by Judy Bonner
“Can your dog come over?”
The words refocused my attention to Gracie. We were at the vet’s check-out window, paying the bill. Gracie was tethered to a hook under the window.
I looked down at Gracie. Her eyes were dancing, her lips in a puckered up smile, her butt wiggling. Gracie loves people, especially children. Who was now the apple of Gracie’s eye?
I looked up. There was a woman at the next check-out window. She again asked if my dog could come over. Why not, I thought. But wait, what is that in her hand? A leash? My eyes narrowed in on that leash, following it down to the floor. Sure enough, it attached to a dog sitting tightly next to the woman’s legs, a dog not much bigger than Gracie.
Okay, take a step back, I thought to myself. I stood in front of Gracie. For as much as Gracie loves people, she is cautious around other dogs.
Gracie did not play with other puppies at break time in kindergarten class; she preferred a side seat with a good view instead. She made friends at our group dog training classes, but certainly not at the first class. She came to enjoy a good one-on-one play with her favorite friends. On her short list were a Golden Retriever, a Great Dane, a Cocker Spaniel, a Basset Hound, and a Wheaton Terrier, the only female in her circle of pals.
Otherwise, Gracie generally offers up calming signals to most dogs in her path…turning her head, sniffing the ground, making a C-curve, changing direction, all to avoid a face-to–face encounter. She is now a four-year-old Border Collie. I have one finger left on each hand to add to my count of dogs Gracie has shown a great displeasure of their presence and behaviors.
The woman, probably noticing my hesitation, went on to say her dog was a rescue, living with her four years now. “It’s only in the last year that I can pick up a broom without her running behind a door. This is the first time she has shown ANY interest in another dog.” Four eyes were pleading with me–the dog’s and her owner’s.
No words from Gracie. I glanced down at her. Hmm . . . now a sitting wiggle-butt. “It is up to Gracie.” I gave Gracie permission to “go visit,” thinking she would head straight for the woman, ignoring the dog. Nope. Gracie walked softly and slowly over to the dog. They touched noses and started sniffing each other’s muzzle and face. Good so far, but dogs in her face is something Gracie will tolerate but does not enjoy. Best not to push our luck. “Good girl, Gracie,” I said. “All done. Let’s go now.” Gracie returned to my side.
“Thank-you” the woman said. I smiled and nodded. Back to business. I signed the credit card slip, gathered all my papers together, and looped Gracie’s leash in my hand. We headed to the exit door.
“Can she come over one more time?”
I turned around. “It is up to Gracie,” I said. Gracie was once again doing her sitting wiggle-butt. “You can go visit.” I touched her head as she glided past me to the other dog. I let them greet each other longer this time before calling Gracie back to me.
The woman started crying. “You don’t know how much this means to me,” she said, kneeling down to hug her dog. “This is the first time I’ve seen her really happy.” The dog snuggled into her owner’s embrace.
Tears welled up in my eyes as Gracie and I tuned around to leave. I’d had dogs my whole life. My journey with Gracie was unlike any other. This was another entry into my journal of living with grace.