by Anita Wolfe
If you were to ask me to describe any one of the many dogs affiliated with KPETS, I would have to say “amazing” – precious gifts on loan to us for too short a time. I was blessed and privileged to have shared in the life of one of those gifts.
She came to me as unexpectedly and as gentle as she left. I will never forget the first time I saw her. I was asked by a neighbor if I would be willing to “dogsit” his sister’s golden retriever for a week while they were on vacation, which I gladly accepted. Being without a dog at the time, we were spending our days dog sitting a variety of dogs, while we waited patiently, and, I must admit, often impatiently for God to answer a specific prayer. A prayer for a “dear, sweet, kind, gentle, healthy golden retriever (puppy, we thought) that could be used in a vision we had for a special children’s ministry at our church.
When I entered my neighbor’s house, there she was – a beautiful 4 year old golden standing at the top of the steps. As soon as we caught each others eye, she quickly descended the steps, with her tail wagging to and fro and sat down by my side. I knelt down beside her and gave her a huge hug. (Not something I would ever do normally to a dog I first met), but I couldn’t believe my eyes, for she was the very image of the golden I had lost many years before, and somehow I could sense just as gentle and sweet.
Less than 24 hours had passed from that hug when my neighbor asked me if I would be willing to take their sister’s dog permanently. It seems their sister was getting up in years and was looking for a good home for her special friend, and they were not able to provide the time needed to properly care for her. Needless to say, I was ecstatic – not to mention speechless – but before I said yes I had to have the ok from my family. You see, my daughter was praying for “a puppy” to cuddle and love, my husband was looking forward to another non-aggressive dog with whom he could pretend to “wrestle”, and our son, now nearly 18, was hoping for a dog who could just “be cool”.
It only took one look, one introduction for Gracie to win everyone’s heart. I was soon to discover that she had that effect on nearly everyone she met. And to “put the icing on the cake”, she was to each member of the family, what they were hoping for in a dog.
And so home with us she came and began her “therapy dog” training shortly thereafter.
Gracie had already been trained in the basics, so all she needed was some fine tuning to receive her therapy dog certification. Actually, it was really just me that needed the real training. She was a natural at it, and just made me look good.
Gracie began visiting residents in retirement homes, loving all the hugs and special attention (and of course, people trying to sneak her treats). From there, we were introduced to the R.E.A.D. program together, and spent a few years “listening” to some good books read to us at the Lititz library. She also was a big hit at our church, where Karen Gerth & Sammy helped us to birth a “Paw Pals” dog ministry to special needs children. Gracie was such a good sport, allowing me to dress her up as any kind of Bible character as long as the program involved being loved and petted by the children, with some treats thrown in for good measure, naturally.
There are so many precious memories I have of Gracie, just like we all do of our dogs. Things they do, times they make us laugh, ways they let us know what they want, and ways they even protect us from danger. I’ll never forget how she barked and danced around in our family room one morning before I was to leave for work. This was not a normal routine for her by any means – normally she would just run back to bed – you know, someone had to keep it warm during the day. J Investigating the house showed me that water (from the heavy rain that morning) was coming through our electrical boxin our basement. She alerted me to similar instances more than once for which I am so tremendously thankful.
But, the thing I treasure most about Gracie is the way she showed me to just love people unconditionally, to not be afraid to show love, not to be upset if the love is not returned or is even rejected, and to take time to just “be there” for people. I’ll never forget one time while just Gracie and I were manning a KPETS booth. A lady approached us in a rather quiet manner. She was soft spoken and cordial, but something specific seemed to be on her mind. Gracie got up and walked over and sat right next to the lady, putting her head gently aside the woman’s leg as if giving her a hug the only way she could. The lady reached down to pet Gracie’s soft head, and then the tears began to flow from this dear woman. It seems that she had lost her “best friend” not so long before and Gracie’s tender, compassionate hug overwhelmed her.
I thank God for creating such fine animals as Gracie and all the other KPETS therapy dogs. I believe they can teach us so much more than we could ever teach them – about what’s really important in life – and most importantly about the unconditional love God has for each and every one of us – no exceptions.
Thank you for letting me pour out my heart at this extremely difficult time. I’d like to add one final thing – God truly overwhelmed me with Gracie as a gift. And not to honor him with the following would be unfortunate. The lady who gave Gracie to us would accept nothing from us for her – in fact, she wanted to give us new toys, food, and money to buy anything else we needed to make Gracie’s transition to her new home comfortable. I was to find out, after receiving Gracie’s AKC papers, that Gracie’s real name was Amazing Grace. How appropriate, I thought. Just like God’s gift of grace –unmerited favor with Him– free to all – no strings attached.
Hug your dog for me – Gracie would like that!