MINNEAPOLIS – When Vikki Zimmer took her children to pick out a puppy in 2003, the decision proved harder than expected.
Only two wiggling puppies remained in the litter when the group of four arrived to choose Vikki's Christmas present.
"Me and Corri wanted one of them, my sister Marki wanted the other, and my mom said, 'I can't leave [either one],' " recalled Vikings linebackers coach Adam Zimmer. "So we came home, and my dad said, 'I said you could get a Lab, not two.' But we ended up with the two girls."
It didn't take long, however, for Mike Zimmer to warm to the pair of dogs that his wife named Andee and Allee. Adam still smiles over the unique spelling that Vikki chose.
Mike Zimmer has previously owned Labs trained to be hunting dogs, but Andee and Allee weren't part of that club.
"These were my mom's pets and babies," Adam said. "So, they were really very spoiled and pampered, for lack of a better word."
View photos of Vikings linebackers coach Adam Zimmer and his dogs Andee and Allee who are featured in Purple Pups.
The labs lived with the Zimmers until 2008, when Mike Zimmer accepted the Bengals defensive coordinator position and he and Vikki moved into a Cincinnati apartment. Adam at that point worked as the Saints assistant linebackers coach and had a home – and backyard – in New Orleans, so Andee and Allee moved in with him.
And when Vikki tragically passed away in 2009, the pups that she loved gained an even greater place in the family's heart.
"She raised them and trained them, so a part of her is still here, and that's kind of neat," Adam said, a hint of emotion cracking his voice.
Now 16 years old, Andee and Allee remain loyal companions to each other and to Adam.
What once was sleek, brown fur has turned mostly white around their muzzles and eyes. Joints now stiffen quickly, and energetic runs have become slow, methodical walks through Adam's Uptown apartment building, where neighbors say hello.
But the inner puppy in both hasn't disappeared, their spunky spirits and affectionate personalities still very evident beneath the age.
Adam describes Andee and Allee as "loving, pleasing" dogs with a knack for know-how.
"They want to do whatever you want them to. And they're really smart, extremely smart dogs," Adam said. "We were living in this apartment for probably two weeks, and by that time they knew where they were going – I could let them off the leash, and they could go right to my door.
"They love to swim," Adam adds of the well-traveled canines. "Allee, when she was younger, you couldn't keep her out of our pool in Texas. She would jump in over and over again, and she wouldn't stop unless you made her stop."
Up until a short time ago, they still enjoyed playing together in the cool waters of Bde Maka Ska, where a little competition floated to the surface.
"Everyone thinks it's really funny when they go swimming together and chase a stick," Adam said. "They will not let the other one bring it back by herself, so they're swimming along in the water, one end of the stick is one dog's mouth, and the other end is in the other's, and they're fighting each other for it. It's pretty funny."
While they share many of the same qualities, the sisters' personalities also differ in some areas.
"Allee was always the sneaky one. She would sneak and try to find food or get into the trash," Adam said, laughing. "Andee was always more of the one who did what she was supposed to – most of the time. Every once in a while, if I leave some trash around or if it's open, she'll be eating something."
Andee craves more attention and human contact; Allee has an independent streak.
"They're different … but they mesh together pretty well," Adam said.
On a large cushion that perfectly fits into a square of sunshine near the window, Andee and Allee can often be found intertwined together, difficult to tell where one dog ends and the other begins.
"They're good companions for each other when I'm working," Adam said. "I have a dog walker during the [NFL] season that comes twice a day, and there's a nice little dog park here that the apartment built.
"If they were younger and more rambunctious, I think a yard could be better, but they pretty much eat and sleep now," he added with a laugh.