Remembering now how Gracie came to be homeless and in our shelter in November of 2011 is impossible. Whatever the story, it wouldn’t be worthy of her. And her name wasn’t Gracie. In fact it was Rosie, which again I can’t recall whether that accompanied her or was the name we typed into the computer as we checked her into our system and into the shelter. What I do recall clearly was her shiny black coat against the tannish red markings around her muzzle and paws and the look on her face as she sat for pictures that made her seem to be smiling for the camera.
Unmistakably a purebred Doberman and unmistakably a Dobie with a few years on her, maybe 8 to 10 years old, other than being a tad bit overweight, she appeared generally healthy and happy. And just as I’ve discovered time and time again with almost every Doberman I’ve met, she was one of the sweetest dogs on the face of the earth. And she had Kara Seaman’s name written all over her!
I’ve shared stories that about my friend Kara before so this name may sound familiar. Probably most recently in the story about Snowflake the senior Chihuahua. (refer to March article in newspaper). I thought of Kara immediately when I saw Gracie (Rosie just didn’t fit her and so Kara changed her name soon after meeting her) not only because she ADORES Dobies but she also has a huge heart for the senior dogs. Kara once adopted a Dobie from a Columbus rescue because the dog only had a few months to live. In fact, that dog lived much longer than that and I’ve often attributed that to nothing other than Kara’s love for her. Kara then fostered another senior Dobie from our shelter that she would never let go and when Gracie arrived, she was still with Kara. Yet, I knew she’d have room in her heart and home for Gracie.
It would only take a few days for Gracie to wiggle herself deeply into Kara’s heart and it made me wonder if this might be another case of foster failure and Gracie would stay with Kara indefinitely. But I continued to reach out to the Doberman community that I work with and trust and would soon learn of a retired long-time lover and experienced owner of Dobies named David in the Toledo area that had been approved and was just waiting for the right dog. He was immediately very interested in meeting Gracie.
David’s excitement about Gracie reminded me of a boy getting his first puppy and not of a 75 year old man possibly getting his last. But their first meeting was no disappointment for anyone and she’d soon be heading home with him with a few tears from Kara but recognition that this was a perfect match for both man and dog. The email from David shortly after did much to confirm that.
“Gracie is the most wonderful gift that could ever have been my pleasure to receive. I am 75 years of age but she doesn’t care, every day she surprises me with something new she does, if I tell anyone about many of the things she does they find it difficult to believe, she is just so hilarious. Every day she does something else that causes me to laugh. She is my best friend and protector.
I have a lot of pain in my back and moan frequently at night, I feel Gracie come into my bedroom and just so carefully touch me to see if I am OK. The other night I was having a particularly difficult time and Gracie thought I should wake up, the next thing I know she had her face directly in front of mine and barked once, the loudest bark I ever heard from her and it worked, I sat straight up in bed. She was happy that I was OK and went back to her bed in the living room.
When she and I go out, she is very erect, trots by my side as if a new colt, very proud of who she is and barks just a warning, don’t touch us. My God I love her. I could go on for hours about the delight Gracie has brought me, thank you so much for Gracie, she is forever and ever my friend and protector.”
And Kara’s response to David’s email was equally telling of why Kara continues to foster and to also let them go.
“Oh Dave, this email is one of the best presents I have ever had. Each animal I foster takes a little piece of my heart with them when they go; the Dobes sometimes take a big piece, just as Gracie did, but an email or note letting me know that they have truly found where they are supposed to be in their life brings such joy to my heart that it becomes strong enough to let my next foster go. You and Gracie were destined to find each other. She needed you as much as you needed her.”
Undoubtedly, fostering can leave a hole in your heart but messages like David’s fill those holes to the brim! This is the sort of happy ending that make fostering one of the most fulfilling things in the world. Knowing you’re not only making room in an overcrowded shelter, giving your foster a temporary home, helping your foster find a wonderful home and then on top of that being a part of making another human being so happy, is all pretty overwhelming at times.
I love this Gracie’s story for so many reasons that I’m not sure I can find the words to explain it. And I regret that what brings the story to mind was another message from David that wasn’t so joyful. He lost Gracie this week to cancer. Kara forwarded me David’s email and I sat in my office and sobbed over it and the fact that Kara could find no words to express her grief either. I’m still struggling with how to end this story and it seems that sharing David’s message to Kara is again the only thing remotely adequate.
“ I have the most heartbreaking news, Gracie had massive cancer throughout her body, she was in so much pain, the Vet did all they could do for her, removing massive tumors three different times, nothing could stop it. I lost the best fiend I ever had at 11:00 a.m. this morning. Angels for Animals will take care of her. She will be cremated and will be with me forever, when I die she will be placed in my casket with me. I hate to bring such bad news to you but thank you for providing me with the best friend I could ever have.”
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