We sent out a fundraising appeal in the last few days featuring a long time member of our online community -- Saralee Perel. We focused on how Christopher Reeve, even though she never met him, inspired her. Now I know from talking to her that see gets daily, hourly, inspiration from her loving husband Bob and from her beloved dog Gracie (pictured). After she had a look at the appeal, she asked if she could write about one of her other inspirations. I said sure. She chose Gracie. Sorry Bob.
I’m 8 years post injury. Since year one, I’ve had no choice but to find alternative means of care giving.
Often, I’m not in good spirits but I know someone who is. Someone who never gets frustrated with me; who never gets in a bad mood because I need more and more of her help. Someone who will never, ever let me down whether we’re hobbling along together in a downpour, or through mud, and no matter the time of day; my 15-year-old dog, Gracie.
I believe there is something even deeper than we’ve already discovered about human/pet communication that has yet to be fully embraced. I don’t think I’m crazy when I say that there is a look in Gracie’s eyes, as a friend recently said, that tells me she can read me like a book.
It has been Gracie who has selflessly cared for me all along. If I ever allowed it, she would go without eating for days if I was in bed. Anywhere – on the uneven ground of the backyard, on the sidewalk of our street, on what has become a treacherous walk from my bed to the bathroom, it has always been because of her that I rarely fall. She would rather fall herself than allow me to trip on any object in my path.
Gracie can still climb steps. At this point, I don’t think I will ever be able to climb even one. But a doctor friend told me that neural passages can learn to re-route themselves, so I keep trying. Each day, Gracie waits for me at the top of the one step which leads to our porch.
I see her standing on the porch, near the step . . . waiting . . . urging . . . assuming I can do it. After a dozen tries, when I still can’t make it, I grab onto her as she stands firmly so I can pull myself up.
Does holding on to her for help mean that I’ve failed? No. True victory is not found at either the top of a stair or at any finish line. True victory is all in the attempt.
Now, in her advanced years, I laugh at what a pair she and I make. Out back, when her limbs occasionally give out, I put my body on the ground, my hands under her belly, and lift her. And those times that I can’t get up, she sits as tightly next to me as possible, like a statue, staying good and strong, so that I can pull myself off of the ground.
Sometimes we just stay in that position on the ground, resting against each other, loving each other, knowing our time together will soon come to an end. When I’m laughing, she smiles, as all dog owners know that dogs truly do. When I am crying, she softly puts her pretty face under my hand.
Gracie thinks of me as her hero. But she is mine. She has put herself in harm’s way by protecting me from traffic, from joggers, bikers and dogs off leashes. She would give up her life for me. She is my biggest fan and my greatest supporter, my lifeguard and guardian. Gracie is my champion.
I have recently completed a book about her which is titled, “The Dog Who Walked Me.” Now it’s in my agent’s hands, who is connecting with publishers to see which company will publish it. I want Gracie to be remembered.
I thank all of my readers who responded so strongly with tender emotion and laughter to Gracie’s columns, in addition to sharing with me their own stories. It was purely because of this powerful “community for Gracie,” which grew so quickly, that this book in her honor was born.
In fact, without Gracie, I’d never be walking. I wouldn’t even be alive.
Saralee Perel Presents Gracie, My 4-Footed Coach!
Thanks to you, Saralee, for all you add to our community.
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