Annie first came to us when we got a call from our friends at Mount Vernon NJ Animal Control.
They are a shelter in NJ that try very hard to never euthanize if they can help it, but they ARE a county shelter and eventually the time came for Annie.
No one wanted to do it, but Annie had been there a year and the director sadly said that she wasn’t being adopted and they couldn’t keep her forever at the expense of others. The shelter staff and volunteers reached out to us. They loved this sweet girl. Could we possibly take her?
The idea of taking a very senior dog that seemed to have very little life left in her, didn’t really appeal to me, I must be honest here. We had a lot of seniors at the time and there are not a whole bunch of adopters out there looking for older dogs to take home and nurse through their geriatric years. So I was reluctant.
And then they told me her story.
Annie was very much loved by her owner.
His whole life.
He adored her.
One day he went out on his motorcycle, and never returned.
As the mourners came to his house to clear out his belongings and mourn the loss of him, Annie, used to quiet and routine in the house was very unsettled.
All these people.
All this noise.
Where was her master?
And so she darted out the door, and never came back.
For over a year neighbors would see her.
She would come every night.
Sit at the top of a hill and look upon the house.
I imagine that she sat there, looking for him.
A sign of him.
Confused as to where the man was that had loved her for so long, cared for her and snuggled with her at night.
Eventually they trapped her.
And here is where the story disconnects for me.
What did they do with Annie?
I try very hard not to judge people, but to lose someone in my life that meant a lot to me, it would make sense that the things that meant the most to THEM would mean something to me too.
I am unsure of how it came to be, but Annie was brought to the local shelter.
A “kill” shelter.
Yes, a shelter that tries desperately NOT to kill and does everything in their power to save all the animals they can – and they do a damn good job of it – but still…I often wonder how they could bring this very special dog to a place where she might not make it out alive. (I hope that they KNEW this shelter personally and the amazing staff and loving people that work and volunteer there and I hope that they felt they could trust them with this precious bundle of fur.)
So Annie spent a year out on her own, surviving and waiting for her master to come for her and eventually, weak with hunger, she was trapped and brought to a shelter. And there she sat for another year. Adopter after adopter coming in, and walking past her. I imagine it didn’t matter to Annie. She didn’t care about them. She wanted ONE thing. Her original friend. She wanted HIM back. So she probably didn’t put much effort into greeting these potential adopters. If it wasn’t HIM, she wasn’t interested.
Again my imagination goes and I imagine that every time the door opened, she might struggle up, go to the end of her run and look down the hallway, hoping it would be him, coming for her.
It never was of course.
And now her time was up.
When we heard this story, we could not say no.
Who could have?
We welcomed Annie here and the staff that brought her here had tears in their eyes as they hugged her and loved her and pet her and stayed with her for a long time after they arrived, telling her she would be ok and that they had done the best they could by her and that she would be safe. I can not deny that this touched me deeply. For this staff to be so moved and so impacted by a dog in their care, made me pay very special attention to her.
I’m glad I did.
Because in Annie I found something very special.
I found an amazing soul in there.
I don’t care if you are religious or not, this isn’t about religion.
It is about depth.
About looking into another creature’s eyes, be it human or animal, and recognizing something there.
That is how it was with me and Annie.
I saw something there.
And it affected me.
Meant something to me.
Touched me on a different level.
We see a lot of dogs here.
A lot come and go and they ALL mean something to us.
We know that every one of them would be a body somewhere if we had not taken them in and so they are ALL special.
They are ALL important and they are ALL special.
But sometimes you get a dog, or a cat, in here that reaches you at the core, on a whole different plane.
Everyone here has a dog or cat that has done this to them.
As I walk around when volunteers are here, I like to watch it. I like to see that connection – that line that attaches them and says that this one is very special to that person.
I don’t know why they affect us in this way. Sometimes it is the story behind their lives.
Sometimes it is a look in their eyes.
Sometimes it is just the amount of time the volunteers spend with them.
I don’t really think it can be explained.
I see it all the time though, and I always smile inside at the thought that this animal has reached out to that person. It is good. It feels good. It makes me feel good about what we do here and it makes me feel good about the volunteers that we have here.
Sometimes those people wind up taking those dogs home. More often than not they watch their favorite go home to someone else and they weep, tears of both grief and happiness.
Both emotions filling them at the same time.
One day one of our volunteers, Connie, came to me and said that Annie was depressed. She told me to look into her eyes.
Connie was right.
Annie’s eyes…were dead.
There was nothing there.
She would walk on the leash.
She would eat.
She would do as you asked of her.
But she had died inside.
She had given up.
And it broke me.
We see a lot here at an animal sanctuary. A lot of happiness. A lot of grief.
But to see a dog finally give up is the worst thing we can see.
Annie had decided to give up.
Living in a kennel. Walked by strangers, cared for but not really deeply loved…she had given up.
I put a note on the wall and asked for volunteers to spend some extra time with her.
I noted that she was depressed, losing weight and had died inside.
And they did.
I think every single person that came to pets alive those next few weeks stopped in to visit with Annie, take her out, spend time with her, brush her, give her treats and whisper to her how wonderful she was. The staff stepped up too. They took her out of the kennel, set her up in one of the office spaces on a nice clean fluffy bed and they stopped in often to speak with her and to love on her.
Linda is one of our best volunteers. She is here just about every single day and she is one of our volunteers that can walk even our most aggressive dogs. She has a special place in her heart for dogs and she started spending extra time with Annie.
Annie thrived on all the extra attention from everyone.
Her eyes lost the dead look and filled with life.
She started attacking other dogs when she got the chance (GO ANNIE!)
She started scarfing down her food and jumping up to go to the door to be walked when people came in with a leash.
After a while, when she started gaining weight and gaining back a will to live, volunteers still paid attention to her and walked her every day but life got back to normal.
Except for Linda.
Linda continued spending extraordinary amounts of time with Annie.
Annie would be there at the yard sale, or she would be out for ice cream.
Annie would be going on over nights.
Annie would be hanging in the volunteer lounge.
Annie. Annie. Annie.
And then it happened.
Annie chose Linda.
She gave over her heart.
She picked Linda and it was almost like she said:
“I am still mourning. But I think I can love someone as much again. I’m willing to take a chance, and risk being hurt again. I’ve chosen you. ”
When Annie sees Linda coming, her entire face lights up.
It could light a dark room.
Her whole body language changes.
She becomes a puppy again.
And Linda, as she walks toward Annie, with a leash in her hand, smiles a soft smile and their eyes meet and they both stop and look for a second, and if you are watching, you can see it pass between them. I don’t know what “it” is…but it is clear. It is “something”. You might call it “love”. You might call it “their souls”, you might just call it “happiness”. Whatever you call it, you can’t deny it. It is palpable.
Annie is not the dog for Linda.
I say that with no doubt.
Linda has three other dogs.
Annie does NOT like other dogs.
Annie needs fluids every few days to keep her medically sound.
Linda goes away to Florida a good part of the year
This is not an “easy” dog for her or her family.
Annie is not “adopted”, but she goes home with Linda every night.
In Annie’s heart, and probably in Linda’s too….
…she IS home.
Thank you Linda for recognizing the worth in Annie.
Thank you for trusting someone enough again to give them your heart.
You couldn’t have picked better little girl.
You couldn’t have picked better.