Annie

Mickey and I had decided on a chocolate cocker.  Losing our blond angel, Hailey, had so devastated us we had to find a cocker who wouldn’t remind us so much of him.  We found some gorgeous pups on line and were on our way to Roy, WA to purchase one.  Morgan was with us.  He insisted on having a say in who his new little brother would be.

 

The pups were even more gorgeous in real life than in their photos.  Plump, soft, healthy.  Mickey was picking up a robust little guy who immediately began to suckle on her finger.  “Oh, let’s take this one.”

 

Even as I reached for the pup Mickey was holding, I felt something pull me away.  I turned my head to catch a glimpse of a thin white pup crouching in a dirty cage at the back of the shed that housed the animals.

 

“Is that one for sale?” I asked the owner.

 

“Well, she has an overbite.  Can’t show her, or breed her.”

 

I picked up the thin little female and she pushed her face softly into my chest.  She trembled.  And she whispered, “Take me away from this hell hole.”

 

“Just hold this one,” I said to Mickey.

 

“She looks sickly,” Mickey warned me as she put down the fat brown pup who glowed with health.

 

Annie was still trembling when Mickey took her into her arms.  “Oh,” was all my daughter said.

 

Morgan didn’t get a say.  We paid the thousand dollars for the female pup – half price because she wasn’t perfect – and sped away, as if escaping something quite dreadful.

 

The overbite turned out to be a much bigger problem than the breeder had described.  Annie’s jaw was crooked; her whole little face was crooked.  Surgery to prevent her teeth from digging into the roof of her mouth ended up costing us 3,000 dollars. 

 

She couldn’t smell very well, her eye sight was lousy, eating was a challenge, but she was like an angel from wherever angels come from.  White, with little reddish freckles on her nose, we named her Annie. 

 

Annie is the archetype of femininity. Gentle, soft spoken, she lives in a fantasy world of day dreams and sweetness.  She tells us she is a lady and even when she burps or passes gas, she denies it is she, because ladies do not do such things.

 

When she talks, it is always with a southern accent.  She imagines herself to be a southern belle, nick-named herself Scarlet O’Hara and suggests a pearl choker necklace would be a wonderful gift and expects one each Christmas and at her birthday.  She hides her disappointment when she doesn’t get one and hints that next year would be the perfect year for a lady to receive a pearl necklace.

 

She is a lover.  She loves everything and everyone around her. She loved the garden.  She loved living in Kits. And now she loves the farm.  She follows the chickens around and gathers their eggs in her soft mouth and brings them to me.  She speaks softly to Twilight and Emily, aware of their hugeness, but not afraid.  She is a bit puzzled by the llamas, but always allows them to bend their long necks and smell her which they do each and every time they meet.

 

She loves Mickey and she loves Morgan and she loves our friends.  She gets so excited when we have visitors she cries and cries in pleasure.  When we visit our grandchildren in WA, she cries and wiggles and cries some more.  The girls laugh and pet her and she tells me she is having the best time.

 

Remarkably, most of all, she loves me.  She goes with me everywhere.  It is as if we are attached by an invisible silver thread.  I never leash her.  She doesn’t own a collar.  When strangers see us walk down a busy city street together they ask how I have trained her to be so obedient.  She always walks beside me, never straying.  I tell them I have never trained her.  She didn’t go to puppy school.  She knows no commands.  I wouldn’t think of asking her to do a trick.  It would insult her. 

 

The answer to how I have managed to get her to be so good is quite simple.  “We like to be together”.  That’s just all there is to it.  Well, maybe that’s not quite right.  We love to be together.  From the first moment I held her and she begged me to take her, we were spirit sisters.  She knows what I’m thinking and I know what she’s thinking.  She is endlessly sweet to me and I to her.  I can’t imagine either of us getting displeased or angry with the other.  Annie never does anything that would make you displeased or angry.  She wouldn’t dream of it.  I think if I ever scolded her, it would break her heart.

 

You’d think that such a dog would be a big sissy.  On the contrary.  She’s tough as nails.  She follows me to the barn, in the heat, in the rain, in the cold.  She wades through poop and mud up to her tiny white waist.  She sits by me as I weed or plant.  Always within touching distance, we are two farmers, loving each other and loving where we are, wherever we are.  Because when we are together, life is good.

 

When people meet Annie for the first time, they think she is an old dog.  They’ve thought she was old even when she wasn’t yet a year on this planet.  It might be her crooked little face; or it might be that she has the spirit of someone very old and very wise.  “And beautiful,” she likes to add with a shy drop of her head and flutter of her long silken eye lashes.

You’d think that such a dog would be a big sissy.  On the contrary.  She’s tough as nails.  She follows me to the barn, in the heat, in the rain, in the cold.  She wades through poop and mud up to her tiny white waist.  She sits by me as I weed or plant.  Always within touching distance, we are two farmers, loving each other and loving where we are, wherever we are.  Because when we are together, life is good.

