For the Love of Annabelle

Annabelle at 4 months. Photo by Suzanne Whitfield Vince.
Annabelle at 4 months. Photo by Suzanne Whitfield Vince.

On February 29, 2008, Annabelle Hope Vince came into my life. Though I’d had a dog as a child, as an adult I’d never wanted one and wasn’t particularly fond of them. When my friends would talk about their dogs—refer to them as their “children”–I would roll my eyes and shake my head. I didn’t get it.

I was a cat person. I had two of them and they were perfectly good company. I loved them a lot. But I wasn’t all “gaga” about them. Not the way that every dog owner I knew was. And then, for reasons I still can’t explain, around the end of 2007 I started feeling like I wanted a dog. More than wanted, actually. Needed.

I needed a dog. And a few weeks later, Annabelle Hope came into our lives. And our lives have never been the same. While we still have our cats, and couldn’t love them more, Annabelle has taught us both new lessons about unconditional love. And patience. And joy in the simplest things in life. She is, in every respect, our furry “child.” [So is her brother Max, who came into our lives a year later, but that’s another blog entirely.]

On Thursday I will be taking Annabelle to the hospital at UC Davis, where she will undergo a liver biopsy and be hospitalized for two days. My husband and I have known this for several weeks, and have agonized over the decision to put her through such an invasive procedure, but after doing all the non-invasive tests with no conclusions, we know that the only way to get the answers we seek (and hopefully a treatment that might save or extend her life) is to do the biopsy.

I’ve been told by a friend who works as a physician at UC Davis that the veterinary hospital there is second to none. They have operating rooms with surgeons and anesthesiologists. They have an ICU where dogs, cats, horses, etc., are on ventilators. People come to UC Davis from all over the country with their sick or injured animals. And we’re lucky enough to have it in our own back yard.

And yet, we still wonder if we’re doing the right thing. What if there are complications (bleeding being the most common with a liver biopsy)? And, she only weighs 9 pounds—what if they give her too much anesthesia? Now, in the final few days before the Big Day, every time she plays with her favorite toy I wonder, will this be the last time I get to watch her in all her glorious sillines? Will this be the last night she sleeps with her head on my shoulder?

And I wonder if, after handing her over to strangers who will do “bad things” to her for two days, she will still be the same trusting, loving dog she’s always been. Will she forgive me? Because I know what it feels like to have that trust betrayed when you’re unable to understand what is really going on.

I was five when it happened to me. My sister and I were fighting. She chased me down the stairs. I stood at the bottom and peered up at her, wondering if she was going to come after me. She didn’t. Instead, she sought her revenge with words. And they injured me worse than any form of sisterly punishment I could imagine.

“Ha ha, you’re to the hospital tomorrow to have an operation.”

Wait, what?

Image Courtesy of Google Images
Image Courtesy of Google Images

My mom tried to explain that I had a hernia (probably from giving said sister a piggyback ride—at least that’s my story), and that the only way to fix it was to operate. I begged my mom to change her mind. I promised to be good and never hit my sister anymore (even in self-defense). But the following morning, before the sun even rose, my daddy lifted me out of bed and off I went to the hospital. I remember clinging to him and screaming when it was time for surgery.

And now, on the eve of doing the same thing to my furry child, I imagine that the decision my parents had to make regarding my surgery—discuss and try to rationalize with a 5-year old or wait until the morning of and blindside her—was a very difficult decision.

I did forgive my parents (and my sister), and now have a new level of appreciation for all the decisions parents have to make on behalf of their children (furry or human). All we can do is make the best decisions we can and pray they are the right ones. Unfortunately, more often than not, the right ones are the hardest ones to make.

What about you? Have you had to make a difficult decision that affected the life of someone you love? How did you deal with it?

6 comments on… “For the Love of Annabelle”


  1. Lynda Klem


    Oh Suzanne…..I’m so sorry for your worry. Hoping strongly that little Annabelle will be treatable and come home with you to resume her very special life. Sending hugs and puppy hugs. Love/Lynda

  2. Oh man – I’m so sorry to hear this. Trying to decide how much money to invest in a beloved pet is the worst decision ever. My 9-year old dog tore a ligament in his knee and I decided to have it surgically fixed, but he was never the same again after that. ‘Bout broke my heart.

    I hope your sweet girl comes through this okay.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

    • Thanks Patricia. I know, money certain does, unfortunately, play a factor in the decisions we are able to make for our furry loved ones. I’m sorry your boy didn’t fully benefit from the knee surgery. Hope he’s still able to live a happy life.


  3. Loucinda McGary


    I’m sending lots of good thoughts and prayers for your furry baby. Both of mine have had surgery (one emergency and one not) and it was so difficult. They really are family members.

    HUGS to all of you!

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