In January 2004, a headline in The Suffolk Times caught my attention: “Eight Degrees – eight Pups.” Under the headline was a picture of a dog nursing her litter of puppies. The photo was captioned: “Amazing Grace, a story of survival and resilience.”
The article described the harrowing experience of a dog found in an abandoned shed in Cuthchogue the previous week.
It all took place on a bitterly cold January night. The story described how a concerned citizen had called the police after hearing the repeated cries of a dog. The Southold Town animal shelter was brought to the scene by the police, and they found a mixed breed female, reluctant to come out of her hiding place. She had the appearance of a well-cared-for pet, bound and determined to stay in the shed she had found for herself. Gillian Wood Pultz, director of the animal shelter, soon found out why.
The dog had given birth to four puppies, two of which had already frozen to death. She was hovering over her two remaining pups attempting to keep them warm and safe from the cold, and then, the intruders. After much coaxing, Ms. Wood Pultz removed the dog and pups from the shed and into her van for transport to Mattituck-Laurel Veterinary Hospital and, in so doing, noticed the mom giving one of the surviving pups extra attention. Ms. Wood Pultz found it was having trouble breathing. Not wasting a second, she gave the struggling pup mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, thereby saving its young life.
After all three dogs were thoroughly checked out by Dr. Nicole Mercurio, who was to become her lifelong vet, the mom and the puppies were taken to Ms. Wood Pultz’s home, where she settled them down in a guest room closet. During the night she heard an inordinate amount of yelping coming from the room next door and found that the mom had given birth to six more puppies. At that point, Ms. Wood Pultz named her “Amazing” Grace, because of the ordeal she had survived.
After reading the rest of the story in the paper, I gave it to my husband, Jack, and when he finished reading it, we both knew a dog was in our immediate future. I picked up the phone immediately and dialed the animal shelter. I told the person answering the phone of my interest in the dogs written about in the current issue of The Suffolk Times. She assumed we wanted a puppy, but we wanted the mom. The woman seemed surprised and then went on to say we would have to meet with Ms. Wood Pultz, because she was being particularly fussy about the home selected for this dog.
We received a call back within the hour, went to the shelter to meet with the director, and were introduced to Amazing Grace. There was no doubt whatsoever — we knew the three of us could be very happy together. But that wasn’t enough for Ms. Wood Pultz. No way. She was determined to find Grace a home with people who would never abandon her the way she had been the previous week. We went through two interviews: one in Ms. Wood Pultz’s office and one at our home, where we shared our photo albums filled with pictures of former pets. We also had to provide references — professional and personal — and go through several weeks of walking Grace while she remained at the shelter taking care of her pups. Then we had at-home visits. Ms. Wood Pultz would bring Grace over for a few hours at a time, then for a day, then for a weekend and finally forever. The entire process took a full month.
After coming to live with us full time, Grace had one more official duty to perform. Ms. Wood Pultz phoned in April and asked that we bring Amazing Grace back to the shelter the following afternoon. When asked why, she said we would understand when we got there. And we did. Gracie’s pups were going home that day and they were all lined up in back of the shelter, each in the arms of their new owners. Amazing Grace went up and down the line, checking each pup out thoroughly, and giving every one a parting lick. She then sat down for a moment, looking a little bewildered as she searched the crowed of people before her. It turned out the look of concern on her pretty face was because she was looking for us. The minute she laid eyes on us, she came running to our side, right where she belonged.
We have never doubted our quick decision to adopt Grace, and always wondered why she was abandoned on Oregon Road. She came into our home perfectly trained, desperately wanting to be part of a family.
Over the years, Gracie created her own Grant family chores. Whenever my husband or I returned from an errand, or just a quick walk, no matter how many times a day, Grace felt it her duty to make sure we acknowledged each other in some way, and sat on the floor between us looking back and forth until her mission was accomplished. Another Gracie-ism was to sit in the kitchen and watch me cook dinner every night. She then began a ritual none of our other dogs ever had done. She anticipated when it was time to for us to eat and then walked from the kitchen to the den, where my husband watched the evening news, announced with a small bark that dinner was ready and then she would escort him to the dinner table. I was never able to figure out how she knew, but she was never wrong.
Gracie made lots of friends in the neighborhood, of both the two-legged and four-legged variety. She loved going for walks and meeting up with her buddies: Maggie and Oscar up the street, Winston down on the corner, Missy and Destie across the road, Cody the barker on Wicks Road, Jack on New Suffolk Road, Foxy Roxie around the corner and the New Suffolk walkers, whom she greeted with pleasure most mornings, interrupting their walk for acknowledgement from each person.
There are many other things our Gracie did during the course of her 14 years with us, which I’m sure many other dogs do. But to us, each one was precious and we came to dread the day she would depart for the rainbow bridge. Sadly, that day came Nov. 2. In addition to losing her eyesight and hearing, Grace coped with pain from severely distorted hips, which worsened as she aged. But we never knew of her pain because she was so filled with joy and love, all the time. She will be missed by all her neighborhood friends, by the incredible staff at Mattituck-Laurel Veterinary Hospital, by the UPS and Fed Ex guys, whom she enjoyed greeting as if, when they delivered a package to our home, their real purpose was to see her. Amazing Grace was a special gift and we were blessed to have her as a focal point of our lives for 14 years.
The author lives in New Suffolk and during her years working at Cutchogue New Suffolk Free Library would often field questions from patrons about her dog, Grace.