I got Anna when I was 18. I had just moved out of my parents’ house and on the outside I was a strong, independent, and ready to take on the world woman. On the inside, I was a little scared, lonely, and unprepared to handle all of the decisions one has to make when suddenly given so much freedom. I bought Anna at a pet store before I knew that most pet store dogs come from puppy mills and that rescuing an animal was a much better alternative. I went into a back room with five little dogs. A couple Yorkies, two Maltese pups, and one Chihuahua. The other four dogs didn’t seem to care that I was there. One went and peed in the corner, another did circles chasing its tail, and two others just barked at people walking by. Anna, on the other hand, walked her tiny 1.5 pound body over to my lap. I put my hand under her butt and she walked up my chest and over to my neck. She curled into a little ball and fell asleep with my hand under her body. She chose me and I promised to give her a life filled with cuddles, toys, good food, and a warm bed.
What I couldn’t have possibly known at that time was how much Anna would give back to me.
She came to work with me even though pets weren’t allowed on the lot. Kindly, most security guards turned a blind eye to us. Ridiculously, she went to movie premiers with me where she’d go potty on a pee pad I brought for her. She was a natural model. She loved to have her picture taken and we did several photo shoots together. When she was full-grown she weighed 8 pounds but when Anna looked in the mirror she saw a lioness. She was tough, resilient, always energetic, and not super girly. She didn’t like it when I put bows in her hair so I didn’t do it. She refused to stay clean after a bath and opted to roll in dirty grass almost immediately. Begrudgingly, I always let her. She heard all of my deepest secrets and saw all of my mistakes and never hesitated to love me anyway. She had horrible breath. I’m going to miss waking up to the smell of garbage, only to realize it was just Anna’s warm breath on my cheek.
When she was 8 she developed kidney disease. We put her on medicine and she was healthy. With medicine, her kidney levels were within normal range for 4 years. Then she went into kidney failure and she needed a few more medicines. Five, to be exact. She took them all like a champ and if she had a day where her dog food didn’t seem appetizing, I could always rely on cheese to get the meds down. I’ve never known anyone to love cheese as much as Anna. She would come running from anywhere in the house at the sound of a Kraft single wrapper.
A few weeks ago, on December 22nd, Anna had a mini-stroke. We unknowingly watched it happen. One second she was going potty on the grass and the next second she had rolled over onto her hip and kept peeing. We didn’t think too much of it and brought her in to rest. When she woke up from a nap about an hour later, she couldn’t hold herself up. I took her to the emergency room and they told us that her left side had lost mobility but hopefully she would get it back. Not surprisingly, my resilient baby girl was able to start walking a bit by the end of the day. She couldn’t jump onto the couch, or into my lap, anymore but she could still get around well. We put rugs down all over the house so she wouldn’t lose her balance on our hard floors and we picked her up to sleep on her favorite spot in the house; on a blanket at the very top of the couch. I could only let her sit there if I sat in front of her because we worried she might fall. Her mobility was decent but her brain didn’t recover as well. She seemed dazed and her beloved walks outside became challenging. She didn’t know what she was supposed to do out there. She just stared awkwardly at neighbors’ homes and never wanted to go back inside. We made quite a few trips to the emergency room, the neurologist, and our regular vet’s office. Monday, January 7th was the last time she ate. Dog food, chicken, beef, eggs, peanut butter, and even cheese repulsed her. She started vomiting in the morning. We checked her kidney values and they had skyrocketed since September. We hospitalized her hoping that an IV with fluids and medicine might flush her kidneys out and give her the strength she needed to bounce back. She never did. My lioness’ body was shutting down and after all she had given to me, my final gift to her was relieving her of any pain. I held my angel in my arms last night and put her down. We were at home. She was wrapped in a blanket and all of my love. She was calm and at peace. She was ready to see me walk this world as an adult without her. I cannot imagine life without my little girl.
Anna, thank you for holding my hand for the last 13.5 years. We grew up together and became adults together. You taught me responsibility, selflessness, and so much more. I already miss your garbage breath, your incessant need for belly scratches, your impossibly soft fur, the sound of your collar as you walk across the room, your bark, your kisses, your snoring, and most of all, staring into your eyes and telling you “I love you,” over and over again. Your blanket will remain at the top of the couch and the left side of the bed will always be yours. Life will never be the same without you but you’ve prepared me well. I will go forward and be a lioness, just as you would have wanted.
Photo credit: Ashley Concolino. A Picture Life Photography.