 

When people meet Annie for the first time, they think she is an old dog.  They’ve thought she was old even when she wasn’t yet a year on this planet.  It might be her crooked little face; or it might be that she has the spirit of someone very old and very wise.  “And beautiful,” she likes to add with a shy drop of her head and flutter of her long silken eye lashes.

Morgan rules.  He rules from a king size bed shrouded with an Egyptian cotton duvet he calls his birthday blanket.  The bed is located in a great position.  He can see the front entrance from this spot.  Little wonder he calls it “Morgan Central”.

 

Could it really be fourteen years ago that we choose this tiny ball of fluff that fit in the palm of your hand?

Morgan

Even today, people ask us if he is a puppy.  He takes great pride in reminding Annie that everyone thinks she is the old one and he is the baby.

 

Considering the fact that at his heaviest, he weighs in at eleven pounds, you’d think he would be easy to handle.  Just try to give him a pill or comb his fur.  Just try to get close to Mickey if she doesn’t want you to.  Part Bichon Frise and part Shiatsu, he is living evidence that Chinese emperors were smart to pick Shiatsus as guard dogs.

 

He recognizes anything unusual and warns you of it loudly and immediately.  Run the bathwater longer than usual and he will tell you it is ready to overflow.  Forget the soup stock on the stove and he will tell you it about to burn.  If an outside fire you thought was out and a wind blows it back to flame, he will scream until you go outside to tend to it.

 

He watches TV with Mickey a lot.  He barks at every animal, bird or fish that appears on the screen, certain they are about to enter his living room.  You cannot convince him otherwise.  He insists the only reason they are not in the living room is because he has chased them away.  He also raises a big ruckus when things appear on the screen in an altered state.  Commercials that utilize cartoon characters that really resemble living actors, but aren’t, drive him nuts.  Morgan is as constant as the Northern Star and he wants all things to be as they should be.  Normal.

 

Genetically a close relative of the wolf, Morgan exhibits a lot of the wolf’s characteristics.  He is clearly a pack animal, and the pack he is desperately attached to is Mickey.  You cannot seduce or bully him away from her.  When he determines it is time to go to sleep, he demands her presence with a series of well-established gestures and sounds.

 

The invitation to sleep starts with a long stare, followed by stamping of the feet.  When this fails, he grunts, at first softly, and then very loudly.  This progresses to a close up stare, stamp and growl.  His last resort is a series of sharp barks that are so annoying you’d do anything to get him to stop, including going to bed.

 

At first, we thought it was kind of cute.  However, when he does it when you are out visiting and he wants to go home, either because he is bored or tired, it can be embarrassing.  Even more embarrassing is when you have company and he wants them to go home.  The sharp barking does usually achieve the results he wants.

 

As the guests leave, we feel like the idiots of the world, governed by an eleven pound piece of fluff.  Our friend Linda calls him a doily.  He does resemble one of those things our grandmothers used to crochet to save the back of the couch from the perils of the imprint of resting heads made gorgeous with generous portions of Brill cream.

 

When he perches on the back of the couch, doily-like and seemingly innocent, visitors often make the mistake of trying to pick him up.  They don’t make the same mistake twice.

 

His eating habits are as strange as the rest of him.  He eats only three things: roasted chicken breast, buttered white rice and Lind chocolate, extra creamy, only please.  I’m not exaggerating.  You can try the ‘starve him for a few days and he’ll eat’ as much as you want and he will faint of hunger before he’ll eat dog food or even the dark meat of chicken.  Mickey is sure he’d die first, but we never push it that far. There was one exception to his 3 foods list.  Mickey and I were in New York, and we both got the flu.  However, we had booked a reservation in a fancy restaurant and thought we’d feel well enough to go.  It was part of our ritual in New York – to try one fancy restaurant per trip.  We hauled most of that meal home with us on the airplane.

Added to his nightly ritual of calling Mickey to bed, he demands his nightly square of chocolate and then, once she is ensconced in covers, he rubs against her, grunting and growling with love, pushing so hard his bum rears up often off his back feet.  He does this love push for at least ten minutes, then races in a circle like a mad man, biting his own tail – a clear sign of insanity – and flops down hard beside her, paper-thin close.  When he does this, she swears he feels as though he weighs forty pounds.

 

Forty pounds of determination, willfulness, quirkiness and love.  We all know that Morgan would die for Mickey if the occasion called for such an action.  Some people might sometimes wish he would.  But that’s not all of us, all of the time.

 

“He’s lucky he’s your dog,” our friend Michelle reminds us from time to time, hinting that anyone else would have put him in a paper box, tied him with a ribbon and drowned him in the deep blue sea.

 

I doubt it would work even if you tried.  He’d eat his way out of the box, swim home, jump into bed next to Mickey and make her life complete.  She adores him and makes him promise to live to be twenty-two.  I pray to God he does.