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A few weeks after the Greyhound picnic, Mom and Dad pack some bags and my crate into the car and then early in the morning, we all get in the car and go to… “Grandma and Grandpa’s.”
They unload the car, put their bags into a different car and bring my crate inside the house. Mom’s mother greets me as she usually does – loudly. I let her hug me and give me a kiss loud enough to burst an eardrum.
“You’ll be careful, right? You’ll hold her leash tightly?”
“Yes, honey, yes. Don’t worry, we’ll take good care of her.”
“OK. Here’s her schedule. Her toys and food are in the bag. You’re going to put her bed in your bedroom, right?”
“Yes. Don’t worry. Don’t get her upset.”
Mom comes to me, crouches down, strokes my head and sighs.
“You be a good girl, OK? We’ll be back in less than a week. I love you.”
She kisses the top of my head and walks out the door with Dad, who just pats my head and says, calmly and briefly, “Bye, Gracie. Be a good girl!”
They get into “Grandpa’s” car with him and leave. I go the window and whimper.
Hey, come back!
“It’s OK, Gracie-Grace, they’ll be back.”
When? Where did they go???
I go to the window throughout the day to check for them. Mom has left me here before and come back for me in a few hours. She’ll be here by bedtime, I know it. I settle down for a nap.
* * * * *
Bedtime comes and goes – for a few days! Still, Mom and Dad don’t come for me. “Grandma” enjoys my company, and I try not to be too depressed. I spend a lot of time in my crate – by choice, I’m never told to go in there. But it smells like home, so I feel comforted there.
I hear “Grandma” talking about me on the phone. She tells me she’s talking to “Mommy.” I know that’s Mom.
Please ask her when they’re coming back!
“Don’t worry, Gracie-Grace. They’re coming back.”
But she doesn’t answer, because she doesn’t understand.
I stop counting the days. One day I’m out in the front yard with “Grandma” and “Grandpa’s” car pulls in. Someone steps out of the car very quickly. I freeze in place. Is it…?
I burst into a happy dance, bounding up to them, twirling and jumping for joy.
“Hi, baby girl! I missed you soooo much.”
Mom crouches down and hugs me while Dad strokes my head and neck. I’m ecstatic.
I knew you’d come back for me! I knew! Can we go home now?
“Come on, baby girl, let’s go home.”
They move their bags to our car and collapse my crate and put it in the car. When they lead me to the car, they don’t need to coax me in – I jump right in. I want to go home with my family!
We arrive home and Mom and I take our walk. Then it’s back inside to unpack. Before we know it, it’s bedtime. Mom spends the next day with me. It’s good to be home.
* * * * *
About six weeks after my stay with Mom’s parents, on a very hot day, Mom gets her sister to help her load my crate in the car and tells me to get in the car as well.
Uh-oh. Are you leaving me again?
“It’s OK, Gracie-girl. You’re going to your other grandparents’ house this time.”
But you’re leaving me??
We take the drive to Dad’s parents’ house. Dad isn’t with us; he left as usual this morning. I’m a little worried.
When we arrive, Mom clips on my leash, lets me out of the car and tells me to “Go pee-pee.” I comply. Then she leads me up to the house, where my other “Grandma” is waiting for me. She greets me happily, but not nearly as excitedly as Mom’s mother does. They bring me inside, then go to the car to unload my crate. They bring the crate into the large room in the back of the house and set it up. Mom gets me some water and then talks to “Grandma” about my food and potty schedule.
“Thank you so much. And please call us if you have any questions.”
“Don’t worry, Sweetheart. We’ll take good care of her.”
Mom kisses me, tells me to be good, and leaves.
But she’s gone. I go to the window and whimper a bit. Then I settle down and sigh. I guess I’ll take a nap. I wonder how long Mom and Dad will be away.
A few hours later, “Grandpa” arrives. He takes me out for a jog. That night, he sleeps in the large room with me. I’m glad for that. I haven’t ever slept in a room alone.
