February already. So far, 2021 hasn’t proved the panacea we hoped for, but now comes Valentine’s Day and an opportunity to appreciate those we love and, perhaps, have lost.

St. Vinnie’s didn’t lose Anne Williams entirely when death came to her on Feb. 24, 2020. We lost a loyal friend, of course, and a force of humanity who didn’t just ask for but demanded the assistance of the fed to develop affordable and veteran housing. She then did as much as anyone to find ways to keep people in it.

Everyone who knew Anne endeavored to stay in her good graces. With no more than a stare, she could make a day, or break it.

We lost an icon and a character, true, but we gained two: Foster Martinez who stepped up from a mid-management role and into Anne’s former post as head of housing programs, and Millie, Anne’s cinnamon-colored poodle pup. In the months prior to Anne’s passing, the three were a familiar sight outside the Chad Drive office where an increasingly wobbly Anne took smoke breaks while Foster ran interference with Millie.

Millie was the third standard poodle assigned to Anne’s corner office on Chad. Zoey and Aldo were there first, which is why Millie had two of top-of-the-line everything. The predecessors’ respective passings were as tough as if they’d been our own dogs. Anne swore up and down, never again.

It wasn’t like her to change her mind, but suddenly Anne had fluff on a leash. She looked like herself again.

Like her predecessors, Millie came to St. Vinnie’s a beady-eyed fuzzball so red, so soft, so immediately bonded to Anne. For Anne and the sake of her good graces, staff put up with the periodic and slightly annoying YIP! that rang through the building when she stepped out of Millie’s sight.

Little did we know, Foster was carrying out dog duty morning and night, handling Millie on her first trip downstairs and her last upstairs to ensure Anne’s safety. Meanwhile, Anne imparted a stunning quantity of knowledge, experience, insights, and advice to Foster that embodied a lifetime of service and dog savvy. Few knew that side of Anne, and Foster had no idea how soon her lessons would be his guidance.

The alarm was sounded by, appropriately, Lucky Dog. Under their care for more than a decade, Anne’s dogs had gone beachcombing and camping and were viewable anytime she wanted via doggie cam. She even got “Millie socks” for Christmas.

Valentine’s Day

Millie at Anne Williams’s feet

When Millie went unclaimed on a Friday, the Lucky Dog staff kept her over the weekend then personally checked on Anne. Anne was gone, lives forever rocked.

As if on cue, Foster headed to Lucky Dog and a joyous reunion that reenacts itself every time he steps into Millie’s line of vision. It’s true love that never takes itself for granted. The kind that locks gazes and says, “I’m so glad YOU’RE still here.”

Foster describes their relationship as coffee and creamer; peanut butter and jelly. They frequent Anne’s old haunts – the dog parks at Armitage and Alton Baker; the same groomer, vet, and doggie daycare. Millie’s even on the same diet, even if Foster has to cut back to pay for it. After all, she’s his first dog.

“It’s an honor to raise Millie, given our connection with Ms. Williams,” Foster said. Yes, even now he still calls her Ms. Williams.

For the rest of SVdP, we’re so glad they’re still here. Happy Valentine’s Day!