It’s not crystal clear, but this is my favorite photo of Gracie. She was the quirkiest dog I’ve ever known. We were on our way to the kennel and she was in the very back of my SUV. She always loved to ride in the car…
About a week after our dog, Emily, died, my son was home from college and wanted to be part of the picking out another female dog. We still had George, our golden lab/German shepherd mix and he was really struggling without Emily to tell him what to do. Against my better judgement and with a heart that was grieving deeply and not ready to welcome another dog, the four of us (husband, son, daughter and me) went to the local humane society to take a look at what they had.
Humane societies are the saddest places. All of those dogs and we could only take one home with us!! We chose a couple to get to know. The first one was waaaaayyyyy too energetic and young. We prefer dogs a bit older. My daughter chose one and she was brought into the little room with us. All four of us sat on the floor and this dog kept going back and forth between my son and husband, completely ignoring the girls. The boys seemed to really like her and then…THEN…she put her paws up on my husband’s shoulders, looked deeply into his eyes and licked him on the face. I kid you not. You know how in the old cartoons, when something happens and hearts start to circle around a characters head when they fall in love. Yeah. Hearts around my husband’s head. That dog was going home with us.
We renamed her Gracie because we already had a George. Those of you of a certain age – ahem – will recognize the names of the famous comedy team George Burns and Gracie Allen (still my favorite duo). However, if we had waited a bit, we would have named her Kitty. She had apparently been living in a basement with cats for quite some time and had adopted cat-like behavior. We always said she was a terrible dog, but a great cat.
Once we got her home and settled in, we noticed other things about her. Like how fast she could run. We’d go for walks with her and George and she would literally jump over him to pass him on a trail. So we nicknamed her Gracie Gazelle. We also occasionally called her Pretty Pretty Princess because when she came back from the groomers, she would prance around KNOWING how adorable she looked. She liked to be clean. Like a cat.
She had a habit of crawling up onto my husband’s lap and snuggling around his neck. Like a cat. And she even head-bumped. Like a cat. She ignored people when they came onto our property or into our home. Like a cat. I think she thought it was beneath her to bark.
Gracie was a unique mix. Part German Shepherd. Part Husky. Part Doberman. She had half a blue eye. A big, fluffy Husky tail. A floppy ear (what one vet called a cocked ear – one up and one down). She used to curl up in a ball like Husky’s do…and like cats do. She loved to be outside, especially if the weather was cold. And she loved to take a nap on the lawn while it was snowing. Her Huskyness ran deep, though she looked more like a Shepherd.
She was always a perpetual puppy. Until she got old. Literally overnight. We noticed last Spring that she seemed older. Slower. Less interested and less responsive. As the summer passed, she started falling and listing to one side. She started sleeping more, going out less and for shorter and shorter periods of time.
Then my husband had a dream. In it, George was sitting up on a hill on beautiful green grass under a bright blue sky. He was looking backwards, over his shoulder beckoning to be followed. At first, my husband thought George was waiting for him, but then realized he was waiting for Gracie. They had been great companions, great friends. That was the first big cry we had…knowing that the end was near for Gracie.
Over the course of the next month, she began to decline rapidly. Naturally, she waited until we were out of town to have a major series of strokes. Not only were we out of town two hours away, but it was our 35th wedding anniversary and we were supposed to leave for a vacation the next morning. While my husband canceled our vacation reservations, I packed up our stuff (I had spoken at a conference earlier that day) and we headed home. My daughter and her boyfriend took care of her until we could get home, God bless them. That was a long two hours for all of us. One look and we knew it was time. We loaded her in the car, drove through tears to the emergency vet and prepared to say good-bye to our Pretty Pretty Princess.
As we were waiting for the vet, I noticed for the first time that when Gracie was laying down, the patch on her chest looks like a heart and I snapped this picture. It might seem a bit morbid to do that, but to me it was comforting…like a sign of love from our departing girl.
The vet was amazing. Compassionate. Thoughtful. Mindful of Gracie’s needs and ours. She gave us time with her to let us say our goodbyes and our thank yous and express our love and appreciation. Then she came in and Gracie was gone quickly and painlessly. An end to her seizure, to her pain and to her life.
Rest in peace, Gracie.