Everyone Loves Gracie
by Sheldon Bass
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The various attributes of love make it a powerful juggernaut that consistently amazes. This is a true account of a little nine and a half pound dog, who utilizes the power of love, which more than compensates for her tiny size. Gracie is a service dog who performs multiple functions for our family, primarily alerting us to oncoming diabetic seizures. Even with my writer's imagination, I never would have dreamt that Gracie could be so instrumental in our various ministries for Christ as well.
My wife wanted a small companion dog that could ride in her lap in a power wheelchair as she runs errands around town. Of course, as a man with the correct amount of testosterone coursing through my veins, I wanted a big dog. I said to my wife Becca, "I don't want some little foo-foo dog! Why can't we get a German Shepherd or something like that? He could carry heavy objects, open doors, hand things to you, and also be a great protector." She responded, "No! I'm getting a little dog." I happen to love all types of animals, so it did not take much for me to give in. As usual, the queen of the house had her way, and this time I am so very glad that she did.
It took several long months to find a dog that was affordable, yet that would be intelligent enough to be trained and certified as a service animal. Within that time there were many disappointments for Becca. Was God saying, no to her longing for a little dog?
One day we responded to a small, obscure advertisement in a community paper. It was for a female Maltese Yorkie, six months old. The folks who owned her did not have time to care for her (or love her) as they should, so they wanted to sell the little dog for only $100.00. We planned to meet at a local StarBucks coffee house, which has a large outdoor patio area.
It is essential here that we give credit and glory to whom it is due. Therefore, be it known that both Becca and I had been praying for two months that God would provide the right dog for us. When the small family arrived and approached us with the horribly matted and mongrel looking cur in their arms, I thought, "Oh nooo!" Her name was Gracie and she took one look at Becca and then, leaped out of the woman's arms into my wife's chest. It was fortunate that Becca caught her. You see, we did not choose Gracie. Gracie chose us, and she was not going to take no for an answer.
We were told, "Her name is Gracie. Here's the paperwork showing she's had her shots, and the receipt from when we bought her." The receipt was for over $1000.00, and it was from a pet store of ill repute. Becca gave me a look that spoke volumes. It meant; there is no way that family is going to leave here with this poor little dog, which had obviously been through a rough life up till then.
Becca repeated the dog's name. "Gracie... Honey, her name is Gracie."
I said, "Yeah, I heard."
Then Becca replied, "Gracie...the Grace of God?"
I understood what she meant now. "Was this God's sign to us that Gracie was indeed the dog He had chosen for us?"
When Gracie sensed that I was the man of the family, she struggled to get to me. So I reached over to take her from Becca. As I did so Gracie turned onto her back and I cradled her like a little baby. She was so tiny! Then something happened, which to this day I cannot explain. Gracie looked up into my eyes and completely mesmerized me. Maybe all of my testosterone turned to estrogen for a brief moment...I don't know, but I felt the strongest fatherly love wash over me like a tidal wave. Then my eyes began to leak. I had to hand her back to Becca real quick. I certainly did not want to be seen crying like a sissy in public! I reached for my wallet and pulled out five twenties and handed them to the woman, then made a quick departure into Star Bucks.
Back at home after a bath and all sorts of grooming, little Gracie looked like a show dog ready for competition. We learned that dogs of her breed are called "Morkies", and they were very popular just then and still are today. We are so blessed to have such an expensive breed for less than a tenth of the original cost. But would she be suitable as a service dog?
Calling the agency that trains and certifies the service dogs, we were told the first step was for someone to come to see our home and to meet Gracie. That was successful, but next she had to be spayed. It is mandatory.
Gracie has always liked little stuffed toys, some of which squeak, whine, say funny things or are just fun to tear apart. She was always rough with them, attacking her toys as if she were a huge predator. Like most dogs she likes to play Tug of War and Keep-Away the best. However, when Gracie came home from the Vet after being spayed, her hormones must have been very confusing to her. She began to carry her little stuffed toys around, treating them very gently, licking and cleaning them as if they were pups. Then that night Becca called me into the bedroom to witness what our new "Little Girl" was up to. Gracie was lying on the bed with all five of her stuffed toys situated at her teats as if she were trying to nurse them. I believe she really thought she had had puppies.
Gracie has proven herself over and over to be worthy of her now, Service Dog status. Two months after her certification as a Companion Dog, Gracie displayed another remarkable ability. Becca is a severe Brittle Diabetic, prone to low blood sugar seizures. When her glucose levels drop, they plunge quickly, incapacitating cognitive function in my wife. It happened one day at home.
Everything seemed fine and Becca was going about her daily routine. She sat on the couch for a short break and Gracie flew onto her lap and began barking uncontrollably and licking Becca's face. Gracie almost never barks. After about sixty seconds, Becca was in a full blown seizure. Her blood sugar registered at 40...dangerously low. I ran to get her emergency Glucagon injection and administered it as fast as I could. After twenty minutes or so, Becca was fine; accept for the horrible after feeling. That episode clued us to the fact that Gracie knew before hand what was about to happen. She has been alerting us to the same danger ever since, which gives us ample time to act before a seizure occurs.
All of that took place three and a half years ago next week. Gracie has turned out to be one of the best friends I've ever had. She is Becca's service dog, but she's also Daddy's little girl. I love that little dog almost as much as if she were my daughter (I have one of those too, but she's all grown up now). Becca teases me all the time, repeating my own words back to me, "I don't want a little foo-foo dog!"
