Each night, when I call it a night, I canvass the main floor for any lights left on or doors unlocked. I check the woodstove when needed, and the fireplace should embers be present. As I turn off the last light, on a feeble little switch by the mantel, I head upstairs to the unheated hinterlands, where my sleigh-bed chariot and down-comforter shield fend off the winter chills. Creaks and cracks signal my ascent, as Gracie joins the beat with a snare-drum vibe, courtesy of her bare nails on fir floors. But last night the old treads sighed under my weight, and my weight only; this time no four-legged virtuoso completed the beat. I wanted to call for Gracie like I had a hundred times before, “Come on Gracie, it’s bedtime,” but the silence punctuated the reality; Gracie was no longer with me. Even my house seemed to mourn her absence with an enveloping silence, and uncharacteristically somber mood that quieted all systems and souls within its walls.
I recall on some occasions, I would call Gracie to bed, and she would have none of it. Why leave a perfectly overstuffed chair for a cold room with a man who snores louder than she does. And then, about an hour later, she would vacate her throne, pressed to do so by my annoying practice of lowering the thermostat to 50 degrees at night. As she trundled up the stairs in her signature zig-zag climbing style, she’d pause on the landing to hack, cough, grunt, sneeze, snort and make other tried-and-true bulldog sounds. In most cases, I’d already be asleep, and Gracie would scratch the bed-frame to alert me that she needed to be lifted up and tucked in. In a sleepy stupor, I would roll out of bed pick up my fifty-pound foot-warmer, and see to her comfort and appropriate placement. In mere minutes we’d both be asleep, cuddled up and ready to dream about marrow bones, and macaroons, respectively.
The last several months have been tough. Gracie seemed to age overnight following the death of Boz. She was sad, I was sad; we sorely missed our bombastic little buddy. When I worked outside, she would follow me to the truck and then just sit there until I opened the door and lifted her in. She’d contently nap there for the rest of the day. I left the door ajar so she could leave at will, but it appeared sleeping shotgun in a parked truck was her preferred regimen in the absence of sofa-surfing with her main squeeze.
She started sleeping all day (as opposed to three-quarters of the day) and was not too interested in eating or drinking. Toward the end, I was hand feeding her, and just trying to make her comfortable. She was a scrappy girl, one who had won my heart about ten years ago when I adopted her at two. We had a very good run: a decade of joyful memories, relatively good health, and lots of love, field trips, and treats along the way. What a gift she was, and what a gift my memory of her is.
Goodnight Gracie, and give my love to Boz. May your new digs have a toasty hearth, bountiful butt rubs, and a bottomless bowl of treats.