When a client brings a puppy in for the first puppy visit, they are usually greeted by my staff saying, “What a cute puppy!” It isn’t unusual for me to reply sarcastically, “Unlike all of those ugly puppies we see all of the time!” Let’s face it, puppies are just cute. Over 16 years ago I was introduced to a six week old puppy that just had a different look to her. She was cute, but just looked different than the usually puppy that we saw at that age. She had been dumped off at a pet store next to the clinic I was working at, and the pet store owner had stopped over with her to know if we could find her a home. I am normally pretty good at quickly looking the other way, but this particular day I had a weak moment and I found myself holding this puppy. Our oldest daughter, Jessica, was five years old. That sure seemed like a good age to show her how to care for a puppy. Boy, this little puppy sure was pretty cute! Before I knew it, I was showing her to my wife and daughter. I knew I had crossed the point of no return because as soon as my daughter saw her it was a done deal.

And so “Annie” became a part of the Higgins family. I don’t know if I had ever seen a happier puppy than “Annie.” As time went on she grew longer, but not a whole lot taller. Her legs started out a little crooked and only got more crooked as she grew. She stayed black, but as she matured she did have more gray color appear. When she would fall asleep, we would laugh as her bright pink tongue would slide out of her mouth, in stark contrast to her black muzzle. My best guess was that she was a Dachshund/Beagle mix, but we never really knew for certain.

By one year of age “Annie” was a great dog and very beloved member of our family. She was very smart and seemed to understand every word we said to her. She also developed an intense obsession regarding Frisbees. Anyone looking at her would never guess this extremely short, crooked legged dog would be a Frisbee dog. Visitors to our house for the first time would watch her in stunned silence as she would take off before the Frisbee was even thrown, look back to see where it was in the air, and then leap forward and catch it in mid-air. More amazingly, on her way back to me with the Frisbee she would drop it on the ground, flip it over, pick it back up, and then bring it the rest of the way back to me. She did this because she knew it was easier for me to pick it up off the ground when it was upside down.

As “Annie” aged, she was remarkably healthy. At six years old I diagnosed her with low thyroid disease so she went on thyroid pills. At eleven years old I diagnosed her with Cushing’s Disease so she went on a twice weekly medicine to control these signs. From thirteen to fifteen years of age she slowly lost her hearing, but otherwise was doing really well for her age. She still got excited about the Frisbee, but chasing a couple times was about all she could do.

The end of last year “Annie” was no longer the “Annie” we had known for years. She had become very reclusive and was very uncomfortable in spite of being on arthritis medicine. As you could imagine, it was a pretty hard time for my whole family. We made the decision that most responsible pet owners are faced with eventually, and our dear friend peacefully and painlessly left us on February 9, 2010. I still catching myself looking over at “her spot” expecting to see her laying there. She is greatly missed.

Often at the time an older pet is euthanized, emotional pet owners declare they will never get another pet. They claim the end is just too painful. Most quickly relent after the emotions settle down and are in with a new puppy or kitten within a couple months, but some go years without a pet or maybe never get another pet. “Annie” gave us 16 years of pure joy and love. Suffering through a few months of difficult days pales in comparison. We know we will never find another dog like “Annie,” but we look forward to trying.

Chad E. Higgins has owned Amanda Animal Hospital for almost 13 years and sees dogs, cats, ferrets, and other little furry critters.