Puppy Love

It feels like this blog has been awfully DEEP lately, so here’s something a little lighter.

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It’s been quite a while — about six months, to be exact — since I mentioned Gracie as anything other than an aside. Remember Gracie? Gracie is the labradoodle puppy who joined our family back in October. She was supposed to be our fourth child, because we were “done having children.” (Cue bitter laughter).

Well, Gracie is still with us, and next month she’ll be one year old. I usually distrust anything that comes across as too perfect, which is why I try very hard to be honest about how flawed I am and how imperfect our family is. But I have to say: Gracie is the perfect dog for our family. Her most marked imperfections are:

1. She’s very independent. I can’t say that we’ve had the typical dog owner experience, because I barely have to take care of Gracie. Our yard and our neighbors’ yard are both surrounded by one electric dog fence, which was installed for the neighbors’ golden retriever, Brinkley. Gracie and Brinkley are BEST FRIENDS– soul mates. Our girls say they’re “married,” and that’s probably true on a spiritual level. As soon as Gracie was old enough to train to the fence, she and Brinkley started spending their days as free-range dogs. Gracie asks to go outside every morning after breakfast, plays with Brinkley for much of the day (weather permitting), and re-enters our house to collapse into sleep every night. Aside from a minimal amount of feeding and grooming, my responsibilities involve opening and closing the door. I never need to walk Gracie unless I want a walk. Do we sometimes wish she hung out with our family a little more? Sure, but that’s more than balanced by the knowledge that she has a very happy life.

2. She has anxiety issues. As she’s grown older, Gracie has become increasingly aware that she’s responsible for a family, especially for three little girls. She takes this responsibility seriously — she’s a little hard on herself, if you ask me. So, despite her fluffy locks and her constantly wagging tail, she’s become a bit of a guard dog. She barks…and barks…and BARKS at anyone who dares to walk past our house (on the street, 20 yards from our front door). Good when it alerts me that someone’s nearby; bad when she scares the girls’ friends. When the girls play outside, Gracie and Brinkley will treat them like sheep, surrounding them in a v-formation to make sure that they stay within bounds. Good when Georgia takes off into the woods the minute my back is turned; bad when they topple Georgia over with their combined weight. And once, Gracie even latched onto the pants of a strange delivery man and attempted to tug him away from the house. That’s all bad, and has resulted in us enlisting the temporary services of a trainer/dog whisperer — which feels a little silly, but in the end is cheaper than a lawsuit.

3. She almost always throws up in the car. We’re working on this one, but for now it’s very hard to take her anywhere. The WORST was when she was sitting between the two oldest girls in the backseat and tossed her dog food all over Fiona.

So there you have it: an itemized list of Gracie’s imperfections. Now, here’s why she’s the perfect dog for our family (click on each thumbnail to enlarge the photo):

Unless you walk past our house or attempt to deliver our mail, you won’t meet a sweeter, more patient dog. We all adore our Gracie, and can’t imagine our family without her.

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