The next day, “Grandpa” takes me for a jog again. I spend most of the day under the ceiling fan, relaxing. I still go to the window periodically to check for Mom and Dad. In the evening, “Grandpa” goes out, and “Grandma” watches TV with me in the large room. She sits on the couch, I lie on the floor. It’s raining outside. It begins to thunder. I’ve dealt with thunder at home with Mom and Dad. No problem. But now, in a place that’s not home, without my family, I’m a bit scared. A sudden, exceptionally loud thunderclap startles me, and before I know what I’ve done, I find myself on the couch next to “Grandma.” She laughs and pets me gently.
“Oh, it’s OK, Sweetheart.”
Whoa. That was scary. Sorry.
The rest of the evening passes and “Grandpa” returns, takes me outside, and sleeps in the large room with me again.
Two more days pass. Then, in the evening, Mom and Dad come in! I’m lying on my bed under the ceiling fan. I roll over joyously.
HI HI HI HI!!!! I’m SOOO happy to see you! Rub my belly!
They laugh and pet me. Mom hugs me. They load up the car with my things and we go home.
* * * * *
About a month later, there is excitement in the air. A storm is brewing. I can feel it. Mom and Dad keep talking about evacuation.
“We are on a hill, but we’re less than a mile from the ocean. We should go.”
“Well they said we can stay the weekend, but they don’t want Gracie there.”
“I know, but I’m not leaving Gracie with anyone else in this kind of situation. My parents are in a mandatory evacuation zone, so it makes no sense to leave Gracie with them. If there’s a disaster, our family stays together. That includes Gracie. If they won’t let us bring her, then we’ll have to evacuate elsewhere. I’m not leaving her.”
“OK, baby. I’ll see if I can convince them.”
The next morning, Mom and Dad pack a suitcase for themselves and a bag for me. They load up the car, tell me to get in, and drive for an hour. When we stop, we are at a large house on a large property. We go to the back door.
“Hey. Come on in.”
“Thank you so much for letting us bring Gracie.”
“No problem. She just has to stay down here – she can’t go upstairs.”
“That’s perfectly fine. She’ll be OK down here.”
“OK, well, we’ll let you guys get settled. We’ll be upstairs.”
I sniff around. It’s a cozy apartment in the lower level of the large house. I can smell faint traces of Dad’s scent. He’s been here before. These people are his friends. Mom brings my bed into the bedroom and pats it.
“Come here, baby girl. You have to stay here. We won’t be far – we’ll be just upstairs. I’ll come check on you. And we will sleep down here with you, baby girl. OK?”
OK. As long as you don’t forget me…
Mom and Dad go upstairs and I’m alone. After an hour or so, I start to whine – loudly.
Helloooo! I’m lonely!
Mom comes downstairs a few minutes later.
“Shhh, baby. I know you’re lonely.”
She stays with me for awhile, then returns upstairs. She checks on me at regular intervals. She feeds me at dinner time. Late in the evening, she comes down to stay. She gets into pajamas, starts a movie, and crawls into bed. About an hour later, Dad comes down. He gets into bed and we all sleep.
* * * * *
We all wake with a start.
“There goes the power. The storm is here.”
“What time is it?”
We go back to sleep. When we wake in the morning, it is raining and the fierce winds I heard overnight have calmed a bit. Mom takes me outside to relieve myself.
There are branches down everywhere. The creek in the backyard is now a river. The ground is carpeted with wet leaves. I relieve myself and we return inside.
The day passes much like the one before. When Mom and Dad are downstairs, I hear them talking about how we will get home and the conditions there.
“The Township’s website tells us which roads are impassible. And so far, any of the roads we must use to get home are either flooded or are closed because of downed power lines. And there’s no power at home or within a couple of miles of home.”
“Then I guess we’ll be staying another night here.”
* * * * *
The next morning, Mom and Dad pack up the car and we set off for home. There are countless detours and delays, turning the one hour drive into a much longer journey. Finally, the car stops.
Hey, this isn’t home…
“OK, we’ll get her set up quickly and I’ll get you home so you can get your work clothes and go to work, although I still think it’s ridiculous that you have to go.”
“I think it’s ridiculous too, but I don’t have a choice.”
We walk up to a house that smells familiar. It’s my Grandparents’ house – Dad’s parents.
