This week marks one WHOLE year since we brought Grace home.
At first, this felt like one of the biggest mistakes – no, actually the biggest mistake – we had ever made. We adopted a lab puppy in a one bedroom apartment with no outdoor space. In the middle of winter. What were we thinking?
To make matters worse, from the start, this puppy had health issues (cataracts, heart arrthythmia, joint trouble) and of course, ENDLESS AMOUNTS OF ENERGY. The kind of energy you would expect from a lab puppy who is forced to live in a square box.
We adopted her on the eve of New England’s first snow storm of 2015. It was too cold to go outside, so we threw tennis balls down our hallway to tire her out. This is not really an effective method. She did, however, enjoy watching exercise videos on tv. We don’t really know why, but that did hold her attention for small periods of time.
We were in the wrong space and constantly snowed in. Grace became a bad dog. She acted out, destroyed things. We couldn’t get on the same page about training her and were both mastering two completely different and incommunicable methods. For the first two months, I really wanted to get rid of Grace. I didn’t feel attached and I felt so, so overwhelmed.
And then my mother-in-law got really sick. My husband was needed in Florida and we had just bought a home in Connecticut. I felt so incredibly silly – who buys a house and adopts a puppy in the middle of a monumental crisis? As everything started to come down around us, the issues with Grace felt a hell of a lot smaller.
There were a lot of things up in the air, including Christopher, who was constantly flying across the country. In those weeks, and the months that have followed, Grace became an unbelievable blessing to me in my grief. I needed to care for something – to channel all of my energy, to put all of this sadness into something positive, to love something with all my heart.
Hey, Grace – right place, right time.
The most important takeaway, in Grace’s first year with us (other than read Cesar Millan and stock your apartment with a case of wine in the off chance you are barricaded in a one bedroom apartment during a snowstorm with an eight-week-old puppy) is:
If you are going through hell, keep on going – and get a dog. We adopted Grace during what turned out to be the worst time for our family. But having her in our home, and embracing the routine of owning a dog (especially a dog with tons of energy, like Grace), helped us put things back together again.
You should get a dog because:
You need to get out of bed. In the early days, doing the small things felt very overwhelming. I didn’t really know what was the first step in starting everything up again. When you have a dog, especially a puppy, you have to get out of bed because they need to go outside. You need to get dressed and go to the store because they need food. You need to put your sneakers on and get fresh air because they need a walk. Grace helped me get back into a normal routine, especially when I was feeling anything but normal.
You can get mad at a dog. I had a lot of anger that I didn’t know what to do with, the kind of angry that you can’t really do anything about or fix. I was just angry and foul. Enter Grace. I could get mad at Grace – for not coming when I called her, for chewing a toy on the couch, for unraveling the toilet paper and spreading it around the downstairs of our house. I was able to overreact, which was a huge relief. Grace never took it personally because she doesn’t take anything personally because she is a dog.
Dogs can’t talk. When someone close to you dies, everyone says that they just don’t know what to say. And I don’t either – there is no a magical phrase (other than I’m so sorry or This just sucks) that is the right thing to say. I found comfort in Grace’s silence this summer. Honestly, there is nothing to say. And that is one of the hardest parts for me – sometimes I thought diving into it would make me feel better, but it’s the silence that has always brought me the most peace. Grace helped with that. Chris also made a great point: dogs can’t talk, but they really are great listeners.
You need to laugh. Dogs can’t read the room. They have no idea if this is a bad time to fart audibly or to put their face into the mixing bowl full of flour. Grace helped me re-find my silly – something I desperately needed this year.
Sometimes you need to think outside of your grief. When it was time for me to go to Florida, I was paralyzed. I couldn’t book a flight, couldn’t pack a bag. And then I turned around and realized I had Grace. I had to mobilize quickly, because she too would have to be handled. I threw her in the car and drove to LGA, thinking I would figure it out on the way. If someone had said to me, “You really look like you need a distraction! Would you like to fly to Miami with a five month old puppy who needs to needs to poop but can’t find grass so is going to poop in the middle of the American Airlines terminal? Would that be nice for you?” I would have said, “THANK YOU NO THANK YOU.” But I know that I would have been a sobbing mess without her – instead, I had to focus on Grace not attacking the other passengers on our flight for the next three hours.
You need a buddy. Grace really likes to watch tv and go on long walks. She likes to sleep in the crook of my arm and on my legs. She has so many nicknames because she answers to any and everything I’ve ever called her – she is just so happy to be called! She wakes up with me at 6 a.m. and trots up the stairs to tuck me in each night.
Grace, watching a video about Golden Retrievers.
Grace always keeps me in her line of vision. When I work from home, Grace nudges the door open and sits in the doorway so she can keep an eye on me. It’s like she knows she is dealing with someone who might need some tending to, and she is just the girl to do it.
There were so many times during this journey with Grace that I wanted to turn around. She was a huge commitment and came at the absolute worst time. I had to show up, and I’m so glad I did.
Thank you for such a great first year, Grace. I promise no more lobster costumes in Year Two!