What we have reported up till now is far from the extent of Gracie's talents and abilities, the greatest of which is her endearing and persuasive love. I've already told you what she has done to my heart. And I'm a 200 pound man who lifts weights. Gracie has a keen sense of how to apply her power of love to help others. As a Christian Minister, my wife and I are in the business of sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but which also involves helping others. Sometimes, God uses all three of us.
A young man in a wheelchair from our community came to the church on a weekday, looking for help. We gave him a bag of food from our pantry and a few articles of clothing. He had been in an automobile accident and the doctors said his leg needed to be amputated or he would die from the infection. When he pulled up his pant leg I nearly gagged. Pus was oozing from multiple places and it was swollen to twice the normal size. None of the antibiotics were working. The leg had to come off, but he refused, stating, "I would rather die! I can't live like a cripple!" I did my best to counsel him.
Three times over the next week I saw the man and pleaded with him to let the doctors operate. I cited numerous people who live happy and fruitful lives as quadriplegics and double amputees, some even run in marathons. I told him of Dave Drevecki and his amazing ministry, and of Joni Erickson Tada, but it was all to no avail. The next time he came to the church, Gracie was with me.
He had come for more food. It was the same man who had what now looked to be the beginning of gangrene in his leg. Gracie did not hesitate. She did one of her now famous flying leaps into his lap in his wheel chair and began licking his face. The man suddenly began talking goo-goo baby talk to Gracie, Saying, "I'll give you some lovin." I explained to him that Gracie is a Service Dog. He looked up at me and asked, "Do you think if I have my leg amputated I could get a Service dog too?" I answered, "I don't see why not." His entire demeanor changed instantly and he agreed to go back to the hospital. He was in church three weeks later with only one leg. Gracie did in one minute what I could not do through hours of counseling. We saw the man just last week downtown, riding a bicycle with a prosthetic leg. He sure looked happy.
Sweet little Darcy, a seven year old burn victim is the one who gave us the idea for Gracie's hospital visitations. We were passing through the lobby of the children's hospital with Gracie, and there were several kids there. As soon as they saw Gracie they became excited saying, "Awww, a puppy, she's so cute." Gracie was dressed in one of her little dresses that she loves to wear, because she knows it's cute. We allowed the kids to pet her. Gracie, who is a real attention lover, was eating it up. But Darcy is the one who I'll never forget.
She sat in a wheel chair on the other side of the huge lobby. Gracie saw her and began demanding to go to her. (She has a thing for kids and also for people in wheel chairs.)
So I picked Gracie up and carried her to where Darcy sat with bandages covering both hands and her face. The rest of the girl was covered by her Sesame Street pajamas. The only parts of her skin that were visible was two fingers on one hand protruding from under the bandages, the tip of her nose, and one bright and shining eye. The rest of her head was all wrapped up.
As I approached her and asked the nurse if the girl might like to pet Gracie, that one visible eye got as big as a saucer. She held both bandaged hands out toward Gracie. When the nurse said okay, I held Gracie down and close to little Darcy so she could touch her. She did, but that was not enough. Darcy pried Gracie from my grasp and began to hug her so tight I thought she might hurt her. But Gracie was in work mode and knew how much that suffering little girl needed her love. Gracie licked the tip of her nose and the two fingers and allowed Darcy to hold her as long as she wanted. It was Becca who finally had to say, "It's time to go."
I will never forget the look in that little girl's eye. I knew that God was revealing yet another service that we could render to others in sharing the love of Jesus with those in need. Gracie makes this aspect of our work easy, and very rewarding.
After we received clearance we began visiting the Children's Hospital regularly. We take Gracie around to the kids who so desperately need some sort of distraction from their pain. No one ever forgets Gracie once they meet her. It is her powerful love that makes her special. She has the distinct ability to know who is depressed, in pain or is just in need of some love.
There are many times that Gracie has helped us to reach others with the Good News of Salvation. We regularly do street witnessing in downtown Indianapolis. I remember two different people that we saw often before we had Gracie, who would never talk to us. Both of those have now heard the message of Christ, because Gracie was with us. It seems that everyone wants to pet her. Before, they wanted nothing to do with us. But Gracie has a way of melting icy barriers and opening the doors of people's hearts to talk and to receive the good news that Jesus loves them and died for their sins.
There are so many more stories to tell of how we have been blessed by a little tiny dog with a great big heart. I suppose it will take writing a book to tell it all. One thing is certain. Gracie is the special dog that God selected for us. Even though her name was already Gracie when she came to us, we tell people that she was named after the grace of God. Many times, I've then been able to tell them about His amazing Grace, while Gracie loves on them. Gracie has taught me that love has many different ways of getting things done. I still laugh at myself when I think of my words, "I don't want a little foo-foo dog!"
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I really love this story. You did a great of bringing the characters to life. You also have a delightful sense of humor. You had me chuckling at all of the right places. I noticed a few little errors like wheelchair, Starbucks, and beforehand are one words. Also in the title it should be loves not love's. You also want to make sure that you start a new paragraph each time there is a new speaker. I totally believe God works through our animals. Once I was very depressed and was staring at an open bottle of pain pills, my cat came and batted the bottle out of my hand and sent pills flying everywhere. i wasn't past the point of wondering how much longer I could live with this pain but God wasn't going to give Satan any openings so I believe he sent Mylee to save me. I also have severe sleep apnea and the animals can sense my lowering oxygen levels so the story about the seizure rang true for me. I think with some polishing and maybe a proofread from an editor that this story would be a perfect fit for the pet Chicken Soup books. You'd have to cut it down some, but I think it would be a great fit. I really enjoyed it.