Spring was a sad time in our house. Our dog, Maddie, whom we had raised from a puppy, and who had been part of our lives for over 14 years, passed away from a valve problem in her windpipe. She had brought us years of joy and happiness, and whatever might have happened to cause you to have a bad day got wiped away in a few minutes after walking through the door, getting a greeting from her. It was hard to look forward to the spring and summer after she was gone.
It wasn’t too long after that when we decided that the best way to cope with Maddie’s loss was to get another dog. There’s just something about a dog’s love and loyalty that makes them an instant friend. So after a couple of social media contacts, through a friend of my wife from her former school in Texas, we found a puppy.
Actually, Gracie hadn’t been born yet. She was several weeks away from making her appearance in the world, so she would be ours from the beginning, and in our home after a few weeks of care from her mother, and her mother’s owner. She was born near Abilene, Texas in April, and a few days afterward, we saw the first pictures of her. She was a small, cute ball of fur, a little golden retriever puppy, and we loved her from the very start. Her mother’s owner started calling her Gracie from the very beginning.
The little ball of golden fur arrived at our house the first week in June. She rode in a car with her sister from Abilene to Houston, and then my wife’s friend flew with her to Pittsburgh on a plane. She slept the whole way. I came home from school one afternoon and there she was, in the front yard, running around, enjoying the attention, and already starting to act like she was home. Of course, our lives changed immediately. Gracie didn’t sleep all night, and wasn’t used to a crate. So she didn’t settle down right away. The first night, we had to take her out and put her on the bed with us. It took a while for her to settle down and go to sleep. That first night, we had to take her out at least twice. And mornings came early for Gracie. She was hungry, and needed to go out before our normal getting up time at 5:30. She has sharp teeth, and her playful biting can be painful. It was especially so as several of our clothing items now have holes in them from her teeth. There were moments when we wondered whether we could do this.
But there were a lot of good moments, too. Gracie was a fast learner, and she figured out the bells we placed on the door for her to signal when she needed to go out. In just a few days, she was potty trained. She got to spend the last week of school at work with us, and got used to being petted and played with by the kids every day. That spoiled her a little bit. Once school was out, it was a little lonely for her during the day, but she was starting her puppy classes and crate training, so there was plenty to do. She’s a smart dog, and we watched her learn to do all kinds of things, from sit, stay, lay to come on command, to drop something, leave something alone, and to sit still while someone petted her. She loves to be petted and loved, and so she still gets a little excited, but that’s OK. She is crate trained, knows commands, responds most of the time and sleeps through the night.
She’s playful. And there’s nothing like the excitement she shows when we first get home. With our move, I can come in the middle of the day, and take her out of the crate and feed her, and those short times are becoming special to me. She loves every moment when you pick up one of her toys and play fetch, or catch, or chase. We’ve had some long walks around the soccer field, so she gets exercise, and she gets to see whatever other animals are in the vicinity. We’ve spotted geese, ground hogs, squirrels, a couple of cats, and a few deer. When geese fly over, it is as if her retriever instincts kick in, and she looks at you like she expects you to shoot one so she can go get it for you. And after some exercise, when she is tired, she loves to just lay in your lap and be a dog. My dog. I love her.
I will always miss Maddie. She was part of our lives and our family for 14 years. But Gracie is part of our family, too, and I hope we have at least 14 years with her. She certainly made this a wonderful summer, and it is turning into a wonderful fall.