“Hi Sweethearts. You can set up Gracie’s things in the family room.”
They set up my crate and bed in the large room where I stayed when Mom and Dad left me here the last time. Then they begin to leave.
Are you leaving me again?
“I’ll be back in a couple of hours, Mom. Just going to go home and get some clothes and stuff.”
Oh, good. You’re coming back.
Dad comes back in a few hours. Mom comes back an hour or two after that. They feed me and eat their own dinner with Dad’s mother.
“Your Dad won’t be home until late tonight – after the storm there’s a lot of cleanup work they have to do at the plant.”
We spend a quiet evening and Mom and Dad set up a makeshift bed on the oversized couch and ottoman. Dad gets up early like he does at home and leaves. Mom gets up about an hour later and has breakfast with Grandma. Then Grandma leaves and Mom and I take a long walk.
When we return, Mom gets changed and leaves me with Dad’s brother. He stays away from me – he doesn’t like animals. So I nap in the family room until someone who likes my company gets home.
The evening passes like the last. They talk about going home the next day.
“The power should be back tomorrow.”
“Good. I can bring some of the stuff home in the morning because it’s my day off.”
In the morning, Mom loads up her car and leaves. In a couple of hours she’s back and stays with me for the rest of the afternoon. After dinner, they load up Dad’s car, put me in Mom’s car, and we go home.
Mom sighs after unpacking everything.
“It’s good to be home. But you know, I didn’t mind living with your parents for awhile. And Gracie was so good.”
I was? Thanks, I try.
The hurricane brought with it the end of summer. Autumn is on the way. I’ve been with my new family for almost a year now. And I wouldn’t change a thing.
Months pass. Winter leaves behind mounds of plowed-over, dirty frozen snow which take months to fully melt away. Spring begins to warm and brighten the landscape.
In January, Mom and Dad had an “anniversary.” I’m not sure what that is, but it has something to do with how much they love each other. And they love each other a lot. Mom says Dad is the best thing that ever happened to her. Dad frequently asks ‘how did he get so lucky?’ For me, never before having experienced what love between humans can be like, it was new and strange – but wonderful. I could feel the love that came from them and surrounded them. I was becoming enveloped in their love, becoming a part of it somehow, and that new sensation was so warm and comforting. I knew I was home, and this home meant safety and security for me for the rest of my life.
I began to change then. Maybe it was the lovely meals I get twice a day, plus treats. Maybe it was all that love. Maybe it was both. The fur on my butt and thighs began to grow back. My gums stopped bleeding. My ears were now clear and free of wax deposits. The blackheads on my chest began healing and clearing. I began to gain weight; my coat grew glossier and softer each day. But more amazing than the physical changes were the changes in my personality.
Just a few months earlier, when I was first adopted, I was nervous and fearful of almost everything. But as I was fed and cared for so lovingly, and taught so many new and wonderful things, my fear lessened. I quickly learned that humans here, away from the track, are ALL nice! Every human I meet is a new friend! I learned that the car is not so awful, because it takes us to fun places full of new scents where I can play. Lessons like these have shaped my life and made it happy and secure.
Mom has changed too. She cries less and is not as frightened of the thumping overhead. She seems healthier and has gained some weight. When they first brought me home, Mom was underweight because of stress and illness. She says having me in her life helps her so much. This makes me proud. In my life at the track, I never even began to think that I could do something for a human that they needed. I just ran, ate and slept. Now though, not only do I enjoy a rich life, full of comforts and a loving environment, but my life here has a purpose.
As my fears lessen, so do my inhibitions. I discover what playing is, to the delight of Mom and Dad. They laugh each time I bite a toy and fling it or make it squeak repeatedly. I play “pounce” with Mom and Dad. I play bow and stomp my front paws, pouncing toward them. One of them pounces toward me and laughs. I whirl around, bite a toy, snap my teeth in the air, and pounce again. They pounce back and laugh. I love human laughter. It makes me feel happy and encourages me to continue doing whatever it is that makes them laugh.
