Gracie’s Puppies

When we are at our lowest point in life, when we are so discouraged that we don’t have the strength to continue on, Grace steps in. It arrives in many forms — some obvious, some so subtle we miss them.

It was early morning in the country, still dark outside, and the air was cool. No sounds could be heard except the occasional chirping of an early bird. It was Thanksgiving Day. Most people were sleeping in and were enjoying the benefits of a day off from work. A rumbling car could be heard coming down the road, slowing as it approached a long stretch of road where houses were sparse. It stopped. A car door opened, then a thud could be heard as something was thrown out. The door slammed shut, the car sped off, and soon all you could hear was the distant rumbling of the car’s motor as the morning silence resumed.

She stood in the middle of the road, dazed and confused.

“Where am I?” she thought.

Already her body was shaking uncontrollably, partly from the cold air but mostly from the fright of being thrown out of the car and onto the road. Soon, though, a car approached. Still dark and with the sun barely starting to rise, the driver wasn’t aware she was there — frozen in place. His radio blared as one of his favorite country tunes played, and he tapped his fingers on the steering wheel. He was in a good mood; it was Thanksgiving, and he would be home with his family soon. As he rounded the corner, the headlights outlined an object — small, but distinct. He slammed on the brakes and honked his horn as he desperately tried to keep from hitting the object, whatever it was. She looked up just as the headlights reached her, and he realized it was a dog.

“Get out of the road,” he yelled out the window. “You’re gonna get hit!”

She shuffled to the side of the road, frightened by his loud voice and the car’s massive size. He sped off toward the early shift where he worked. She sat down and couldn’t control her tears of sadness. Something terrible had happened, and she didn’t know why. Whatever it was, she thought, it had to have been an accident. Her person didn’t know she had fallen out of the car. She decided to wait right there.

So there she sat for hours and hours. No one seemed to notice her as they sped by on their way to family gatherings to celebrate family and friends and to give thanks for the many blessings in their lives.

Gracie on Thanksgiving Day

Gracie on Thanksgiving Day

It was late afternoon when the man from the early shift headed home. He was looking forward to Thanksgiving meal and had long forgotten about the close call with the dog in the road. But as he rounded the corner, he saw the same dog sitting in the same spot where he had last seen her. Her head was hung low, and she barely looked up. Overcome with compassion, he pulled over and got out. The dog didn’t move, but as he got closer, she looked up, revealing a stomach as big as three watermelons. She was very pregnant. And in big trouble.

One look at her condition and he scooped her up, plopped her in the front seat, and took off. The radio continued to play its sad country songs. And the dog, still not daring to move, stared forlornly out the window. He wondered if she was thinking of her family.

I WAS KNEE DEEP IN KITCHEN CHAOS as we prepared our Thanksgiving meal when the call came in from a friend asking if we had any room for this soon-to-be mama dog.

I heard myself stammer, “Umm … I don’t know. Well, maybe?”

With that “maybe,” the door to my heart had cracked open, and I called for a family meeting. After a quick consultation and some hand wringing on my part, we agreed to give her lodging for a couple of days until a foster family could be found.

“Just a couple of days,” I told my friend. Yeah, right.

She arrived here marked Special Delivery. Fragile Contents. Handle with Care. Her body was huge, her belly sagging low to the ground, with ribs and bones protruding from every angle. She was a road-weary soul. Hanging her head low, she wouldn’t look up and huddled in a corner, shivering and sobbing for the first twenty-four hours. Her heart had been broken.

It was on that Thanksgiving Day, a day set aside for counting our blessings, that Gracie entered our lives. And five days later, more blessings arrived as she gave birth to eight healthy, beautiful babies. She was already hard at work birthing her children when I checked on her that morning. And, for the first time since she had come, she was literally glowing with a warmth specially reserved for mothers. It was a role she was born for.

Over the next few weeks, she skillfully mothered all her babies — feeding them, cleaning them each, carefully tucking them in beside her. My role was simply to support her by making sure she had everything she needed to nurse her babies and teach them about the world. When I entered the puppy nursery, her sacred space, she could have easily taught them fear. She could have taught them to be afraid of humans and to never trust them. Instead, she modeled loving kindness by allowing me to touch and love them, too. At nap time, she would round them all up and arrange them carefully near her, each touching another, each touching mom. At playtime, which, with puppies, is all the time, she would carefully monitor the scene, much like the teacher on the playground who steps in with a helping hand when needed. Without any words spoken, the puppies learned about security and love, friendship and family.

It was a learning time for us all. I’m not sure who enjoyed it most — Gracie or me. We were a team. And eight weeks later, as the puppies were full of life and ready for their own families, we rounded them up, put them in a wagon, and took a photo that would become their debut to the world. Named after Winnie-the-Pooh characters, the puppies wowed people with their flagship photo in the red wagon, and, from that point forward, people eagerly stepped forward to adopt them. One by one each puppy found the perfect home, the perfect match.

Gracie watched with pride as her babies stepped forward into the world. She knew she had prepared them well and that they would grace the lives of their people. At the ten week mark, only Tigger, a beautiful brindle colored puppy, remained unclaimed. He was a “mama’s boy” and loved to follow her around. She and Tigger cuddled together in their bed, heads resting on one another. They became inseparable as they played outside, dug holes, and tugged on toys together. I couldn’t understand why this one puppy had not found a home. One day I noticed how at home Gracie and Tigger looked. They had dug a hole and were both laying in it, basking in the sunshine and in each other. It was then that I knew both Gracie and Tigger were already home.


Gracie and Tigger

Gracie and Tigger

That was 4 years ago. Today, Gracie and Tigger, who is much bigger, still hang out together — mom and son — a true family.

When we are at our lowest point in life, when we are so discouraged that we don’t have the strength to continue on, Grace steps in. It arrives in many forms — some obvious, some so subtle we miss them. Grace can knock us over with a strong wind or kiss us gently on the cheek, much like a butterfly’s wings would, brushing up against us. No matter how Grace visits us, though, it always carries beauty, compassion, and a sweetness that melts even the toughest of hearts. Grace transforms our lives.

I will always remember that special Thanksgiving Day — one filled with family and countless blessings. When we are filled with gratitude, our hearts open, and blessings of all kinds come rushing in. Sometimes they are “blessings in disguise.” But no matter how they come, hopefully, we take the time to recognize them.

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