Anna came into our lives as quietly as she left, but not before she impregnated our hearts with so much love, that losing her was more painful than we ever thought or anticipated.
It was a huge decision to get another pet after my first Shih Tzu died years ago at the age of 17. But we thought it unfair that our young daughters would not have the benefit of growing up with a family dog and companion.
It was Easter Saturday, 2009 when my sister and I arrived at the home of a Shih Tzu breeder where I had put my name on a waiting list for a female puppy. There were six puppies milled around us that day, but the runt of the litter – the little bundle of fur with the damaged eye – was the one that caught my attention. She sat on my foot and burrowed into my leg. She didn’t bark or whine; she just sat there and looked up at me.
I took her home that day and put her on my daughters’ bed. It was love at first sight when they saw her, and the beginning of a 10-year relationship that brought us more smiles than tears, more laughs than sighs.
Anna was a natural therapy dog. She helped us weather so many storms in her short life – the girls moving away for university, the death of family members, the loss of friendships…
One can argue that pets are a lot of work and some would say too much trouble, but that was not the case with our Anna. She was our salvation at times when we felt alone and stranded among life’s weeds. She loved us unconditionally and we loved her back with the same feverish devotion.
It’s been very difficult helping my daughters come to terms with her passing. It’s been difficult for me as well. I’ve been the one constant in her life. When the girls were at university, it was me who walked her, fed her, and bathed her.
Anna died from complications of autoimmune anemia, a disease we didn’t know she had. She lived four days after her diagnosis. Her sickness and death brought us closer together as a family and reminded us of how fragile life was.
While cradling Anna in our arms in her last hours of life, we reminisced about the many joys she brought to our lives and the funny stories that had us belly laughing in between the tears.
We concluded that we were really her pets and she was our master.
We also thanked Anna for being an integral and important part of our family and we promised to never forget her unwavering loyalty and love for us.
Having a family pet is a huge responsibility. Teaching children to respect, care for, and love their pet is paramount to a shared, positive experience and so is teaching children that mourning the loss of a family pet is natural, and painful.
But life does go on.
We will miss our little Anna. We would never trade one minute of the time we had with her for anything. She taught us more than we ever taught her. Those lessons and happy memories will sustain us when the inevitable bad days come and we long to snuggle into her warm body.