Kindred Spirit Kindred Care, LLC.

Shannon Fujimoto Nakaya, DVM

Complementary and adjunct care for dogs and cats with special needs.

Written by Joel Woolfson, DVM, ACVS

After writing the essay Caregiving: a caregiver (and veterinarian) perspective, Annie and I went on with our one primary goal intact: always try to savor every moment.  As winter bore down, many of Annie’s difficulties were complicated by the environment.  Finding a safe, dry place to walk became one of our primary challenges.  All through the night and day I battled the elements to keep Annie’s ramp and yard clear of snow and ice.  We usually succeeded to beat back Mother Nature enough for Annie’s comfort to be intact. 

The bright glare of the sun off the snow would hurt her eyes and cause moments of fear and confusion.  Our greatest weapon against this ruthless force: Annie’s famous visors.  Annie looked adorable and drew crowds wearing her visor.  She loved that.  But Annie knew how much security she gained by having her eyes shaded.  She wagged her tail each time I put on her hat.  She moved about freely on sunny days keeping her head positioned just so to have her eyes in a spot of welcome shade.  She would wear her visor indoors and fall asleep wearing it.  A simple thing, those hats.  They made all the difference in preserving Annie’s mobility.  K-9 Kool Hats,

As we moved through January, some of Annie’s problems slowly progressed.  We adjusted our lifestyle, diet and medications.  Annie fought valiantly; always ready for a happy moment whenever one arose.  And we made sure happy moments were plentiful.  I continued working as a veterinary surgeon on a limited schedule with Annie always by my side.  Many of Annie’s friends could feel that things were getting more and more difficult.  All continued to be amazed by her strength, beauty and grace.

Annie’s best human friend, Auntie Sue was of course always there to provide trips to “doggy store” and other fun adventures.  Sue and Annie are soul mates of the highest order.  Annie’s love for Auntie Sue knew no bounds or restraints.  It was Annie’s love that fueled Sue’s life for the past ten years.

One night in February, after a particularly rough few days, Annie experienced one of her worst seizure episodes yet.  As we had done before, we got through it with tons of hugging and a little medication.  The next day it became apparent that Annie had significant pain somewhere in her right shoulder area.  For the next few days this pain got worse despite multiple treatments.  One night while Annie slept, sometime around 2 AM, deep in my soul I felt that I was no longer capable of adequately fulfilling my doctrine: that Annie’s life must not contain more pain, unhappiness or emotional strain beyond the point where I could adequately intervene. The knowledge that I had kept inside me for many years became a reality. Annie’s struggle must end now. The time was here for me to fully take the pain so that Annie may be at peace after her brave struggle. I was reluctantly willing to do that for her only because there was no longer any way I could protect her to the degree she so deserved.

For the next five hours we hugged and she slept.  When the sun rose on Tuesday, February 12, 2013, just two days before Annie’s 17th birthday, I was faced with the single most difficult task of my life.       With Sue and me by Annie’s side, Annie lay in her own bed in her own home while we presented her with a banquet of chicken, roast beef, carrots and Hagen Dazs vanilla ice cream – not the low fat yogurt kind. Annie ate with bliss.  Without her even knowing, I slipped an intramuscular injection of a combination of sedatives into her thigh. With her belly full, her heart even fuller, with me and Sue hugging her, she went into a beautiful sleep.  My dearest friend Dr. Daniel B. appeared like an angel to administer love and a final injection for our sleeping princess.  Annie did not arouse from her gentle sleep.  As her breaths became deeper, Sue and I inhaled each one directly into ourselves until there were no more.  Annie’s soul passed gracefully from her body into ours.

Annie on her final day with us

Annie Angel Dog

The Steven Huneck Gallery

For the next seven days I wandered through this world like a zombie.  I can only describe my pain this way: someone had removed every vital organ from my entire body.  I was alone in a way I had never known. I will not go into more detail about my grieving; I believe that to be each person’s private domain.  My pain and hopelessness, it seemed, would rule the remainder of my life. I heeded the priceless advice of Dr. Shannon Nakaya: “Keep Breathing”.  

Miraculously after seven days I felt my insides gradually were becoming less empty as I slowly returned to the outside world. I am no longer empty; Annie’s soul fills me forever, bringing me strength and comfort.   I am overfilled with the kind words and gestures of hundreds of Annie’s friends.

What would my life have been?   What would my life ever be, had I not been blessed with the truest of friends and the essence of pure love of Annie for the past ten years?  Yes, it IS worth it.  I am a better person because of Annie.   Thank you my Angel Annie and to all Dog Angels everywhere.           

Reproduction or distribution of any part of this manuscript without the author's permission is a violation of copyright law.