With my newfound confidence, I am more playful with other dogs but also more aggressive toward those small fluffy creatures we sometimes meet with other humans. They are on a leash like a dog, and Mom assures me that they are in fact real dogs too. But I don’t believe it. How can a “real dog” look, sound and move like prey? Mom says we are going to work on this behavior. I don’t know what that means exactly, but I get the idea she wants to change me reaction to those small fluffy things. I don’t see why we should change my reaction. But Mom’s the boss.
With the warmer weather, we go to the park more often, which I enjoy very much, although when I arrive home I am completely exhausted and sleep for the rest of the day.
One day in late spring, Mom and Dad put me in the car and we take a long drive. As the car turns off the main roads and into a grassy area, I can see dozens – maybe hundreds – of dogs! Real dogs: Greyhounds! I begin to whine in anticipation. I want to meet them all!
“Shh, calm down, Gracie-girl. You’ll get to meet them soon enough.”
We get out of the car and walk around what I recognize as a park. But it is full of tents and tables – and Greyhounds. Mom and Dad walk me over to one of the tents. Mom talks to the woman under the tent.
“We’d like to get her microchipped.”
“OK, just fill out this form and we’ll take care of her.”
Mom hands my leash off to Dad and starts writing something. Dad leads me a few feet away, and while Mom is still writing, the woman in the tent walks over to me with a big needle and quickly sticks me between the shoulder blades.
Mom looks up from her writing.
“It’s done. She’s chipped.”
“What a yelp!”
“You know she’s a bit of a drama queen.”
Hey. I resent that.
We walk toward a table that smells very good. There are people preparing food and eating all around it. There’s also a line of humans with Greyhounds waiting for food. We stand in line. The humans all talk to each other about the dogs. We dogs sniff each other and enjoy a subtle exchange. It goes something like this:
Me: Sniff sniff. Nice to meet you. Your people seem nice.
Brindle girl: Sniff sniff. Nice meeting you too. My people are very nice. How are yours?
Me: Oh they’re great. Are you allowed on the furniture? I am.
Brindle girl: Yes, I am too. It’s great being retired, huh? Who knew humans were so nice?
Me: Yeah, who knew? Hey, look, someone dropped a hamburger!
And we both look at the hamburger, calmly keeping our places in line. Eventually a large parti-colored female shoves past us to eat the burger.
Someone has obviously forgotten their Greyhound manners.
Mom and Dad eat and talk to several of the kind people that I met months ago, when I first arrived from Florida. Mom buys a t-shirt to support the adoption group and then we go back to the car for the long drive home.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
One weekend, they take me to meet my “grandparents.” We take a 20 minute drive and they lead me into a house that smells like Dad. A small woman, about Mom’s size, greets me.
There’s also a large man who is surprisingly gentle with me.
I like them.
Mom leads me across an expanse of wood and tile floor.
Really? Do I have to? You know I’m scared of this…
“Oh, what’s wrong?”
“She’s afraid of the floor. It’s OK, we’ll get her across.”
“Come on, Gracie. Come on, baby girl!”
Ohh… OK… I guess…
I make it to a large carpeted room. There are couches and a TV, but a lot of open space in the center of the room. I like it!
“We got some presents for Gracie.”
“Aww, thank you. You didn’t have to.”
The woman opens a bag and pulls out a soft toy, a ball, and a bone shaped rubbery thing that squeaks. She shows them to me. I sniff them.
“She doesn’t know how to play yet.”
“She doesn’t? How come?”
“They don’t have toys at the track.”
“Oh, that is terrible!”
“Hey, let’s try this.”
Mom takes the soft toy, which is long and narrow, squeaks it, and tosses it. Instinct kicks in and I jump up, pounce on it, and bite it. They all laugh.
Do you like that? I can do more… Like this!
I pounce and bite the toy a few more times. They laugh each time. Then I find a comfy spot and curl up.
But there’s someone else there. A small male person. He looks like a child and behaves like one. But I sense he is full-grown, although stunted. There is something wrong, but he is not sick. He is afraid of me. I try to sniff at him.
“Stop that. Stay right there.”
A strange voice, unlike any other human voice I’ve heard.
“It’s OK, Jason. She won’t hurt you.”
