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Annie

     I first met Annie sometime in the early 1980's when my friend Pamela Glasser came for dinner one night. Pam had brought me a gift: a ratty looking, malnourished, little orphan dog that she had found in a state park. The poor dog was apprehensive of everything, skinny as a rail, needed a bath, and we found out later, was infested with ring worms, pin worms, tape worms, and hook worms.  She had come to the right place.

     Little arfin' Annie got her bath, the vet gave her medicines that took care of the various intestinal parasites, and soon she was a happy dog and an important member of the family. Nobody could tell how old she was when she came to live with us, somewhere from one to five years. No telling either, how long she had been living in the state forest before Pam found her, but now she had found home.

     Like most of the other dogs I've lived with, she loved to sing when I played my horn. Strauss 1st Concerto, the triplet section on the second page would always get her going. Or anything robust with a full sound and loud dynamic, especially if it was fast. I would half jokingly tell students that came to the house for lessons: "make a dog sing, and you know you got the sound right."

     One time another friend, Geary Rachel, came over for dinner, and he brought his little dachshund with him to visit with my dogs. I had just come back from the Casals Festival in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and I was inspired. On the menu that night was going to be mofongo, which is a Puerto Rican dish made from plantains. I had enjoyed it at several restaurants there, and figured I could make up the recipe. It was one of my worst cooking disasters. I set it on the table for us, and both Geary and I took a serving onto our plates. We tried it, and agreed it was inedible.  Not wanting to waste anything though, I thought maybe the dogs would like it. And did they ever!

     I put down three little bowls, first one for our guest dog, Geary's dachshund, who gobbled it up immediately, then a little bowl for Annie, who loved it. Just as I was putting down a serving for Lucy, who went right for it, I noticed the dachshund was throwing up her portion of mofongo right back into the bowl. Then Annie lost it, followed right on cue by Lucy. They all looked confused, but ready to chow down again, so I quickly picked up the bowls and threw away the vile concoction. (Since then, I have been back to Puerto Rico, bought a cookbook, and make a wonderful mofongo, as good as any I had in San Juan.)

     Many times on road trips, I took Annie along. One trip was just after the release of an LP on the Crystal label - "Fantasie," with music by Rossini, Franz Strauss, Kuhlau, and others. I had planned several stops along the way at various classical music radio stations to promote the recording. One of the stations, I think it was Mobile, Alabama, was on a small college campus. I found the campus, but since school was out there was nobody around to ask directions to the radio station. So we drove around for a while until we saw a little sign saying the station was in the basement of the chemistry building. We parked the van, and Annie and I went for a walk to the chemistry building.

    Inside it was dark and deserted, but I figured somebody had to be there, because we had just been listening to the station on the radio. We got to the basement, with Annie's toenails making a monstrous clacking noise on the cold tile floor. I had record in hand, practically feeling our way in the near darkness of this scary old building. Then I heard very faint music coming from down the hall. Following the sound, we made our way to a door with small letters announcing that it was the station. By the time we got there, the announcer was talking, so I waited until I heard music again, and then knocked. Some rustling about inside, a shouted "be right there," and after a minute the door opened and a guy peered out and asked what we wanted.

     "Do you take requests?" I asked.

     "Sure," he responded.

     So I held out the LP record and said, "Will you play my record?"

     He looked surprised, but once again he said, "Sure."

     I thanked him and we headed back out into the sunshine. We got into the van, and before we were ten minutes away, we heard the announcer come back on mike and say, "A most unusual thing just happened here at the studio. We don't often get performers dropping by, but we just had a visit from French Horn artist Thomas Bacon, who stopped by to give us his latest recording."

     Then he read some of my bio from the album cover, and played the Kuhlau piece from the record. During the slow, lyrical introduction, Annie was lying in her car seat. I thought she was asleep, but occasionally she would whimper a little, like she was about to sing. I wondered if she recognized it from the many times she had heard me practicing the piece. Then I knew she must, because when the fast section started, she sat right up and started howling just like she did in the practice room back home.

     On another trip, this one including a recital date at Interlochen, and a chamber music concert in upstate New York with some old friends from the Syracuse Symphony. It was a great reunion with colleagues that I hadn't seen for many years. Annie had never met them before, but became an instant favorite of everybody's. After a wonderful few days, it was time to hit the road, work back in Houston started again soon. So Annie and I headed south through Pennsylvania.

     On the second day we hit Tennessee, and it was so hot that Annie didn't even want to get out of the van to pee. Mile after mindless mile, not wanting to stop, I drove on for about twelve hours that day, stopping only for junk food and gas. Tired, and feeling sticky and out of sorts, we were refused by three motels ("I'm sure your dog is very nice, but we just don't allow pets.")

     Finally, just past Birmingham, we were taken in at the sleaziest flea bag motel I have ever seen. I should have suspected the place immediately when the old woman behind the counter didn't even ask if the dog was housebroken.

     The place was overrun with screaming, dirty faced children and beer bellied loudmouths. The ice machine was broken, the TV picture was fuzzy, the bed sagged, the sheets felt greasy, and the pillow made noise.  The towels were threadbare and small, the room smelled of too many midnight rendezvous only nominally disguised by an obnoxiously perfumed disinfectant, and when I was doing push-ups, my nose told me that the carpet was foul. Only to make things more dismal, I realized to my great shame that I had wrongly made the last accusation. It was not the carpet that stank, it was my shoes.

     I wallowed in the discomfort and unpleasantness provided both by the establishment and my own shoes. I thought perhaps I needed this to restore karmic balance for the perfectly wonderful previous few weeks engaged in the unalloyed pleasures of the pursuit of art and adventure. I clutched my little Annie to me as I lay down to sleep, and assured us both that tomorrow night we would be home.

     She was one of the best traveling companions I ever had, providing gentle comfort under the most trying of situations. But now it is about fifteen years after Annie first came to me, and we have come around full circle. Once again Annie is skinny as a rail and infested with a parasite. It's different this time though, the cancer that has attacked my special friend won't go away with drugs, like the worms did so many years ago. She sleeps most of the time now, and must be helped to go outside. She can't walk very far before she stops and lies/falls down where she is. It can't be too much longer now.....

     We may need to take one last trip to the vet, but it is not an easy decision to end the life of a beloved family member that has shared so much with you for so many years. Even if she is only a little dog.

 

Epilogue----

We took the last trip to the vet today. Annie died in my arms around noon, April 21, 1996. Rest in peace, gentle creature.

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