the parking lot of Penhorn Mall. Especially if she was in the same shape that she was yesterday. But since she is in my house now, I am going to prolong her torture, or you could say I'm going to give her another chance, or I won't give up on myself, or whatever you want to call it. Annie will be dead for long enough, she lived in someone else's house for long enough, she's only lived here for a week and a half. I'm sure she'll tell me when she's truly had enough. I hope I have the courage to listen to her.
Tuesday January 6th, 2:00pm
I've had a couple people now say that I should just put Annie to sleep and end her suffering. That certainly IS one of the best things about our companion animals is that when they are sick we can euthanize them humanely - that they DON'T have to suffer too long like humans do when they're sick. My problem with Annie though is that I'm not sure her problem isn't fixable because I don't know what's causing the paralysis/swelling in her brain. It may be something acute that can be cured and she can still go on to have a good life. My Dad is one of the people who thinks Annie should just be put to sleep - he thinks that would end my suffering too! (little does he know that would only make it worse!) My Dad had cluster headaches DAILY for years. I don't know how he lived through it. They would come at the same time every day, and he said it was like someone jamming an ice pick through his forehead. They were mis-diagnosed and he was given valium, lithium, you name it - he got it. They even operated on his nose and he almost died from a blood clot. Then he got referred to a neurologist - finally - and he sat down in the neurologists office and the doctor looked at his file and looked at my dad and said "you have classic symptoms of cluster headaches, here's a drug that tends to work for these types of headaches." My Dad has not had a headache since finding this drug.
Can you imagine going through YEARS of unimaginable DAILY pain to being completely pain free after just getting correctly diagnosed by one neurologist in an office visit? You don't have to believe in miracles or angels or gods or anything to believe that shit like that does happen from time to time. That is a huge thing to have happened to my Dad, and I'm not sure he truly understands the hugeness of it. But at any point when he was suffering he could have just killed himself because he couldn't take the pain anymore and he didn't. He kept on going - for what reason, I have no idea - except that maybe he was hopeful that at some point they would find out what was causing the headaches and then the headaches would go away. And that's exactly what happened! And I'd be willing to bet you that 20 years after he's had his last headache that he's pretty glad he never acted on any impulse that I'm sure he MUST have had to do himself in at the time. Because he's had a pretty good life since the headaches went away, let me tell you!
So that's why I'm not putting Annie to sleep yet. Until I find out that she's not going to get better, I'm keeping her alive. I'm going to a different vet to get a 2nd opinion and a couple tests done and if they also say she's going to die then I want to be there when Annie goes so that she'll have someone there who truly loves her. If she's going to get better, then I'll foster her and let her be adopted.
Annie's been doing better since she's been back on the steroids. Sunday night when we were in bed it was TOO funny! I had her all squished up next to me and I was chanting Buddhist mantras to her so that in case she dies she has a better chance at a human rebirth, and she decided - "enough of this shit!" - she squirmed and squirmed and pulled herself up and dragged herself down to the bottom of the bed and slept down there! It was like she was saying - "I've had enough of the full body contact! Give me some space - PLEASE!" So I let her sleep down there.
She is back to doing her dinner dance and wandering around the apartment on the carpet. It will be good to have a couple days where it doesn't appear like she's dying, thanks to having 2 weeks worth of steroids on the go - her personality may start to come out a little bit - that will be really interesting!
Thursday January 8, 9:00pm
I'm feeling hopeful and dejected at the same time. I think we've gone into a waiting period now and we'll have to see what happens. I pray that it works out. Several excellent things HAVE happened though.
She's continuing to do really well on the steroids. She's walking around, barking at everything and yesterday when Shelly Malcolm was doing physio and giving her acupuncture she totally was trying to bite us! And not just nip us in response to fear, she was searching out body parts baring her teeth and trying to sink them in as far as they'd go! So cute in a 10 pound paralyzed dog! I think I've been around 100 pound dogs too long! We were like - this dog has got spunk! And she's started being manipulative in little ways too. If I have her down on the floor, she'll start making little squeaking noises because she knows I'll pick her up. So these to me are not traits of a dog that has decided she wants to die. I think she might be starting to come around. Which makes the next part even harder.
I took her for my second opinion tonight to the "Full Circle Veterinary Alternatives" on Portland Street in Dartmouth to meet Jennifer Bishop. She was fantastic! She seemed to understand by pulling Annie's legs certain ways and maneuvering her around and giving her a really good physical exam the things that I was telling her about how Annie acts, how she declined so quickly and what I hoped would happen in the future. Unfortunately she gave as potentially as bleak a future as Dr. Lindsay did. She doesn't think that Annie's paralysis has anything to do with her spine, and she doesn't think it's muscular. She thinks it's in the brain. It could be a tumour - which could be growing, or it could be a lesion, or it could be meningitis - or it could be a whole bunch of things. The only way we could really know for sure is to send her to PEI to do - I think she said a spinal tap and see what that said. I'm pretty sure that Annie's face won her another reprieve though, because Dr. Bishop said she wanted to go check some of her homeopathy books to check something and a couple minutes later she came back with an 8 day supply of "Curare Injeel" and "Conium" which I have to give her 1 ampule orally each day for 8 days. They are both homeopathic drugs that have to do with the brain, and the right side and cancer (in case its a tumour that causing her problems) and a bunch of other stuff that she said that they're good for. She also gave them to Annie for no charge (since she's an SPCA foster dog), which totally blew me away and made me realize that there ARE some vets in this city who are in their chosen profession for altruistic reasons! The right side is important because it appears that Annie's left side doesn't work currently.
