Monday, March 26, 2012

Annabelle Lee - A Memoir

Annabelle Lee.

The "If I Knew Then What I Know Now" theme, got me to further remembering our amazing Annabelle Lee, a miniature beagle I purchased back in 1983 as a Christmas gift for my 10 year old son.  Because as everyone knows  . . . . every little boy needs a dog.  She was the first dog I ever bought.

I've always thought of dogs when reading Edgar Allen Poe's lines:

Annabelle Lee

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea.
That a maiden lived whom I came to know
By the name of Annabelle Lee.
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
than to love and be loved by me.

I was a child, and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea
But we loved with a love that was more than love
I and my Annabelle Lee.
Nathan and Annabelle, 1985

So I named the dog Annabelle Lee and hoped she and Nathan would feel that love connection.  They did.  We all did.

Beagles, I had heard, were docile, didn't shed much, required no grooming, liked kids, weren't easily hurt with rough handling, were loyal, and made good house pets, so I bought her out of the newspaper for $75.  The "breeder" had no stipulations as to "conformation" or "neutering", I signed no papers (I hadn't heard of AKC back then) but as soon as this wee little puppy with the floppy ears came scampering up to me, the cute factor bowled me over.

I arranged to pick her up from the litter mom on Christmas Eve while Nathan was at his
Dad's, and hid her at a neighbor's house until 10 p.m. on Christmas Eve night. At 9 p.m. when Nathan got delivered home, I handed him an envelope with a scavengar hunt inside, which finally led him to a scroll tucked in the Christmas Tree, a calligraphy poem that started with the lines above, followed by these lines which directed him to the neighbor's house: 

And this is the reason this Christmas Eve
before settling down by our tree,
I find I must go a' searching for
this mysterious Annabelle Lee.

So on with my coat and on with my hat,
Forget about Santa and hot spiced tea.
Two houses down I simply must go
To find my Annabelle Lee
Two houses down are friends, and that's
Where my Annabelle waits for me.

Sadly, I can't find any photos of those early days, but I remember it was freezing cold out and had snowed.  It was a white Christmas.  They invited us in for egg nog, we sat on the couch talking awhile, then the Mom snuck off and released Annabelle into the room.  It took a few minutes for the wee tiny puppy to find Nathan's feet and sniff his shoes but when Nathan saw that huge red bow around a floppy earred ball of fur and finally picked him up, his face filled with confusion, then awareness, then disbelief. As Annabelle licked his nose he giggled, snorted, and was dazzled.  I must say, the effect was very satisfying!

For the next 8 years, Annabelle was an anchor of our household.  The darling of our neighborhood too, I later discovered, for little did I know, dogs don't like to be alone, beagles are great at digging holes under and going over fences, and that little scammer would wait until I left for work, wiggle under or over and make the rounds of our neighborhood.  She delivered a distant neighbor's newspaper to our doorstep every day, and one day the neighbor folllowed the thief home and demanded we make her quit.  I had no idea.  About that time I discovered Annabelle was also calling on another lady down the street for her morning biscuit and jelly, then trotting 2 streets over to spend the day with an elderly couple who, I found out years later, built her a dog house in their yard with an Annabelle plackard over the door!  (They knew her name from her personalized collar.)  She was always sitting on our back patio when we got home, excited to see me and Nathan, so we had no clue.  I always wondered how she got so fat.  I fed her less and less all the time to try and slim her down.

Annabelle and Aurora, best of friends.
I got Nathan a miniature bunny for Easter one year (from a pet store), not even thinking that beagles hunt rabbits.  OMG, I feared for poor Aurora's life every time we let her out into the yard.  Annabelle had to be taken out on leash for awhile, always lunging at the bunny.  The few times she got loose she chased Aurora ceaselessly, but never quite caught her.  Fast bunny, I thought!

Before long I rigged up a 25' clothesline between 2 trees with Annabelle's leash attached to a pulley wheel.  She could run in a straight line back and forth, giving the rabbit the rest of the yard to graze.  But NO, as soon as Annabelle was so confined, the rabbit insisted on staying within Annabelle's corridor.  Back and forth they went.  Back and forth, back and forth.  I eventually let Annabelle loose with the bunny and they did fine.

I hired a contractor once to work on my roof, and I'll never forget his comment . . . . "what a waste of a good huntin' dog." I had no idea what he meant, until we took Annabelle on a hike to Tunica Hills one Easter and let her run free (no leash law back then). She showed a totally different side of herself, running up and down ravines fetching deer droppings, circling round in wide arcs, scampering thru streams, tossing her ears about, smiling, baying, never tiring, never hungry, and not wanting it to end. In 3 years of life in the back yard or on leash, I had never seen that side of her.  In fact, the contractor was a hunter with a kennel full of beagles, and one day he scooped her up into his truck and stole her.  One of his workers saw it.  When Nathan came home from school and we couldn't find her, we were both so distraught calling around the neighborhood, crawling under the house, Nathan in tears, the worker pulled me aside and told me. I called the police, they went with me to the man's house and picked her up out of the back yard.  He said he did it so Annabelle could be happy!

