Annie's smile was and still is priceless to me.
She blessed our lives for two years and five months after we adopted her from Westie Rescue.
At 1:25 a.m. today, Annie literally dropped from a massive heart attack. Gordon had just taken the dogs outside, and Annie had taken care of all of her business. She hopped back up the stairs and trotted down the little back hallway. Gordon says she stopped and looked over her shoulder at him, waiting for him to walk in front, something she always did.
Then a couple of steps later, Gordon heard a thump. He quickly looked back, and she had dropped in her tracks. Her body convulsed a couple of times, but she had no pulse.
Gordon immediately called to me, and I ran the short distance. No heartbeat. I picked her up to hold her close. That must have been like a chest compression because her heart raced for less than a minute, but she never took another breath. She was gone. Lightning fast. No time for pain.
I had been praying that God would protect her from a lingering decline and from a painful death. Gordon and I specifically asked that God take her quickly. We felt that her miraculous recovery was to give us time to say goodbye.
Today, even though I am crying from the loss of my beautiful Westie baby girl, I am also thanking God for allowing her to die so quickly and painlessly and for giving us an extra week with her.
You may remember that Annie and her elderly brother Rebel were rescued from a kill shelter in Vicksburg. We received the pair around the first of October, 2006.
From what we have been able to piece together of her story, her human daddy had died in 2005, and the widow dumped Annie and Rebel in the back yard for over a year. Pampered go-with-daddy-everywhere Westies were "thrown away" by the widow. That must have been a traumatic change for those little dogs.
Imagine a year of Mississippi heat and cold and rain and blistering sunshine. Annie loved to be clean and groomed, so it was obvious to me that her first daddy took them to the groomers and gave them plenty of grooming attention.
Then, the widow threw those two precious dogs into the kill shelter. There were no cages for individual dogs, just a big community pen for all the dogs. Annie found herself protecting feeble Rebel from the other dogs. I think they had been in the kill shelter for about a month.
I can't find at the moment the picture of Annie smiling immediately after Pat Ozborn rescued, washed and groomed her, but Annie had the same big smile as she has in this picture with Pat taken a year later. Pat and her husband Henry of Fur Kidz Dog Grooming in Vicksburg volunteered their time, talent and supplies to clean up the eight very smelly, stained, neglected Westies Gordon and I rescued from a puppy mill in Mississippi in October of 2007.
It took me over a year to earn one of those smiles from Annie. We had to work through many of Annie's fears.
When we traveled to Louisiana to pick up Mackie, Annie was obviously afraid she was being passed off to another home. It is still painful for me to look at this picture.
(The rest of the pictures with this blog post are some of my favorite pictures of Annie. Happy pictures. Pictures to celebrate Annie's life here on the farm.)
Even after Mama's death, more fears surfaced in Annie. I should have anticipated the connection: death of her first daddy...being thrown in the back yard...then after Mama's death, we left the dogs in the back yard for a few hours so they would not be trampled while we moved furniture around. Annie came in trembling uncontrollably, and I had to give her Valium and keep her in my lap the rest of the day to stop the shaking. After we moved into the farmhouse, that particular fear was gone.
My precious Annie taught me so much. Helping her work through her fears showed me fears in my own heart that God needed to heal. Annie and I had a connection that I've only had with two other dogs, and Annie was probably the closest of those special three pets.
I've long believed that God gives us pets to help us learn about His unfailing love. Our dogs, especially, love us unconditionally and forgive us quickly and completely. Would that I could be much more like that.
(This trio of pictures of Annie rolling around playfully on the bed were taken after she had helped Gordon change sheets on the bed and after I had just returned home. She was always so excited to see Gordon and me.)
Yes, Annie's death early this morning hurts. I will look for her precious little head to pop out of the covers of the bed every time I come into the bedroom. I will look under my chair expecting to see her. I will instinctively listen for her distinctive tippey-toe sounds following me everywhere.
Gordon and I will pour even more love into out three remaining Westie rescues and the three elderly English Shepherds. These six dogs are all subdued and sad today. Mackie and Lillibeth have tried to absorb our human pain by gluing themselves to us.
Annie made my heart grow larger to hold all the love she gave me. Dogs before her made my heart grow larger as well. That extra space in my heart has to be filled with other pets to whom we can give love and security and stability.
It is painful to adopt an older rescue dog only to see it die within a year or two (or less). That is where I feel led, so we will continue to adopt older Westies. The older dogs are much harder to adopt out for obvious reasons.
Our wonderful veterinarian, Dr. Duncan, tells me every time we take a dog in to see him that when we adopt rescues, we are almost certainly buying into heartache. Rescue dogs have most often been neglected, given poor food and sparse medical treatment. That takes a toll on their little bodies.
I value his advice. After all, he has seen me flooding tears more than any man other than my husband and Unc.
Rescuing and rehabilitating dogs is not for everyone, and that is OK. Already in these tough economic times, rescue organizations and shelters are seeing many loved family pets being surrendered because the family can no longer take care of them.
About a month ago, someone dumped a litter of three month old dogs here on the farm. The people had left a pan of dry food for them, but it is unrealistic to expect a human raised dog to be able to fend for itself in the wild. Most often the dumped dogs and cats die of starvation or fall prey to wild animals. I cannot imagine sentencing a pet I once loved to such a terrible fate.
Please join us in celebrating the life of a little fluffly white dog who gave every ounce of herself to loving her people. What a legacy she has left us!
Give your pets an extra hug and kiss, some extra petting, and tell them how much you love them. That is the best way to honor Annie's gift to this world.
Thank you for your words of comfort and encouragement. We especially thank you for your prayers for our little girl and for us. I'm not sure we could have made it these past weeks without those prayers. Thanks to those prayers we had seven beautiful unforgettable extra days with Annie.
This is our last picture of Annie, a look I will cherish forever. Unc and Gordon buried her this morning on a gentle hill overlooking the east meadows. As with our other deceased dogs, we will plant a special tree on her grave to give color and shade and beauty for years to come.