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They didn’t want her. She was a mixed breed and not AKC like her pure-bred mother was. A stray from the street had decided to jump over their fence and impregnate their pure black Lab. My mother went over to their house and decided to pick one of the “free to a good home” pups. She wasn’t being fed properly and was desperate for attention. My heart always told me that if we hadn’t taken her, then they might have gotten rid of her by any means necessary. That pup refused to be left behind and stuck to my mother like glue, the entire ride home to our house.
Little did I know, that small black Lab mix was going to have a huge impact on my life, more so then I would ever have on hers. She was the cutest little odd ball, with floppy ears that took forever to decided whether they would stand up tall or flop over. I decided to name her Gracy because she was extremely ungraceful as a pup. Gracy was my very first best friend and I loved her like no other.
We lived on a 65-acre farm that was everything that a small adventurous child could hope for. With my new best friend, we explored from sun up 'til sundown. Gracy went everywhere with me, no hill was too high, and no stream was too wide for us. She learned to listen to me, entrusting me to keep her safe just as much as I relied on her for protection. We encountered black bears, deer, turkey, small woodland creatures and everything in between. As the years passed, we both went from awkward adolescents to more secure teenagers.
Just in the first three years of her life, she had taught me so many different things. Gracy taught me to have patience, especially when it came to the communication gap between dog and girl. She taught me to simply to enjoy life, to understand that this world is beautiful. No matter what issues I was dealing with, whether they were bullies at school or insecurities in my own appearance, she was always there. She listened and let me hug her when I was crying. She was a comfort to me when I was facing fears and the one things that I could count on in a changing world. She was my first best friend and my only best friend at the time.
That became even more true when my family moved to different state when I was thirteen and suddenly, I didn’t seem to fit in anywhere. She did not understand my anxiety of a new place. She only knew that she loved me and wanted to comfort me. We continued to explore this new world, one with cars, roads, leashes, and a big city. Even though we felt like the world was closing in much faster, our youthfulness continued to push back. At age three, she was no longer a pup, but you could never tell her that. She was full of energy with a full-grown body, pointy ears and more grace then I possessed. Gracy was really bringing her breeds to life, the speed of a Greyhound, the protection of a German Shepherd, and the love of water from her Black Lab. Everyone she met loved her, she was gentle with children, and would do anything that I asked her to do. Gracy had found a way to break free from her leash and I had found a way to become a better human being.
The years passed as they always do, slow while in the moment but flashing by in reflection. Suddenly, my best friend was beginning to show signs of age with her little white flecks around her muzzle. She wasn’t able to explore as long as she used to, and I had to accommodate her hips for that day. Her favorite ball now lay on the floor for hours untouched because she was more interested in just laying at my feet while I did my homework. Gracy, a once quiet pup, would let out a soft groan when getting up and down from the couch. She explored more in her dreams than she did when she was awake.
The second hardest thing I had ever had to do in my life was the day that I had to leave her behind. As life goes, that community college was no longer enough for my major and I found a better university. With boyfriend in tow (who I would marry), I moved eight hours away to a new city to follow my college career path. However, bringing my best friend wasn’t going to be an option. Her body would not survive such a harsh trip, and she was happier with my parents. With tears in my eyes, I had to put my best friend first and make the best decision for her. Through phone calls home, I could tell that she was sad at my departure and that her health was deteriorating.
With every holiday, I would venture home and Gracy would greet me with her pup like enthusiasm. It was a horrible shock of just how much older she had become, now that I was not seeing her daily. Now she could no longer climb down the stairs without needing some help, jumping up on the couch wasn’t an option, and going for long walks would cause her to be extremely sore for days. Those beautiful dark amber eyes were clouded over by age and every day was a struggle to find strength. I held her for hours with every visit, reminding her of our life together and just how amazing of a dog she was. When I left, I never knew if that would be the last time that I would see that happy face of hers.
In September of 2013, my mother called me from the vet’s office. I could hear in her voice that she did not want to tell me what she had to tell me. Gracy had cancer, and there was nothing else her vet could do. I felt the tears begin to flow down my face, as my mother tried to comfort me as best as possible. We both knew the outcome, it wasn’t fair for me to keep her alive when she was suffering. I confirmed my decision, even though my mother already knew and through the phone, I got to tell her goodbye. The vet had a tree planted in a local park in her honor, because like me, she fell in love with her too.
Gracy was a mutt to the core. She was my best friend and I got to spend 13 short years with her. She filled my life with so much love and understanding. She made me feel alive and loved, even when no else could. It always amazed me, at how dogs can be here for such a short amount of time but have such a huge impact on our lives. She my best friend, my only best friend and for that reason, I will never forget her.