One day I came home from work to find Annabelle injured on my front doorstep.  A trip to the vet showed her back leg was fractured, evidently hit by a car.  That's how I learned she was getting out, found and repaired the hole.  During her recovery, the bunny nestled in her arms by the hour, groomed her, and they slept together.  They were the very best of friends.  Annabelle healed up okay but wasn't quite as active, and she couldn't jump over the fence any more.  Oddly, she got slimmer!

Annabelle's 3rd Christmas, sitting up
and looking like Snoopy!
I don't remember ever teaching Annabelle any tricks except the basic leash training and sit, get off the couch, and come.  Back then I had my fill with teaching children all day.  She never attended classes but didn't seem bored and wasn't any trouble.  I also don't remember buying her any sows ears or rawhide chews, or tug toys or balls.  What did we do with her?  I can't remember.  I do remember she's the only dog I've ever had who would sit on her haunches with perfect balance.  I didn't train it.  She just did it.

I also can't remember how Annabelle got pregnant, but I'm sure I thought it was every dogs' right to have children so I arranged a suitable marriage, and we had 4 little beagle puppies.  I tried keeping her inside as her due date drew near, but she kept scratching at the door.  I discovered she had made a nest near the fence by hollowing out a groove in a stand of iron plants.  I came home from work one day and she was delivering a puppy.  The sack wouldn't break open, so I called the vet, who advised me to just poke it open and let the puppy out, that she would either clean it up or kill it.  I was horrified, but we worked out a system and all 4 puppies survived.  Cutest things you ever saw. 

Annabelle's bed and favorite bear, but
she wouldn't keep her puppies in there.
I put the puppies in the basket with a soft blanket I had prepared and she had been sleeping in, but she removed them to her nest.  I figured this would never do as it was about to rain, so I moved the basket outdoors under the patio and put them in.  She moved them back.  I moved them back.  She moved them back.  So I gave in and rigged up a large umbrella over the plant and dug a trench for drainage, and there they stayed for 3 weeks!  Fortunately, it was spring.  I don't remember where the puppies went, but they all found good homes.  She was a wonderful Mom.

Then I had Annabelle fixed.  After that, she developed asthma or something.  Her breathing became so loud and annoying I wouldn't let her stay in the house at night.  Also, I didn't like her "hound dog" smell, which became very strong.  So when Nathan went off to Tulane U at 18, and I got busy with a new business venture that kept me away from home a lot, I asked the couple 2 streets over (the ones who built her a dog house) if they wanted her, and they took her in.  They must not have let her dig holes under their fence, because she never came back to visit me.

And that was the last dog I had for many years, until our dingo came along.  I've told his story in the first entry of this blog, in a post entitled "It All Began With Fooh Fooh".   But my love affair with dogs began way earlier than him.  Wow!  Now I am recalling my childhood dogs -- Duke, Champ, a cocker spanial whose name I can't remember.  And my own first dog as a homemaker/wife/mother, a white German Shepard, whose name I also can't remember, a gift from my husband.  She got out, had 9 mixed breed puppies (all white and all adorable), 8 of which my husband snuck off and drowned (without my knowledge or consent) by throwing them in the bayou, on grounds that it was "too many dogs to find homes for". Disgusting. Ruined my marriage, and was divorced shortly thereafter.  For the next 15 years I didn't have time for dogs, but had lots of wonderful cats.  I love cats, too.  They are very independant.   But now that I have the time, I'm back to dogs.

Photos have been hard to scrounge up.  No digital cameras back then.  Just a polaroid and a Pentax Spotmatic with film that didn't always get developed, or slides that I never look at.  I've included a few prints I found scattered around in shoeboxes.

If I knew then what I know now, I probably wouldn't have purchased Annabelle.  No papers.  No registration.  No lineage.  No health certification.  But wait a minute.  I have Fooh Fooh and Lucky Lucy!  They didn't come with any of that either.  But then they were rescues.  I didn't buy them.  I'm glad I didn't know so much back then, because Annabelle gave us a lot of pleasure over many years.

I'm sure she's gone on to puppy heaven by now (she'd be 28 years old).  I just want to tell her she made a lot of happy memories for our little family, we loved her and were happy to have her in our lives.

Upwards and onward!

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