Statement from COL Thaddeus Posey, Walter Reed Chaplain

The general support of our wounded soldiers is indeed uplifting. And many caring individuals and groups have visited WRAMC to cheer on our troops in the process of transition to better health.

It is especially encouraging to receive those visitors who have dedicated their time and effort to inspire not only the soldiers, but their family members as well. As in many crisis experiences, the focus is usually on the adults, and the children are overlooked. Thus it is particularly heartwarming to welcome any person who has made a concerted effort to offer comfort and understanding to the children of injured soldiers. Those who provide a youngster with an avenue to understanding and grounding for face crisis are a true blessing in the realm of healing. We say thank you kindly to them. For their gift is eternally life giving.

Window on Main Street, by Barbara Christian

Beloved dog's legacy is inspiration
A legend left us last week. A three-legged springer spaniel named Annie, who every day demonstrated how to live life fully, disabilities be damned. She died Aug. 2 at the age of 15.

Annie was more than a pet to her people, Sandy and Elliot Philipson, of Chagrin Falls. She was their friend, companion and any other word you want to use to describe "loved one." Ditto that sentiment from Max and Tak, her canine pals and East Summit Street house mates.

Annie was and is the real-life character in the Max and Annie children's books, a series which teaches life lessons in a poignant, playful, never preachy way. Sandy, an educator, wrote the books, Elliot, an obstetrician, published them, and Annie, Max and later Tak were the heart and soul.

The flagship of the series, "Annie Loses her Leg, but Finds her Way,"  tells what happens after she is diagnosed with cancer and her left front leg is amputated to save her life.

Sandy said the idea for the book came to her after the operation while  walking Annie along the Jackson Field trail in South Chagrin Reservation. The dog's tripod gait made little difference to her ability to get where she was going, and it had even less effect on her regal personality.

Max, the younger of the pair, also had shown curiosity about Annie's changes and seemed a bit fearful, Sandy said. It got her wondering how the conversation of Annie and Max would go, if they could talk. What would they say about her missing leg? Would they discuss their feelings? Talking dogs just might do the trick in getting the disability issue out in the open in a non-threatening way.

The book, which imagined that conversation, while entertaining, was also a teaching tool. Annie was the teacher. Sandy estimates that, by the time she retired from making personal appearances a year ago, Annie had visited many thousands of children in 200 schools and hospitals across the region.

Two years to the day of Annie losing her leg, "Miracle Dogs," the movie based on the book, premiered. Annie not only found her way but also her niche.

Annie, a certified therapy dog and Hollywood star, lived a meaningful and useful life right to the end. Three weeks before she died, she came out of retirement for one last visit. With her family, she traveled to Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C., invited there to lend her special support to injured troops returning from Iraq and reassure their families.

Her hosts were members of an Oregon church group which had raised money to help with the rehabilitation effort. When the congregation asked the hospital chaplain how best to spend their money, he told them a visit from Annie was at the top of his wish list. She would be helpful not just to the soldiers but to many of the kids who were having a hard time coping with their parents' missing limbs -- much like the reaction Max had to Annie's amputation.

And so Annie, Max, Tak, Sandy and Elliot made the trip. They met a 26-year-old double-arm amputee learning to hold his two babies again. There were a lot of stories like that, Sandy says. The families were drawn together by the Annie experience. By the end of the visit, the Philipsons and the church group had given away 88 book sets with three-legged stuffed Annie figures.

The Walter Reed Hospital visit was Annie's greatest contribution. Now her family is planning a public tribute for her and has set up a nonprofit Annie Literacy Foundation to honor her. Memory books are being assembled, and a memorial marker was ordered. The inscription will say, "Annie may have lost her leg, but she did find her way." It speaks volumes.

On August 3, our Annie passed away peacefully surrounded by those who loved her; she was fifteen years old. For the first nine years of her life Annie was our family member and pet. She helped raise Rebecca and Julia, now 28 and 25 respectively, and she ruled the household. She ran like the wind and swam in the ponds and rivers of Connecticut where she was born. When Annie was six, her family moved back to Ohio. She loved it here too, especially Chagrin Falls. When Annie was seven, Max joined the household, and life changed. Annie worked hard to reform Max and erase his bad habits!

