Whatever we do in our lives the one thing that is certain is that everything is finite.
As a day starts one ends, several days become a week which ends, many, many weeks make a year which inevitably becomes another year, and they all end.
Looking back over the past eleven years since Annie Laurie came to me she has been my sole companion on most of those days from daylight until dark. Yes we went away for regular holidays and left her at Nanny’s, with Scott and Tom, but when we returned to a boisterous welcome, we took up from where we left off.
With her body black in colour, I did not always know where she was, sitting under a bush in the shade or in a dirt bath she had built around the place to keep cool in summer, on the shady side of the house, she was all but invisible and I would often call out, “Where are you?” to have her emerge from anywhere but where I thought she may be.
She always knew where I was for if I went out of sight I would see her appear, in a door way, or from around the corner. Sometimes smoking a ball, others just to make sure she did not miss out on anything. I could never sneak off for a walk alone and if ever I thought I could get away in the ute without her, I was wrong. She was there instantly. One of the first words she learnt from me was, “Hop in!”
When we regularly went to the polo grounds in summer, sometimes, after breakfast, she would be waiting in my ute, ready to ride shot- gun. I often left the door open.
Over the past six months we have noticed her walking like a bear, her near side front leg curved in, pushed out by a lump on her rib cage.
….her near side front leg…
It did not seem to bother her, in fact I was more worried about her off side hip and at one stage thought she may have done her other cruciate ligament in. Less and less often she was able to come for a walk around the block with me. It was horrible leaving her in the house, wanting to come – what, no one to check out all the wee mails?
On the 30th of April 2012 I took her to the vet and he suggested that the lump was merely fatty deposits. “Why were there not some on the other side?” I later thought.
From Sunday the 6th of May I had to learn to leave those secret wee mail messages unread! Annie never walked around the block with me from then on. On the Tuesday I had her back at the vet’s and a needle aspiration drew blood suggesting a bruise – he needed to do it three times thinking he had hit a vein the first time.
Wednesday, Ashley, the vet rang with the results of the needle aspiration..most of it went over my head, shock, horror! “One of two things, bad or really bad, I want to do a biopsy and I will have to knock her out.” An appointment was made for Monday. Tears!
My thoughts at the time were, “Yes, no, she cannot go on forever.” Freddie (Nanny) said that if she had to be put down, she would be there for it. There is no way I would not be there for that when the time comes. She has been my best dog and friend for 11 years.
I pontificated over it all night with little sleep compounded by a nasty head cold, filled three hankies, and used half a box of tissues, one at time, up my nostrils to stop swamping with snot.
In the dark of night I decided not to let Annie have the biopsy, reasoning that she did not need yet another anaesthetic, if the results were only to find that there is nothing that can be done anyway!
In the morning I spoke to Ashley again and changed my mind. Was it for me to argue with the medical world?
There is a shock factor in this and irrational thoughts of out-witting vets need water poured on them.
As Freddie said of her dog, Mambo, who was Annie's dad - a real one - "I do think the decision about knowing what it is, is really important, because if we run from it, we can't face it, which we will do as a FAMILY.” Mambo died of cancer at the age of 8. Yes he got a green needle or a note if you like – to many tears.
Later in the day, after lunch on the 10th Annie Laurie and I went out into the paddock west of the house to burn wood from trees cut up and I had a couple of heart to hearts with Annie Laurie and in the first looking out across the paddock, sitting on a stump, patting her, I said, “Go woof!” and “Woof” she did.
Then sitting together on the ground she gave me a couple of friendly biffs with her crook-leg paw to say, “More pats please.”
It is all so sad.
The next day, the Friday, she had to go in for a pre biopsy blood test. In the surgery, a nurse came in and put a strangle hold on her whilst a different vet, Helene, got a syringe full of blood out of her neck.
On the Saturday for an aside, Black Caviar won her 21st race in a row.
Monday and my all thoughts were to Annie Laurie who I left at the vet’s at 8.30 am. I was anxious and she was scared.
It was a long day and I was told to ring at 2.00 pm, I did and was told merely that, “Annie might not be coming home today.”
Shit and derision! A long afternoon, 5.30pm, “She can go home!” My idea of a biopsy was a clip, a cut and a stitch – seems they nearly killed her.
My poor dog.
Annie spent the night inside, certainly sorry for herself – I had an awful sleep – but in the morning when I got up there she was going, “Thump, thump!” with her tail on the carpet, saying, “I’ll be OK Dad!”
After breakfast we went out to the ute and she hopped in (at times in past weeks she had to be lined up properly to jump in and I was beginning to think I needed a ramp for her) and, turning around to take her place in the passenger’s seat, looking up at me with a querulous look said, “No worries, Dad, what is wrong with you?” I must have been looking amazed.
