Judy, my step-mother, knelt down a couple of feet from two puppies. She had driven past them once already down this back road but she could no longer ignore the them because they were now dangerously close to the road. In a soft voice, Judy called to the puppies and the one who answered the call would later be known as Grace.
I arrived home from school to find a sandy-colored 4 legged cotton ball sitting on top of the hearth. Judy told me that “he” was too close to the road and that she had to do something. I picked “him” up in the palm of my hand and I was struck to the bone with happiness. It had been a year or so since Maxx, my first dog, had passed and I had not really thought about getting another dog since then, though the underpinning desire to get another dog had never fully subsided. That first night with the new “male” puppy was a rough one… on my Dad. “He” (the pup) was enclosed in our den and was kept at bay by our wrap around couch and a makeshift barricade. “He” managed to slip under the couch and make “his” way to the hallway door. “He” would scratch and whine at the door until my Dad was forced to sleep in the den with “him.”
The montage of Grace’s life are as follows:
- After some brilliant detective work, or what some might call minor observational skills, by my Granddaddy deduced that “he” was in fact a “she.” Apparently male dogs don’t learn to hike their legs up when they pee until later on down the road. However, male dogs rarely, if ever, squat down to pee when they are puppies and this “she” was definitely a squatter.
- Judy thought that our home needed more “Grace” thus she decided that her name would be Grace.
- Judy and the rest of us were under the impression that Grace, at the time still a puppy, was a pure-blooded Keeshond. But after a couple of months of growth, we couldn’t help but notice that Grace’s nose and ears had started to elongate and was starting to look more like a long-haired dingo than a Keeshond. Looking back, the odds of someone dumping a purebred dog on the side of the road was pretty remote.
After botching the reading of those two tea leaves, one wouldn’t think we were ever capable of raising a dog but what we lacked in basic observational skills, we made up for with a 14 year adventure.
- Two boys alone and bored with a naïve young dog is never a good thing. Scott (my brother) and I thought it would be a hoot to put Tabasco sauce in Grace’s water bowl. Needless to say, Grace did NOT find this funny. Up until this day, if you brought something spicy and placed it in front of her, she would naturally turn way from it.
- Scott was, and still is, a heavy sleeper. My father had to contend with this fact every school day. So, instead of wasting precious energy waking my lethargic brother, my Dad would simply open the door and Grace, without a moments hesitation, would rush in and pounce on my sleeping brother and proceed to lick him has if he were covered with bacon grease. My brother would respond by pulling the sheets over his face but Grace would continue her assault by play biting anything that moved under the sheets. Grace would always win.
- Whenever my brother and I would play with Grace, our goal was to make her curl her teeth and growl at us. One of us would grab the fur on each side of her face and proceed to shake her like she were a can of spray paint. Grace’s response to this mild form of torture was to growl and curl her lips over her teeth as if she was ready to fight. Then, we’d let her go and give her a rough pet on the head or a kiss and she would gladly reciprocate.
- When she was young, there really wasn’t a pants leg or shoe safe from Grace’s jaws. True, dogs tend to chew inanimate objects (usually the more expensive the better like nice shoes, linoleum flooring, cables, etc) but Grace preferred legs and feet in her chew toys.
As Grace’s life draws to an end, my greatest fear is on the forefront of my mind… The End of All Good Things. At 15 years of age, a mass has been found Grace’s upper abdomen and the odds are not in her favor. I could put down a large sum of money but it’s not a guarantee that the surgery would save her life. So, I am putting her to sleep. As I write this, she lies at the foot of my bed like so many times before. I won’t be able to give her a swift kick off the bed because she, at times, made me hot in the middle of the night. She won’t be able to charm people anymore to pet her. She won’t plop down on the floor with her front paws crossed so elegantly anymore. She won’t be my patient and unconditional companion anymore. Will she forgive me? Will she forgive my lack of financial resources to save her? Will her eyes say, “Why are you doing this to me? “ I honestly don’t have the answers to these questions that my mind poses to me… she’s a dog. And what do dogs know? I can’t answer that either. But what I do know is that a connection is made between a dog and his or her owner. It is a connection of unconditional love, companionship, warmth and security. It is a connection not necessarily made in the moments of utmost joy and happiness, but when there is no one around but you and your dog. A connection is made when all your hard “NO SITTING ON THE COUCH” training is thrown out the window when you realize that you have just conditioned her to only sit on the couch when you are not at home. It’s there when you scold her a little too harshly and you swiftly comfort her afterward and your she is only too quick to love and forget. It’s there when you have to tell her three times to stop begging for food before she actually stops.
And my fear is The End of All Good things but instead of these Good Things ending on their own, I am having a direct hand in ending them. Perhaps it’s the growth inside her that took away my companion long before I knew her life was fading, but as her protector and master, I am putting her asleep and sending her away from this world and away from me. Maybe if my job paid more, I could give her a fighting chance so I could selfishly hang on to her for just a couple more moments but my lot is such that the choices set before me will leave me no solace regardless of the outcome. The End of All Good Things has won again and I, once again, am losing my friend.
There is a hurt inside that is only reserved for loss. She won’t know what’s happening to her but the small part of ME she possesses and the small part of her I possess will. Grace will never know the void she will be leaving in my heart or the pain I’ll feel in her absence. I can only hope she thinks she is going to sleep and when she wakes up, all will be right with the world, as it always was when she was with me.