I get the hint. He’s very strongly rejecting my advances. I walk away and lie down again.
“See? She’s a nice dog. Why don’t you pet her?”
“Pshh. Nice dog. You pet her for me.”
They all laugh.
We spend a pleasant evening together. We eat and watch TV and I play a little. This is a good life.
* * * * *
In time, I learn that the other people, the ones that are Mom’s relatives, are my “grandparents” too. The high voice woman is “Grandma” and the man with hair on his face is “Grandpa.” I learn that “Grandma,” despite her annoying voice (she only talks that way to me), loves me a lot and always gives me treats. So I deal with the annoying voice. It’s the love that matters.
Mom takes me to her parents’ home frequently, and I grow accustomed to the house and my “grandparents” habits.
Mom and Dad occasionally have guests at their home. Each human that they introduce me to is kind to me. Some are very happy to meet me and lavish attention on me. Others are less enthusiastic. But they are all kind. I never have a reason to be afraid in my new home.
Eventually I meet many friends and relatives of Mom and Dad. My favorite is a little boy, one of Dad’s relatives.
His name is Noah. He smells like Dad. He’s small and very energetic. The first time I meet him, he comes to my home with his parents, who are very kind and gentle people.
He hides behind his father and looks at me. I wag my tail and sniff in his direction.
Hello, little boy! I’m friendly. I won’t hurt you, I promise!
He steps out from behind his father and tentatively reaches out his hand. I sniff it and wag my tail some more. A huge smile spreads over his face.
“Hi doggy! Hi sweetie-baby!”
He pets me, stroking my head and neck. I sniff him some more and he giggles. I’m in love.
Noah comes to visit fairly often, with and without his parents. He even sleeps over. Mom loves him a lot – the way a mother loves her child. She watches Noah and I together. When she has to leave the room she tells Dad to watch us.
“I don’t think they’d hurt each other, but just to be safe…”
Mom, I’d never hurt him! He’s my friend. I love him.
He can tell me to do anything and I’ll do it for him. He laughs when I try to pounce on his toys. He gives me treats and hugs me. It’s wonderful. I’ve never spent time with a child before. Children are another wonderful thing I’m learning about in my new life. They are so full of life and joy.
When spring comes, we go to the park with Noah. This is the most fun of all. We run and play in the grass under the sunshine. We race, and Dad and I let Noah “win” the race. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I haven’t told you about SNOW.
In the midst of a difficult family situation this week, I considered forgoing my usual Friday post. But in appreciation for the lovely animal my husband and I share our life with, I decided to post anyway.
My Grandfather is dying. Like most families, we have come together to support one another during this difficult time. Our dogs have been a major part of this. Being a family of animal lovers, we derive much comfort from our non-human family members. From the tiny tail wagging cheer of my sister’s Rat Terrier to the large calm affection of my Greyhound, these dogs bring comfort and a smile through the tears.
Dogs are the best therapists, the best grief counselors, the best friends. A dog will be content to stand by you, regardless of your mood, and provide support and companionship that is willing to do whatever you desire.
Dogs are truly amazing. No other creature can sense what you feel before you are fully aware of it yourself, and then comfort you in the best way possible. The silent presence and cold wet nose say it all: “I’m here. I love you. It’s OK. Cry on my shoulder.” I thank God every day for this exquisite gift – my dog.
As the next week unfolds, they establish a routine that is followed, with little variation, for the next few weeks. I’m becoming quite content, except for being stuck in the crate when they leave. I’m also learning a lot, like what behavior is expected of me and what’s unacceptable, names of things, actions and people, and perhaps most importantly, I’m learning trust. With each interaction, I’m learning that humans are not just creatures that provide food and a chance to relieve myself. These people who have adopted me provide comfort, love, and even fun. The hands that reach for me are not roughly handling my ears, they are gentle, affectionate – and even occasionally hold out a treat for me!
One morning, as I stand near the bed and bark to wake them, Mom reaches toward the table next to the bed and I suddenly get a small stream of water in the face!
Whaaa…. What just happened???
