Saturday, August 22, 2015



On the eve of Gracie's 12th birthday I find myself reflecting back. 

When I was a very young child I felt something was missing. The answer came I learned later.  I had missed being loved. I knew I was different and that something wasn’t the same as other children.  I was allowed few, if any friends. I dreamed my dolls, at least the ones I was allowed to play with, were my friends.  I would talk to them, tell them my deepest secrets, and hold them close when no one else was there for me, which was most all of the time.

Today, I find my head filled and cluttered much like a pot, basket,  or jar, with words that define my work and my life, lost hopes and dreams, and dreams I never knew I had that have come true and those that most likely never will.

In writing Gracie's book, I pull from a place in my memory of my first dog, Blackie. I was about three or four years old and had repeated a bad word my father had said.  My mother, seething and ranting with anger, took a bar of soap and ‘washed’ out my mouth.  Not understanding any of it, I ran sobbing out the back door and into the yard. As I sat on the back steps, my cocker spaniel, Blackie, ran to me.  He jumped into my lap and laid his head on my shoulder. I held him and cried for what seemed like forever. It was the first time I had felt someone, or something, loved me. I could never have imagined that that moment would have led me to a lifetime of devotion to all things dog!
Looking back decades, I remember that moment feeling a comfort and love that I had never felt from anything or anyone before.

From that day until today, dogs have understood and been there and balanced me when I didn’t think I could take another step. They have taught me phenomenal lessons about life, pain, sorrow, healing, grief, but most of all about unconditional love.  I have never known or felt that feeling before from anyone. I sometimes feel ill equipped to even write or attempt to explain it.

What I do feel equipped to write about is, quite literally, a lifetime of pet therapy and how lives are changed, moments of grief softened, smiles brought to faces that had seconds before been vacant.  Spilling out into my writing now, it is easy to see why I sincerely see the reason I was placed on this earth.  There is a place deep inside of me where I feel the same, or similar emotions, as do my patients.  I have wanted them more than anything on earth, for a while with Gracie, to feel the comfort, acceptance, and grace I felt when Blackie taught me what love is all about simply by his presence. I don’t have to dream of love any more. I see it.  I feel it just as I can see colors and light and shapes in clouds and the tide coming in and out and never ceasing.

Moments with Gracie are treasures beyond words. They are gifts I will cherish forever.  For they are real and filled with love,  No pretenses, no falseness, only a feeling that there is nowhere and no one I would rather be with, as I write and sit with her by my side.  I inhale her fragrance, her bravery and her love.  I want never to forget these moments for what they truly are ~ moments of clarity about what really matters to me and what doesn’t. I have carried around pain, anger and longing, disappointment and regret for too long.

With Gracie I have learned there is no other choice but to be brave.  As a complete stranger said, “Gracie has determination beyond the world.” Her warriors and patients have given her her eyesight back…and she now  sees with her heart. And she has taught me to cherish my life moment by moment. And it is this I hope to share in her book with others. BECAUSE OF GRACIE is in the rewrite stage.  It has to be top priority until it is completed.

Ernest Hemingway said, "There is nothing to writing.  All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."  This is where I have found the answers, and where I have found grace and peace and a lifelong mission fulfilled. For when I began to follow my heart, the world conspired to help me ~ because of Gracie. 

What has been so powerful in Gracie's influence?  Time with her drowns out pain in her patients and her momma, as often those of us flattened by life begin to inflate just a bit in her presence. A paw extended can bring clarity to an ordinary moment. She has been an extraordinary dog, serving extraordinary people. 

As for me the day she came into my life, I was challenged to live with forgiveness.  Perhaps this is what forgiveness looks like in the ordinary moments and encounters of my life.  From Gracie and our warriors, I have learned what it is like to weep, what makes us fall and stumble and then somehow rise and go on.

Happy 12th Birthday little one.

Sunday, August 16, 2015


Throughout Gracie's life, there has never been a single doubt that whenever she has been present something quite extraordinary and beautiful has taken place.  Whether with a stranger or friend, young or old, lives change, messages are whispered, and the fine art of living in the moment becomes a special occasion of inexplicable importance.

Gracie for over eleven years, without provocation or vision, has provided answers to pain, suffering, fear, anger, angst, loss, celebration and jubilation.  She has been an angel, a prayer that walks into difficult and sometimes unfathomable and deeply painful situations, providing answers to endless questions, for what have seemed to be no explanation.  Twenty seconds with Gracie is sometimes all she needs to find that breakthrough.  In that moment and place in time nothing else seems to matter.  She mystically exposes an opportunity and provides an opening for suffering to exit and for light and laughter and even an unexpected clarity and peace to enter.  She is and has her entire life been a gift to hundreds and hundreds of individuals, who have needed her more than they could have ever imagined.

I have no answers as to why.  I only know that when a little boy, the son of a wounded warrior, gazed into Gracie's sightless eyes for what seemed like forever and then looked up at me in wonder and said, "Look she has snowflakes in her eyes," my perception of life assumed a different meaning.  

There sometimes are no easy answers as to why we are on this earth and what our sacred mission is.  I have been blessed, as I know what my mission is as I have held Gracie's leash and watched the miraculous and the inexplicable occur.  Gracie has been in the right place at the right time for those who have needed her the most.

On the eve of her 12th birthday, I reflect back over our lives together and all of the miraculous moments I have been blessed to witness and be a part of.  This year I have seen her through the removal of her remaining eye and two critical spinal surgeries.  She still marches on, although a bit wobbly, and teaches me that each single moment on this earth has been and is a tremendous gift and blessing to be faced with joy.

What I previously deemed as having extraordinary importance has taken a back seat to simply being with Gracie and exploring the inexplicable, the beautiful, the mysterious, and watching moments of grace unfold.

Unpredictable tales of love surround her, as I page through hundreds of photographs that provide a visual narrative. Memories surface and her stores beg to be told.  For within these snapshots, questions are answered and the 'why' and the 'how' hold no meaning. That they happened is sufficient.