To learn more about how Annie and Joel met through the Coalition to Protect and Rescue Pets and a video tribute to Annie, go to


The comments section is intended to make the website more interactive and allow the world-wide community of people committed to the idea of graceful aging and graceful exits to share their ideas with each other and support each other.

HOUSE RULES about Comments

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Comments on Reflections

Posted by Laurie on
What a beautiful life she was given from beginning to end.
Posted by Tanya on
Thank you for sharing your precious life with Annie with us. Definitely something very very special. You are both loved!
Posted by Kelly on
Oh, Annie! How much joy you brought to everyone! I can see you now, trotting around, carrying whichever toy you deemed your "baby" that day, with your dad in tow, rushing to keep up. No one heart could hold all the love you had to give. I hope we'll meet again someday!! Until then, my friend.
Posted by vikki macomber on
Only met Annie a few times but they will always be strong in my memory...She loved her Daddy...and people....Thanks, Joel, for sharing such a beautiful, heartfelt and emotional account of your journey with Annie. All of us pet owners can relate and though we can't change it, we can help make it easier by smiling when we remember your beloved, Annie.
Posted by Dan and Mike on
Annie was and will always be one the sweetest and loving dog we have ever known! Your devotion was amazing! Everyone loved her! Lets just say that if we all had a $1.00 for each time we snuck her a extra bone when you were not looking, there would be a lot of rich people!!
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Posted by Maggie MacLellan on
Having worked with Dr. Woolfson at both Winchester Animal Hospital & Angell Memorial I am again wishing we could clone him!
Never have I met a more caring compasionate & talented vet!
I never met Annie, but have known the love of many wonderful dogs & believe each one was a blessing.
Wishing you healing & hope you will have another dog-not to replace Annie-but to expand your heart even more. Love grows when you give it away.
And say "Hello" to Sue, I think she & I worked together so long ago at Winchester A.Hospital.
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Posted by Joy Banks on
Joel -- My deepest gratitude to you for sharing your experiences with Annie. I cried. And cried some more. My aging cat is beginning to show signs of confusion and anxiety, along with altered and very strange behavior. She has renal issues which Shannon Nakaya (bless her) is treating. We want to keep her as comfortable as possible for as long as possible.
It's startling when this begins to happen and I am adjusting my life to support hers.
Although we know they don't live as long as we do, it is always difficult to see this process beginning in our animal companion.
Again, THANK YOU for sharing with us (me). It is being very helpful.

--- Aloha, Joy Banks
Posted by Barbara Batke on
Dr. Woolfson, You have been an amazing mentor, every time you came into the clinic I learned something new from you. I wish I could tell you how much you meant to me and to everyone at North Buckeye Animal Hospital, but you probably would have laughed it off like it was no big deal. You will be greatly missed, friend.
Posted by Cornelia Godfrey on
My meetings with Dr. Woolfson were few but the impression he left was lasting. The loss of him is a powerful one. Thank you for everything you did for my dogs and the countless others you helped.
Posted by Terry Leah Procyk on

This made me have more respect and admiration for you than I already had as a surgeon...You and Annie will always be in our hearts...Give Annie a kiss for me....
Posted by Nadja on
I learned of your passing several days ago and I still can't shake this sadness and heavy heart. Without you my beautiful girl Lizzy would not be alive today and for that I have always had a special place in my heart for you. You were a brilliant and sometimes grumpy man and man did you love your Starbucks. And Annie of course... I still remember Annie's babies and her sheepish expression when you would put the "no treats" sign on her. When you performed surgery for my girl at an extreme discount and I contemplated what gift I could give you to express my gratitude it dawned on me that the only way to thank you was to spoil Annie. Sure enough, when I presented you with a gift bag full of greenies, and a baby for Annie your expression said it all. I had given you the best gift of all and my heart swelled with pride. I can't believe you're gone and I have no idea where I will go if Lizzy needs another special surgery but I am glad to know that you and Annie are together.
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Posted by Jill and Jeff Harris on
Just learned of Joel's passing.
Please direct me to the details
of his death and more about
his life in later years.
We knew Joel in California -
he saved our little Albertine
alter a traffic accident. He
several years later flew back
to Calif to deliver her puppies.
A miracle after such injuries.
I feel so very sad. We have
never known a better doctor
or for that matter a better
person than Joel.
Posted by Jill and Jeff Harris on
Just learned of Joel's passing.
Please direct me to the details
of his death and more about
his life in later years.
We knew Joel in California -
he saved our little Albertine
alter a traffic accident. He
several years later flew back
to Calif to deliver her puppies.
A miracle after such injuries.
I feel so very sad. We have
never known a better doctor
or for that matter a better
person than Joel.
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