Grace died on March 13th. She had been digging in the ground for moles and running around the yard with her best friend Ranger. Cassie the cat was always nearby and the three of them would come when I would call their names and clap my hands five times. When I called and the three of them didn’t come running, I checked the front porch. Sometimes she and Ranger would climb the chain link fence – a feat I never got to witness but can only imagine her determination in stretching and climbing to get to something more than what she could find within the large expanse she already had to explore. 

Somehow, that wasn’t enough. 

By the time I noticed she wasn’t there, she may already have been dead. I spent the afternoon posting on a lost and found pets group in the area and also on the NextDoor app. Driving around, yelling, “Grace!” out the window as if bestowing a blessing on all those within earshot, she didn’t come. I imagined that she might be exploring in the woods and digging and chasing squirrels. I imagined that someone found her and wanted to keep her – just as I did when she came to me and Robby one day over four years ago. 

I went out again that night with my dear friend Karen and when we had no luck we turned to go back to the house. Karen spotted her and my heart leapt with joy. I threw the car into park and opened the door without even checking to see if cars were coming. Then I heard her voice, “She may be dead.” She had been hit and killed by a car and was not so far from the house on this side of the street. Perhaps she spotted something across the road and as her nature was to focus and run, she may have never seen the car coming that threw her into a ditch.

Grace was a companion – always ready to go in the car wherever I went. She loved it when we went to McDonalds or Sonic and got ice cream. She would lick the dish clean! In fact, doing dishes was one of her favorite chores. She would do the hard work and I would finish the job. She loved playing hard – getting Ranger down on the ground with her mouth around his neck. He would lay there and let her win every time. She had just met a new friend Connor – a little Yorkie – and she didn’t know quite what to think about this 16-year old creature. Once, Grace had something horrible in her mouth (maybe a mouse) when Connor approached her. She stood still as a statue with her mouth closed until he passed by, as if to hide her trophy, scared he might want it. She looked at me as if to say, “Please don’t make me share.” She was good to the little guy, sharing the holes she dug but then digging again and carelessly tossing dirt and leaves onto him. 

A Black Mouth Mountain Cur is what one person told me she was. A Boxer Hound mix was another label she had been given. Another dear friend had told me the weekend before that I needed to get her DNA. Having a dog like Grace for the rest of my life may have been the incentive for the DNA desire. When I lost my dog Barkley decades before, I thought that if I got another Cocker Spaniel I could repeat the gift of his life. Twinkie was altogether different and not in a good way! I loved her till she died nonetheless.

Grace was named Grace because she just showed up. She was love in the flesh. Love comes to us every day in many forms, reminding us that we are not alone. It may be a bird chirping, a cat rubbing against our legs or a dog eager to lick our faces. It may be a person. But love comes. This is life in the world that God created. 

The loss hurts so much. Time dulls the pain and prayer can make us attentive to the beauty still around us. The person who hit and killed her missed an opportunity by not having the courage or compassion to call. I would’ve forgiven. 

We live in the in-between world – in between the Garden of Eden and the perfected universe where all shall be made right. I always worried this would be Grace’s fate. Keeping her indoors with me so much wasn’t what she was made for. If I could’ve prevented this from happening, I would have a thousand times over. It’s easy to let our minds try to rewind time, isn’t it? Or even fool ourselves into believing that it’s not real. But death and life are intertwined and perhaps our biggest mistake is not being present in the moment to appreciate what is, right now, for it can never be again. Each moment is unique and irreplaceable.

While I lead Grace so many times on walks, I find comfort in the last line of Amazing Grace, “And Grace will lead me home.” She is now boundless energy – not confined by fences and leashes. She knows something far better than this world can offer. And one day, she may just lead me.

About N. Neelley Hicks

A social innovator in communication strategies & technologies for global development, Neelley is the founder of Harper Hill Global. Check out her game-changing work:
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