As Gracie is winding down her days in this life, in preparation for our physical separation
honoring the hearts that beasts crack open – her story:
I figure Gracie is at least sixteen years old. Our beloved Wallie, bulldog, had lived almost that long. Wallie died on Yom Kippur 1996, a bulldog rarely lives that long and she wasn’t incapacitated until the last day of her life, which happened to be Yom Kippur.
I had been up all night tending to her and I knew it was her last night, so in the morning before shul I took her to my empathic vet and said, if you can, keep her alive today – try and keep her comfortable until I return. I’ll be back just after six.
I prayed the day’s Yom Kippur services and If I never understood the pure mournfulness of Yom Kippur, not sad exactly but mournful over the natural ways of attachment, passing, release – I knew it that day. I prayed and cried the silent tears of intimacy and acceptance the entire day long and it purified me in just the manner my forbears demonstrated if not described. I cleansed my self clean with my tears, and when I had cried a river of them, I returned to the veternarian’s office, held my beloved yoked beast Wallie the bulldog in my arms, thanked her for her years of devotion and service to my family, and let her go.
A year later a message appeared from a rescue person in the city; she had a doggie, thrown off a truck near Tower Grove Park, presently occupying her bathroom. She had no time to socialize the beast, but rescue her she did, am I interested? My little family rode over to her place and that was it – we came home with a mongrel that looked like the precious beast, some sort of spaniel mixology, who guarded my cradle on Cortland Street in Detroit, and who watched over me much of my youth-hood on the porch of my Grandpa’s house. We took the dog home.
Never had I seen a more traumatized dog, skittish, afraid of every single thing, not only people – objects and birds and all moving things. Whatever happened to this animal took years of undoing. She hid under every table then she went after the furniture and the rugs and the hearth to our on–the-national-register-tiled fireplace.
She ate up the newly laid wall-to-wall carpet in the basement. I never saw a beast eat up a wall-to-wall carpet. I didn’t think it was possible. Then she went after our furniture in the living room. Then she pee’d and pooped in the most precious of places, that world class hearth of extinct ceramics from the exotic kiln in upstate New York, the one item in our house that qualifies it as – something that excited the neighbors I can‘t recall what.
My children were going through their Elvis period, how this happened in my house is something I’ve never understood. But I kept my mouth shut (in a generation of sophisticated parenting strategies, this one is mine) and took them to Tupelo to visit his birthplace and his home in Memphis on the way back: Graceland. Adina at ten was dressing like Elvis, rhinestones and velvet, which redeemed the whole preoccupation for me. I bought her a load of such clothes and kept my mouth shut, delighting in each outrageous outfit as if this was normal.
We entered Graceland just as it was closing for the day and were stunned that it maintained its origins as just a regular house on a street in Memphis, until you reached the zebra room and other cracked wired design concepts. We loved Graceland and that’s what the children named the doggie: Graceland. We call her Gracie.