I lost a good friend today, one who was there for me when I needed her most. She lived with someone else, and had for about 6 years, but in the 4 years I had her, she loved me more than anyone else ever has. Her name was Gracie and she was a Weimeraner.
We got her when she was about 8 weeks old. She was the last of the litter, and we were just “going to go see the puppies” down the street. We had no intention of coming home with one. She was the runt, and she had an umbilical hernia, so the owner gave her to us for free. We had her spayed when she was old enough, and the hernia was fixed at the same time, so it was never a big deal. It just looked funny for a while, but that was just the start of the many funny looks we would get from this wonderful gray girl over the next 4 years. A the sight of a camera, she would pose, looking very straight on into the camera. No wonder Wegman uses them for his shots. They are like models, thin, bright eyed, and readily poseable for just about any scene. She fit the bill.
That night when we got her, she laid in my arms and fell asleep. She didn’t want me to put her down, and even though her mom was very reticent to let her go, she sort of looked at me like, “You’re okay. You will make a good Weimie mom.” She slept on my chest for about 3 weeks, until her little legs were too long to fit up there anymore. At that point, though, she was already in the bed, and there was no way she was going to be booted out. She slept in between us, her legs poking me in the night, me often waking up with a leg thrown over me like a sleeping partner. It was just part of having a Weimie.
One evening when she was about 2, she was running in the rain, up the porch with the huge stick she carried so often. She slid into the step, breaking her leg. For 8 weeks, we had a purple cast, or what was left of it, to keep the leg where it was supposed to be. That first night, scared that she would try to walk upstairs in our 2-story house, I slept on the living room floor with her. We both worked, so leaving her at home that next day was horrendous. I worried about her all day, but when I got home, she looked just like she always did, like she was saying to me, “So, are we going for a walk??”. We didn’t want much for that 8 weeks, and that was really hard. She loved to walk.
We could just say, “Do you want to…” and she would perk up, because that usually meant “ride in the car” or “go for a walk”. If both, that was even better! She hiked with me, alone, so many times. She kept me going, pulling on the leash so hard that I had to buy a harness. She wanted to run, and I couldn’t keep up, so she slowed down and waited for me, sometimes impatiently I know.
When we started having problems at home, she would protect me, getting between us if the words got loud. She barked or would even growl a bit if things sounded like they were escalating. After he left, she slept at the top of the stairs, just outside my door. I knew that no one would get past her to me, so I was never scared. After he left, I was never scared again. It was a wonderful feeling.
One cold winter day there was a winter storm. We were headed to the mountain to hike, and they had closed the park. We drove all the way home, me with a disappointed princess in the passenger’s seat. Oh, no, there was no way she was sitting in the back. She was a front seat girl all the way. On another day, it was pouring rain. I really wanted to go hiking. She was game, I could see it in her eyes. We went, got soaked to the bone, and ran back to the car to sit on the comfy towels I’d brought along just for the occasion. Her feet, muddy and wet, made paw prints on the towel. Another time, a friend brought her a couple of tennis balls. She loved tennis balls and rope bones. They were really the only things that she couldn’t destroy in the span of 5 minutes.
When my husband and I started dating, he brought his girls (8 and 10 at the time) over one night to stay the night. I didn’t have any furniture, but they didn’t care. They slept on sleeping bags upstairs and thought it was the coolest thing ever. One of them made the mistake of leaving a foam container of dried shrimp soup mix on the counter when we left the house. Needless to say, it was nowhere to be found when we got back. We had little pieces of styrofoam in the yard for about a week later, it seemed, corresponding with Gracie’s potty times. She also loved chap-stick. She had her own tube, and we would both put some on every night. She was just that way – like a person with gray fur and four legs instead of two arms and two legs.
When I moved in with my new husband, he didn’t have a fenced yard, so we had to find someone to take Gracie. I searched for weeks trying to find just the right home, and happened to find a family at work whose Labrador had just passed away. They had 3 acres in the country, and they had another dog who would be a playmate for my Gracie. It was the right thing to do, but it was one of the hardest days of my life. Watching her drive away with him still makes me cry when I think about it. He and his family took very good care of her, and I know that they loved her. He gave me updates periodically, just to let me know how she was doing. She loved the country, and she especially loved her new friend.
This morning I got the call I’d been dreading for a while. I knew it as soon as I saw his number on my voice mail. His message sounded happy, but I didn’t want to call him back. I knew what it was. I didn’t want it to be real. I wanted her to be the same young dog I had been so fortunate to have as my protector.
He told me that she was no longer with us. I cried on the phone, telling him that I really appreciated him calling and that I was glad that he did. He said he was really sorry. I thanked him and his family for taking care of her and loving her, giving her a wonderful country home that I didn’t have. I could tell in his voice that he missed her greatly but knew that it was her time to go.
I loved her, and I know that she loved me. She got me through the hardest experience of my life. She stood beside me, no matter what I did, no matter what was going on at our house. Through it all, she just loved me. I am nearly certain that I will never experience that kind of unconditional, non-judgmental love again, although I am very fortunate to have a wonderful husband who adores me now.
To Gracie: May you run like you are a puppy, go for walks everyday, go for rides in the car every day, get the treats you love, have as many rope bones and tennis balls as you can stand, and know that you were, and always will be, very, very loved.
To those who have lost pet children: May you live peaceably with your memories. Please consider a donation to your local animal shelter or Weimaraner Rescue Foundation.