Hey, Anita

I've been trying to remember where we first met. I think it was at a local dog training school, back in 1998 or 1999. My Boxer Lucy was still a youngster - an unruly one at that. You were just getting a German Shepherd rescue off the ground. I was learning about rescues and started warming up to the idea of fostering a dog. I told you I'd foster a German Shepherd sometime.

Instead of fostering a Shepherd back then, I got involved in rescue myself - Boxer rescue. For the next 15 years, we ran into each other pretty regularly - at fundraisers and other events. Rotating in similar, if not the same, circles. I even ran into you at the grocery store a few times. I was more than a little surprised when you announced that you'd adopted a vegetarian diet (after some urging from your cousin). We chatted about veggie burgers and such.

Once my long tenure on the board for Boxer rescue ended, I thought it was about time I honored that long-ago promise to foster a Shepherd. I contacted you and before long I had a handsome and oh-so-smart Shepherd in my home. Most people think of me as a "Boxer person" and to be honest, I am. However, I've always had a soft spot for German Shepherds. My Pop-Pop had one when I was a kid. They are truly beautiful dogs. The hair, though. Holy cow. GSD people don't even bother complaining about it. "German shedders," they say with a shrug.

I fostered a couple of dogs and recently did some respite care for a dog whose person was in the hospital. I'm always amazed by how smart and trainable the breed is. Such a contrast to my beloved class clown Boxers.

You invited me to a fundraising meeting a couple years ago. I attended but quickly saw that even though you were listening to ideas voiced by others, you'd make the final call in all things related to the rescue. I shook my head. "That Anita - so stuck in her ways," I thought. The most successful rescues are run somewhat like a business, always with an eye on making sure that expenses do not exceed the revenue. In other words, act from your head and not your heart. As we both know, rescue work will rip your heart right out of your chest. Here's the thing, though. Your "heart first" method always seemed to work. You always found a way to pay the bills and seldom said no to a dog in need. I don't know how you did it.

Although we were friends for two decades, we really didn't have that much in common. You were politically conservative. I am the opposite of that. You once forwarded an email to all of the volunteers that reflected that "boot-in-yer-ass" brand of patriotism that has always bugged me so. However, I liked your dry sense of humor. I remember laughing at a comment you made until I lost my breath. One time I volunteered at a Halloween fundraiser and you yelled at me because I gave a kid two pieces of candy instead of one. Later you said that you hadn't been feeling well that day. I don't know that your health was always the best but you never let it show and never seemed to feel sorry for yourself.

I've sometimes said that when I die, if the only thing that anyone can think of to say about me is "she helped some dogs," I'll be fine with that. I suspect you may have felt the same way. You helped a lot of dogs, Anita. Hundreds of them. Nothing scared you away - not medical issues or behavioral challenges. Some of the Shepherds you took in had questionable breeding (like maybe their parents had simply MET a Shepherd one time) but as long as the dog was in the ballpark, you were there to help. You built a community, Anita. Look how many people turn up at the rescue events. I've seen people gleefully showing you photos of the dog you brought into their lives.

I'm not a big believer in the concept of heaven, but I like to think you have been reunited in some way with the dogs that passed on before you. I hope you're covered in dog hair, having the time of your life.

I'll miss you, Anita. You always remembered my birthday. You once dropped off a Boxer totebag at my house because you saw it and knew I'd like it. You were incredibly big-hearted and dedicated and, of course, sassy.

[My condolences to Paul, as well as to Anita's children and grandchildren.]


Unknown said…
Very well said Claudia. It is because of Anita that can call you my friend

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