She lay down and probably did not realise that I had driven into the vet’s, so there was no anxiety when I got out and left her there. I was paying the bill when Ashley, her vet, came out and said that when they (not him) cut into her, ‘Out shot all this blood, it took a lot of stopping. They said, ‘Ashley, come and have a look at this.’ ” I could not read into that, thinking they had merely cut into a blood vessel or two, and did not ask for detail, that I had her back was enough. The results were days away
When I took her in on Thursday, to get her bandage off, Ashley did say that he thought it serious, that her time was nigh, not now, how can one know that. Fighting back tears I asked that when the time came could he come to our house? The last thing I would ever want to do for her was to bring her down here for her last ride.
We are cruel to dogs
In July last I had forgotten to get her a worm pill and went back, on Friday the 12th about 11.00 am. Leaving her in the car, with glazed eyes she gets at the vet’s, I said, “You are OK, I am only going in for some pills for you, you can stay there.” I passed a woman who had her station wagon backed up to the clinic, the back door open and a large old Alsatian was in there. In passing, I said, “They do not like coming in here do they?” and went inside.
Ashley was on my side of the counter with a big needle filled with green stuff, “What’s that for,” I asked in ignorance.
Nodding to the dog outside he said, “It is that’s one last one, I usually ask them - the euthanasia ones to come in last - she (the woman) is OK. I will wait until you go.”
I could not go out a back way, but hurriedly leaving I could not look the woman in the eye and had fits of tears for the next half hour.
That is how The Green Needle has come into my vocabulary. I did not want Annie Laurie having one in the vet’s car park!
On Friday we were going to fly out to NZ for a couple of weeks then one in Sydney and would not be back until the 6th of June. Here’s my best dog with an unknown, but suspected nasty lump of what? And we are going away.
The previous day, about three, she came and flopped at my feet in a statement of some sort of resignation, whilst I was doing last things on the computer. When I finished I said, “Come on we will go and see Julius.” Grabbing a bag of food for Nanny to give Annie, we then went up to Julius’s to leave some keys so he could pick us up when we came back – he offered a wine, I had two, I was stressed out.
I then took Annie to Nanny’s and gave her a bone which she took up on their raised lawn and began to chew away at it, but uncharacteristically, the strangest thing she has done, she left it and went back by the gate to be near where the car was. She has never done anything like that before. Time to go, at the gate I gave her a kiss and with half dry eyes said to Scott, “I have had enough of tears,” and left.
In my diary, the next morning, I wrote, “I have been thinking about her ever since. Hope I see her again.”
We had an uneventful day going to NZ and arrived at our Hotel in Auckland in the dark. We had hardly entered our palatial room, thinking we could have been anywhere in the world, Paris even, when the phone rang. It was Freddie, I was used to her ringing - she does most nights usually to debrief with mum over the days carer events and I was caught off guard, “Annie, Tumour, aggressive….” was about as much as I can recall. I was in tears again, not wanting to be there, wanting so much to be with her. “How long has she got?” I thought, “Why did she want to go home yesterday? I am here, she is there. Yes, she is a dog. My best dog ever.”
International Roaming on my phone was not working and I felt stranded, dining that night was a blur, the best food the world can offer, and I could not have cared less.
I wrote in my diary, “Silly wasn’t it, there was nothing I could do – but I will value whatever time we have left together very much.”
And so we holiday, Freddie eventually assured me Annie was OK, “She is OK, Dad,” and photos came of her rounding up chickens, and I accepted it all and went on to have a wonderful time.
In amongst all of this my thoughts kept drifting to Annie Laurie, and in particular, her not wanting to stay at Nanny’s. Two more strange things were to happen.
The second was several days into our holiday and we were at a dairy farm for lunch, I wandered out to be alone, afterwards, and then slowly everyone came out and in the garden. On the lawn at my feet, was an aging black Labrador dog. I needed a dog fix so, as Annie Laurie loves, I gave him a scratch under his right ear, and as he looked up I said, “Go woof!” He did! Just a single “Woof,” not a bark, a “Woof.”
The rest of the holiday over and we were home on the sixth of June, picked up by Julius and after a couple of stops, got Annie Laurie.
I did not stop to look around, no one was home (Nanny had left out a page of instructions which I was to later read, amongst them:
“Annie is really happy in herself, so that’s one positive mood we need to keep. Stay positive around her. She reflects her owner!
Loved having her – especially now she is her normal self!
Love Freddie xxx)
I missed that, I just wanted her back, and she was full of beans and happy to see us.
At home, all other things aside, she and I did the place over; she was bouncing at me like a pup, wanting to wrestle. We went everywhere and finally up to the top dam to find it had caught water.
At the top dam.
We were to have the best 8 days together, and at times I wondered did she even need the morning pain killing pill? But Nanny said, “She must have them!” Unaware of the pill she took them hiding in a piece of dog fritz with glee, always adding, “Nice food, Dad, a bit mean aren’t you, what about a decent bit?”