The same exact thing happens the next morning. After that, I never bark to wake them in the morning. I lie quietly on my bed until they get up. That water in the face is startling! I never figured out how she did that. But I learned my lesson well.
I begin to learn what it means to have something of my very own. They give me something called a toy. I don’t know what to make of it. It’s soft and fuzzy, so I sleep with it. When they pick it up, it squeaks, which is interesting. But I can’t figure out how to make it squeak myself.
One evening, they hand me the toy and it smells like treats! I quickly investigate and find that the toy has no stuffing and a hollow body. In the hollow, there are treats! I eat them, of course. After awhile, she takes the toy and puts more treats in it and tosses it to me.
“I wonder how long it will take her to learn how to play.”
“I don’t know, babe.”
A few minutes pass, and Dad walks by, coming near my toy. I growl softly.
Don’t even think about it. That’s MY toy. It’s the first thing I’ve ever had that’s MINE and you can’t have it!
She jumps up off the couch.
Surprised, I back up. She grabs the toy. She looks me in the eye. I look away.
“This toy, is mine, not yours. I let you have it, but it’s mine, because I’m the boss.”
She says this in a low voice, like a growl of her own.
I… I’m sorry. I got a little too excited. I never had anything of my own before…
She puts the toy out of my reach and sits down again.
“I know she’s just being possessive because she’s never had anything of her own before, but she needs to know that behavior – and especially the growling – is NOT OK. If she does that again, do what I did.”
“OK. She’ll learn.”
She gives me the toy again about an hour later. And takes it away. And gives it back. I’ve learned my lesson. I don’t growl.
Each morning and before bed, Mom takes me outside – but not just for a chance to relieve myself. We walk for 15 – 30 minutes before returning. These walks are interesting and enjoyable. I get to sniff and explore my new home territory. And she and I begin to bond. Oddly, despite her nervousness and fear of the invisible thumping creature at night, she is a leader. She lets me know clearly that she is boss. No, she doesn’t frighten me or hurt me physically. Her assertive energy clearly tells me that she is my leader. With me, she has the confidence she lacks in other situations. She can read my signals and I can read hers. In this way, I learn that barking at and chasing squirrels is not acceptable under any circumstances. I learn I must walk at the same pace she is walking, at her left side, without pulling ahead or lagging behind. I learn that “Wait,” means to stop and wait for her to begin or continue walking, or wait until I receive the OK to jump out of the car. This learning is enjoyable, enriching, and it forges a bond between us.
She still leaves me in the crate each day when she leaves. I’m not alone for a very long time, but I get worried. Will they forget me? Will they not come back? I try whining and barking to call them back.
Hello? If you can hear me, please come back! I don’t want to be alone here, especially in this crate! Hello???
They always return and let me out. One evening I hear them talking about me more than usual.
“This is not good.”
“It’s not a big deal, baby. He told me he wasn’t complaining. He just happened to be home and heard her barking. He said he just wanted to let me know.”
“Yeah, he says that, but he is complaining. Oh god! Did he say how much barking? All day, for an hour, what?”
“He said on and off throughout the day. She’d bark for a few minutes, stop for awhile, then bark for a few minutes again.”
“Why is she doing this? What are we doing wrong? I’m following all the instructions for alone training. I emailed Maria for her suggestions. We chose a Greyhound because they’re supposed to be quiet dogs!”
“I know, baby, I know. She probably just needs some more time to adjust. It’s only been a little over a week.”
“Try emailing Maria again.”
“OK. I don’t know what else to do.”
That night when we take our walk, she talks to me.
“Gracie, PLEASE stop the barking. If anyone complains to the office, they’ll make me get rid of you. And I don’t want to. I want you to stay with us. Don’t you want to stay with us? You don’t want to be sent back, do you?”
No I don’t. I want to stay. I like it here. But I don’t like the crate. Can’t I just stay out of the crate?
But of course she can’t understand me. She’s not that perceptive.
A few days after this, I hear her talking to the phone. I’ve since learned that when they do this, somewhere else is a person doing the same thing, and they are actually talking to each other through the phone. Amazing.
Anyway, she’s talking about me. My barking in particular.
