One of my favorite quotes is "I'm suspicious of people who don't like dogs, but I totally trust a dog when they don't like a person."
I guarantee you that any dog owner will agree with me on this -- my dog's opinion is the most regarded one in my house.
This quote never applied to Gracie though -- she loved all those who crossed her path and was loved by anyone and everyone that was lucky enough to meet her.
Gracie crossed my path when I was just 5 years old. My family was still mourning the loss of Murphy, a boisterous Irish terrier we lost at the age of 2.
Gracie hid in the corner at the breeders, and we hardly noticed the little runt with the purple ribbon around her neck until my mom picked her up and the small pup's face nuzzled in the crook of her neck.
We were able to bring Gracie home two weeks before Christmas. The Airedale puppy was the best Christmas present I could imagine, even though we all thought she more resembled a Rottweiler puppy with an Eddie Munster-like hairstyle.
As my dad has put it, "Gracie wasn't living in our world, we were living in hers." Maybe we're just crazy dog people, but Gracie was in every aspect of our lives. She had a devoted chair in the living room that no one else dared to sit in.
SHE'S IN NEARLY every photo I have of the events that happened in the 15 years we had her -- from the first day of school, to school dances, to senior photos.
When age began to set in, my mom baked her an angel food cake every week to give her something yummy to have her pills in (only sometimes did I get treats like this when I came home for the weekend from college).
As an only child, Gracie seemed to fit into the spot as my sister, especially as I was growing up. I always had someone to play dress-up with, or read to, or watch Spongebob with, or argue with in the backseat of the car on roadtrips.
My senior year of high school, my family unintentionally fell in love with Abba, a mutt from the Animal Protective League who we assume is a Labradoodle-Irish Wolfhound mix. My parents had always been apprehensive to bring another dog home -- personally, I had been begging for years.
But Gracie fell in love with her, too, and our home grew to four. When we brought Abba home, they created routines. Abba would circle by Gracie in the morning to make sure she was all right. She'd leave six pieces of kibble for Gracie to come clean up when she was finished eating.
And Abba loved to grab the toys Gracie was laying with -- her way to play with her when all Gracie wanted to do was take a nap by the fire.
I could easily go on about my wonderful memories with my pup sister, and that just won't fit within the pages of this newspaper. In short, Gracie was adored by all.
ON JULY 22, JUST three months shy of her 15th birthday, I said goodbye to Gracie. I knew it would be coming one day, but to me that day was to be far off in the distance and it wouldn't be reached for a long time. Losing Gracie left an ache in my heart that's deeper than I ever could have imagined.
But I'm not going to remember Gracie with a lump in my throat and tears running down my cheeks.
I'll remember her on the breezy summer days, the days she would sit outside for hours under her favorite tree that was positioned at just the right spot so she had a view of the entire neighborhood.
I'll remember her when I wake up in the mornings, reminiscent of the days that she would thunder up the stairs to jump in my bed and beg me to come down for breakfast.
I'll remember her when I tie my shoes in the morning -- the same act when I was a child had her running around the house with my shoe strings and the Scrunchie she pulled out of my pony tail.
I'll remember her with a smile on my face and the image of her -- tail wagging, ears perked, fur feeling like a stuffed animal up until her last day -- fresh in my memory.