Each day, as she was not allowed to go for a walk, and I had come home with another cold that eventually had me at the doctor’s for an antibiotic, walking was not on but for about once or twice for me alone, she had a house bound dad, catching up on holiday photos. She would be constantly knocking on the doors to come in and bother me to go out and do something with her. She would sit at my chair, strike me and go, “Yowdy- yowdy-yow!”
My answer was to take her in the ute for a drive to the polo grounds and give her a run there – she loved that.
One afternoon, feeling sick with the wog, I was laying on the couch she used to climb all over me on when she was a pup, she came in and began going “Yowdy- yowdy-yow!” but was bouncing at me and bunting me with her nose as well.. she wanted an early tea!
And that is how it unfolded, right up until the Thursday night of the 14th of June.
It was all over the next morning. When I went out she had her muzzle hanging outside of her kennel. She never does that. I got her up and she came out panting and stood with one paw on one of my feet, not deliberately, but that was where it landed, I gave her a worried kiss “Good morning,” and went off to the woodshed for some small wood to start the fire and returned to see her on the lawn where she dropped, puffing.
I went inside and came out to coax her in. She dropped on the carpet only to move a couple times more. At 8.30am I rang the vet who said, “Sooner rather than later,” and in tears I then rang Tom, it was his birthday, “Happy birthday, Tom,” is mummy there?”
Mixing death with a birthday takes a lot of explaining!
Freddie had gone to work but dropped what she was doing and was here about 9.30 am, it may have been earlier.
We worked through it and came up with the selfishness bit of keeping her alive, like we do people, and realised that it was kindest to go this way.
It is hard, thinking over it all, to work out why one puts so much into an animal, but I did and felt I got back ten fold.
Annie Laurie went off about 12.15pm Friday, Ashley lay down with her to give her the green needle, just there where she lay.
Goodbye, Annie Laurie!
I was holding her and had spent most of the morning with her, sometimes sitting across from her, others watching at a distance or laying with her. At times she had her head on my arm as she so endearingly did when I was driving, causing me to drive long distances in one gear, not wanting to break the moment, getting fingers from other drivers, but not caring. Now I was telling her, for the last times, how much I loved her… with tears. About ten o’clock, two hours earlier, she lost her “Thump-Thump” in her tail. Her bounce had gone. It still makes me cry to read this.
The day before she had a run on the polo grounds, bothered me for tea at three thirty pm, nothing untoward before bed, then Friday this malaise, she did not want to come inside; when she did, she did not move, the malignancy had moved back to her hind leg under the flank - she may not have lasted more than another day as she was – she has gone with dignity, and leaves me despondent, but I must be a big boy and in a few days look for another one to at least share some love with and learn some more dog lore!
She gave me so much!
Then there was the third unusual thing that happened: Megan said Lachy (grandson no. two of hers)had been morose at the time of Annie’s death. I have a strange bond with Lachy – we have known each other before. I am not one of those clingy grand parents, but there is something from the first time our eyes met that makes this spooky, if you like. Megan emailed:
“I told you day care called me and said something was wrong with him.
I like... Lachy was so I uncharacteristically sad that day and he was not sick... I think, fuck it, I know, he was crying for you!”
Scott came out to help bury her, no small thing, he with tears too.
We sent her off with her favourite footy, a yellow one.
The Yellow footy
I think we were made to party not to grieve.
I sent all of this to a breeder Lynne Harrison of Lewiston, SA, near Gawler adding:
“Now, can you help us find another one like this? Of course she, must be a she, will not be Annie, but long haired, similar markings – not too much white and we don’t want a pedigree as she will not be for breeding.”
Annie was 25 kg.
I would like one that is willing to learn the K-9 keyboard, but it is not essential, for Annie has already written one book about a previous life and has left a myriad of stories and diary notes from this life with instructions to publish it.
Sunday: Lynne rang to say that a litter of pups was born Saturday, 16/6/2012, and one had Annie’s markings. We need to wait a week, but in two months Maggie Mae should be with us.
I had a long list of breeders I could have contacted but as in Malcolm Galdwell’s book, Blink, your first take is often the right one.
Born Sunday! Reincarnation! Anything born last week would not have fitted the bill.
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Annie Laurie and I are about to publish our next book, Peoples are Funny.
Annie died on June 15th 2012 and was reincarnated the next day and we now have her back as Maggie Mae:
The funniest thing happened, on Xmas day 2012 we could not find Maggie Mae, Megan found her after much hunting around sitting on Annie Laurie's grave.
Of course Maggie Mae is her self as much as The Mad Thing was herself before the soul known as Tranquila became Annie Laurie. Her passing left me bereft as she was indeed my best dog, we share over one hundred written adventures and about 60 of them are in her book which she asked me to be a co-author.
We look forward to you sharing these adventures with us in the near future.
For Annie Laurie
Maggie Mae began writing soon after she arrived and her diary will come out later, many of the water colours for it are to be found in New Work 2012.