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2012 Update

Gracie's  Story

For everyone who followed Gracie story and wanted to know how she is doing now....here is her story as told by her forever mom, Jo...

"I just wanted to let you know how your saving Gracie has impacted my life. She is the best dog ever. We are so thankful to you and the Rescue group. So many of my patients have asked about Gracie and her story, I decided to put it on paper. This is dedicated to you, your big heart, and all of the special work you do. You touch lives in ways you cannot imagine.


Gracie when GRSF found her

It was Oprah's fault. All of it was her fault. If she hadn't done that show on the fate of puppy mill dogs and made me cry for hours, even days later, recalling the appalling visions of those poor dogs, I would be in the same rut with no story to tell. My day started much like any other. However, my schedule as a physical therapist collapsed toward the end of the day. I decided to go home early and chill. On a whim, I switched on the TV just as the Oprah show began, and I was riveted from the start. What I saw and felt literally brought me to my knees. I was so overwhelmed with sadness and anger at the plight of the dogs that my tears seemed to stem from a deep ache in my belly, and my eyes stung.

By the time my husband came home from work, I was red eyed and snotty nosed. His dinner was extremely salty from my tears, and he was flabbergasted as to why I could be so upset. I told him about the show, described the horror, and argued we should rescue one of these dogs. We have a nice home and the means to support a dog. He looked at me as if I'd said I wanted to vacation on Mars. I craftily took his silence as consent and frantically started looking on websites for dogs in need of a good home. My patients enthusiastically joined in the search and lead me to numerous web sites.

At last, I spotted Gracie and fell madly in love at first sight. She was such a poor sight. I was desperate to have her, love her, and keep her safe. According to Carol at the rescue website, she was a golden retriever, but it was barely evident. On March 29, 2008, she weighed 29 pounds, had very little hair, mange, caked closed eyes, and no muscle tone. As a therapist I was most appalled at her muscle tone and inability to even stand upright. I could see the atrophied muscles and wondered how she had ever survived. I showed her picture to Chuck. He was horrified. Why do we need a dog? We have just got rid of the last kid. We want to travel during our retirement. What do we want with a dog? I replied that I have at least another 15 years of work in me. I really enjoy my work, and a dog will keep me company while others gallivant around the world.

I called Carol again and again. When she called back, she was very sweet but let me know I was bugging her. Gracie was in poor shape and may not even survive, she said. I knew in my heart she would. I kept calling and emailing. Carol told me her story: Gracie was picked up from the streets in Miami and left at a shelter waiting to die. The staff had called another retriever rescue group, which had refused her as she was not expected to survive. Not giving up hope, they called Carol, and her big heart could not refuse. If Gracie was to die, she would die with a Golden Retriever lover, who would hold her with compassion and love. Carol took Gracie straight to her vet where Gracie was lavished with love and all the assistance she needed to survive. They did not give up on her. I owe them so much thanks and praise. They are truly angels in disguise.

When Carol called me to let me know she was ready to come home with us, I was ecstatic. My husband, Chuck, was not. He was still not convinced that this was a smart idea. We emailed Gracie's picture to our boys to let them know we would have an addition to the family. True to form, they immediately accepted her. James, with his wicked sense of humor, nicknamed her Skelator. Chuck repeatedly asked me if Gracie was the one. What if she dies? What if she emerges with a horrible personality? What if she eats my shoes? I had an answer for everything and was determined nothing could stop me from this rescue. My best friend, Kitty, was on my side. She immediately volunteered to be God mother to Gracie. She would support us anyway she could. I emailed Gracie's pictures to my mum and sister in England where she was immediately put on the prayer list. We were all rooting for her.

Determinedly, I started to buy everything she might need. I started with a wicker crate; an orthopedic mattress (she was too bony for anything less); designer collars and matching leashes for all occasions; a life jacket, so we could do pool therapy and for going out in the boat; every type of grooming brush and comb (even though I was not convinced that her hair would grow back); 88 tennis balls, a deal from ebay; designer ceramic bowls for my house and Auntie Kitty's; and at least 20 toys I carefully selected to be soft in her mouth. I was ready. She had to survive now.

So, the first Saturday in May, Chuck and I climbed into our Mini Cooper at 6am and set off from Merritt Island for Miami to collect Gracie. We were both quiet and entrenched in our own thoughts and worries. I couldn't help but start to wonder what if. What if she doesn't like me? What if Chuck doesn't like her? What if she doesn't settle in her new crate? What if the blankets in the back of the car were not soft enough? What if I get pulled over for speeding? I had better slow down.

