The quest/remembering Grace

By Rosalie Tirella

So sad. So heartbreaking. My quest for a new best friend (dog) has been a real heartbreaker.

The last few times I adopted a pooch I seemed to find my canine soulmate within a week or two. I adopted both my fabulous dogs from the Worcester Animal Rescue League: “Bailey,” a big-boned Nova Scotia Retriever, 5 years ago, and “Grace,” a Lab/Beagle/Australian Cattle Dog mix (a classic “Heinz 57,” as my vet put it), 15 years ago.

Both were fantastic finds.

Grace was sweet and quiet and loved to ride shot-gun in the jalopy I happened to be driving at the moment. As I’d drive, Grace would have her front paws firmly planted on the two bucket seats in front and her rear legs a hold of the back seat. She could handle anything the road through at us! Curves, pot holes – my quick braking. She once fell head over paws into the front seat as the dope infront of me stopped short and damn near killed me and Gracie. Once, on Route 20, I almost drove headlong into a speeding 18 wheeler (don’t ask). After that two-second brush with death, Grace and I turned and looked at each other – at the same time. Yes, she had been scared shitless, too.

And like all great pals she wanted, NEEDED to go out with me on my daily jaunts, blocking the door as I left to do something alone (which was hardly ever because I loved her so much), watching my every move in the morning, knowing that once my shoes went on, she had to kick ass and race to the door before I had a a chance to open it!

I loved taking Grace out to shit. Dogs come straight from the Garden of Eden – so unselfconscious! Every day is a miracle for them – tail-wagging ecstasy. Grace was no different. She just couldn’t wait to start our day. Even when the rent was late. Or I felt lonley. Or mad. Or confused. Somehow Grace pulled me out of myself with aher tail wagging and “smiling” – the expression dogs make when their mouths are relaxed and open, tongue not hanging out. When Grace would poop, she would wag her tail and “smile” before she took her shit! Always in the same spot. Always in the same way. Pee first. Walking about for two seconds. And then poop.

Grace was my religion. Her rituals, my rituals.She was my therapy. Watching her defecate was a comforting and strangely beautiful sight. Like Joni Mitchel sang: “We got to get back to the Garden.”

Grace was already there.

Grace would check out the Worcester scene with me as I ran errands, went to work and later began my BIG ADVENTURE – InCity Times. While I drove, Grace’s big brown eyes were ever on the alert for squirrels, skunks, etc., which meant she spent most of the ride looking at dumpsters, trees, bushes, sidewalks – any place something small and furry would scurry up or down or across. It was fun to ride with Grace and watch her watching the world we drove through – she looking at the stuff that mattered to her, me looking at the stuff that mattered to me.

Grace loved kids and let them pull her tail (something I put a stop to immediately) and poke their little fingers in her wet, black nostrils. She was especially good with old people. She would go to a nursing home with me to visit the residents, and there all the old folks gave her sleek coat shakey pats and caresses with their ancient, gnarly hands. That sight used to me practically make me cry. I used to tell my friends Grace had an old soul, that she had come from Worcester’s streets (she was a stray) seeing/knowing it all. And her conclusion? Life = love. Keep it simple, Rose.

Grace loved the simple stuff. She loved to eat. And like all Labs, if you let Grace eat to her heart’s content, she would end up looking like a coffee table. I had cut her food back some, and then later fed her high-end reduced-fat kibble. I always felt she felt … cheated.

Grace loved to be patted and scratched, making it a habit of thrusting her cute butt into complete strangers’ faces – her way of asking them for a good scratching at the root of her tail. Ahhhh, heaven!!!! she used to say to them with her doggie smile, as people I had never seen proudly accommodated her!

Grace was all Grace except when she went to parks for her daily runs. Then her prey drive would kick in big time (she finally got to hunt the squirrels she had only been able to watch from my car!) and after, oh, about 20 minutes or so (during which time I ran frantically about the park screaming “Grace! Grace! Grace! Come! Come! Come!), she’d run to me with a half-eaten woodchuck, blood dripping from her delicate chin. She’d run to me and give me “a hug” – bloody muzzle burrowing in the crook of my neck. Then I would be bloody and very freaked out!

Crows, squirrels, anything small and helpless – usually the baby of the family or the weakest of the lot. Grace showed no mercy, shaking the still alive squirrel in her mouth like it was a wet dish rag. Shaking it to death. Then she would eat it – bones and fur and all. And have a normal shit the next morning.

Once she found and ate an entire crow! Beak and feathers and claws. It was on a golf course. I had my hands on her muzzle trying to open her mouth. The crow was dead but I didnot want her to swallow it whole, like she would. Grace would never bite me when I did this. I could put my fingers down her throwat to retrieve a chicken bone. I could open her mouth if I tried hard. But this time, Grace wouldn’t let me open her mouth. She didn’t bite – didn’t even growle under her breath. She just gulped and gulped and gulped until the fairly big bird disappereared down her throat.

The next morning she had a normal shit.

And so my beloved Grace filled my life with her wild ways. The wolf is never too deeply submerged in most dogs, any ways.

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