when your puppy climbs into your lap at 6 weeks old and trembles 45 minutes to Petsmart for food, dog bowls and a collar in your Volkswagen beetle.
In the summer of 2003, I drove an hour from where I was living to look at Great Dane puppies. It was a long curvy road in my black Volkswagen Beetle but it was sunny and my hopes and spirits were high. A puppy! The sheer thought of it brought me tremendous joy. When I arrived the breeder had a skinny, sad looking AKC with papers Great Dane mom, who was a beautiful blue merle color. She looked overworked with breeding and I felt uncomfortable in the situation. I had never been to a breeder before…The breeder had met a guy with an AKC registered Chocolate Lab. I did not think or know much about AKC breeding, nor did I care. I just loved the Blue Merle color and wanted a puppy.
I wanted a Great Dane so badly because about 6 months earlier, while walking on the lawn of the Smithsonian Museums, I met an 178 lbs Great Dane who had the most beautiful eyes, backed up to me and sat in my lap, knocking me completely over and eliciting laughter. He was hilarious, a giant, big, love. I knew from that point on, I was hooked on Great Danes.
I inspected the puppy breed, who mostly were curly haired black puppies romping with each other with fighting and biting. Bared playful teeth and puppy breath were every where in the late summer browning grass. The property the woman lived on was filled with cages of animals, where she was breeding and breeding and breeding. She told me there were several male puppies and two females. I asked her if any of them looked like their mom and she said yes. She started to look around for the female that was not in the mix of the puppy WWE match going on before us. Through her maze of cages and crates she and I peered until a spotty, grey, floppy eared puppy emerged, nose to the ground interested in what was in front of her instead of the puppy wrestling match.
I went over to the puppy and squatted. The beautiful Blue Merle markings were evident and this girl was sweet, kissed my face, and then continued to explore, curious about her environment.
“I will take this one,” I said, standing up to stretch my legs from my squatted, observation position. The woman informed me that I would have to pay $250 in cash. I did not have cash, so she knew exactly where to tell me to get it, about 15 minutes away. Slightly annoyed but growing with excitement, I drove to the ATM. Upon pulling back into the gravel driveway, I stopped my Beetle. The female puppy, who I had chosen, was sniffing through the cages. I saw her and she saw me, her floppy ears perking up. We made eye contact and as I got out of the car, she came running towards me.
This is my Anabelle and to this day she runs like this to me.
The remainder of the day was spent prepping for this puppy to come and live with me. I had nothing in my home fit for a dog, so she and I drove to Petsmart. The puppy trembled and sat in my lap the entire way. She was no bigger than a fully grown cat, weighing in at about 8 lbs. I carried the puppy into the store where I showed her collars, toys and dog bowls, as if she was so interested. I drove her home and was so excited to have my very own Blue Merle puppy.
when you dog jumps into the lake at full speed, you laugh and smile, and realize later she is soaking wet and now has to get into your car.
Growing up, Anabelle was not the easiest of puppies. Raising a puppy is always a lot harder than you think. I have heard it said that God makes puppies super cute because they are a hot mess. Anabelle was both.
At night, this puppy would howl and cry and bark like coyotes do, with approximately 16 different barking sounds, all of which I had never heard come out of a dog before. There was an attempt to crate train her ending in perpetual disaster. She literally ate, demolished and Houdini-ed her way out of every crate. The final straw was when she climbed out of a crate she demolished, giving herself a wickedly deep, bloody gash. I decided crate training was not for her. She began to peacefully sleep on the floor in the bedroom. I guess crates do not work for all dogs (or owners, as some might say). She was a perpetual puppy, frolicking beside me and learning new tricks to please me. She was easy to train, and I diligently trained her to sit, stay, heel, lay down, shake and to play dead when I said “Bang, bang.” Ana went everywhere with me – every trip, every errand, every where that I could possibly take her, she came. We played in rivers, oceans, lakes and swimming pools. Being half chocolate lab, she loves the water. Once, while hiking, she ran down the side of a quickly moving stream and jumped full on into it. The stream swept her down and over a small waterfall area. Her entire body disappeared in the current. My family and I gasped and held our breath. As quickly as she had gone under, her little head bobbed back up and she sloppily swam her way to the side of the creek and crawled her way out. We laughed until we cried, as she came flying back to us, grateful as we were, to see her.
when your dog can outrun you…on your mountain bike and your 4-wheeler.
I have been a mountain biker since high school. I rode my little nothing of a bike on trails before I knew what a mountain bike was. We rode up and down every hill we could find in East Tennessee. For a long time, I was the only girl I knew riding my bike with a pack of boys. The adrenaline, the rush of the woods whizzing past, the smell of the forest – nothing beats this sport for all around happiness in my life.
Once Anabelle was old enough she began to go on mountain bike rides with me. She was, and remains horrible on a leash. Pulling, dramatically falling over, dragging her face on the ground until she destroyed the third gentle leader that we bought (at about $25 a piece, I was done with the gentle leader). She chewed through multiple leashes as well while we were sitting somewhere, she would quietly gnaw through the fibers until the leash was in two pieces. If I had not noticed, upon completing her task, she would get up and walk away. However, after time, I began to realize that she would always remain within close distance to me. With this knowledge, Anabelle earned her right to mountain bike, hike and walk most places without a leash.