“What can I do about it?… No, she has only had one accident, on the second day, and it wasn’t her fault… Start with a few hours and go from there? OK, I’ll try it. Oh, also, we had a growling incident…”
She tells the story of the toy and my growling. I’m ashamed to hear it told.
“Thank you so much. I’ll let you know how it goes.”
She seems happy with what she’s heard. She goes to Dad to share the results of the conversation.
“Sooo, she says I handled the growling well. She said if I felt nervous or afraid that the dog might bite me, I could hold out a pillow when I say ‘NO!’ But she’s not going to bite me. I’m not afraid. For the barking, she said that maybe Gracie’s not a dog that can be crated all day. She says some Greyhounds don’t like the crate and are happier out of it. That sounds like Gracie. She said that since Gracie’s pretty dependable as far as house training, we should try leaving her out of the crate when we go out. She said start with a short absence, like when we go shopping, and if she does well, has no accidents, then leave her out for longer periods.”
“OK, let’s try it.”
See? I was trying to tell you! The crate just isn’t for me.
The next evening, they put a Kong in my crate. I go in after it. They both walk out the door. And I’m alone. But the crate is not latched – the door is wide open! I enjoy the gooey stuff in the Kong – which I now know is called peanut butter. Then I come out of the crate and lie down on the rug. I stretch out my legs and sigh. This is much better than that crate! Sure, the crate is as big as the one I lived in at the track, but I’m not at the track anymore. I’m retired! I heard them say so.
After awhile, I get up and walk to the front window and look out. They park their car in view of this window. They’re not there. I whimper a bit, then find another spot to get comfortable in.
They return after two hours.
You’re back! I’m so happy!
“Hi, Gracie girl.”
They walk through each room as if they’re looking for something.
“I don’t see any messes.”
“Me either. This is very good.”
So I am allowed to be free of the crate and can roam freely throughout my new home when I’m alone.
* * * * *
Now that I have free run of the place, I’m really happy. This is a great life! I try napping on the couch. I’m not sure if that’s OK with them until one day as I’m napping there, Mom walks into the room and sees me. She just laughs.
“You’re so cute! Hey, babe, you have to see this!”
So you’re OK with this? That makes me even happier.
When they leave me alone now, they just leave me some food in my crate and leave the crate door open. I now feel comfortable that they will come back home. So I eat and nap and watch squirrels through the window while I wait for them to return. They always leave the radio or the TV on for me, so I don’t feel too lonely.
The weather is cold here in my new home and indoors, some areas, like the shiny floors, are cold too. My sensitive paws aren’t very comfortable on the shiny floor, but I don’t spend much time on it – just walking from room to room. No big deal. Until one day something scary happens.
I’m home alone, and after a nap on my bed in the bedroom, I’m heading to the living room. As I’m walking past my water bowl, which is just outside the kitchen, I lose my footing and slip on some water. (I’m pretty messy when I drink.) My legs go in all different directions. It hurts and I’m scared! I make it to the rug, panting and shaking. What just happened?? That shiny floor is dangerous and scary. I’m not walking on it anymore.
When they return and Mom tries to take me outside, I’m too scared to leave the rug.
Please don’t make me. Please, please, I’m so scared!!!
I’m practically sobbing; I’m really terrified. I don’t want to do splits again! But she I insists. I do need to relieve myself. Eventually, she gets me to the door and outside.
After a few days, my fear is deeply rooted. Coaxing, bribing, pushing – nothing will induce me to walk on that floor of my own free will.
One day, she comes home and shows me a package.
“Look what I got for you, Gracie girl. They’re rubber dog booties. They’ll help you not slip on the floor. Let’s try them!”
She pulls four blue things that look like deflated balloons out of the package. One by one, she pulls them onto my paws. Then she steps onto the shiny floor and calls me to her.
Uhh… I don’t know… I’m still scared…
“Come on, baby girl. You can do it! Try it!”
She takes one of my paws and places it on the shiny floor. It doesn’t slip.
OK… I’ll try…
I lift my paws higher than normal. These things feel weird. But when I step on the shiny floor, I don’t slip!
OK, I like them.