In 1998, Annie developed cancer in her left front leg and had to have her leg amputated. While she was recovering in body and spirit, her mom wrote, Annie Loses Her Leg but Finds Her Way. That book was beautifully illustrated by the late Bob Takatch and published in November of 1999. Max and Annie's life changed dramatically after that, and at nine, Annie became a working dog and book character, along with her brother, Max. In the last six years Annie visited over 250 schools, countless libraries and bookstores, hospitals, elder facilities, dog shows, trade shows, book shows, library and academic meetings, and on and on. Five more books followed the first. Annie became an inspiration to children and adults--to cancer sufferers and their family and friends, to kids with reading and writing problems, to all of us who are not perfect . Annie's story and her life was one of struggle and optimism. She was plucky, strong, dignified, and loving.

Although she retired in 2004, Annie did some special events in 2005. Her last appearance was in July, 2005, at Walter Reed Army Hospital where her book had been chosen to give comfort to Army families, particularly the children, of our returning veterans with amputations due to the war in Iraq. She visited some of these families and gave kisses and comfort, even though she was growing weaker herself. She was much loved that day, and we all left Washington smiling through our tears.

Annie's heart became weaker as the summer progressed, and she had to leave us on August 3, 2005. We miss her, but we know she is at peace. We feel that her spirit lives on in our memories, in the people she touched, the children she kissed, in the pictures Bob drew and the words I wrote. Thank you to all who loved her. Sandy Philipson and the Philipson family, Elliot, Rebecca, Julia, Max and Tak


A Message from Tim Protiva, Children's Librarian

Sandy... I just read about Annie's passing. I am so sorry. I remember fondly her gentle spirit when she visited my library two years ago. My three children also came to the program we had for you, Annie, and "the boys." We do talk about you and the dogs often especially whenever we go out to Chagrin Falls to visit the Village Herb Shop. "Dad, do you think we will see Sandy and the dogs?" they would always ask. When I go home today I will let them know of her passing and will remember her often. Annie found her way into many hearts. Give a big hug to the boys from all of us.

Sincerely... Tim Protiva, Children's Librarian
Brook Park Library
6155 Engle Rd.
Brook Park, OH 44142

Words of Sympathy after Annie's Passing

annie_from_photo_album2.jpgDear Sandy, I am saddened to hear of Annie's death. She really was an unbelievablely wonderful dog. Her courage was really uplifting to all who knew her. Her memory and great work will stay with us always. I really felt privileged to have gotten to know her, Max, Tak as well as you and Elliot. Please accept my heartfelt condolences.

Peter Anderson
General Manager
Mologne House Hotel
Walter Reed Army Hospital



Dear Sandy, My heart sank when I heard your message. I have posted the announcement on the ESS Digest page for all the Springer people. I know they will all join with me in extending our condolences to you, Elliot, Max and Tak. Annie was a special, special girl who gave to so many the inspiration of hope and courage. She will live forever in the hearts of all those who knew her and those who will read her wonderful story or see the movie. I know that God in his good grace has given her the leg back. I'm sure she is upstairs chasing the butterflies and fireflies.

Karen Lako
Lake Erie English Springer Spaniel Club



My Dear Sandy, It saddened me to hear today that your beloved Annie crossed over the Rainbow Bridge. I cannot tell you how her courage and your support helped me through our time with King. Please know that my thoughts are with you and I know that she and King are running together free of pain and waiting for your and I.

English Springer Spaniel Club of Long Island
English Springer Spaniel Rescue



annie_from_photo_album.jpgDear Philipson Family, I am sorry about your loss of Annie. She was truly a special dog. Though your decision was difficult, it was the most humane. Please find comfort in the fact you provided her a wonderful life for 15 years. Your gift was given to the Martha C. Farkas Scholarship fund at OSU Veterinary College in Annie's name.

Joe Farkas, DVM
(Annie's vet and friend)

Dear Sandy, I was so sorry to read about Annie's passing on August 2nd in the newspaper yesterday. I feel lucky to have met such a great friend and hero to so many. Just think if we could all touch so many lives in such a positive way. From one dog owner to another, I can imagine your sadness and gratefulness to have been blessed with such a dog.

Katie Poe, Assistant Principal
Timmons Elementary School



Dear Sandy and Elliot, Our hearts go out to you. We loved Annie too and will forever miss her, but we will remember all that we loved about her and keep her memory close.

Love, Bonnie and Bob (friends)



Dear Sandy and Family, Annie was such a wonderful pup with tons of personality, charm, kindness and wisdom. We all loved her and will remember her always. Our friendship between the families has been awesome and we own so much to Annie. Keep the memories alive; they will bring you comfort and peace.

Love, the Kline's (Bob Takatch's daughter and family)

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