This is my dog. Her name is Grace. We fondly call her Gracie.
Gracie is a miniature pinscher, born just over 9 years ago, the last of a six-puppy litter. She was barely 3 inches long at birth and a third the size of the other puppies. We doubted she would survive. Her mother rejected her and tried to throw her out of “the nest” because she was different than the other puppies.
But my children and I believed in Gracie’s survival. We fed her by hand with an eyedropper as we cradled her in our palms, and we gave her the love and nurture she didn’t get from her own family of dogs. I had to lay her mother on my lap so that Gracie could be nursed apart from the others. When she was too weak to nurse, the kids and I took shifts to feed her around the clock and speak encouraging words of survival to her. Soon she became the strongest and most dominant of the pack, although still the smallest. She could fend off her five littermates from the food bowl with a fierce growl and scary glance. And Gracie repaid our faith in her will to live by returning the care and comfort she received from us with a lifetime of love and companionship.
Now that she is an older adult dog, she shows those signs of aging that we all do: gray hair, hearing loss, cataracts, stiff joints, and some excess weight around the middle. But like so many of us Baby Boomer humans, Gracie has the heart and soul of her younger years. She will still chase a chipmunk, but no longer catches it. She can still jump around with excitement, but then promptly falls asleep on the couch. Even in her old age, she continues to teach us about another kind of grace.
When I return from a business trip, Gracie is the first to greet me. Long before my husband or kids make it to the door, she hears my footsteps and comes running. You would think I was the most important person on earth as she jumps and whines and licks me, climbing in my lap for some affection. She makes me feel like a queen. It doesn’t matter to Gracie if I am in a grumpy mood, if I’m overweight, or if my hair is gray. She doesn’t care if I’m smart or not, or if others find me attractive. I am her person! She loves me the same in the morning, noon, or night and she never holds a grudge. In fact, I think that my dog seems to know more about unconditional love than many people do. She doesn’t hold my faults against me and she loves me just the way I am. She always shows it no matter what else has happened in the day. Gracie is the one at my feet in every room of the house. She sleeps next to me when I watch TV. She follows me everywhere. She is always at the door to protect me from strangers. She would give her life for mine in an instant if she could, and without a thought for herself. I sometimes find myself wishing that I had her strength of character.
It is a wonder to me that an ordinary, common, little runt of a dog without the powers of human reasoning could possess qualities that we so seldom see in people. The judgment and unforgiveness of others, sometimes even among our own families, is outshone by the loyalty and companionship that little Grace gives me every day.
So, maybe today we can learn a lesson from the simplest of God’s creatures. Show your enthusiasm for life and each other. Be a loyal companion. Take time to show affection. Miss each other terribly when you are apart. Be happy when you are together again. Forget past mistakes and harsh words. Practice forgiveness. And above all, love unconditionally.