How I Met My Dog: State of Grace

How I Met My Dog: State of Grace
How I Met My Dog: State of Grace


The day I turned 44 I found myself living in an apartment, on my own and dog-less, each for the very first time. What a way to spend my birthday! Over time, I nursed my heart and settled into a lonely routine. I wanted to bring a dog home to my sixth floor place but worried that might be self-serving and unfair. A colleague suggested fostering and I received my first foster from ARF (the Animal Rescue Foundation, London, Ontario) in early February 2009. Four weeks later this abandoned adult dog was re-homed with a wonderful forever family and I was alone again. I had so enjoyed my first foster dog that even ARF members expected I’d adopt the large short-haired male myself, especially as he was in every way what I’d said I wanted in a dog. In truth I can’t say why I didn’t keep him, except that clearly I was waiting for Grace.

Gracee was delivered to me on the morning of my 45th birthday. An empathetic ARF volunteer handed over the leash with a “she’s so scared. I had to let my mother drive so I could sit in the backseat with her. She’s terrified of everything.”

Underweight, and heartworm positive, Gracee was lucky to have found a rescue group prepared to take her on. One look and I knew there was no danger I’d keep her. She was small, underweight (about 35 pounds) and retriever-ish, already shedding profusely. The ARF vets had discovered that my new foster pet was close to four years old, which explained the sprinkles of white fur on her scarred muzzle. All I could give her was respite and rehabilitation. And that’s what we both got.

After several weeks in care when Grace finally, finally trusted me enough to take food from my hand and eat from a dish, I told her that she would make some lucky family a wonderful pet. When at last I was able to take the mop from the closet without her splaying out on the floor in a puddle of urine, I explained that her new family would be impressed by her growing confidence. When after everything she’d been through, she remained gentle and sweet with people of all ages and description, I believed she’d be the type of dog a family could take anywhere.

Though Grace became more comfortable with me, she would still lunge and bark at other dogs we passed while we walked. Frightened and highly anxious, this Tasmanian devil at the end of my leash often convinced me to quickly change direction or cross the street. Her training focused on desensitization and counter-conditioning and I began to wonder how readily she would settle into yet another new home. Though Grace beat the heartworm, the spinal injection treatments made her quite ill. I cooked her meals of white rice, pumpkin, yogurt, and boiled chicken thighs, and after several more weeks we got her digestive system back on track. (Phew! The white shag carpet in my apartment couldn’t take too many more bouts of diarrhea.)

Eventually, Grace began to thrive. In ARF’s care, her medical and maintenance needs were served. In my home, her need for bonding, affection, and healing was mirrored by my own. Six months slipped by and suddenly it was time to put her up for adoption. I told myself this was for the best and that she’d be happier with a family, in a proper home. Besides, she wasn’t the extra-large, young, shorthaired male dog of my dreams. But when I allowed myself to imagine life without Grace, I found I didn’t want to. It took me much longer than it took my girl, who, from the moment she walked in the doors, knew she was home. Finally, I knew it too.

Since her adoption, we have moved into a house with a large fenced yard, close to walking trails and a conservation area. We have welcomed two additional rescues into our family and neither of us is lonely anymore. Now Gracee runs and wrestles and plays with her canine brothers. We’ve been together nearly five years and she is finally comfortable enough to ask for the occasional belly rub. In the warmer weather, she loves to lay stretched out in the sunshine on our back deck and survey her domain. The scars on her face have nearly disappeared under a thick and luxurious coat. The scars she carries on the inside will take a little longer, but she shows me that she’s making progress every day.

Grace and I started our lives over, together, and I am grateful for her patience, her resilience and her love. I don’t know where her story began. I do know that we will write the rest of it together.

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