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A Life With Grace

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Next week marks a special anniversary in our household, one that deserves a celebration. It will have been one year since gaining a new family member. Perhaps there’ll be a cake or a special present or surprise but will most likely it will be marked with the joy of mundane day-to-day living.

It is almost a year since we adopted our Boston terrier, Grace, from the Midwest Boston Terrier Rescue.

A year before that, we rescued our kitten from an uncertain future as one of dozens housed at the Bloomfield Township Animal Control. Jammed into a room with at least three dozen other felines, we chose our Kitty for his tuxedo coloring and his playful personality.

We are for the most part “cat people,” but since emptying the nest of children, the house was strangely hollow and vacant. All of a sudden, there was no sibling sniping or piano-flute duels or late night door slamming, so a space opened up for a kitten.

Kittens are a blast. They are hyperactive, psychotic dervishes that regularly hallucinate. However, once out of kittenhood, cats become independent, aloof creatures that do not require human attention. Kitty is no exception. He does not come when called and despises lap sitting and constant petting. There are times when he thinks he is a lion and will stalk and attack ankles.

Dogs, on the other hand, are known for being man’s best friend. Dogs are in need of perpetual reassurance. They love people and are quick to please.

I had thought about adding another pet to the family, one that would balance Kitty’s reign as King of the House. We have gone through birds, rats, and even hissing cockroaches. None of those seemed right for the time. It might be the right time for a dog.

While I am not gaga-crazy about my pets, I’m careful about pet selection. If I take a pet in, I want to make sure it’s a good fit, one where our personalities mesh. I’m a busy person, so a low-maintenance pet is a must. I’m also small, so my pet has to be of a size I can handle on my own.

We looked at dogs in stores and dogs at breeders. I looked at the dogs my friends and family have. My brother-in-law, who helps run a German Shorthair Pointer Rescue in California, expressed the importance of adopting rescued dogs. The more I learned about rescued dogs (given up because of economic downturn, family breakups and more likely poor fit), the more I was drawn to getting an adult rescue dog. Puppies are cute, but I don’t have the time for training.

Every dog breed has a rescue organization. After considerable research, I chose the Boston terrier for its small to medium features and even temperament. My sister has always had two Bostons, and they are the nicest animals. So I located the Midwest Boston Terrier Rescue website and applied.

MBTR does a thorough check of its adoptive families. There is a huge questionnaire, and that is just the beginning of the application process. There is a home visit to ensure that the family and the yard are safe.

After that, I visited with two different locally fostered Boston terriers. Henry was young and rambunctious and scared Kitty. He would be a handful. Grace, on the other hand, seemed to be older, subdued, and obedient. She nuzzled up to me right away, and there was something about her huge, pathetic eyes that got to me. On the way home from the visit, I called the foster “mom” and informed her I would be coming back to take Grace home.

There was a multi-page contract to sign as well as a fee payable to MBTR. The rescue is intent on finding “forever homes” for their dogs, and adopting owners are asked to call the rescue right away should circumstances change putting the dog in danger of losing its home.

At first Kitty was upset about the new housemate, but now he and Grace are the best of friends. They also share matching black and white coloring. Grace’s reaction to my husband was negative in the beginning. My husband is 6’ 3” and every time he walked into the room, she would slink away to the comfort of her crate. I didn’t know anything of her background, but take it from her reaction that she was likely afraid of tall men. It took many months of gentle coaxing and lots of dog treats for them to become best of friends.

My daughter returned from college and pronounced Grace the “ugliest dog” she had ever seen, but it wasn’t long before Grace won her heart and found a new bed with her.

Grace is a good dog, but not without her quirks. She will fetch balls and sticks, but never returns them, and instead runs away. She likes cat food, but is allergic to chicken, so we now feed the cat on the counter. Grace rolls herself up in blankets when she’s ready to sleep, resembling a doggie burrito. She loves the sun and dislikes rain and snow. I’m sure it was a comic wintertime sight when I would go out and shovel a clear space in the yard for her to do her duty.

Grace shows her displeasure at my violin playing by putting her head to the floor and her paws over her ears. She scavenges the kitchen floor and laps up every crumb. She even knocked a box of chocolate over a table and ate all but the foil-wrapped mints. (She was woozy for a few days, but recovered.) She gathers fallen pistachios (in the shell) and has feathered her crate with them and her sticks, puffy balls, and bones.

Still, for all her canine idiosyncrasies, I wouldn’t give Grace back for the world.

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About Joanne Huspek

I write. I read. I garden. I cook. I eat. And I love to talk about all of the above.
  • Loved this article, Joanne. You might like this tale about our cat.

  • I loved it too. A wonderful read, Joanne. I like the way you described how she “feathered her crate” with pistachios. She is really adorable. I see what you mean about those eyes.