So now we're going to wait 8 days to see if the homeopathic treatment improves her condition. I forgot to ask what we would be the next step if it DOES improve her health. All I know is that if it doesn't do anything then Annie is pretty much doomed at this point.
Then the decision will be - do we just put her to sleep because she's going to die anyway? Or do we keep her alive for as long as the steroids give her some kind of quality of life and she seems to want to stay alive, and then the question is who does she live with? Actually when it's worded like that the answer is pretty obvious! We're all going to die but that doesn't mean we should just kill ourselves right now because of it!
Saturday January 10, 12:30 pm
I am hesitating to write this but I think when I buy groceries today I'm going go buy some bacon. Annie wouldn't walk yesterday, and she's started whining a lot for no reason. I don't know if she's in pain or what's going on, but the only place she wants to be is in my arms. I can't even put her down for a minute and she'll start crying. I think somethings coming. She had a sausage McMuffin for breakfast this morning.
Friday January 16, 4:00pm
Where do I start? Annie's gone. She died Monday. It's taken me this long because I couldn't face realizing that there was an end to the story and that it had happened. I feel like my heart is broken. There was nothing I could do about a brain tumour. But I still don't think that 18 days was enough. I should have been allowed to have her a little longer than that before she got so sick she had to die. From Thursday to Sunday she had completely lost the ability to hold any weight on her legs. In order for her to go poo outside I had to hold her up. she couldn't hold her back straight. She had completely lost bladder control, if she wasn't in my arms or my lap she was crying, and I know the steroids were the only thing giving her an appetitie. But when she was in my arms she seemed completely happy and content. If she wasn't suffering I would have been completely willing to give any level of care required to keep her happy and healthy. I was ready to carry her everywhere for the rest of her life. I just didn't think it would be so short a life with me.-
But since she was deteriorating so quickly I knew that she was going to start suffering a lot more than she already was so I had her put to sleep on Monday. It was awful. She ate 2 cookies with great gusto on the exam table at the vets office, and then the vet took her arm and she looked at me confused - because she didn't know what was going on and I was saying to her and looking in her eyes "I love you, I love you I love", and then the vet said "She'll relax now". And then she was dead, and I started to say "I loved you I loved you I loved you". And she was dead. And there wasn't anything I could do. It was too late.
When the original owner knew how sick she was they should have loved her enough to keep her until the end. The SPCA did the right thing in not euthanizing her in the beginnning because she could just have had a bad ear infection that could have been cured easily. Unfortunatly it wasn't, it was a brain tumour and she died and I fell completely madly in love with her anyway and my heart is broken because of it.
So maybe what was learned from Annie's tragic story? Abandonment and cruelty happens to all types of animals, even the small beautiful ones. There aren't happy endings to every story. You really cannot save every animal that you want to. But the greatest lesson I've learned is that euthanasia hurts whether it's the right time to do it ir not. It is never the right time to do it. As soon as she was dead I was dead sure that to put her to sleep was a mistake. I killed her too soon. And you can't go back on that. I'm sorry Annie. It was probably only a matter of days maybe, I don't know. Maybe she was suffering and I did do the right thing. But it's too late now.
I had an email from a nice lady in New Brunsick named Cheryl and my response to her I think sums up best what I think was the best gift that Annie gave me:
--- Cheryl C. wrote:
You broke my heart with this story. I sympathize with you completely. I volunteer at our local Animal Rescue League in Saint John NB and have brought home several dogs and cats with kittens to foster. Recently, when I went to the shelter, there was a beautiful little girl mix who had just been brought in. She was very sick and since it was Friday night and a snow storm, none of the staff wanted to stay overtime to take her to the vet. I took her in my truck and it turned out she had Parvo and was gravely ill. They put her to sleep right then and there. I was devastated and I had only know her for 2 hours. The world needs more people like you,dedicated to the cast aways. Thank you so much for caring. Cheryl
Hi there Cheryl - thanks for your email!
Annie was a super special little dog, I had no idea when I brought her home that she would have such an effect on me and on everyone she came in contact with. I still can't bear to look at pictures of her or go back and read what I wrote because it still physically hurts to think about it. And you're right - I don't think it matters whether it's 2 hours, 18 days or 40 years - a connection is a connection - and if your heart has the ability or maybe I should say the weakness to hurt, it hurts with the exact same intensity regardless.
I think the one thing I learned most is that there is nothing you can do to avoid the grief, you just have to live through it and know that you will come out of it - but the living through it is definitely the hard part. Especially since there is absolutely no comfort at all in it. But you have to take the good with the bad, and take your chances. She might have just had a really bad ear infection and been totally healed and a bouncing black running toy poodle by now. That would have been sweet. And most times, as you well know - that is the case. Most times they ARE discarded too easily.
Anyway, I'm sure I'm preaching to the converted! I was SO lucky to have her for the 18 days that I did. She taught me a lot and I wouldn't trade that for anything, and it's gotten me some great emails from people like you! Thanks again for taking the time to tell me that you read her story!
Joan and Charlie and Leonard and Daisy and Buttercup