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  • Writer's pictureCindy Kaufman

Walking Gracie Home

We are all just walking each other home. ~Ram Dass

In April 2020, about one month into the stay-at-home and socially isolate mandate for COVID-19, I decided it would be a good time to rescue another dog. I've always wanted to rescue a senior dog, and being stuck at home seemed like the best time, especially when I heard that some people were relinquishing their pets due to economic hardships from the pandemic. My thinking was that senior dogs would not likely get rescued during a pandemic, so it seemed like a good time to step up and take one!

I contacted my favorite rescue, PawsCO, from where I had previously rescued my current dog almost six years ago. I let them know that I was interested in rescuing a small senior dog. Within a week, I saw two dogs and chose one...a 10-year-old Pomeranian who was blind and deaf. The shelter had named her Marshmallow, and her foster had named her Princess. I named her Princess Grace and called her Gracie, as well as Amazing Grace, Face of Grace, and My Gracie Girl.

Princess Grace is home with her new mom!

Life with a blind and deaf dog, especially one that I knew nothing about, was challenging, but not as challenging as what would come. I didn't know what her past life was like. I didn't know if she was trained. I didn't know if I could learn to communicate with her, and she with me. The first couple of weeks were just trying to overcome the learning curve. She could not hear me call her, and she didn't know her new name, but when I would make a clicking noise with my mouth, she could hear me. Clicking became our way of communicating. She followed me everywhere, and if she couldn't find me, I would click. She would follow the sound until she found me. Sometimes, I would have to wave my arms so she could see me by tracking movement with what little sight she had. We managed and I began settling into life with Gracie.

Within a couple of weeks, I began to realize that she wasn't well. She was agitated all the time. She could not relax. She didn't like anyone touching her or petting her. When I held her, she had such tension in her body. And she peed constantly. A trip to the rescue's vet who believed she had a bladder infection, which he treated with two courses of antibiotics over the next 20 days, neither of which really took care of her symptoms. She still had to pee all the time, or attempted to pee all the time. Even after peeing, she still tried to pee.

Once I was able to get her seen by my vet, about six weeks later (long story), it was found on ultrasound that Gracie had a malignant mass in her bladder called TCC (Transitional Cell Carcinoma). Further testing revealed that she was in kidney and liver failure as well. My Gracie Girl, with her heart-shaped nose, was at the end of her life.

Gracie has a heart-shaped nose!

It had only been three months since I rescued her, and now I had to make a decision to end her pain. Her suffering would only get worse, and I didn't want that for her. In three short months, I had fallen in love with her and she with me. The sicker she got, the more agitated she got. She needed to be with me wherever I was or she would bark endlessly. She couldn't sleep, which meant I couldn't sleep. I knew I could not let her continue as she was, quickly losing any quality to her life. With the help of my vet, I made the difficult and painful decision to euthanize her.

The appointment was scheduled and I had two days to make a plan. I told the vet that I wanted to be with Gracie to the end, holding her when she took her last breath, and surrounding her with the love I have for her. And before that, I wanted to give Gracie the best day possible, doing all the things that she enjoyed. I wanted to document the experience with Gracie, so I contacted my friend, Hollie McIntire of Compassionate Photography, who is an end-of-life photographer. Hollie agreed to go through this experience with me.

Gracie loved to go for walks, so we went for a walk.

Gracie loved treats, so I took a handful of her favorite treats and she enjoyed them in the park.

Gracie got to enjoy a Starbuck's puppuccino, probably for the first time.

Gracie got lots of snuggles and cuddles and kisses from me.

And then it was time. It doesn't matter that a decision is the right thing to do. It's still hard. And it doesn't matter that I work in the field of death and dying. It's still painful. And it doesn't matter that I only had Gracie for three months. It wasn't long enough. I wish I had gotten more time with her, but it wasn't meant to be. I wanted to give her a quality end of life, and I did the best I could for her with the time she had left.

The vet gave her a sedative and she completely relaxed into my arms and began snoring her cute little piggy sounding snore. That was the first time I had ever felt her body relaxed. I realized just how distressed and in pain she had been for the entire three months I had known her.

Once she was fully sedated, the vet gave her an IV and an injection and she was gone, quickly and peacefully. No more pain for her, but pain for me. I was heartbroken.

I hope she felt loved, because I loved her unconditionally.

I am awaiting receipt of her ashes at which time I will bring her back home and in a sweet ceremony, I will set her free in the breeze so that she can be forever in nature, gone but never forgotten.

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