It was love at first sight. The moment he held her in the palm of his hand I knew she’d become our little girl. He bottle-fed her, nestled her against his warm chest, and talked sweetly to her from day one. As she grew, she followed at his heels and loved him the best.
We weren’t married then – Matt and me – but we were living together. For about a year, we had merged our two families together. My Cici (a Morkie) and his Maggie (a lab bulldog mutt) had slowly warmed up to one another. We had discussed adding a pig to the mix, but then, our friend’s Blue Great Dane had puppies. Matt came home smitten with the runt, and I gave him a choice. A pig or a Great Dane but definitely not both. Weeks later, I received a text message with a picture of the cutest Great Dane puppy with the floppiest ears and gentlest eyes. The caption read, Our newest family member. Our family grew from four to five, and canines officially outnumbered humans.
I rushed through the door in a hurry to change out of my work clothes into workout clothes to make it to my volunteer coaching gig on time. As I stepped into the living room, I noticed puppy Grits staring at me through the glass backdoor. “How the hell did she get out there?” I wondered. I walked across the living room to the kitchen to open the backdoor. As soon as my feet hit the threshold of the living room and kitchen, water lapped against my shoes and my ears met the sound of gushing water.
First, I looked down to find water flooding from the kitchen to the living room and down the hall toward the bathroom. Second, I looked up to find the source of the gushing sound of water. All the while, Grits stared at me with a grin and a wagging tail eagerly anticipating her entrance back into the house. Finally, my eyes found the water source. The faucet at the kitchen sink was running full blast as water flowed over the sink into cabinets and the floor.
The window just above the kitchen sink was no longer cracked. It had been pushed all the way up and dishes blocked the drain perfectly.
Damn it! She has flooded the house!
I ran to the sink and turned the faucet off. I unstopped the drain. I opened the cabinets below the sink. Water gushed out. I opened the dishwasher door to the left of the sink. Water gushed out. I looked at the grinning face and wagging tail at the back door and screamed, “GRITS!”
I grabbed my phone to call Matt at work.
“Hey, babe. What’s up?” he answered.
“Um, Grits flooded the house!” I responded.
Baffled, he replied, “What do you mean she flooded the house?”
“I mean she flooded the house. There is water everywhere. In the kitchen, the living room, the hallway. What should I do? I’m supposed to coach in thirty minutes.”
“How did she flood the house?”
“I guess she climbed up on the counter, over the sink, and through the window. Her paws must’ve kicked on the faucet and knocked stuff in the sink. She’s staring at me from outside. There is water everywhere.”
“Shit, I’ll be home soon.”
At the end of the day, no major damage was done, and we kept loving that sweet face and wagging tail. What if we extended the same grace to ourselves and to each other? There are days when desperation, or even a hankering for too much fun, hampers our decision-making, and we behave out of the ordinary. Sometimes the out of the ordinary behavior is frowned upon, creates shame and embarrassment, and provides unintended consequences. In the end, we are all imperfect humans in need of a little grace to push us through the chaotic lives we create for ourselves.
Grits had a tender heart like both of us. She wanted to protect those she loved. Grits was fairly easy to potty train and rarely had accidents in the house. The same was true for Maggie. However, as Maggie aged and started losing control of her bowels, she would have the occasional accident, and the accidents were always in the same place near the backdoor in the kitchen. We started leaving a towel around the base of the round kitchen table to create a dam in case of an accident while we were out. One time, we came home to the smell of dog poop. Maggie always told on herself by dropping her head and slowly creeping off down the hallway to hide while Grits would look in anticipation and concern as we searched for the poop. We noticed the towel bunched up by the kitchen table. Matt grabbed it and as he picked it up poop plopped to the ground. Over time, we figured out Grits was hiding Maggie’s poop (and her own) in towels or with the backdoor rug. Talk about compassion and protection for the ones you love. How many of us have a friend like Grits? A friend who extends compassion even on our shittiest days.
In the last weeks of Grits’ life, we had to feed her rotisserie chicken and rice because it’s all she would eat. The rice would end up all over the floor, and we found ourselves stepping on dried rice all day every day. It was annoying, but I miss it because I miss her.
Every time I pull into the driveway, I find myself searching the window for her nose pressed against it. Months after losing her, we cleaned her nose marks and dried up slobber off the window. Our view of the world will never be the same.
Shortly after we cleaned the windows, I walked through the door for work and something just felt off. Then, it hit me like a load of bricks, our home smelled different. Her scent no longer lingered.
A couple of years ago, we lost Maggie and Cici, just a week apart, and Grits comforted us and ate up every ounce of the extra attention. After Matt’s dad died, she sat in our grief with us. After a long workday, she made us laugh with her antics.
I miss her begging face as we eat dinner. I miss her walking to the cabinet that held her food and nudging it every evening at 7 p.m. I miss her 145-pound self trying to crawl onto my lap as if she were a lap dog. I miss comforting her when loud noises scared her. I miss watching her hop walk with booties on her feet. I miss her wet nose poking us in the mornings.
She was the best kind of friend who brought us the best kind of joy, and my heart will never be the same because of her.