I like the booties so much, I hold up my paws one at a time for them when she pulls them out to put them on me. I’m smart enough to figure out when something is good for me.
But there’s one other problem. The water bowl. It’s on the shiny floor. And I tend to make a puddle around it when I drink. Lately I’m not drinking that much because it’s too scary to get to the bowl. They don’t know how I slipped – they weren’t home when it happened.
Then, one night when we take our walk, I can’t “go poo-pees.” We walk around for an hour. I just can’t do it. She begins getting agitated.
“Gracie come ON! Why won’t you go poo-pee?”
I just stare at her. I don’t know what to do. She pulls out her phone.
“She won’t poop! We’ve been out here an hour! I don’t know what to do!… OK, fine.”
We go back inside. He takes me back outside and walks me around some more. Finally, I poop. We return.
“She pooped. She probably got nervous because you were upset.”
Pretty good call.
“But I didn’t get upset until after we were out there for an hour and she wouldn’t poop!”
“Well, she pooped. Remember she can sense your emotions. If you’re upset, she’ll be upset.”
But it happens again. I can’t speak human, so I can’t tell them why I can’t poop sometimes. The next weekend, they figure it out.
I can’t poop in the morning. They leave me in the crate when they go out because they’re afraid I might poop inside while they’re out. When they come back, she takes me out and tells me to “go poo-pees.”
But I can’t.
After awhile she gets frustrated again.
“Gracie, why won’t you go? Don’t you like your life with us? Why don’t you poop? Just poop.”
Then she gets her phone again.
“Hi Mom… She won’t poop and I don’t know what to do anymore! I tried everything… But I’m calm when I first tell her to! It just gets ridiculous being out here in the cold for an hour or more, begging her to poop! If she poops inside, we’re going backwards… Yeah… How many times a day did Sheba poop? I don’t remember… You think once or twice a day is enough?… OK…”
We go back, Dad joins us, and we walk a nearby trail. I finally poop. She gets very excited and gives me treats.
“GOOD GIRL!!! Good poo-pees!”
Humans are weird.
After we return from the walk, they put me in the car – I still won’t get in by myself – and we take a rather long drive.
When we stop and they let me out, I can smell other Greyhounds! We walk into a building.
“Welcome to the Greyhound Friends Craft Show!”
Greyhound Friends? Sounds like a great place!
“Let’s find Maria. And Heidi. I want to talk to them.”
We walk around inside a huge building filled with big tables and many people with Greyhounds. I greet each Greyhound we meet.
Hi there! So good to be here! Great to see one of my own kind! How are you?
Many of the people pat and stroke me and comment on my looks. I’m still kind of shy with strangers, but it’s quite pleasant to be admired and receive all of this attention.
We find Maria, who I recognize as one of the kind people at the adoption day. They chat about me for a few minutes, then we continue walking around. We pass a water bowl and I stop to take a long drink.
“The water! The water bowl! She hasn’t been drinking enough – we just didn’t notice. That’s why she won’t poop! She needs more water. We have to move the water bowl. I thought if she was thirsty, she’d just venture onto the floor. But I guess not. We just have to put it on the rug. How did I not think of that before?”
“That makes perfect sense. I can’t believe she’s that stubborn about the floor.”
Well, if you slipped like I did, you’d be “stubborn” too.
They look at the different tables. Each is covered in dog-related items – collars, leashes, dog coats, jewelry, treats. They stop at one table in particular.
“This is flannel. That should keep her warm at night.”
“If that keeps her from doing that shaking thing at night, let’s buy it.”
They buy it. I find out that night what it is. They call it a pajama. It’s like my coat, but softer and lighter. They put it on me at bedtime. It keeps me warmer at night. Before the pajama, I would get up several times each night and do the “wet dog” – a vigorous full-body shake – because I would get cold. Now I sleep soundly and warmly.
They do many things to make me more comfortable and happy in my new home. As I settle into a regular routine and learn what is expected of me in different situations, I feel secure. Even more novel for me, I feel loved. I’ve never known love before. A loving touch, a loving voice speaking loving words, a loving energy surrounding me. For the first time in my life, I’m thriving.