It’s pretty impossible not to love a puppy.  They’re adorable and cuddly and all things wonderful…which tends to make it easier to overlook the Real World: Gracie stream of events in our lives.  

My MTV generation peeps are with me, right?  I have to admit I only dedicated myself to watching Real World: New York, but I caught bits and pieces of later seasons which continued the equal parts entertainment and train wreck tradition.  (Hmmm…much like our very own Gracie.)

I’ve already told you how Phoebe came into our lives, but since Gracie logs so much blog time I figured I’d fill you in on her story, too.

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Gracie, in her element

We moved to our current house about six years ago with a slightly different crew.  At the time BrightSide and I were herding 5-year-old T-man, 3-year-old Bear, and a miniature dachshund of advanced age named Roxie.  Roxie was a precious dog, but she had health problems and passed away not long after we settled into our home.

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After a while BrightSide and I decided we were ready for another dog, but we also realized there was a new factor to consider: we had young children in our home.  Before then it had always just been the two of us when we picked a new furry family member, but on this go-round we had a toddler and a pre-schooler.

We’d adored all of our shelter dogs, but we were concerned about bringing a dog home when we didn’t know its full history or could feel certain about its temperament.  BrightSide also wanted the kids to experience having a dog they could grow up with, so we decided we would get a puppy.

(I’ll pause to let the giggles pass, since I’m sure many of you just realized we made a conscious choice to have Gracie in our lives for FIFTEEN YEARS.  Jesus, take the wheel.)

Well, BrightSide’s friend had just gotten a golden retriever puppy that year (you see where this is headed, right?) and her pictures were adorable.  That was pretty much that.  Which means all the crazy scamp behavior that is Gracie, all the antics and nuttiness and drama we endure, we have to take responsibility for all of that.  Because if we’d researched dog breeds further than “a good family dog” then just maybe we would have discovered this deep-down puppy mode that lasts for eons.

But no…we saw excellent family dog and loyal and good with children and extremely patient and we were sold.  Oddly enough, the words stubborn, headstrong, relentless, or determined never came up in relation to golden retrievers.  I’m thinking that might have been helpful information to have, but you know what they say about hindsight and all.

At any rate, this is how I found myself contacting our friend’s breeder about her new litter of puppies.  Now this was a world I knew nothing about – breeders, dogs with pedigrees (oh, please), the AKC – it was crazy.  All I knew was that we thought a golden retriever would be a perfect fit for our family, this woman could guarantee the dog we brought home was a full golden, and by raising a dog from puppyhood we would create the environment she grew up in.

When I contacted the breeder I learned that there were two females in the litter, one of whom had been spoken for, but we were welcome to come meet the other to see if she’d be a good fit. I stifled a snort and set the appointment.

Have you ever met a litter of puppies?  I mean, I researched puppy selection before we went – how you’re supposed to evaluate temperament based on the puppy’s behavior and such – but come on.  The reality is you show up and there’s a pen of cuddly, squirming, furry puppies all trying to lick you to death.  Short of one actually biting me, I’d be hard pressed to say “Sorry, I just don’t think any of these will work out.”

You can guess what happened next.  BrightSide, T-man, Bear, and I drove to the lady’s house, stepped out of the car, and fell in love.  All of the dogs were precious, of course, and when the breeder pointed out Gracie she was just as adorable as her siblings.  Done deal, baby.

Bear thought it was extremely funny that the woman marked our puppy with nail polish, but who could blame her – they all looked exactly the same to me!  Frankly, I was impressed she could differentiate between the female who’d already been claimed and ours.  At any rate, when we left that day Gracie had a streak of bright orange nail polish between her shoulder blades.

Gracie's first day at home.
Gracie’s first day at home.

It was about six weeks later when Gracie was old enough to join our family, and she was the most delightful little thing.  We had a fenced backyard, but it turned out that even though she looked big her body mass was primarily fluff and she could squeeze between the wrought iron bars. It took a few weeks before she got big enough to get stuck at the shoulders (THAT was a fun time – always keeping watch for a dog who was half in/half out of the yard) and then maybe another month before I was sure she couldn’t escape.

Look at how small the spaces are in that fence.  That puppy was ALL FLUFF.
Look at how small the spaces are in that fence. That puppy was ALL FLUFF.

This is probably as good a time as any to mention that I grew up a cat person.  Our family had three Siamese cats over the course of my childhood, and I adored them. I even briefly owned a cat in college before (tragically) developing an allergy to their dander.  The point being BrightSide is the one who brought dogs into my life, and before Gracie I had exactly zero minutes of puppy experience.

This meant I was completely unprepared for her unbelievably sharp teeth.  Seriously, those things were like razor blades, so we went through a stage when almost every piece of children’s clothing had holes chewed in the sleeves.  Socks were also frequent casualties of Gracie’s attention and appeared regularly on our “to be replaced” shopping list.

I look back on Gracie’s puppy days with fondness, though I’m sure there must have been times when she exasperated the hell out of me.  Even house training went fairly well, especially since we have hardwoods, and she definitely lived up to the “good with children” golden reputation. Watching BrightSide play with her was fantastic fun, and still is to this day.

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This was gentle puppy play. Things are a bit wilder now that Gracie’s a big girl.

Gracie shunned her Big Dog pillow for Roxie’s bed and held onto it as long as possible.

Snoozing after a bath.
Snoozing after a bath.
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“See? I can still fit!”

I find it truly ironic that Gracie’s puppy stage was probably her easiest one.  Her Real World: Gracie escapades didn’t crank up to maximum intensity until she was fully grown – as a puppy she could fulfill a search-and-destroy mission, but once she’d reached full height nothing was out of reach and that’s when things really got nutty.

When she was a puppy things were safe as long as they weren’t on the floor.  When Gracie got a little bigger, items got pushed further back on the counters to keep them out of her mouth.  But then the day came when her reach increased exponentially and even stuff at the very back of the counter wasn’t safe.  That’s about the time that the vet’s staff started getting regular calls from me with a sheepish, “So Gracie just ate _____.  Do I need to be concerned?”  

Real World: Gracie has showcased innumerable antics, many of which have involved the digestive system.  She’s consumed a remarkable array of items such as small landscaping stones, kitchen grease, Q-tips, half a Brillo pad, paper of any sort (including, in a fantastically ironic twist, part of a homework worksheet), half a Comet-covered sponge, any food she can steal, and an entire bar of Irish Spring soap.  It’s a full-blown miracle this dog’s still with us (although on two occasions maintaining that status involved inducing vomiting in our backyard, an experience I am NOT anxious to repeat).

I fully realize this makes me sound like the most irresponsible dog owner on the planet, and I wish I had an explanation for how this shit keeps happening that didn’t sound like me making a bunch of lame excuses.  I mean, I can only blame the dog for so long before I start to wonder what part I play in this circus.

At any rate, that’s the story of how our lovable, playful, sneaky, nutty Gracie came along.  There’s no doubt she’s turning me gray at an exponential rate, but I wouldn’t give her up for anything.

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