When we arrived, I could hardly contain my excitement. I felt like a new mom. I was impatient to just hold Gracie. I met Carol, the angel in disguise, who told me Gracie had opened her left eye for the first time that morning. She was not blind. I did not care anyway. I wanted to meet her. Where is Gracie? How long does it take to get her? I had to sign the adoption forms and all that is associated with dog adoption. I had to have her spayed within 6 months etc. etc. Come on, how long does it take? And then, she walked into the room, and my life changed. She was so beautiful even then. She had both eyes open! She had a pathetically skinny frame and little hair. Chuck was scared to touch her at first. I know he thought he'd hurt her. She had a sad face but a little wiggle in her tail. She was friendly but unsure. Chuck was hooked.

The drive home was easy. Both Chuck and Gracie fell asleep by the time we hit I-95. They both woke up at the gas station and promptly went right back to sleep. They woke up again about 5 miles from home. Gracie was curious in the car when we drove up our street. She stretched leisurely and looked out of the window. When the car pulled into the driveway, she was ready to get out. She went straight for the front door and sat down to wait for us. Chuck opened the front door, and she trotted up the hall and around the corner to her crate where she promptly sank into her orthopedic mattress and fell fast asleep.

For the first few weeks, Gracie slept a lot. Chuck said it was the fault of her sleep number bed. Why would she ever want to leave the crate? I thought about that. So I bought another mattress and put it in front of the fireplace. Then she started sleeping in two different areas. Slowly, she gained weight, confidence, and hair, and started to wake up.

Now, Gracie grins. She enjoys lounging around the pool on the sunbed, but she is not much of a water dog. She has been carried into the pool on few occasions - I needed to know she can swim. She reluctantly relaxes in my arms, I carry her into the pool and hold her in 4 feet high water. She relaxes for 3-4 seconds and then determinedly, and very effectively, swims for the steps and strolls around the pool to sprawl on the lounger. She walks on and off a leash beautifully, usually carrying an important item, like a shoe or toy or Priority Mail envelope. She loves boat rides (Chuck renamed his boat "Dog hauler too"). She has always been polite and friendly. She loves attention and to be petted but knows to stop before she is a pest. She enthusiastically greets me at the door every day, and I can't wait to get home from work to see that frantically wagging tail and exuberant greeting. She lies on my feet when I'm at the computer. She makes me go on long walks at least twice a day. She has convinced some my friends to look at "used" dogs, and not just puppies. She turned my big brae husband into her personal treats supplier. Gracie is now a gorgeous dog with a punk rocker tuft on her head. She is the perfect companion. I thought I had saved her, but she saved me.

So, this is Gracie's story. I need to thank Oprah for the heart wrenching show that prompted my frantic search. But especially, I need to thank her guardian angel, Carol, at Golden Rescue of South Florida: www.goldenrescuesouthflorida.com. You have no idea how much you have positively impacted my life. Thank you so much. "

Sincerely, Jo Ehrler

Gracie today, happy and healthy, and a February 2009 update below......

  

February 2009 Gracie update:

She makes me laugh out loud. I love to watch her antics. Gracie can be a diva, a pest, a cuddler, an instigator, a reluctant explorer, and a wuss. She does best as a manipulator.

Her day starts at 5:45am. She may bash her tail against the cabinets, rattle her crate, shove her water bowl along the floor, or generally make nuisance noises to get attention. As soon as she sees me emerge from the bedroom, she rushes to grab her leash. She drops it at the front door and races to get a soft toy/shoe/ball/envelope, so she can beat me back to the door. As if I ever win. Sometimes, she will want a cuddle first but not usually. It’s time to start work. Gracie chose her own jobs. She takes each quite seriously. Daily jobs include morning walks, preparing for the day, afternoon greet and run, and finally, convincing Daddy she is his best asset. Her first job of the day is to patrol the neighborhood carrying something silly. One neighbor seems to think it’s her security blanket. However, I think she sees it as a serious part of her job.

Gracie knows the routine. She walks along the path, not the wet grass or the road. She stays really close when someone is coming towards us. I think she’s being exceedingly good, but Chuck thinks she’s just a big scaredy-cat. Sometimes, we walk around to the office where Gracie helps me check messages. Sometimes, we follow the neighborhood pathways. Sometimes, Gracie is on a mission to check all of the front doors, garage doors, and gates of her special friends, sniffing at the base to be sure they’re not coming out to play.

But Saturdays make me laugh out loud. Chuck, in his infinite wisdom, decided Gracie needed to learn to fetch his newspaper. Then he can stand at the door and send Gracie down the driveway to collect his beloved Financial Times. What a great idea. Well, it seemed that way until Gracie decided to take it a step further. Now, we have to redeliver our neighborhood newspapers because clever Gracie had the fabulous idea to earn more treats. Consequently, if my neighbors are not early risers, I am sure that on more than one occasion they have wondered how the dogs slobber decorated their morning read. After Gracie’s morning jaunt, she is ready for breakfast. As my husband and I are generally scurrying around getting ready for work, Gracie has no qualms about reminding us of our duty. She will drop her Kong at my feet; look to be sure I see her, and then sedately meander to her sleep number bed in her crate. She will wait patiently for up to five minutes, and then repeat as necessary. Finally, we stuff her Kong with Tillamook cheddar and deliver it to Her Ladyship waiting patiently in her den.

