The Gracie Chronicles – Chapter 7. The Long Winter

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As the weeks go by, it grows colder outside. Being a Florida girl, I’m not accustomed to this. Sometimes when Mom takes me outside, I shiver and stare at her.

Why is it so cccold? Do we have to be out here?

Then one day, almost two months after my adoption, the weather gets really interesting.

It’s a Sunday. Unlike most other Sundays, Dad has to go somewhere and will be gone for the day. So Mom and I go to the trail again with her friend and the weird puppy. We walk a long distance this morning. Suddenly, small white blobs begin to fall from the sky. It’s like rain, except it’s frozen and slushy.

“It’s starting already.”

“Yeah. These flakes are huge! I guess we should head back.”

“What are you going to do?”

“I think I’ll be brave and go to the store as soon as we get back.”

We return home. The white slush is accumulating on the grass, the trees, the road, the cars – on everything! I’m baffled by it.

“Gracie, do you like the snow? This is your first snow! Personally, I hate it.”

Mom brings me inside, makes sure I’m comfortable, and leaves. She’s gone only a short time. She returns with bags of food.

Once she has put away the food, she makes tea for herself. I’ve learned that she loves tea. She drinks it when she’s cold, when she doesn’t feel well, when she’s anxious or upset, or just as an accompaniment to a meal. I sense that she’s nervous right now. She keeps looking out the window at the white blanket growing over everything in sight. She looks at her phone. She paces. She sighs.

She turns on the TV and sits down. I lie down at her feet.

It’s OK. We have food and it’s warm here. Dad will come back. He always does, you know.

After some time, her phone rings.

“Baby! Thank god! I was getting worried. Are you still there?… So you’re leaving now?… PLEASE be careful. It’s bad out there… Yeah, it’s really bad here… OK. I love you.”

As we wait, the thumping above begins again. I sense her anxiety begin to build.

“You’ve got to be kidding me.”

She says this more to herself than to me. I hear the thumping intensify in volume and frequency. I look around, sniff, and assess the situation.

Whatever it is, it can’t get to us. I know it sounds scary, but it’s OK. I’ll stay close to you.

She calms a bit as she pets me. We watch TV and wait.

Dad finally returns.

“Oh, Honey, I’m so glad you’re here. I was getting worried.”

“It’s bad out there. The roads are terrible. We probably won’t be going to work tomorrow.”

“Well I’m not driving in THAT. That’s for sure.”

Dad changes out of his wet clothes and sits with Mom to watch TV. The thumping continues.

“Does he have his family over?”

“Yes. Can you believe it? They showed up about an hour before you got home. What kind of idiots go out in this weather if they don’t have to? And it’s Sunday. So it’s a work night. They’d better not be staying.”

“Well, like I said earlier, with this weather, we probably won’t be working tomorrow anyway.”

“That doesn’t matter! It’s the principle. It makes me so mad. People are such jerks.”

As the evening goes on, so does the noise. From Mom and Dad’s conversation, I figure out that the invisible thumping creature is actually several creatures; humans, in fact, that live or visit the dwelling above ours. I learn a lot about this arrangement as I live here longer. It’s called an apartment, and Mom hates it to the point of desperation. But they can’t afford anything else.

The noise continues as evening comes and goes, and bedtime gets closer. Mom is agitated as she takes me outside for my last potty break of the day.

We step into soft, cold, deep white slush. It goes up over my pasterns. This is… strange. It’s freezing my toes! The wind is blowing fiercely, blowing snow into our faces. I quickly do my business and we run back toward the door. Mom slips on the wet snow and falls. I stop, stunned.

“Good girl, Gracie. Mommy’s OK.”

She gets up and we go inside. The thumping overhead continues.

“This is ridiculous! It’s ten o’clock on a Sunday night! It’s not OK to be having kids taking flying leaps off the furniture at this hour! Especially when you know there are people below you! I hate him! I hate him!”

She begins to cry. Deep sobs come from her as she crumples down to the floor in a heap of misery. Dad sits on the floor beside her and holds her.

“You’re safe. I’m here. I’ve got you. No one is going to hurt you. Look at Gracie, she’s worried about you.”

Yes, I am. Are you OK, Mom? Dad’s right, no one is going to hurt you.

I sniff at her and then step back. I’m not sure if she wants comfort from me. But she reaches for me and pets me. She sniffles.

“But it hurts me. It does. It hurts.”

* * * * *

The next morning, they look out the windows.

“Whoa.”

I look too.

Where did everything go? The whole world is white.

“It’s going to be hard to take Gracie out.”

“Do you think she’ll go on the patio?”

“I don’t think so, but we can try.”

They open the sliding glass doors in the living room. They push away the piled up snow and call me out onto the small area outside these doors, which is surrounded on three sides by metal rails that go up to Mom’s waist. There’s so much snow here that I have just enough room to turn around.

“Go pee-pee. Go poo-pee.”

Here? Really? I can’t. Sorry.

“She’s not going to do it. I’m going to have to take her outside for real.”

Mom brings me back in off the patio, puts my coat on me, bundles herself up, and out we go.

