Sunday, September 20, 2009
Grace, our black lab mix of an uncertain pedigree, is by all accounts an ugly dog.
As a young pup, her mid-sized body was disproportionate to her smallish head, and her eyes would never stay focused for too long. We affectionately said she was the Marty Feldman of dogs because her walnut-colored eyes appeared to go in different directions. She didn’t have the talent of the late actor, known for his role as Igor in Mel Brooks’ “Young Frankenstein,” but Grace was funny and sometimes engaging – that is, when she didn’t bark incessantly or dig up the back lawn.
Grace found her way to us as an apparently abandoned dog lost on a strip of land near a massive park east of Los Angeles. She barked at everyone, and no one, including us, could ever get close to her. Grace eventually befriended some homeless people. One afternoon, in an I-must-save-this-dog fervor, her keepers and I bribed her into my car with some fast food hamburgers. I came home with an ugly dog that ate everything and anything.
From the start, Grace didn’t have it easy in the looks department. Besides being naturally ugly, Grace was competing against our Rin Tin Tin look-alike German shepherd, and a gorgeous amber-colored vizsla. Both were animal actors and were living the good life in retirement. We essentially had two dogs that were drop-dead gorgeous, and then there was Grace, whose best attributes were her cute white front paws. She was easy to overlook.
Through the years, Grace experienced the deaths of our vizsla and then German shepherd. For a few short weeks, she was the lone dog in our house until Mr. August, another piece of canine eye candy, came into our lives. Grace never had a chance to win the hearts of others.
When our son came along, I spent more time at home, and as a result, more time with Grace. Grace eased herself into my life and my everyday chores, often positioning herself in between my legs whenever I stood still. Other times, I would find her sleeping next to me or parked at the door knowing that I’ll have to walk over her to exit the room (I cannot tell you how many times that she made me trip). And if I’m cooking, no matter how hot it is in the kitchen, Grace is there, sitting in front of the oven, at my side, just to be with me. She has become a kind, sweet, and easy dog who has warmed my heart. I cannot imagine my life without her.
Today, as I look into Grace’s cloudy eyes, her face shows wisdom and much grateful love. Her 14-plus years have been kind to her, although she can no longer hear since apparently barking herself deaf. She sleeps most of the day. And now that I’m at home even more, her days are spent following me around the house and eating dropped figs or the random piece of paper in our home. Sometimes it’s chicken feed. It’s a good life.
But when the time comes for us to say goodbye, in my heart I’ll know Grace was a beautiful dog, cute white paws and all.