The Bittersweet and Heartbreaking Joy of Loving Annie

October 21, 2023

I’ve liked dogs since I was a child. Our neighbors’ dog was named Daisy, a black shiny-coated mutt who spent most of her time outdoors and was tolerant of us children. My first family dog was Macintosh; he was affectionately named for the family’s love of Apple computer products (and he was terrified of vacuum cleaners).

And then there was the puppy I’d longed for, the one I would love and care for, my Annie girl. She was far from perfect, but she was the perfect girl for me.

What’s the worst thing she did besides fail to behave at the beach? Was it when she barked at other dogs, children, or people on bikes? Or when she barked directly into my face to demand 100% of my attention?

No, it wasn’t her disposition: it was her health. Annie was born with renal dysplasia, a disease where her kidneys never fully formed. It was discovered early on, after a UTI that wouldn’t go away, coupled with excessive water drinking. And so, starting at five months of age, her life was anything but easy. She endured more vet visits and tests than most 12-year-old dogs (she passed in September 2023 at just over three years old). Annie was also on enough medications that I had to buy a pill organizer, and the challenges we had with her diet and appetite cannot be overemphasized.

It was depressing at times, and I was often overwhelmed, mad, frustrated, and then sad again. Many times, I held my breath wondering how much time we had left together.

In retrospect, it was bittersweet, which, is by definition, “producing or expressing a mixture of pain and pleasure.” All our days together were filled with joy, but also tinged with sadness. But we shared three beautiful years together, and for that I’ll always be grateful, even when the pain of living without her is overwhelming.

One of my closest friends once shared an amazing quote written by L.K. Knost that really resonates with me and reminds me to take in what life throws at us. It is, “Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That’s just living heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life. And it’s breathtakingly beautiful.”

I took great joy knowing Annie lived her life the way so many of us strive to do every day; in the moment, like every lick of peanut butter, fresh smell of grass, or sunny beach day is the best one ever. I’ll hold on and keep our amazing memories close to my heart.