This is the love story as told to me by Michelle Gill, the mama of Gracie, the Great Dane from the state of Michigan.
Tell me about the first time you met Gracie.
My husband and I wanted a Great Dane, and we saw one listed online. Her story was so sad. She was the last of her litter, a few months old, and she was the runt. Gracie was very scared and timid, not outgoing like the breed is known to be. Her breeder offered her for less than the others in the litter, but that did not affect our decision one bit. I saw her picture and said, "That's my Dane." When we met her, she had scratches and scars all over her from the bigger dogs. The breeder did not keep them separated. She was shaking and terrified. It broke my heart. I scooped her up, took her home, and said, “I am going to take care of her.” It took her a few months before coming out of her shell, and then she made us laugh all the time.
Thinking back, how would you describe Gracie's personality as a puppy? And as an adult?
Gracie was shy, timid, and fearful but always very, very sweet. As she matured, my Grace, was the sweetest dog I ever met, and I work in rescue and have met many dogs, but Gracie was the sweetest dog ever. Ad an adult, she was still on the nervous side but nowhere near what she was as a puppy. She was still the sweetest dog ever!
And now, how would Gracie describe your personality Michelle?
Very protective, she had Wobblers Disease, and I took care of her full time. She'd say I was very caring and that I fixed everything. "Mama fix it!" she'd say! But mainly that I was very loving, caring, and protective.
What did you learn from Gracie?
I learned so much from her. Life wasn't fair to Gracie, one year we almost lost her to bloat, and then a couple of years later, she was diagnosed with Wobblers. She struggled; she couldn't run anymore, but that never got her down. She would watch her brother with great excitement from the deck as he ran. Gracie always found joy in little things, she never felt sorry for herself. She fell a lot but still got up and kept going.
What are the top three things you always want to remember about your love?
1. My love for her.
2. The feeling I had when I was with her. We would spend afternoons in the backyard laying in the sun. I never want to forget being in the moment, or the feeling of how lucky I was to have her.
3. I was diagnosed with a rare bone disease at about the same time as her Wobblers diagnosis. She helped me thru it. She didn't get down, and I didn't get down, together we made it work. We used to run together when we were younger. From this bone disease, we could no longer run. We had to find things we could do together, so this is where we discovered laying in the backyard and read, or we'd go for a walk, ok, seven blocks and back, but we had fun doing it. We figured out life together. She was amazing, and I am so lonely without her.
When did Gracie earn her wings?
Gracie earned her wings on June 11, 2020; she was eight years old.
When did you join Paws? Do you remember how you found Paws?
June 2020, "My friend Laura is a member, and she lost her Great Dane about a year ago, and she added me to the group when I lost Gracie."
What has or is helping you get to the other side of grief? What advice would you share with someone who recently started grieving?
In the beginning, I shoved it all down and tried not to deal with it. I told myself I was strong but soon realized I was hurting more by burying the emotions. You need to feel, scream, cry, and really feel the grieving pain. The group has helped me. At first, I thought my grief would be worse. I realized that I couldn't help myself. I needed to grieve with other people as they grieved, and I didn't feel alone. I remember feeling validated when I read in your book that some people, family, and friends think there is a limit to how much a person should grieve, and there is a time to move on. It isn't up to anyone but me. I found the group very helpful, and there was someone always there to talk to and empathize with.
Where are you now in your grief?
I'm better, but I don’t know, I have some good days and some bad. I had a few days where I didn't cry. My birthday was yesterday, my first without her. Gracie loved holidays. I felt a huge void and at first, I wanted to skip the day, but I instead I had breakfast with my parents and daughter. I thought about Gracie the whole time and how much she would love this.
Using your spiritual and intuitive mind…
If I could get a message to Gracie from you, what would you want to let Gracie know?
How much she is loved and missed.
And if I could get a message from Gracie to you, what would you want to know?
Knowing Grace, she'd be worried about me. I had a dream that she was standing at the edge of the field all alone, and she looked sad and lonely. I'd want to know if she feels loved, is there someone there who loves her, does she feel love where she's at? Some of my relatives are there, is she with them.
Is there anything else you would like to share with your Paws Pack about Gracie?
I wish everybody could meet her! She was just so wonderful. She was so strong, for the rest of my life, I will remember all that she contended with from physical therapy to acupuncture, there was always a smile on her face! Even when her doctor came to the house, "that day," she got off her bed to greet her doctor and was happy to see Dr.Abby at the house. That was my Gracie.