AKA: Li'l Arfin' Annie; Annie O'Malley
When Rykken first picked up the small Apricot Miniature Poodle, the puppy softly laid her head on her soon-to-be human’s chest. Rykken had seen the little girl’s picture on a website and could hardly wait to meet her. She wanted a poodle because they have above average intelligence. Having lost their precious Sandy, a Lhasa Apso, two months before, Rykken and her husband Larry were now ready to invite another dog into their home.
At first, Rykken thought the puppy was sick because she was so quiet in her arms. But once the girl got back into the kennel with her littermates, the comical chaos commenced.
The next day Rykken and Larry returned to adopt the little Einstein. From that day forward, the canine would never again go willingly into a kennel. Instead, she began to enjoy what would be a lifetime of Mom and Dad’s laps and love.
On the drive home, Rykken and Larry wrestled with what to name their little joy. They reviewed the facts: She was small; she had curly hair; she had curly red hair! “She reminds me of Little Orphan Annie. But you’re not an orphan anymore, are you?” Rykken kissed the girl on her head.
“Li’l Arfin’ Annie!” Larry chuckled. Rykken burst out laughing. Larry reached over to scratch tiny Annie’s head. “What do you say, Annie? Is that your name?” Annie’s tongue made a quick pass for her daddy’s hand.
“That’s perfect,” Rykken responded and launched into a sour rendition of “The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow…” Annie stared at her with pained eyes. Larry warned bluntly “No. Never, ever sing that again. You’ll scare her. And me!”
Only slightly offended, Rykken made amends with her new baby. “Okay, Annie. No songs. But how about some treats?”
Annie’s eyes grew happy and wide. Somehow, somewhere during her short life, Annie had learned that the word “treat” and what came next. Rykken reached into her purse and withdrew a soft, juicy puppy bit. Annie inhaled the treat and – because she has above average intelligence – stuck her nose deep into Rykken’s purse. There were more. And more were consumed, until Dad cut her off. Annie looked at Dad quizzically.
“You’ll get sick, Annie. Wait until we get home.” Larry scratched her head again. Rykken buried her nose into Annie’s neck. Annie made Rykken very happy.
As she grew, Annie was introduced to many doggy friends at parks as well as other puppy’s homes. She quickly memorized the sights, sounds, and smells of those whose house she would often visit. She would begin to bounce back and forth on the car seat in anticipation of playing with her friends when the house grew near. Once they arrived, Mom and Dad could barely contain her outside the car. They inevitably let her off her leash so she can forge her way into the house. There, all four legged creatures immediately begin wrestling in wild abandon. And when her doggy friends come to visit her, Annie shows them a frolicking fine time, in return.
Early on, Dad didn’t think that Annie should sleep in the human bed. Annie and Rykken had a different idea. Annie “somehow” managed to slip onto the human bed and curl up with her mom. Larry acquiesced. Although she sleeps in the human bed – on her mom’s side - Annie is required to get up and out of the bed when Rykken does. Annie is glad to oblige because it means – breakfast!
When she has devoured her food, Annie will hear the ice cubes clink into Mom’s glass and smells the fizzle of her Pepsi. She knows Mom is now ready for bunny. Annie lifts her head high toward Mom and shakes the pink bunny in her face. She wants to ensure that Rykken knows she has the bunny and Mom doesn’t. Mom chases Annie in a feeble attempt to take it from her. “I’m going to get the bunny from you!”
Since Annie has above average intelligence, she really does understand that the more-than-gently-loved toy is actually a flamingo. But when Mom and Dad insisted that she would not comprehend the word “flamingo,” and decided to instead call it a bunny, who was Annie to argue? They can call it “tofu” for all she cares, as long as Mom notices that Annie has the bunny.
Rykken grabs the bunny, plays tug for a very brief moment, at which time Annie gives in and lets it lose. Once Annie again has the fiend in her possession, she gallops into the bedroom, bounds onto the bed, and pushes bunny into Dad’s face. After all, bunny is also part of the family!
“Thank you, Annie. This is still a very wonderful bunny.” Half asleep, Dad acknowledges her gesture, grabs bunny, and throws it as far as he can. Well, as far as he can with his left hand.
