The Power of Grace

Sean took this when Gracie was younger.

I first saw you on the internet. You were my rebound baby- chosen on a whim as I mourned the loss of my sweet little rat terrier Belle, a victim of a hit and run. Belle was fierce and protective, exposing her tiny canines to dogs and humans alike, any creature that would dare intercede between the two of us.

I’d wanted to replace her and decided I would rescue you, a furry little white pig from a farm in Iowa, put up for adoption by a Jack Russel Terrier rescue. I saw your wiry face on the website and made arrangements to make the drive to retrieve you.

Imagine my surprise when the dog that awaited me was so wild and compulsive, she wanted nothing to do with me.

You vomited the entire ride home from Iowa. I tried to comfort you, to hold you, but you were having none of that.

Our grand-daughter Madeline with Gracie & Jack

They told me you were about 3 or 4 years old then, but you would have never known- you had the energy and wild spring of a puppy, and my friends laughed at the marks on my kitchen wall where I’d keep track of your high jumps.

You weren’t interested in cuddling or learning, and I wondered aloud to my son at the time. “What the hell am I going to do with this animal?”

An old soul, only ten at the time, Sean replied, “you’re just going to love her like you did Belle.” Other sympathetic friends wondered if I should ‘take her back,’ but you can’t un-rescue a rescue dog and I took my son’s advice and let go to simply love you.

That was the first lesson you taught me.

I became unattached to what I wanted you to be and accepted you as you were. I prayed for Grace and named you that to remind me. I forgave you when you peed on the carpet and dragged rabbit entrails into the house. I defended you when you picked fights with dogs four times your size at the dog park. And I laughed as you skipped and ran like a manic squirrel around our backyard.

You had to wear a clown collar as you got older as you licked yourself silly.

I learned that you needed lots of exercise and we ran together in the days when that was possible for both of us.

When you got tired, you would just stop running and refuse to go on until you were good and ready. No amount of coaching or shame could motivate you; my little 18-pound Jack Russell taught me the power of clarity and decision in self-determination. You were headstrong and beautifully rebellious, and it drove me nuts.

As we both grew up, you opened your heart to me, gradually accepting the love and touch of others.

You began to let me rub your wiry neck and exposed your belly for a good scratch. I took note those many years ago when you ran up to Herb, on his first visit to our home, and jumped into his arms. It was so unlike you that it amazed me; you knew instinctively what I would come to learn in the coming months, that Herb would come to love me and you, and take care of both of us as our most trusted friend.

Small dogs live longer, and I was lucky to share your world for over fifteen years. I always underestimated your age because until recently you seemed so young, but like all of us, age became evident in your slowing down. First, you lost your hearing, then your eye-sight and finally your ability to tolerate the extraneous. You preferred your own space in the heated garage, away from distraction and noise so you could rest and simply be. In recent months when friends came to visit and asked where you were, we’d open the door to your room which we jokingly called the “nursing home.”

gracieSo, of course, we all knew your time to go was coming, but today was not the day I wanted to say goodbye.

You lead me once again, dear friend, as you stopped eating and drinking, finally needing our help to stand.

Today you could not walk and your breath, labored and heavy, let us know it was time to let you go. So we wrapped you in a blanket and cried all the way to the vet, knowing that you were counting on us to have the courage to help you go, but hating the decision all the same.

As we sat waiting for the doctor, both of us crying, I turned to Herb and said, “I guess this isn’t such a good display of how I am going to be able to help you.” But of course, that’s not true. Letting go of loved ones is a bittersweet reminder of what it means to be human… the very act of loving another creature all the while knowing life’s impermanence is one of our greatest gifts and, on days like today, challenges.

So I held you as you slipped away today Grace.

I loved you and saw you and took care of you through your last breath. Thank you for teaching me patience, and acceptance, surrender, and yes, perhaps, even grace. You, my love, were such a treasure.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I miss you already.

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