Ana and I mountain biked on trails from the time she was 3 until the time she was about 10. Seven solid years of mountain biking consisted mostly her and me. Ana would bounce around my bike when I unloaded it from my car and when I would get on my bike, she would take off ahead of me on the trail. She would run ahead of my bike and if she saw a squirrel or heard something in the woods, she would bound after said object, returning with a glimmer in her eye and her tongue hanging out. When we paused for water, I would give her a drink from the stream of my bike water bottle, and then I would take a sip. If ever we encountered a pond, river or lake, she would run uninhibited into the water and I would stop and laugh. The Lab in her always shining through her dominate Great Dane genes.
when your dog remains the reason you get out of bed (oh yeah, i have to at least feed her, and she keeps you going during some dark times in your live)
The 20s and 30s are truly the grown-up version of the formative years. You graduate from education, get a job, move, maybe buy a home, start paying bills…As you hit your 30s, you start to settle into who you are. You get a sense of contentment and purpose. During the 20s, I battled a lot of demons. Some were self inflicted, some were chemical imbalances in my own body (unbeknownst to me) and some were the poor friend/dating choices that I had made due to the reasons above. Ana patiently stood by my side as I trudged through these darkest of times. The picture above, where her paw wraps around my foot, reminds me of her constant presence, reassurance and love. Last night, even, she took her paw and reached it out to hold my hand, as we did many times, riding together in the car, headed to our next adventure.
when you and your dog meet the man of your dreams and he has a fabulous dog, too, it is a match made in heaven.
In 2011, I was riding my mountain bike with Anabelle around the trails of my new hometown in Tennessee. As I rounded a corner of the trail that we had become accustomed to, Ana ran to another mountain biker to say hello. I saw him out of my peripheral, smiled, said hello, and kept riding. The following evening, he and I met out for drinks. We did not make the connection that we had met prior on the trails, until he met my Anabelle. One evening, Chad came to pick me up on one of our first dates, Ana was barking, signaling the arrival of stranger danger. When I opened the door, Chad knelt down with open arms and started to say her name in a happy voice. This was a sure win for me and her. Although Ana only weighed in at 72lbs (for a Great Dane mix, this is small), she was larger than a lot of dogs and frightened many people. However, Chad openly loved and hugged on Anabelle that evening. As time progressed in our relationship, we introduced our dogs to each other. Chad’s dog Mogul and Anabelle got along quickly, only having two arguments: one over food (Mogul’s first love) and one over me (Anabelle’s first love). Chad and I began to mountain bike together, with Anabelle.
When Chad and I were married in 2014, Anabelle, Mogul and our foster-failure Dane, Phoebe were a part of our day. I had pictures made with each dog, some of which are my favorites of Anabelle today. Chad has grown to love Anabelle as much as I do. Our “pack” has felt happy and complete for quite some time now.
when you celebrate your dog at 13.5 years of age with a party, where you both eat too many treats; a dog who has loved you and been your companion through the ups and downs of your life.
10 months ago, Anabelle, at age 12.5, was diagnosed with cancer. I had noticed her bathroom habits change drastically, and took her to the vet. Several trips and many ultrasounds later, we ended up at the university hospital with the news that she had bladder cancer.
It was devastating. I was at work when I got the news. Time slowed as I stood behind my desk at lunch time. I remember the sun filtering through the windows in the building and I proceeded to cry between every class.
Anabelle is strong and made it 10 months, without chemotherapy; she was given only 6-8. Sadly, the cancer has now spread into her lungs and around her body. Last week, we made the appointment at the vet. I can no longer bear to watch her suffer trying to use the bathroom or limp around the house. She has done well these last 10 months, but just recently, since the cancer started to spread, she has gone downhill fast.
A month or so ago, one of my closest friends suggested that I throw Ana a party, to celebrate her life. It was a beautiful idea. I started planning immediately. It was a beautiful evening, where family and friends ate pizza and cookie cake, swam in the pool and showered Ana (and myself) with gifts and treats. Ana even got an entire pint of Haagen Dazs, just for herself.
when your dog has been your companion for almost 14 years and you have to say goodbye to her, you do your best to think of the adventures that you had, knowing that death is another kind of adventure.
Anabelle brought me continuous joy for the entire time of her life. She was funny and my sidekick. My entire family has been sending me love and messages, and all of my friends have been the sweetest.
Because a dog does not communicate with words, the companionship breaks forth into the human spirit and the psyche. Bringing with it a profound understanding that there is much more in this life than verbal communication, busyness and material possessions. I will always be impacted with the reminder of the beauty that I shared with this dog. She could never talk to me, and she probably didn’t understand half of what I said, but she knew it and she felt it. The reason a dog becomes your best friend is because of the infectious, unbridled nature of a dog, which causes a human to let go completely-unabashedly free in their own true spirit- beside something as amazing as the spirit of an animal.
I am grateful to God and the Heavens for helping me find my best friend and to be able to remotely capture the companionship I had with her into words. I am grateful that I could have given her an epic adventure, as she has given me.