Sometimes I think we neglect the things that are most important to us, because we forget how short life can be. It was in Bloomington, 9 years ago when a little “clearance” puppy changed our lives forever. She was a $75 animal shelter special that someone dumped on the side of the road. They think she was left because of her Merle coat—the same coloring that attracted me to her in he first place. Naturally, I called Seth and told him I found this adorable puppy that I couldn’t live without. He immediately asked, “What kind is it?” He had his heart set on a golden retriever or a lab… “It’s a Catahoula Leopard,” I said coyly. He knew he was in trouble. After very little arm twisting, Ana (the second half of Indi-Ana) was ours.
It was only a month before our wedding—we were looking to start a real life together—complete with house, dog, and kids down the line. She was the beginning of our story together. After chewing up 10+ pairs of shoes, my glasses, our molding—she proved to be a good test for our relationship too.
When I got pregnant unexpectedly, the dreams of having a second dog—Indi—were dashed, and soon our family of three was four. Ana’s role in the family waivered as Lilly took center stage, but she never stopped getting excited to see us come home, go on a walk, or tug one of her toys. She was gentle and loyal and loving to a fault.
When we sold our house and moved into an apartment, it was hard on her. She hated climbing the three stories to the “treehouse” as Lilly called it, and we grew frustrated with her as she had accidents like she never had before. But when I had my first ectopic pregnancy, I swear she knew I was sad and laid with me with her mussle gently resting on my legs.
When our new home was built, she struggled as we waited for the grasseed to grow in her new backyard. She hated the mud on her paws and hated not going outside as often, but she made do as we tried to give her extra walks.
When I became pregnant with Gwen, Ana’s role in the Garrison family was further diminished. The needs of my girls came first, but she never seemed to mind—happily fading into the background but still loving the attention from all of the visitors to our home.
When I had my second ectopic pregnancy, it was a walk with Seth, the girls and Ana that made me feel centered again—like this family of five was all I needed to be happy. Even though she struggled during the latter part of the walk, I didn’t recognize that her time would so quickly come to an end. I didn’t realize that walk where she gave me so much peace would be our final walk as a complete family.
That’s the thing about dogs—they give to you when you need them most and never ask for anything but love and affection. I look back at all the times I shoo’d her away and would do just about anything to have her face resting on my knee again.
As my Grandpa used to say, “she was a dog gone dog.” Our family will never be the same without you, Ana. Sorry we didn’t have more time together. You will always represent the beginning of this Garrison clan. You made us a family.