We step into snow that is even deeper than it was last night. It goes past my hocks, all the way up to my belly! It goes past Mom’s knees! The wind has stopped blowing and the sun is shining brightly. But it’s freezing outside! And standing so deep in this cold cold snow doesn’t help. I’m shivering. Again, I quickly do my business and we go inside.

Mom and Dad stay home all day. In the early afternoon, they pile on a lot of warm clothing and go outside. They have strange-looking tools in hand. I watch them through the window and whine occasionally. They dig in the snow. They are uncovering their cars. It takes hours. When they finally come inside, the sun is beginning to set.

There are many days like this as winter goes on. I discover that snow is actually kind of fun. Some days after the snow has fallen, Mom takes me to a large empty space that has a fence around it and lets me off the leash. I take a few tentative steps in the deep snow before taking off at a full run. Mom laughs and smiles as she watches me. Another day she takes me to the park when it is snow covered. We trek through snow and slush together and explore.

And so I learn to like the snow. Soon, I become excited and playful whenever it snows.

* * * * *

During one snowstorm, Mom gets sick. She says “it’s just a cold.” I think that’s an appropriate thing to call it, because it certainly is cold here!

I watch as she does more weird human things to get rid of the “cold.” She hides her head under a towel over a steaming pot of water. She uses odd-smelling oils on her body. She snorts and sneezes. After a few days, she’s better.

“That was probably the shortest cold I’ve ever had!”

“Well, you were able to just stay home and rest because of the snowstorm.”

“That’s true.”

I’ve learned, by listening to them talk, that before I was adopted Mom had a very bad year as far as her health was concerned. I hear phrases like “persistent infections,” “sinus and ear problems,” “cumulative effects of overprescribed antibiotics,” “appendectomy,” “compromised immune system,” “systemic candida,” “post-traumatic stress,” “panic attacks.” I have no idea what any of that means, but it sounds scary.

Then I learned something amazing. It seems that they decided to adopt me for Mom because I could help her get well. But I don’t know how I could do that. I’m just a dog and I don’t understand humans very well.

“There are studies that prove companion animals, especially dogs, lower your stress levels, boost your immune system, and help you get more exercise and fresh air – because they need to be walked. And dogs are more attuned to human emotions, so they know when you’re upset or having a panic attack and can help you calm yourself.”

Interesting.

I also learn what the conversations about paperwork meant. We live in an apartment and the landlord did not want to allow them to have me. But Mom did her research and insisted that she be granted official permission to have me because of her health issues. She wouldn’t sneak me in and then be forced to give me up later, she said. She had to fight for me. Knowing this makes me feel very loved and very important.

This winter, I meet another dog who helps his human like I do. His name is JD. He’s a Bullmastiff and he is BIG. He senses when his human has seizures and catches her on his back if she falls down. We instantly become friends. JD is easygoing and friendly. I love playing with him. Mom and I often meet him and his human on our walks. But after awhile, I can tell that Mom seems a little upset when we walk with them. Soon, she will turn around and make us walk in the opposite direction if we’re walking toward them and she sees them from a distance. I whine when this happens. I want to play with JD!

“I’m sorry, Gracie girl, I know you and JD are friends, and he’s a nice dog, but I can’t deal with that woman.”

Who? JD’s human?

“She does nothing but talk negative about everything. She seems to enjoy telling me about how she picks fights with people. And after she made that racist comment… I have enough negativity to deal with that I have no choice about. I have a choice whether I’m going to talk to her. And I’m not going to.”

Darn. Why do humans make everything so complicated? JD and I got along so well.

* * * * *

Winter moves on, leaving huge mounds of old, frozen, dirty snow. Each time there’s a fresh snowfall, Mom takes me to the large fenced-in place and lets me run and play in the snow. I really enjoy this.

Slowly, almost imperceptibly, the days grow longer and warmer. Mom says we will go to the park more in the spring. I like the sound of that.

I often hear Mom talk about me, sometimes on the phone, sometimes to strangers we meet on our walks. She talks about what a good dog I am, how much having me in her life has benefited her, how Greyhounds are the best dogs, how much she loves me. I’m honored to be a force for good in Mom’s life, and to be an ambassador for my breed. I enjoy meeting humans now, because each one I meet is kind to me.

I’ve been a part of this family now for four months. So much has changed – for the better.

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3 thoughts on “The Gracie Chronicles – Chapter 7. The Long Winter

  1. eloquentlyury says:

    Pets can be in tuned to there owners health. I have read so many stories, not just about dogs, but cats, dolphins and other animals. a heroic red tabby saved a family from a lethal gas leak. A russian blue comforts a mourning owner by faithfully bringing her flowers everyday until she sensed her owner was better. A tabby sensed her owner was having a stroke and would nudge her on the side of the head where the clot was and would cry and wouldn’t leave her until the owner caught on. All pets are wonderful. A dolphin saved a boy from drowning.

    I remember that blizzard well. I lost one of my outside cats to it. I went out to the back porch for a head count and was missing one that I heard crying in the direction of my car. As I couldn’t open the gate for all the snow blocking it, I decided to try to get to him through the front. It took all day to shovel to the back. When my husband found him, he was dead and I cried for over an hour. It wasn’t that he died from illness…he was trapped under my car by the snow. It broke my heart.

  2. eloquentlyury says:

    What a beautiful pic of Gracie enjoying the snow!

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