Grace Kelli - Berlin Racey
(November 8, 1995 - August 17, 2008)
Yesterday afternoon after almost six years, my journey with Grace Kelli ended. Over the last few months, she had developed a form of sarcoma, which is an aggressive cancer, around her neck. Even before I returned from Thailand the first of July, my mom emailed me that she wasn't behaving normally--not running around or eating well. When I got back to the States, I thought it might be because I was gone. Over a span of weeks of antibiotics and biopsies, I knew we were coming to the end. The mast had eventually grown to where it was very difficult for her to breath and swallow. In the last three days, she had drank less than a bowl of water and began to gag with any movement.
Many may remember that I found Grace on a backroad between Macon and my hometown. I was returning from my cousin Kelli's wedding on St. Simon's Island. While finding a dog in this area would be common, it would be extremely rare to find a retired racing Greyhound like this. What makes our story more interesting is that for the prior three months I had prayed about and read up on adopting a Greyhound; my roommate can attest to this. When I stopped and opened the passenger door to get something out, she jumped right in, as if she was waiting for me to pick her up. I truly believe she was a gift from God that I didn't deserve, hence Grace. Through Gracie, God taught me responsibility, patience, forgiveness and loyalty. I had left her with a Greyhound adoption agency while I decided whether to keep her at that time. On September 14, 2002, I picked her up and named her, Grace Kelli. Later, I found find out that day was the 20th anniversary of actress Grace Kelly's death.
There are many memories I will carry with me. Some of you may have seen an early picture of us in my hometown. In the photo taken by my mom, we are at a basefield I used to play on growing up. I have my hands cupped, water from a faucet is running into them, and Grace is drinking the water. It is still to this day my favorite photo. Another memory is in my parents' backyard, where our pool used to be. One day when she was running and playing, my dad jokingly told me to get her to dig up a dead place in the grass. On command, she went straight to the spot and in seconds had dug a hole several inches deep. I almost couldn't stop laughing long enough to get her to stop. And after that incident, she decided to do her own landscaping, especially in the pine straw. I could never get mad at her for "just being a dog"; Greyhounds come off the track not knowing how to play like that.
Just a few days ago, I learned a friend in the Greyhound community had lost another of her Greyhounds. Her Greyhound, Travis, is one of only two Greyhounds to ever earn AKC's top agility title. By the way, the first Greyhound to achieve that title is also one of Jen's. A few days ago, Jen recommended choosing four of Grace's favorite things, and letting her go after Gracie stopped showing interest in three of those favorite things.
Running -- Whether in an open area by herself or with other Greyhounds, Grace loved to "cut loose." The love to run is common to almost every Greyhound and always reminds me of the quote from Chariots of Fire, "I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure." Those who have seen Greyhounds run can attest to this love. Over the past year, Grace had stopped running in open fields; we believe it was just due to her age. But in my parents' backyard, she would run in small circle; one would think she would get dizzy. But not since I left for Thailand had she felt like running.
"Mr. Sleeping Bag" -- Of the few toys she had, nothing surpassed her favorite, Mr. Sleeping Bag, as we called it. It was the only thing she would play with in front of others. It was like her security blanket. She would bite on it, lick it, time after time. Some of the zipper is torn off. She has worn holes into it. I tried to teach her to drag it around; she just liked me doing it for her I guess. I haven't seen her bite or lick it since mid-June.
Beggin' Strips -- She stopped eating Beggin' Strips, a bacon-like treat, Thursday, even if in small pieces. Pieces still lay in her bowl. Enough said.
Peanut butter "konga" -- The only thing she held onto was her peanut butter "konga" -- her red rubber kong. This was by far her favorite treat. Her ears used to perk up and she would dance around at the mention of that word. I had to replace one kong, because she had licked it so much that the rubber would stick like glue to counters, dirt and everything else. To her there was nothing better than her konga; I would even freeze it with peanut butter like a popsicle. She was known for holding the kong with one paw like a hand. Though the Beggin' Strips weren't her favorite, I didn't want to wait until she no longer could enjoy her peanut butter konga.
As mentioned above, over these last few days she had given up I guess. She was a old girl. She would have been 13 years old this November. That's not very old for a Greyhound, but beyond the average lifespan. We were hoping to finally grasp the title of Most Senior Girl (Greyhound) at Greyfest this year. It had eluded us for the past three years for one reason or another.
Many things in life are cyclic. There is something pure and innocent about a boy and his dog and the journey they alone experience. Six years ago in late August, I alone picked up Grace from off the road, and just after 3:30 p.m. Sunday I let her go. I remember when I first brought her home -- for first two weeks, I slept on the floor with her. I wanted to make sure she knew I was there. For the last two nights, I slept on the floor with her on the couch. I would reach up and put my hand on her with every turn and every gag for a breath. Just to let her know I was there.
One last thought. Among our family, she was known for how she could lay on the floor and contort her neck. Without moving her head, she would watch my every move with her eyes. It was funny to see how motionless she could lie as long as I was in sight. I'd like to think she's still lying up against my chair keeping watch on me. Even now, I keep wanting to look back before I roll back from my desk to make sure I don't hit her tail. Driving home I kept waiting for her head to pop up in the back.