It was almost exactly 14 years ago that our eldest daughter, who was still living at home, added an item to the grocery list on the refrigerator door:
Every week for a month Melanie put “Beagle” on the list. So one day Sara and I drove to a farm on the other side of the lake and brought home a Beagle puppy. It was asleep on Melanie’s bed when she arrive home from classes. She named the puppy Annie.
It was only a few months later when Annie’s mistress met a guy. When she got married and moved out, Annie stayed with us.
During Annie’s early years, I wrote a number of newspaper columns about life with a Beagle. The columns eventually were posted on the internet. I received responses from as far away as Australia and Russia. The writers thanked me–usually saying something like, “I own a beagle and thought it was retarded but your columns made me realize it’s just normal.”
When one of Annie’s rear legs gave out, we paid more to have it repaired than it cost for me to be born. And when the other back leg had the same problem a couple of years later, (bad genes according to the vet) we already had too much invested not to write another check..
It hasn’t been easy. Nearly a week has passed and I still catch myself glancing toward the fireplace, expecting to see Annie sprawled halfway out of her doggie bed, one eye covered by an ear. And I could swear I still sometimes hear her jumping against the metal storm door in the back of the house, the signal that she is ready to come inside.
Over the years I wrote a lot trying to describe Annie. But I think our daughter Tara did it best in an email sent to us after she learned of Annie’s demise.
“I know Annie had a lot of ‘critics’, but she was a good little dog. She was enthusiastic about everything! Dinner, a bone, someone coming home, someone passing by, a hot dog, going for a walk. How can you not love an animal that takes such great pleasure in such little things?
“People forget the younger Annie and how much fun she was. I remember her little pot belly when she was just a puppy, and how we all said ‘uh oh’ when she finally realized she could jump on the furniture (where we climbed to get away from her sock-chewing ways). I remember how we could tell her to go pick a toy, and she’d go to her toy box and do just that. She loved her rope more than any other toy I think, and she loved to “kill it”, and how she’d happily play tug-of-war until we finally gave up.
“I remember playing hide and seek with her, and how she knew us all by name and who was missing. She was so funny, how she tracked herself, birds, and squirrels around the yard for hours. I remember the Christmas morning Jenny wouldn’t get up, and how we sent Annie in to do the dirty work of getting her up. And how Annie would always know which Christmas present was hers and open it herself. And speaking of holidays, her favorite was always July 4th. It didn’t get any better than that for her! I think my favorite thing she did was when she used to hide her rawhide bones. It was so funny to step into the shower to find one, or see one peeking out from behind the curtains. She wasn’t the best hider, but she sure tried!
“If Annie’s biggest downfall was her enthusiasm for life, well then, I guess we could all aspire to be more like her. Her enthusiasm for such small things was the exact reason why I loved her so much. If there’s anything I can take comfort in, it’s that she lived such a long happy life. You took such good care of her and I don’t think she could’ve of asked for anything more.”
When Annie died my initial reaction was: “No more dogs because they always break your heart.” But I think we eventually will get another pooch. Pets are good for us—especially as we get older. Human friends may come and go but a dog loves you unconditionally and forever.