Gracie relaxes most of the day. When I come home from work, I am greeted by a frantically wagging tail slapping everything in it’s path. Gracie usually grabs a toy, and we “meet and greet” on the front lawn where there is room to maneuver. I have time to dump the mail, and then it’s off to the park. Gracie jumps excitedly into the back of the Mini, instantly calming for the ride. I usually slow down to 25mph and roll down the windows as we approach the park. This prevents excess dog slobber on the windows and allows Gracie to smell for friends. Gracie really appreciates the sights, sounds, and smells of the park. She has made friends with the local armadillos, trees the squirrels, and enchants the gate guards and grounds man. She can run and run, but she’s always checking on me. Even as she greets an armadillo, she turns to be sure I’m watching her. She’s mostly polite with all of the wildlife, but she does give the squirrels a run for their money. The armadillos almost totally ignore her antics, except for one. He’ll sit up on his back legs as she thunders toward him. Gracie always loses her nerve first and either veers to the side or stops dead right in front of him. Then, she’ll check out his digging and wander off to the next project.

At least one day a week, we go to visit Auntie Kitty. She is Gracie’s “Godmother” and always there for her. She spoils Gracie rotten. Gracie loves her. Kitty will spend hours scratching behind her ears, brushing out her coat, and generally catering to Gracie’s every need. It’s really nice for me to know that I always have a reliable and loving place for Gracie in any emergency. A the end of the day, Gracie and I go for a walk around the neighborhood. Gracie cheerfully greets anyone who gives the least inclination they might be interested in petting her. She races back home to aggravate my husband for the remainder of the evening. He learned quickly that if ignored, Gracie will never settle. She seems to want to convince him she’s the best dog ever. If she senses the least hint of being ignored, she will just try harder and harder to get his attention until he’s drowning in slobbery toys.

So that’s Gracie’s usual day. She has endeared many people with her friendly personality. I feel so lucky to have her with us. I would love Gracie’s former owner to see her in all her glory and blow a big raspberry. Thanks again to Carol for saving her. She is a true blessing and has already touched many lives.

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2012 update:

Just a quick update on Gracie. It will be coming up to 4 years since I first saw Gracie's photo and felt so sorry for her.  Both of our worlds have turned around.  Gracie has been a total blessing to us.  We cannot imagine life without her.  She remains the sweetest dog I have ever known despite the fact she manipulates everyone with such talent.  I had always thought that dogs were happiest when they had jobs to do.  Gracie, however, turned the tables on us and has thoroughly manipulated us into our jobs.  I am the walker, brusher, poop picker upper, and cuddler.  My husband is the chicken man and treat man, and the newspaper man.  My son is the head out of the car window man, canoe man, and going fishing man.
Let me explain.  If I am in the house, Gracie refuses to walk further than the driveway. She will sit very patiently while my husband, son, or his friends try to bribe her to move.  Nothing works.  She may as well be a rock. She is very happy waiting for me to get my act together and reminds me she needs to go to the park at least once per day.  She will only bring her brush to me.  She sits beside her poop until I get the bag to pick it up. She snuggles with me every morning and expects a massage from me.
If my husband is in the house, Gracie will not eat her dinner without actually watching him cut up fresh chicken and carefully mixing in it with her kibble. She will totally go without food if she is neglected and manages to make my husband feel very guilty.  When he goes away on business, I can give her dry kibble, and she is happy to eat it. Gracie only asks my husband for treats (I love this as I don't miss my TV shows!), and she runs down the driveway to retrieve his Wall Street Journal every morning.  Of course, she will only give it up to my husband, and she hides it in her crate when he is away.
My son has dog slobber all over his car window and down the side of his car.  My husband and I have no such problem with her.  She loves the boat and the canoe and loves to help fish.  She will actually gently pick up flailing fish from Jordan's net and put them in the bucket.
So, she has changed our lives and the expectations we had before about being dog parents.  Gracie now has a safe and happy home, 4 orthopedic dog beds strewn around the house, multiple collars including the well used LED lighted collar for walks in the dark, too many toys in 3 toy boxes, and healthy organic kibble and treats.


We think about how lucky we are and thank you again for this little miracle. I know you have changed many lives, but I'd like to think we are the luckiest.
Best wishes and please keep up the good work.
Jo Ehrler

Gracie today
 

      

       
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