Her official name was Weeloch's Amazing Grace, but to everyone, she was Gracey. (Her mother was Candega's Pennies From Heaven "Penny")
From the first time I saw Gracey, I knew she was special. She was unlike the other shelties in the home I visited. Gracey was an older puppy - 11 months. She had been in a home with 2 doctors who crated her 16 hours a day, then "returned" her when she couldn't help herself and soiled her crate. She was labelled a "dirty" dog.
From the very first night with me, she slept at my feet, at the base of the bed. From that day on we were inseparable friends. Gracey came everywhere with me. She was shy at first, terrified of men - perhaps from abuse in her previous home. But slowly, she developped more confidence and her sweet nature began to shine through. Gracey came
camping with me to our favourite places: Stowe, Vermont where we hiked Mount Mansfield and the Stowe Pinnacle together - and even tackled Hunger Mountain together once in her youth; Cape Cod where she would only wade into the ocean up to her tummy, stagger like a drunken sailor because her coat was so wet and heavy in the water, then roll in the seagull droppings on the beach and spend the next day licking all the sea salt off her paws; Camping in Algonquin park, where she sat patiently either guarding the camp spot, or rode as a dignified passenger in the canoe.
Gracey was always perfectly behaved when we travelled. Everyone who met her remarked on what a sweet and well-behaved dog she was. At home, she could certainly get into trouble, however, and horrified me by chewing every corner of every baseboard in my home when she was 2, as well as rolling in a decomposed groundhog, a rotted fish and freshly spread manure once - and she did it all with such doggie joy and abandon.
Just over 2 years ago, in January of 2001, she developed urinary infection-like symptoms. An ultrasound showed a bladder tumour and surgery revealed it had already spread. They told me that even with successful chemotherapy, I'd be lucky to have 10 months with her. After much thought, I decided to try the expensive course of chemotherapy, but would stop if it made her sick. She tolerated all the treatments so well, they did an extra one. And for the next 2 years, it seemed that maybe a miracle had happened and she would live indefinitely.
Unfortunately, the cancer caught up with her. By the fall of 2002, she had bowel problems, changes in appetite and some vomitting. A diet change was in order. Gracey was thrilled to finally get wet food - and chicken! She had been a vegetarian dog all her life, but now was getting a real treat. The cancer medicine was discontinued and replaced with anti-nausea and pain meds. Still, she didn't look sick and always perked up every time we went outside.
Her energy level was noticeably reduced, however, and to help her enjoy one last vacation in Cape Cod, her favourite spot, a double-seater Chariot child carrier was purchased, which was dubbed "The Sheltie Chauffeur". (A fancy baby-jogger with an adapter to make it a bike trailer) It took a bit of getting used to, but once she realized it led to exciting places, she'd settle right in and enjoy the ride, as we pedalled along the trails through the sand dunes along the seashores in Cape Cod.
By early March 2003 Gracey was having more "bad" days than good. For 2 years I had planned a lunchtime run home and back from work to let Gracey out due to her chronic bladder pain. I got used to getting up almost every night at 3am. to let her out, or clean up vomit and was just greatful when she didn't get sick for more than 2 days in a row. A stoic little doggie, Gracey probably hid her pain well. After several days in a row of vomiting and loss of appetite I saw a look in Gracey's eyes that said: "mommy, I'm tired... I've had enough". I made the arrangements for home euthanasia and spent the next 2 days at home, trying not to cry constantly. For those 2 days, Gracey looked the healthiest and happiest in a long time. She sat with me on the couch and barked at every car, truck, SUV, mailman, squirrel and hot air balloon that she saw. The fact she looked healthy again made the final day almost unbearable. On our last night together, we went out in the sheltie chauffeur for a skate on the Rideau Canal (which is frozen in winter and turned into a 5-mile long skating rink). The next morning we had a leisurely walk around our favourite park and Gracey rolled and rolled and rolled in the snow with joy. When the vet arrived it all seemed to be like a dream, but in fast forward. Before I knew it, it was over and she was gone.
The days since have been the worst in my life, despite having been through the loss of all my human family. Gracey was the last of my family and will always be my canine soulmate. She taught me more than I thought was possible, and I loved her more than anything in this world. She will always be my sunshine puppy, my sweet doggie, my wascally wabbit, my Gracey girl.
Gracey: May you enjoy playing with your new friends and munching on all your favourite treats at Rainbow Bridge: carrots, peanut butter, pizza crusts, cheese (you loved and begged for cheese so much you were known as "the Cheese Hound"!) and snowballs. I love you Gracey.
June 27, 2003: Dear Gracey. It is now almost July and I miss you as much as ever. You would not like this hot weather though. Your husky friend Charlie will be crossing today. Show him the ropes and make him feel welcome. His passing reminds us of how much we love and miss you every day. Your garden ornament is near the rose bush and bird feeder, so you can keep an eye on the squirrels. We are visiting your beloved Stowe this weekend and will think of you when we hike where we used to all go together. Love you always my dear doggie. Ma.
Please visit my brother Sampson's Rainbow Residency