Chapter One, Annie Spruce

1 ~ BO

“When the Man waked up he said, ‘What is Wild Dog doing here?’ And the Woman said, ‘His name is not Wild Dog any more, but the First Friend, because he will be our friend for always and always and always.'”  ~Rudyard Kipling  


I told the kids to put their hands on him every single time they passed him.

“Your hands can heal.”

“Mama are you crying?” Their big eyes searched mine.

I’d found him emaciated and barely able to hold his head up when I returned home after a weekend women’s retreat. Irritated at my husband, I asked him if he’d only remembered to feed the kids.

Irritated only until he told me Bo wouldn’t eat. Worried then.

I dug out the syringe from the first aid kit, opened up the golden goodness in the jar of chicken broth I’d been saving since a friend gave us a case of it for helping her family butcher their flock that fall.

He sniffed at the handful of nutrients I offered him, licked at it, then, after three or four syringes of water, finally found the energy to eat a cup or so of good, strengthening protein.

“Good boy Bo.”


It had been almost exactly nine years since I’d brought him home from work. He was a gift. A present from the officers and dispatchers on night shift. They’d held him aside, kept him from going to the pound, given him to me at morning shift-change.

When I called Matt to tell him we had a new little buddy he told me no. Give it back.  We already have two dogs.

I can’t give back a birthday present!

“Yes you can.”

Fostering him wasn’t exactly keeping him, but it wasn’t giving him back so that’s what I called it when I cut my shift short and brought the pup home to get him a good meal and a long rest.

And as soon as Matt pulled in the driveway and saw me standing there with that fat yellow pup under my arm, there was never any more talk of giving him back. Bo belonged to us.


If it was his parathyroid as the vet suspected, a simple surgery would fix him, most likely put him on the path to several more happy years as our family’s watch dog. Mascot. Faithful friend.

So we had blood work done and waited on the results. The lab was out of state, so we had to wait a long time. While we waited, he wasted. Natural remedies kept him alive. I hand fed him pure coconut oil, depleted our supply of organic chicken meat, and syringed him kelp broths and as much water as I could get him to take. The kids and I researched online and checked the feed store for things that would help him hold on until we had a diagnosis.

His comfort took priority. Had there been just a smaller chance of a full recovery, we would’ve put him down, he was that weak.

But there was hope.  Strong hope.

So the kids would lay down next to him on his bed, make sure his blanket was on straight and use their hands to heal. Daily calls to the vet to check on lab reports became the news of the day. No results.

We prayed for him every single night.

Hang in there Bo.


When we brought the first baby home, he was like a big awkward teenager. Not quite sure where to stand, what to say, how to act. So he just wagged his tail and sniffed. Stood in the corner and looked at the new thing.

By the time the third baby came there were two toddlers in the house and his big buddy died. His big buddy had been boss dog.

When his big boss was loaded up in the truck and never came home, Bo sat in the front yard for a whole afternoon looking up the driveway.

The next day he became the big boss. He had a lot of things to take care of.

When the kids went outside, Bo went outside. When the kids came in, he came in. If a moose came into the yard, he chased it off. When a car pulled in the driveway, he sniffed it out before anyone came to the door. He made sure the kids had a sidekick. He sat patiently while they saddled him and tied him to doorknob hitching posts.

When the fourth baby came home, he was an expert. It was just another thing to take care of.


The vet called on a Thursday night after their office had closed. They’d received a late afternoon package. The lab results confirmed yes, it was his parathyroid. Bring Bo first thing in the morning for surgery they told me.

I strapped everyone in their car seats, watched the sunrise as we crossed the bridge over the river, Bo curled up on the floor behind my seat, right beneath the dangling feet of his kids.

“What if BoBo dies Mama?” My oldest has always been my worrier.

I choke back tears and tell him no matter what happens, they have been blessed in a way that many people will never be. To have been loved by a dog so loyal, so faithful, even if we don’t get to bring this yellow dog home, even if this was the last ride in our truck that he’d ever take, our life was made more beautiful because God put this dog in it. And that was what we thought of when we left him at the vet’s office.

And I cried all the way home.


We picked him up the next day at lunch time. The tumor was the size of a walnut. It’d been clinging to his parathyroid, an organ the size of a grain of rice.

He was a new dog right out of the office. He felt so good we took him to the beach. I borrowed a little red hoodie from my son and put it on Bo to keep off the chill.

As soon as it was zipped up across his furry chest, Bo went splashing in the ocean. He was alive again.


We had a good few days with him until the morning he urinated blood. Then began the every other day calcium checks. After a disease like this, the body may not remember how to make and regulate calcium and vitamins the vet said.

Steroids, Vitamin D, antibiotics…he had his own pharmacy. I turned to the coconut oil again, and started boiling chicken, shredding kale and carrots. I fed him well.

But still he deteriorated. If he could just get over the hump. If we could just get his kidneys to kick back in gear. Each lab test showed he was at a standstill.

On a Wednesday, after two weeks of running him in for lab checks, Matt and I decided it was time. He wasn’t improving. I knew if I could keep his system strong he’d have a fighting chance. But all the system strengthening wasn’t working. He could barely hold his body up to pee. If he didn’t make a significant turn-around by Saturday, we were going to take him in and let our beloved Dr. Tabby put him to rest.


We never had to decide. He left us on Thursday morning. He died with his big yellow head in my lap, right here in the home he watched over and loved.

When Matt carried him outside, wrapped tenderly in one of our best sheets, we gently set his body down and let each of the children say goodbye, pet the velvet ears of the sweet animal that’d been part of every single day of their childhood. Then we put our old friend in the ground.

We wept as we prayed around his grave. With tears rolling down our chins, we filled in the hole, tamped down the earth, and thanked God for the life of our yellow dog. Then, with the sun sending sprays of light through the spruce trees, we wiped our eyes and we went inside and had pancakes.


To June 3 004

Bo’s last photo on his last trip to the ocean.

{{Excerpt and photo, © Cassandra Rankin, from Annie Spruce, The Dog that Didn’t Die}}


From the pain of losing our Bo, to the joy of finding our Annie Spruce, our family has learned so much about love and friendship and the surprise of God’s care. Join our family, and find your heart warmed by this sweet little story that is both good…and true.

Purchase your copy of Annie Spruce for Kindle here, or a soft cover version at


In the woods of Alaska, an unexpected and bloody surprise awaits a family at a rural pull-off. Little did they know, the mess they stumbled upon would soon build the faith of a small girl, her family, and a homeless man. Their story is a tender display of how, by answering the smallest of prayers, God shows us the bigness of Him.

Annie Spruce is the true account of an extraordinary dog who reminds us that amidst the messes of this life, there is joy and there is love. The story of Annie Spruce brings a message of family and friendship, and evokes a sense of delicate care that will delight all ages for generations to come.

“This book HAD to be written, and it’s AMAZING. A story too miraculous to be true. Yet it happened.” G. Litzen

“Your talents give you the ability to place the reader in the midst of the story, feeling the heartbreak and jubilation as each tender moment develops. The message is clear, God hears our prayers, great and small – our faith in Him brings life to those prayers. Annie Spruce sits right in that spot of your soul where it reaches out and plays your heartstrings like a well tuned fiddle. I give it a standing ovation!” ~S.Wafer

“I loved this book. Beautifully written and very heartwarming. One of the best books I’ve read in a long time. Highly recommended for dog lovers.” ~Nicole (Amazon)

“I love this book! I love this dog! I love this family and their incredible story of faith, compassion, and strength. This book cannot help but touch the very core of your heart. God bless you Rankin family!!!” ~C.J. Rhoads

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