And so the day begins. For a few moments, Mom indulges Annie’s desire for attention, but soon settles into her black leather sofa and begins to read the newspaper. Disappointed but somewhat satiated, Annie jumps up next to her mom and allows her breakfast to warm her tummy. “This is good, too,” she thinks. “I’m with my mommy.”
Whether in the morning or afternoon, Annie relishes her time at the doggy park. As soon as Mom lets her off her leash, she races for her friends, clipping a tail here, and softly nipping another ear, there. They’re off. And Mom and her human friends sit on the bench to catch up on their news. Meanwhile, Annie and her pals don’t waste a moment. What their humans don’t quite understand is that they, too, are exchanging important information: one short sniff and they know exactly who got a special, real chicken treat that morning; or another not - discrete nose noodle can reveal that another pup had prime rib the night before. Oh, the stories they could tell.
Later, Mom and Dad when finish their day and begin their evening with tales of their own ventures, the conversation always includes the highs and lows of Annie’s adventures.
“AAaarrrff…AAarr…WaarrffwooaarrfooOOO,” Annie screams at the top of her lungs and runs to the back door. Mom and Dad both scold her and tell her to stop. It’s the neighbor returning from her own long day. What Mom and Dad don’t quite understand is that Annie is simply saying “Hello!” Can she help it if her piercing bellow is how God created her?
Later in the evening when Dad leans back in his sleek black recliner and the television begins its own bellow, Annie prances to him, slipper in tow. Dad wonders aloud why Annie doesn’t get dizzy from the frantic shaking of the beat up, once-was, teal colored sock. Finally, after all his existential gobble-gook, Dad grabs the slipper from Annie’s mouth, mashes it into a ball and throws it – this time with his pitching arm – as far as he can across the living room. Like a toned ballerina, Annie glides across the living room – barely touching the tan rug – and seizes her prize. Without stopping, she makes a perfect U-turn back to her dad.
“Annie, look at this. It’s filthy,” Larry remarks. Annie sits patiently, her eyes intently focused on the slipper. Without a word, Rykken retrieves the other slipper, still new and – teal.
“Here, try this.” Rykken hands the mate to Larry. He scrunches it up and tosses it. “Get it Annie!” Both Mom and Dad point to the new slipper.
Annie will have none of it. She puts her front paws on Dad’s arm and releases a cry. Alas, Dad again throws the original slipper. Annie surges for it in great delight.
And repeat. And again. And so forth. And so on. And on. And on.
The slipper game is Annie’s absolute favorite. When guests visit – as long as one of Annie’s friends is not in tow – Annie immediately fetches the slipper and places it on the visitor’s knee. She sits patiently. And waits. Finally, Mom will explain to the recipient of Annie’s gesture that the clean but tattered toy should be tossed across the room. The slipper often falls only a few feet from the human, but for Annie, that is okay; she knows it takes time. For her, another human is in training.
Mom, Dad, and Annie spend their summer months in Minnesota. The warmth and sunshine of Florida is their home for the rest of the year. Annie doesn’t care as long as bunny and slipper are a central focus of her day. But in Florida, slipper sometimes accidently ends up in the swimming pool. When it does, Annie will run to its edge, begin to “air paw” for her precious toy, and then begin to screech. Frustrated, Dad implores Annie to stop and secures the long handled net to retrieve her treasure. Gleefully, Annie grabs the soaking slipper. When Dad pulls it from her to wring out the water, Annie insists on keeping the soaking slipper. She doesn’t much care that it’s drenched. The more Dad tries to get it from her, the harder Annie pulls. It’s playtime!
Technically, Annie isn’t a Pavlov dog; nor does she play one on TV. However, she could. Whenever Dad grabs the mighty pole with the net on the end – even it is for the tool’s intended purpose (collecting leaves, for instance) – Annie bolts to the scene and begins to screech. Dad’s futile attempts to show Annie that there is no slipper at hand – are lost in doggy anticipation. Alas, Annie sniffs the net several times and looks at Dad who is trying to logically explain the transaction. Finally, she returns to her day bed, sans slipper. As she nods off, she acknowledges that the slipper lurks in the living room. She can smell it. She also knows that it’s only a matter of time before she again has her way with it.