After winning the hearts of thousands when her story went viral in 2022, Annie the dog took her last breaths in late June.
When TODAY first met Annie, the then-19-year-old black Labrador retriever mix was completing a bucket list after her original owners surrendered her to a shelter. The vet told her new foster family — best friends and roommates Lauren Siler and Lisa Flores — that she likely had one month to live. She would go on to live one year and a handful of days longer.
When Siler and Flores brought her home, they created a list for Annie filled with things to accomplish in however long she had left.
Annie had a birthday party (they didn’t know her actual birth date), she had a professional photoshoot, celebrated Christmas in July (and got to celebrate real Christmas as her golden days continued), went on a hamburger tour, painted a picture and many more things. Most recently, she “made it to all 50 states” after people help up photos of her across the U.S.
“It was starting to get hard to come up with things to add to the bucket list,” Siler says with a laugh. “We were like, ‘Gosh, what are we going to do now? Who knows, she’s done so much.’”
“Over 50 people came,” Siler says, adding that it was “crazy” how many people who had only known Annie via Instagram wanted to be part of the celebration.
“Seeing these strangers come and shake my hand and pet Annie, it was a really neat experience,” Siler says. “She would be laying down to let people pet her, she’d let people take pictures with her. And then every single dog that walked in, she got up and went over and greeted them. It was the sweetest thing.”
“She was still so full of life and looked forward to the next day and having so many adventures that she went on,” Siler tells TODAY.com after Annie’s death. “We joked and we said all the time, ‘I wonder if she knows just how many people know about her and love her.’”
The day after her party, however, Siler and Flores noticed a change in Annie. They could tell she was in “distress” and took her to the vet to run some tests. Doctors noticed that Annie was bloated and her stomach had done a 360-degree flip.
According to Siler, surgery was her only option but the procedure and recovery would have been difficult for her. “We weren’t going to put her through that,” Siler says. “It would have been selfish of us to do that.”
The decision was an emotional one for the friends who had welcomed Annie into their home with open arms.
“Her little head was just in my lap the entire time and I could see it in her eyes, she was telling me, ‘It’s OK, you know, this was how it was supposed to happen,’” Siler recalls , getting emotional. “‘It was a full year and I’m OK’. It was a really sweet moment that we got with her and it was just very affirming that we did the right thing. It was very peaceful and then we came home to an empty house and it was very sad.”
Part of Siler believes that Annie felt like she “owed” it to her followers to make it to her party, meet her and say hi. “She did that and she kind of was just like, ‘I’ve done everything I needed to do.' It was definitely true Annie style. She went out with a bang.”
Having Annie taught Siler, “There’s so much life worth living, you just have to live it.”
“She inspired so many people to keep going,” she says. “You can have a really bad hand dealt to you and you can turn it around in a matter of a day.”
Since fostering Annie, Siler has been on a mission to encourage people to help senior and dogs in need. Shortly after they fostered Annie last year, they also took in an 18-year-old male black lab named Tippy who died in mid-January of this year.
“My motto through all of this has just been: If you can’t adopt, foster. If you can’t foster, volunteer. If you can’t volunteer, donate. And if you can’t donate, advocate,” she says. “There are so many people that have shown us that they want to do good in (the) animal rescue world and that there is something for everybody to do. You just have to be willing to figure out what that is for you.”