The Day I Met Gracie

The experience was somewhat atypical but provided a lesson that was truly unique.

I met Gracie a couple of years ago. A chance encounter lasting only a few moments, it quickly became an auspicious one that I will never forget. Gracie approached me first, unafraid and
appearing to ask a silent question. Her eyes met mine and clearly seemed to say to me, “Is it okay?” My answer was almost automatic as I respectfully honored her politeness with a friendly and affirmative nod of approval. She seemed satisfied with my reply and quite grateful that I had acknowledged her as someone I was happy to know.

Turning her head away as though she was being pulled toward the next item on her agenda, Gracie circled my outstretched legs and made her way over to my wife’s reaching hand. The weather was kind to us that day, another perfect afternoon in San Diego. We relaxed in the shade of a huge tree alongside the harbor, watching boat after boat drifting along with the breeze. Every conceivable necessity had been neatly taken care of, and my wife Debbie and I were comfortably propped in our beach chairs, aware of little more than the invariable passing of time.

All at once I noticed that Gracie must have stumbled on a new best friend! I was delighted by how taken she was with Debbie, the manner in which she expressed a mutual awareness with us about everything that was going on at that moment. Gracie seemed to love just being near Debbie. After another moment we both looked up as Gracie’s owner, a man perhaps in his late sixties, stood near and apologized to us for her boldness. Debbie and I told him not to be concerned, that she really was a dear friend. He explained her restlessness resulted from having been left more or less alone for the past month, during which time he was recovering from a heart attack.

The kind man appeared very sad. He told us he suffered the mild heart attack immediately following the death of his wife and, after he had recovered much of his health again, he began taking Gracie for short walks as he and his wife had done before. Following a moment of silence he said goodbye and resumed his walk, beckoning Gracie to follow. She bounced along here and there, happily following the nice man who had so graciously told us his story. And after another moment, the two disappeared among the other people passing by.

Before we lost sight of them, though, I looked at Debbie and said, “She’s here. His wife is with Gracie.”

Debbie replied, “I know—they’re together now.”

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