Thursday, October 6, 2011

Guest Blogger Jenn McKinlay on Her "Orphan Annie"

We are celebrating an anniversary in my house -- a happy one. A little over a year ago, I was walking my five month old puppy Otto, a Schnauzer with very expressive eyebrows, through the neighborhood when I saw a very large dog off leash. Not knowing if the dog was friendly and not wanting Otto to become the big guy’s appetizer, I took a short cut.

Halfway down the alley, I saw a mid-sized brown and black brindle dog, huddling against the fence. My first thought was: Oh, crap, out of the pan and into the fire! As there was no escaping this dog, I scooped up Otto and put on my best mean face. As we passed, the dog hunkered low and growled, a very scary growl.

I got Otto home and then began to worry about the stray dog. It was the end of summer in Arizona, temps were still in the low hundreds and not likely to break soon. I decided I had to go back. Now, having been bitten by a few dogs in my time, I have a healthy respect (also called sweaty-palmed-terror) of dogs I don’t know. I decided to bring canine ice breakers, i.e. Milkbones, to see if I could get close enough to the dog to assess the situation.

The brindle was in the same spot, still hunkered low, still growling. I offered a biscuit. She growled. I offered another. She growled and thumped her tail at the same time. Hmm. I tried to get close.She growled and scared me so naturally I went and woke up my husband.

The Hub came back with me and talked so nicely to her, that if I had been her, I would have been in his lap immediately. He got her to come forward a little bit, where we could determine that she was a her. Given the heat, he figured she was dehydrated and went to get water. I waited with her not getting any closer. She and I stared at each other, each trying to read the other.

I started talking to her as nicely as the Hub had. She thumped her tail and growled. I held out a biscuit.

She stayed low to the ground and belly crawled toward me. I had a moment of panic (she has a gorgeous face with definite pit bull bone structure) but I kept my hand steady and kept talking. She scuttled until her nose was just under my hand. I held my breath. She nudged the biscuit aside with her nose and pressed the top of her head into my palm and looked at me with her big baby browns.

Then she gave a huge shuddering sigh, as if she were psyching herself up for something, and she climbed into my lap. She leaned against me but held herself stiffly as if bracing herself for rejection. There was no question that she was taking a huge leap of faith by trusting me. When she looked at me, it was there in her soft chocolate eyes: Please don’t hurt me!

I carried her home, talking to her all the way. The Hub was just bringing out a big bowl of water and she slurped it down and promptly threw up. She had a collar but no tags. We didn’t know what to do.

My sons, the hooligans, came out to meet her. It was love at first sight on both sides. Then we let Otto out to see how it went. He and Annie did the butt-sniffing “How you doin’?” thing that dogs do and then ran around the yard about eighty times, alternately chasing one another, until they both passed out in the grass.

There was silly talk about finding Annie’s owners, flyers were put up, but no one ever called. Clearly, she had been tossed out with the trash. Since we already had a dog, a fish, two hamsters and two cats, I was not super up for another pet, but how could I send her away, knowing that most dogs that have any pit bull in them end up being euthanized, and after witnessing her incredible leap of faith when she chose to trust me?

Names were tried out; Pepper, Scarlett, Tiger, Cinnamon Bun, but Annie from Little Orphan Annie (the Hub’s last name is Orf, so it’s really Orf’n Annie) stuck. The Vet was visited repeatedly until she was immunized and nipped and tucked. We were told that she was about a month younger than Otto and just a puppy herself.

It took her about 6 months to understand that she had found her forever home. She still has phobias (the broom, the garden house, loud male voices), but it’s been a year now, and she has settled into our house of clutter and chaos as if this is where she was meant to be – and truly, it was.

Annie has inspired me in so many ways. Honestly, she makes me a better person and probably a better writer! In two of my mystery series, the Cupcake Bakery and the Library Lover’s, my heroines rescue abandoned animals. In the upcoming, DEATH BY THE DOZEN, readers will get to make the acquaintance of Captain Jack, a stray kitten with a taste for cupcakes. I hope he wins your hearts like Annie has won mine.

Thanks for inviting me to blog today! It’s always a treat to visit the Cozy Chicks! - Jenn McKinlay