Gradie Louise came into my life in 1996. While taking a horse to our large animal vet in MS, I saw her crossing a 6 lane highway. While waiting for my horse, and before I could go back to get her, she ran into the vet’s barn and hopped into my lap. We had literally picked each other! Dr. H. Wright found that she did not have heart worms, but unfortunately she was in the early stages of pregnancy. He suggested spaying would still be the best option. She was 6 mos. to 1 yr old. I knew right away she was one smart cookie! How? Because, the first day home, when I asked my other dogs to sit for a treat, her butt hit the deck too! She quickly learned all the basic commands I knew from obedience classes. We progressed quickly and easily to training books and to clicker training. In fact she learned so many behaviors that I had to keep a list in a notebook, because I couldn’t remember them all. Not being much of a barker, she even learned to sneeze on command when I was teaching her to speak. She started what I thought was a bark, but it was a sneeze and I accidentally clicked. It turned out to be highly entertaining, especially with children. She visited an inner city school with me, Caldwell for 4 yrs. and entertained kids from kindergarten to 3rd grade. She played Santa to the Kindergartners and had her photo made with each child to take home. 40 kids from 2 classes and she had endless patience. She would sit in the middle of a big circle of kids and I could show them the hand signals for different behaviors and they took turns having her perform. Her crawling and the sneeze were always favorites.
She became a Delta Therapy dog and we did that for 8 yrs. We visited 3 different convalescent homes and a rehab facility on a rotating basis. She was small enough if they wanted her in their hospital bed, we could comply and if they wanted a kiss or cuddle she was happy to accommodate. After she had 2 knee replacements we stopped going to hospitals because of slick floors. But she continued to participate in an inner city children’s reading program at Bickford Community Center. She traveled 1,000’s of miles with me and taught me so many life lessons. In her senior years, folks just couldn’t believe she was nearing 20, completely deaf and almost blind, because she still followed hand signals and her tail never stopped wagging. Hers is a story of amazing, unconditional love and a once-in-a-lifetime companion. I was privileged to help her say a peaceful good-bye on December 4, 2015.
A SPECIAL GIFT
You’re giving me a special gift,
So sorrowfully endowed,
And through these last few cherished days,
Your courage makes me proud.
But really, love is knowing
When your best friend is in pain,
And understanding earthly acts
Will only be in vain.
So looking deep into your eyes,
Beyond, into your soul,
I see in you the magic, that will
Once more make me whole.
The strength that you possess,
Is why I look to you today,
To do this thing that must be done,
For it’s the only way.
That strength is why I’ve followed you,
And chose you as my friend,
And why I’ve loved you all these years…
My partner ’til the end.
Please, understand just what this gift,
You’re giving, means to me,
It gives me back the strength I’ve lost,
And all my dignity.
You take a stand on my behalf,
For that is what friends do.
And know that what you do is right,
For I believe it too.
So one last time, I breathe your scent,
And through your hand I feel,
The courage that’s within you,
To now grant me this appeal.
Cut the leash that holds me here,
Dear friend, and let me run,
Once more a strong and steady dog,
My pain and struggle done.
And don’t despair my passing,
For I won’t be far away,
Forever here, within your heart,
And memory I’ll stay.
I’ll be there watching over you,
Your ever faithful friend,
And in your memories I’ll run,
…a young dog once again.