22: Saving Grace

22: Saving Grace

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What?

Saving Grace

I do not at all understand the mystery of grace—only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.

~Anne Lamott

It was October of 2012 when I got the call that shattered my heart. The love of my life, my nine-year-old Yorkshire Terrier Louis, had been stung by a bee and was in cardiac arrest. I was an hour away. I had a sick feeling this wasn’t going to end well.

Just six months earlier, I was fired from my job of almost nineteen years—a job I loved. It was another call that wiped away what I thought was my identity and collapsed my world entirely. I felt like all I had left were my two beloved Yorkies, Lily and Louis, who had been with me through it all.

When I first got Louis, he weighed under a pound. I was worried that raising a furry little boy would be too much with my crazy work schedule, but I was desperate for a companion. Louis was a tiny little guy, the runt of the litter. He looked more like a mouse than a dog . . . he didn’t have a lot of fur or a lot of energy but for some reason I fell for him. I think it was his intense, dark brown eyes. When he looked at me, I melted. I could tell he needed me and I needed him.

So when I got the call that Louis had a heart attack and might not make it, I wasn’t sure that I would make it. I was in anguish as I rushed to the hospital. When the vet told me Louis was going to be okay, I felt so relieved. My dog walkers were there with Lily and handed her to me. I asked to see Louis, and the staff told me it would be just a minute. So I went to my car to get my credit card. Moments later the vet rushed out to me. “I’m sorry,” he said. “He arrested. Louis is gone. We couldn’t save him.”

I turned around in shock. “What? I thought you said he was okay?”

“He was. We don’t know what happened. He’s gone. I’m so sorry.”

I went in to hold Louis one final time. At first, Lily jumped on him. She was excited to see him. Then she realized he was gone and hid her head in my lap. She started to cry and didn’t stop for days.

Lily and I went home. It was the hardest day of our lives. Friends flew in from around the country, literally. Everyone knew this loss was devastating for us. And after losing my job, they weren’t sure I could take anymore. Lily and I didn’t sleep for days. Lily stopped eating. She stopped playing. She kept her eyes down. She was heartbroken. I was heartbroken.

Many months later, my vet told me Lily needed a friend. I wasn’t sure.

I called Sonya Fitzpatrick, a well-known pet psychic and medium, to see what she thought. She told me that Louis thought yes, it was time to get another dog. In fact, he thought I should get a small white dog and name that white dog Grace. Sonya went on to say that Lily agreed. She wanted someone to play with because she was lonely.

“Hmm, okay,” I said.

After our call, I searched the web for puppies who needed homes. I found one dog, a Biewer Yorkie who was soft and furry but not totally white. He was black and brown with a little bit of white fur. I put Lily in the car and drove an hour to meet this dog. When I arrived and introduced the puppy to Lily, she would not look at him. I mean WOULD NOT LOOK. She did everything in her power to avoid eye contact; she buried her head into my lap and turned away. She whined and cried until I finally gave up and left. This was really odd behavior for her, as she usually loves other dogs. I thought maybe she wasn’t ready. But I came to find out that particular puppy just wasn’t “the one.”

A couple of weeks later, I was at a local kill shelter in L.A. when I saw a tiny white puppy in a cage. This puppy looked more like a bird than a dog. She was emaciated, dirty and sickly, but there was something special about her eyes.

She had dark brown intense little eyes—a lot like Louis.

I picked her up. She laid her head against my chest and looked straight at me.

I swear I could hear her say those famous words from the movie Babe: “Will you be my mom?” She was the most imperfect dog, but I didn’t care. She needed a mom and I was up for the task.

Lily needed a playmate and she seemed like the perfect fit.

The vet told me the dog had been found on the street and was very sick, and probably wouldn’t make it. The vet didn’t think I should risk bringing a sick dog into my house, so I put her back in the cage and left.

The next day I couldn’t stop thinking about the little white dog at the shelter, so I called to see if she was still there. They told me she was gone—they wouldn’t reveal if she had passed or if she had been adopted. I was devastated.

A week later, I got a call from the shelter vet. There had been a mistake. The puppy’s paperwork had been switched and she was still there! The puppy was alive and getting stronger. If I was still interested, the vet thought she was healthy enough for me to bring Lily in to meet her.

At this point, Lily had refused all other dogs I’d considered. So I worried this puppy would also garner a bad reaction, but was going to give it a try.

I picked up Lily and brought her to the shelter.

I set Lily down in front of the puppy and waited.

Lily slowly walked up to the puppy and sniffed her.

The puppy sniffed her back.

Then she licked Lily’s nose.

Lily pawed the puppy’s face.

Then they chased each other around the room.

It was the first time I had seen Lily play since Louis died.

She was happy again.

It had been eight painful months and finally Lily had found her saving grace.

And I had found mine.

~Lisa Erspamer

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