The sweet brown aged dog named Annie limps and wanders and comes into the room with me here where I write and stares at me. I pet her on the head and between her long ears. She is part Dachsund, part miniature pincer, sweet and vulnerable and now, yes, very old: 18, according to her papers. She was born in Louisiana in the wake of the chaos that followed Hurricane Katrina and wound up in a pound where she might have met an early death. This is the third place she has lived. She is still here in the room — now she is gone again, wandering. Now she is back, staring, standing still, confused. Normally she seems to be in an endless search for snacks or for the outdoors but has taken, occasionally, to defecating indoors in her confusion, making our life more difficult though we cannot love her any less. She lets you know when she wants to go out but she always wants to go out and always wants to come back in whether or not she has used the interval as she did formerly to relieve herself. I never wanted Annie. Diane insisted on getting her way back in, was it 2005? Early 2006?There had been the pedigree pomeranian named Jack who lived twenty-one years and had been discovered in the frozen food aisle of the Star Market in Porter Square, Cambridge, Mass. There was no accounting for how he got there before the Cambridge Chronicle ran his seemingly smiling picture in its pages after which it was brought to the attention of Diane who simply had to have him and won out over dozens of applicants for that little guy. He lived in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Florida, North Carolina and then in Massachusetts again and circumstances led to me being the one who had to take him to be put down. And I went from that moment to my job as a television reporter and, as it happened, a story about a young girl who had a malady closely replicated, if you can believe it by the malady of the little dog that was gifted to her by some generous veterinary or animal control or, frankly, I forget who or what agency, but it was a happy story and a good story for me to be covering that day and I could share my experience only hours before of taking a dog I’d known and loved for over two decades to a steel table in a little examining room where, blind and deaf and now plainly in discomfort, she was put peacefully to sleep. And then, after a period without a dog — without the responsibility and expense and inconvenience and worry — I was told I would have another dog over my objections. And I would come home to the little stucco house in Clinton, Massachusetts to find the dog, Annie, tail wagging excitedly, greeting me at the door and then climbing into bed with me and generally causing the very disruption I loathed. She was funny, the way she would see dogs on TV and bark at them, even if it was a dog far down a lane in some western, or the MGM lion roaring at the outset of a cable movie. In time, she would be joined by a second dog over my objections, a truly loveable little mixed breed, spotted, facially expressive and entertaining creature named
Cricket who, like Annie, is a rescue dog. A colleague and dog-owner comforted me in my exasperation at finding myself with dogs and the responsibility and the emotional attachment and the inevitable sorrows by saying two dogs were actually better than one because they were company for one another. But, of course, with one or two or however many dogs comes the expense of pet-sitters and veterinary bills reaching over time into the hundreds or even thousands–and now, the sorrow of watching Annie wander.
She’s left the room. But she’s out there in this unmoving “mobile” home where I sit in Florida. She is the sum of all my sorrows and anxieties, revealing all my emotional vulnerabilities and weaknesses. I love her to death. That’s the problem. Yes, that’s the problem.