Saving Graces

I’ve written a lot about our “Rescue” dogs because in reality they’ve rescued me. I should note that our son, Charlie, teases us about referring to Gracie and Bella as “Rescue” dogs since as he puts it, “It’s not as though the navy seals grabbed them in the middle of the night.” With Gracie it wasn’t even close. Our trusted dog groomer was Gracie’s foster mom until we came along. Gracie was happy and safe with Gail and now seems happy and safe with us. Bella was another story… a skinny, twisted, nervous wreck with thinning hair at a local shelter. A year later she is rounding out with a shimmering coat and a relatively calm disposition. We might not have saved Gracie, but Gracie definitely saved Bella! (We only visited Bella at the shelter because the ad featured her as a “Yorkie named Gracie,” which is exactly what our Gracie is.) The fact that Bella turned out to be a terrier mix without a name doesn’t matter because she’s been saved and so have we.

These dogs have taught us so much about unconditional love, acceptance and living in the moment. (Throw Him a Bone; Starting Over ) It’s as though we have perpetual two year old children who romp, squeal and delight in the littlest things. They’ve brought a welcome degree of chaos into our progressively calm lives. While we’ve developed a sense of humor about some of their quirks, they’ve brought to light some of ours. Without our kids to obsess about, we’ve taken to snapping photos of Gracie and Bella at every pass. We notice and marvel at some of the things we noticed when our kids were newborns… like when their little bodies move in and out with every breath. Our kids get creeped out by this because they correctly assume that we behaved this way with them before they were old enough to shut the door and say, “Go away.” The good news is that while our kids are trying to avoid us in their young adulthood, we found a couple of animals who can run but can’t hide.

Saving our “Graces” has brought out the best in all of us. As Lil’ Miss Zip pointed out in Giving and Receiving, when we extend ourselves, step out of our comfort zone and show up for others, the reciprocal rewards are immeasurable. Adopting Gracie and Bella required that we show up in a big way for them and, in return, they continue to show up in so many little ways for us.

If it’s in giving that we receive, then who is the helper, savior or rescuer? It seems to me that the giver and the receiver are interchangeable and part of what Mother Teresa refers to as a chain of love created by good works. A pastor once suggested before passing the basket in church that we “Give until it makes us smile.” Well with Gracie and Bella, as with most animals and all children, that’s easy.

When Chuck and I settle into our emptied nest, we don’t exhale into  our sense of satisfaction alone. Instead we hear two little sighs, from our saving graces, that conspire with our observations: Good dogs, good deeds, good day!

Who saved whom? -animal rescue bumper sticker