A Decade Without Annie

The vortex of my loathing for November stems from this date a decade ago. The day I lost my dog, Annie, to a freak accident. An accident I was convinced was connected to my first bout with pornography and God’s judgment.

A decade later, I’ve laxed on the whole God punishing me thing; a decade later, I still miss that dog dearly.

I hug and cuddle all these other dogs in Asheville, daily at my job and dog-sitting at people’s houses. And it’s almost an eerie faraway thing that I myself once had a dog to hug and cuddle. A dog to play fetch with and run around the pool with and take for walks at the park and chase ducks and be my friend in a new land where I desperately needed friends.

A decade later, my faithful friend is still dead.

Today’s an example of a post and a story and a distinct sliver of my soul that I cannot hope to fully translate. Maybe you’ve lost a pet and can commiserate on some base level. Maybe that pet was also a dog and maybe you were also a timid teenager with acne and secrets and can resonate even more. Or maybe you’ve lost a parent or a sibling or a child and feel compelled to tell me to get over it because my loss was “just a dog.”

Having never lost a close, immediate family member, I cannot relate with that sort of story. Someday soon I imagine I will, and I’m sure it will be an altogether different kind of pain from the one I felt and, indeed, still feel about losing Annie.

But until that day, I do still have this searing loss to reckon with. I can’t believe it’s been ten years.

Ten years ago, I was a 19-year-old sophomore in college. I was back living at home after a year away at a small Christian college. My freshman year represented a leap in my life. A leap away from isolation and the status quo. For the first time, I learned to form my own schedule and find my own friendships.

It was a pivotal year. And yet it was a long, hard year as well. I missed my family. I missed my old familiar comfort.

I missed my Annie.

I’ll never forget walking out of my dorm to see my mom or dad holding back Annie on a leash as she tugged and tugged and tugged until I approached her and knelt down and let her lick my face. Those parent-dog visits meant everything to me. That whole year away, Annie never forgot about me. She missed me, and it showed every single time we reunited.

I’m sure she was thrilled when I decided to move back home my sophomore year.

And then she died.

We haven’t hugged since.

My life is eons different a decade later. I’ve done much worse than pornography, and I’ve done much better than isolation.

I write all about this chapter of my life in my book, and it’s safe to say I’d not be where I am today had it not been for Annie — her life, her death.

I wouldn’t be writing about the things I now write about, and I probably wouldn’t know certain people — dear brothers from the Internet turned “real life” — were it not for one excitable rat terrier.

A decade without her later, I almost can’t remember what it’s like to feel the tug of her leash as we round the pond to discover a gaggle of ducks on the path, or her warmth in my bed, or her tongue on my neck.

My sensory memory of Annie is flickering, and I do not know how to stop it. And so I force myself to remember what I can remember.

The time I woke up early on the first day of middle school to spend time with her before I stepped into a terrifying new arena.

The times I wrapped up her Christmas presents and placed them under the tree next to my parents’ and siblings’ gifts.

The times I said “go bye bye?” and watched with glee as she ran to the door and then to my car for trips to the park because she loved the road as much as I did. Do.

I loved that dog. Loved her like a little human. Loved her like a friend.

A decade later, I still can’t believe a world without her actually exists.

This is Day 17 of #MakeNovemberTolerable. Keep checking back every day this month for new stories and discoveries of beauty where beauty may be hard to find.

  • Kevin Browne