Not Just a Dog

I didn’t know I would be back in this place so soon. Honestly, I hadn’t really left the grief state yet for Crosby, but yesterday we said goodbye suddenly to our Gracie girl.

I am devastated. She wasn’t just a dog to me. She was my constant, my rock, my comforter. She has been my saving Grace for almost 10 years.

We got Grace just a few months after we got married in 2011. She was our first baby. Tom and I had never had a dog that wasn’t really our parents’ pet. She would have been 11 in December, and our 10 year adoption anniversary would have been in October. She joined us as a newly married couple, and she has been with us for every change since.

Through Army basic training and a deployment.

Through 4 homes, 3 moves, and 3 states.

Through many career changes.

Through our transition to parenthood three times over.

Through road trips, to backyard BBQs, to holidays, to just ordinary days.

Through all the little moments that made up our life over the last decade.

I remember the excitement of bringing her home after we rescued her from the shelter. When I close my eyes, I can still relive the feelings and the nervous chatter we had with her in the car ride home for the first time. We lived in a residence hall at Iowa State at the time. And she really was the best campus dog we could have asked for. She loved the students and they loved her back. She became a mascot of sorts and gave me an access point to build even deeper connections with my students. Some of my fondest memories of our girl were in that little one bedroom apartment on campus.

She was my companion while Tom went to basic training and went through his deployment. She was such a great distraction in those lonely times. She gave me something to smile about and something to be responsible for when I came home without Tom there. She was my everything. There were many days I am not sure I would have made it through without her.

She was such a diva too. She did what she wanted, and we all just lived in her world. She was always lounging, and couldn’t be bothered by most things. She was like a person at times with how she sat, and I swear she gave you hugs.

She did not like to go outside unless it was snowing. She would angry pee on the rug by the front door when it was any type of weather outside. Like how dare I ask her to go outside when it is raining! However, this girl was obsessed with snow. It was like candy coming down from the sky for her.

I will always remember how she greeted people. She would turn her body into a “U” shape and prance around like that.

She thought she was a lap dog, and she would wriggle her way to nestle into you. She loved to snuggle with us in our bed and bury herself in the blankets.

There are just countless memories that I am looking back on. She was my person in dog form. She was our home. I am just sitting here in shock trying to come up with words to give an adequate tribute to everything that she was to our family. I am lost and truly gutted.

With Crosby, we had time to prepare for the lasts with his cancer diagnosis. This time with Grace it was sudden. We knew her time was coming obviously as she was nearly 11 years old which is a substantial life for a boxer. But we didn’t get to ready ourselves enough for the lasts. I am so grateful that I was working from home and Tom was off yesterday because otherwise I would not have been able to hold her as she took her last breath. It was so fast. I just happened to be upstairs with Wally’s afternoon feeding to watch her have a seizure. As we sped to the vet’s, she died in the back of the truck. Unfortunately she had a tumor in her belly that was unseen that had ruptured. There was literally nothing we could do.

After Crosby died, I remember telling Tom that Crosby went first to prepare us for Grace leaving. I knew this tragedy would be a hard hit to us. I was naive to think how excruciating it would actually be. I think Grace knew her time was coming too, and like the Queen that she was, she wanted to go out on her own terms. I think she also wanted to have us to herself for a little while like it was in the beginning. But even going through the emotional toil with Crosby just a couple months ago could not have prepared me this roller coaster of emotions.

We should have known with going through this recently with Crosby, but what you don’t realize hurts more than not knowing they are the lasts, is experiencing the firsts without them. It’s very surreal right now, and there have already been moments in the last 24 hours that I have caught myself calling out her name, looking for her sprawled out on the couch as I walk by, or hearing phantom doggy steps. Having to wake up today without hearing her stretch and yawn in her chair was gut-wrenching.

There is sadness and an emptiness in my bones that is indescribable, but I also am feeling this immense amount of guilt. Guilt that she had been hurting for a while, and we just didn’t know. Guilt that we didn’t ask for more tests on her after Crosby died. Guilt that our kids didn’t get more time. Guilt that there was possibly more that we could do. Guilt over being helpless. Guilt that we didn’t live it up with her these last few days and let her have more table scraps.

Grace was just the best. She just always knew what you needed. She even knew that she was ours before we did.

I know deep down that she had the best life, and that while we had her for the last decade she made our lives exponentially better. And for that I can only say thank you to the best dog I have ever had.

But this hurts. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye.