My Love Letter to Grace – For Anyone Who Has Loved a Dog

“When I stand before God at the end of my life I would hope that I would have not a single bit of talent left and could say ‘I used everything you gave me’.”
Erma Bombeck

Before I had a baby, I had dogs. Two wonderful, beautiful, crazy-in-the-best-way possible dogs. I don’t talk about them much here, because my life with canines occurred before I found this online space, but they were integral parts of who I am. I was recently asked to share this letter with someone who had lost their labrador retriever, and reading it brought all the memories flooding back to me. I wrote it in 2013 when I had to say good-bye to one of my best friends. I thought I would share it with you all, as maybe some of you will be able to relate.

This is my love letter to Grace… 

This newsletter does not have to do with Pilates or Physical Therapy or nutrition. It is not a newsletter that comes easy to me, as I’ve been sitting here for ten minutes trying to decide how to start.  Three weeks ago I had to say goodbye to someone very dear and special to me, and I feel a need to honor her in this small way.  I thank you ahead of time for bearing with me as I tell you about my Grace.

In 1998 I had just graduated from college and was moving to Colorado to start PT school and I wanted a dog.  I called a breeder who had advertised yellow lab puppies to say I wanted one but couldn’t pick her up for a week.  The breeder warned me that every other dog would be chosen by then and I would get “the one that was left”.

I drove out to a small farm in Missouri and pulled up to mutts and farm animals jumping on the car.  I was worried about what exactly was left for me to pick up.  I walked in to the living room and saw this little white bundle of fur hiding behind the breeder. She was left and she was mine.

I brought her home and tried to do the right things. I set up her own area with some toys and a crate. I said goodnight and headed to bed. After 30 minutes of listening to her whine from her crate, she came to bed with me and that was that. Our bond was cemented.

The “one that was left” would turn out to be the most beautiful and perfect dog I have ever seen and my constant companion for the next 14 1/2 years.

Grace truly was the best dog in the world.  I don’t say that lightly or as I know anyone would say about their dog or kids.  I mean she really was the best DOG.  She embodied everything that is wonderful and magical and indescribable and special about dogs.  She didn’t want to be a cat or a human or anything else.  She absolutely loved being a dog.  She didn’t want to climb onto the couch or lick or hang out with other dogs.  She wanted to just be with us and play her role as friend, companion, protector and, of course, fetcher.  She did it all with a resiliency, patience and loyalty that had no bounds.

I had no idea how to go about writing this or what to say that would properly honor her, and then I remembered something my husband said the day we had to say goodbye. Grace couldn’t get up on her own anymore and could barely lift her head.  He told me that she had just completely used up the body she was given in her lifetime. It had nothing left and was just done.

He was exactly right.

She hiked, she climbed, she ran, she swam and she followed me across the country and the ocean in cars and planes.

And she fetched.

Oh did she fetch.

This dog could fetch like nothing I had ever seen.  She was obsessed and 100% committed.  Her paws would bleed and she could barely stand but she wouldn’t stop until I finally just hid the ball from her.  She knew what she was – a retriever wholly and fully.  Grace didn’t wait for that ball to come to her or pick the cleanest or safest route to it.  She flew over and under and through until she found it.  She got muddy and dirty and tired and finally dragged that ball back.  She would lay it at my feet, triumphant, with a look that only said “do it again!”

Dogs have an advantage over humans in that they don’t know anything other than what they are.  Grace couldn’t have been anything other than a dog because she didn’t know any different. I didn’t ask her to be anything else because I loved what she was.

We as humans can lose track of what – or who – we are so easily in this world.  We compare ourselves to others, we get disappointed in ourselves or lack of “things”, and get stuck in the details.  We can miss life because we are too busy trying to be what we think the world needs, when maybe we already are.

What if, for a single day, we were the absolutely best simply in what we ARE.  What if we didn’t wait to plan the safest or most logical route, but simply ran with abandon and got a little dirty on the way?

Try it.

Don’t compare yourself to another, wish you had something else, or get disappointed.  Just live.  Then do it again, and again, and again.  No one needs you to be anything other than your best self.  You were made for it, and no one else can do it.  Embrace who you are, and all the gifts that come with it.

Use up the body you were given.  Run it, love it, squeeze every ounce of joy and passion and fun and energy and positivity out of it.  Then maybe, at the end of our lives, we can be as lucky as Grace to have used up everything we have.

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