Few days in a family’s life are as exciting as the day you bring a new puppy into the household. So it was for us in July 1998, when a little golden ball of fluff came to live with us. We named her Gracie. With her came new bowls, a new collar, new leash, new toys—and a new routine to our days.
Gracie quickly got used to family life. She became an expert at scratching up our floors, barking at dogs walking by and deer venturing into the yard, and gobbling up food left carelessly unattended on the coffee table. She assumed the job of greeting everyone who came to the door with unbridled enthusiasm. (I often told repairmen, “She thinks you came over just to see her.”) And she readily tolerated anything the kids and their friends wanted her to do. Being pushed around in a stroller? Wearing clothes out of the dress-up box? Happy to oblige.
True to her retriever roots, Gracie loved the water. She would happily fetch a stick or ball we threw into the lake for her until we tired of the game. If we were lying peacefully on rafts, she wanted to be right there beside us, splashing away and trying to climb on. She may not have been the most graceful swimmer, but she certainly was the most eager.
But Gracie’s favorite time of year was winter. It was never too cold or too snowy for her. She loved to dig and roll in the snow, and the fact that she tracked half of it into the house with her didn’t bother her in the least.
Over the years, Gracie’s face turned whiter and her pace slowed. On walks, she’d start out at her usual near-run, tugging on her leash, but by the end she’d be dragging behind. As the kids grew up and left for college, one by one, she spent more time sleeping in her favorite spots. She became my constant companion, following me from room to room like a 70-pound shadow. Then, this summer, she was diagnosed with cancer, and the inevitable end drew near.
Gracie was a member of our family for 13 years. She never seemed to notice that she was a little furrier than the rest of us. Although pets don’t show up in our family trees, they hold an undisputed place in our family histories, and in our hearts.