A Tribute to My Best Friend
By Leslie Vernick
My best friend died six weeks ago. I miss her terribly. For twelve years we were inseparable. When I lived in Pennsylvania, she came to work with me every day. My counseling clients loved her and often brought her treats that she happily munched on during our sessions. When they cried, she’d softly put her head on their lap and let them pet her for comfort.
But she didn’t just accompany me to work she followed me everywhere. If I went upstairs, she went upstairs. If I went downstairs she went downstairs. Even when I went to the bathroom, she wanted in. If I stayed up too late, she stayed up too.
Gracie was so devoted; I would have to sit by her while she ate and drank, because if I went somewhere else, she would stop eating or drinking to follow me.
Gracie taught me more about loyalty, faithfulness, devotion and love than most people have. She showed me what it looked like to want to be in someone’s presence so bad that nothing else mattered, including nourishment. God used Gracie’s love for me to show me how He wanted me to love him.
Last November when we moved to Arizona she no longer had stairs to go up and down. There were no more snowballs to pry off her paws and fur. She never missed the crazy thunderstorms or heavy rain. But it was harder for her to manage my travel. She’d stayed in our bedroom for hours watching the door, waiting for me to come home. And when I did, she turned into a happy puppy; jumping and licking and hugging and sighing, relieved that I was home again.
This week is Thanksgiving. Although I am still grieving Gracie’s death, there are so many things I am thankful for. I’m thankful that when she became obviously ill, I was home, not traveling. I had been speaking a lot in September and had numerous trips scheduled for later on in October and November. Yet this was the one ten-day period I was home.
On Friday night, she wholeheartedly gobbled down the new gourmet dog food we bought her. On Saturday she vomited and refused to eat. Lethargic on Sunday we knew something was off. Monday we took her to the vet who diagnosed a gastrointestinal problem. He gave her antibiotics and took a blood sample. Tuesday he called us with the bad news. Her blood test showed she had stage five cancer, either lymphoma or leukemia. He thought we could buy some time with either chemo or steroids but since she was already 13 years old (and her breed’s life expectancy is 12-14), we decided on steroids. However, Wednesday and Thursday she still wouldn’t eat and by Friday she stopped drinking. We knew that it was time to say good-bye.
Saturday morning we brought her to the vet. He gave us a private room and all the time we needed to say goodbye. Writing this I am crying, but I am also so thankful that she didn’t suffer long. I am thankful that I was home and not traveling. Thankful that we had this marvelous dog for as long as we did. Thankful that even at the very end she showed how much she wanted to please us.
Grace hadn’t eliminated since Thursday and we knew she needed to go. But she was so weak she couldn’t walk. She refused to pee on our floor. We carried her to the car. She didn’t go in the car either. But the minute we laid her down on the blanket at the vet’s office, she peed all over it. She didn’t care about his blanket and let her bladder go even though it meant she would lay in it.
God gives us a hard command to obey. He tells us, “In everything give thanks.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). How do you do this when you are grieving, when you don't get a yes to your prayer?
Please don’t misunderstand this command. God isn’t asking you to be thankful for everything. I’m not thankful for Gracie’s death. I wanted her to get better. I wanted her to live forever. But I have learned be thankful in everything. How? When I face tough situations, I purposefully look for the good that’s hidden in the hard.
How about you? Maybe you are facing a much tougher time than losing a beloved pet. Maybe you’ve lost a job or a spouse or a child or a marriage and this Thanksgiving feels way too hard to celebrate. That may be true, but in the hard, can you hunt for what you CAN be thankful for? If you do, it will make all the difference in how you handle hard.
After Gracie passed, my husband and I sat on our patio blasting music on our Bose speakers. The song we played over and over again was “The Prayer”, by Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli.
It was only 1:00 in the afternoon but our bodies felt like they were ready for bed. Yet we thanked God for the sunshine that warmed our faces, for the beauty around us, for powerful music that soothed our souls, and for our sweet, sweet Gracie, who blessed our lives.