For the last several years Gracie has lived in Wisconsin with my parents. Sometimes I would call up there just to see how she was doing. I thought that her living so far away would make it easier to process her death two weeks ago, but strange how that has not been the case. Even though I sent Gracie back to live with my parents, she never forgot about me. When I would visit them, before I would even go in the house I had a certain whistle that I would do and Gracie had a certain howl she would do and we both recognized each other. The saying is true, a dog never forgets.
My dad got Gracie for me in August of 2000. I was 19 and engaged to be married the following summer, but still living at home. We named her Gracie because she was a gift. Pure bread walker hounds can bring in some good money, and Gracie's breed would have been no exception because they were raised to run coyotes. There was a family we knew who offered us a puppy for free. I am not sure what it was about this particular offer, as I had been asking my dad for years for a dog, but something tells me he agreed because I would be moving out and be married soon and taking my dog with me... or so he thought! In the end, I chose the dog over the man, and never regretted it!
The day we got her, I can remember just like it was yesterday. We drove out to the farm and there were three little puppies left, exactly six weeks old. I bent down to play with all of them, but Gracie would go play and then come back in circles like she wanted to make sure I was still there watching her. Looking back on that, I know that was exactly what she was doing. Her coloring was prettier than the other two pups as well. She had all the colors of a beagle, a brown head, black back, brown sides, and white belly. She was the perfect specimen of what we lovingly called a "hound dog". My mom was dead set against this little adventure, because her experiences with hounds had not been that great. All the way home, she kept saying "that dog stink!" My dad and I laughed and said "she's a hound."
Gracie had my personality. She always wanted attention. She always had to be right next to you and usually right in your way. She was spoiled rotten too, she had me wrapped around her tail and knew it! Throughout her life those personality traits never changed. If she wanted you to know she wasn't happy with you, she completely ignored you, but would look back now and again to make sure you knew she was doing it! If she did not want to go outside in the rain, she would pull her food dish into her house and wait to be fed. If she put her mind to something, no chain, rope, or zip line could hold her back. When she wanted to be, she was as sweet and as good as any pet you could ask for. When I gave her back to my parents, we all felt as if there was a little piece of me still living at home.
There are memories of her life that still make me smile, moments that warm my heart. Like the time she decided to run a marathon in the house, down the steps and around the coffee table and back up the steps and back down to do it all again for at least 30 minutes at full blast! My dad and I never laughed so hard! I can remember her climbing into bed with me at 5:30 in the morning and pushing me out of bed with her paws so she could have the warm spot I was in and then she would start snoring! I remember the first time she played in snow, the first time she ran away, her first Christmas, her first birthday party... but one of my favorite memories of Gracie was when I was very sick. I had been in bed for two weeks and they would bring Gracie in to stay with me during the day so I would not be lonely. I thought I was pretty sick, and I would call Gracie over to me, but she would just lay there on her bed and watch me. I remember one day waking up to her licking my hand and my face, and once I woke up, she went back and laid down. Dogs have an amazing sense about them, and something tells me that day... she was very concerned that I was ok.
My parents said they found Gracie curled up in her dog house. It is sad to imagine her just being really tired and taking her last breath. Yet, it is comforting to know that she was warm and cozy in the fresh cedar chips my dad had put in her house. It is comforting to know that she was home and safe, and that she had lived a pretty good life for a dog. I did not get to tell her goodbye, but then... none of us did. My parents always told me that dogs do not go to heaven because they do not have a soul, so I probably will never see Gracie again, but something about her will never die. It will be the memory that pops into our heads of her when we least expect it. She'll always be around... just wait and see.