THE GRACIE STORY
One Dog’s Life
It was a rainy night in Tampa. I stood in the middle of the road watching cars zooming around me in all directions. They were big monsters splashing and hissing with lights flashing back and forth. I stood there, afraid to move.
My name is Gracie. And this is my story. Where I came from before that night, I forgot, maybe even don’t want to remember, but I’ll always remember that night in Tampa. The water drenched me, dripping into my eyes. I was alone, without a pack, without a place to live and my skin and fur felt raw.
Dogs don’t usually need to get someplace like humans do and time is just one big day. That night I needed to get someplace.
Lights were flashing into my eyes. Then, suddenly there was a car, different from the rest. It slowed down. I could feel the strong, sudden glare of its lights shooting through my body. This time, I ran to the side of the road and turned to watch it. Standing frozen in one place, I saw the car moving closer and it stopped near me.
My heart was beating so hard that it hurt. A door opened and a human stepped out. The human looked at me and I tried to look back, but couldn’t see a face. It was a dark shadow and anyway, I didn’t want to see a face, any face.
My heart was going to blow up, right out of my body and my body couldn’t move. "Get away from me!" I tried to cry out. The human moved closer and my neck got stiff. Everything was hurting, oh so badly hurting.
Water came into my eyes. Whatever was going to happen to me was happening NOW. I was helpless.
Then the face made a noise. I heard human words. They were soft and slow. I wanted so badly to answer them. Instead, I tried to look up, but couldn’t. The form edged closer, the rain filled my eyes more.
Inside of me I cried out, "Go away from me. Go AWAY!" I wanted to yell. The person said something again. More human words.
"Please leave me alone. Go away. Leave me alone," I was thinking. There was only silence from me. As if my body belonged to someone else, it began to shake. My tail was bent and I put my head down too and waited, trying to smell the form to know it and understand what it would do to me. All I smelled was my own fear.
I waited a long time. The person moved closer. Suddenly, there was a hand on my neck. I felt it touch me. This stranger touched me and I shivered. I couldn’t breathe for fear of whatever was next. There were more sounds and then silence, except for the cars on the road. The night was dark. My heart was pounding.
Through it all I could smell a light scent of dogs, but not familiar ones. Then I felt the hand pressing under me. It lifted me from the ground. My legs were loose as I was pressed tightly against this human who carried me at will. The ground was far away. So, I began to shake more.
The person opened the car door and put my shivering, wet body onto another human in the car. Together, they made their words. The other door opened, the first one got in and the car moved with me inside.
I don’t remember where I came from and I didn’t know where I was going. I knew, for sure, that something was happening. One human smelled like cat, the other, like dogs and cats and other scents. Both people smelled safe. And me, I smelled like wet fur and I was trying not to shake.
With an empty stomach and sore back, I settled into a more comfortable position and tried to feel calmer as the car moved. I was listening to the people making words.
We moved up and down, stopped and started, lights blinking. My eyes were drying out and I remembered to breathe. The car stopped and they took me out then up some steps and into a house where I could smell dogs and cats and birds and saw a shape of water up high with fish and grass and lights inside.
Suddenly, there were two dogs at my side checking me. They swirled around and I gave permission. This was their territory. We exchanged greetings. The little one, that the people called Joie, watched my legs. She liked my legs maybe because they’re long. I could feel her welcoming me with no competition. The other one, they called Julia wanted to play. Julia let me know that she wanted to run with me, but she was patient and understood that I didn’t want to move. She seemed to stand guard next to me.
There were more words and water running. I thought it was raining, but it was water going into a large container they called a tub. They put dogs into a tub, as I’ve learned. Yes, the people filled up the tub and put me into more water. But this time it felt good and safe with soft lights above, no cars, people taking care of me and Joie and Julia watching. I remembered to breathe again. The liquid they put on my fur smells like me now.
That night, after I shook the water off, they rubbed me dry. It felt good. It was then they called me, ‘Gracie’ and, I think that it was then they became my special people.
And so, Gracie I am to my pack and everyone. Yes, it’s my own name and pack with dogs and cats and birds and fish, people and my guardian angel.
Everyday, I go to work in the car with Joie and Julia and my special person. At work there are sounds of birds and crickets and music. Julia, Joie and I meet people at the door and when I’m tired I doze off in the office. Everyone says hello to us and every person is different. Some come in many times and everyday we meet new ones. Some are very special.
One day, when the sun was shining, a man came to visit at work. He saw me and smiled and I saw a light in his face. I liked his voice. He said, "I had a dog just like Gracie. I loved her." The man hugged me and he felt like my special person who cares for me. We know each other well and I can see into his face. Since then I’ve heard his name. They call him my ‘guardian angel.’
Yes, so much is happening, new people, special people and a lot to do. At the end of each day I like to rest in my bed in my place at home. My special person takes good care of me and my sore back. She would never leave me in the rain on a street in Tampa. I can see into her face now and I see love.
Well, I don’t remember where I came from, but I know where I am now. I’m home.
Post Script: Gracie peacefully passed away in 2006. She lived her life
with grace and dignity, cared for by her rescuer, overseer,
and attentive caretaker; and loved by all who knew her.