10/31/2002 - 7/30/2014Annie smelled like microwave buttered popcorn. It would percolate through her tufty toe-pad fur and fill the room with sunshine when she was content. It was one of the things we didn't anticipate when we brought her home, 4 months after our wedding.

As first time dog owners we were conscientious. We read books on being good leaders, use positive training, don't scold for accidents you don't see happen. We researched breeds appropriate for our lifestyle: active types, runners living in the suburbs. We looked for ethical breeders in our area , those with wide, green acres for running and clean sleeping quarters. But similar to first time parents, we were not prepared. We were not prepared for the personalities that dogs come with. We were not prepared for the tour de force that was Annie.

Bred to be a show dog, she failed in some way or another. Maybe it was her single layer coat or diminutive size. Corgis, normally solid, sturdy dogs are bred for herding after cattle. They are low to the ground to miss a well-timed kick to the head from a hoof. They have double coats to keep the rain and cold away, common in their ancestral Welsh countryside.

Where Annie lacked in those areas she excelled in others. She had a show dog's opinion of herself, a innate belief that she was by far the most interesting thing in the room and all eyes should be upon her. She could work a crowd better than a politician. She would saddle up to people and ham it up, showing her belly with a floozy grin, practically commanding them to notice her. Relishing in the petting, soaking up the attention, parties were her jam.

She was a runner! and not just a runner….a runnnnnnnner. She could easily keep up with us for 5 miles. And she was blisteringly fast when an "offensive animal" walked into our yard. She would go so fast, ears back, tummy an inch from the ground, front legs flying out, back ones shooting behind that she more bounded in a low crouch than ran, paws touching for less than a millisecond per stride. For fun, she would spin around in top-speed circles in the yard (or in the winter, the bedroom). We called that Rodeo. It was especially fun to watch when done with another dog, each one ducking and weaving between the other, grinning, stopping for a remote second to then jump back into the dance. Rodeo.

Uncommonly for a herding dog, Annie liked to fetch. She knew the different names of her toys. Maybe it was ChubChub that was tossed this time, and she would know to leave Squeaky or Chew alone, single-mindedly searching for the only one that was requested. Racing down the hall, bounding up the stairs 3 at a time with ease, returning, with jaunt in her step and a grin.

On walks, we'd joke that Annie had an alignment issue. She wanted to move so quickly that her back legs would speed past her fronts, a Slinky, swaying to and fro. We nicknamed her SlinkyDog. Her ambition to be first drove the pace of our outings. If we unconsciously got ahead of her by a fraction, she would pick up her speed to be a nose in front. Shoes, nose, shoes nose…until our calves burned and thighs strained and we suddenly became conscious of the challenge and nipped it with a tug on the leash. She was schizophrenic in her sniff choices, unable to decide what side of the trail she preferred to stay on. Unlike a blood hound following a single trail, she frenetically sniffed to the left then to right, tugging to this side for 3 seconds then running to go to that opposite side for 4. For this, she was nicknamed The Kite.

All that running, all the time, you would think we would have noticed when she slowly…. stopped. She stopped running and stopped Rodeo. We thought, "she's just getting older". She stopped coming up the stairs. We said "But she is still eating fine" and we still didn't see. But when the tops of her back feet began to scuff on the ground and bleed, we noticed. She was then diagnosed with DM, Degenerative Myelopathy, a genetic disease that wastes away the neurons to the legs, to the trunk, to eventually the heart and lungs. We had 2 years, if we were lucky.

Ever the fighters, we taught her how to go up the stairs again, inching up one by one. We bought a sling to keep her legs under her during walks, for now the SlinkyDog was even more slinky. When her back legs could no longer stabilize her, we got her a cart designed especially for her.

We had heard about carts from Bobbie Mayer the webmaster of Corgis on Wheels and author of WheelCorgis. Some dogs never like their cart, some don't realize their potential until they are completely immobile. Not Annie. She sped off in it the first day, like an otter goes through water, looking back at us with a grin so large it said What took you so long?!

She was running…again. And that is how we choose to remember her today, our petite, ambitious, popcorn SlinkyDog, chasing down toys and Rodeo-ing with the others with DM, nose in the air as she crossed the Rainbow Bridge with the aid of Dr. Brad.
S H TurgeonNewtown Square, PennsylvaniaAugust 4, 2014
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