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March 10, 2004
In my inbox, an obituary. Oh, no, I thought.


But it was a dog's obituary, not a child's. My relief when I realized this yielded immediately to a bittersweet soak of wistful grief, though. What a nice dog. What a nice, nice, dog.

"During his 13 years, Grady lived a good dog life. He romped the beaches of Cape Cod, and accompanied his mothers on road trips from Florida to the Adirondack Mountains. He hiked the great north woods, ate peanuts in bars in Key West, and socialized for long afternoons in Manhattan sidewalk cafes. Grady was a tennis ball enthusiast, owning a collection, at one time, of more than 50, which he placed thoughtfully around the house for his owners' mutual enjoyment. Grady regularly devoured raw beef bones roughly half the size of his body, and managed to arrange that his mothers cook vegetables and meat for his meals during the last seven years of his life. Grady had every allergy known to the veterinary establishment, and could work an ear infection or hot spot for every cookie in the pantry. His eyes, brown and shiny, soulful and silly, simply touched hearts."

Dogs are direct. They are only what they are. They have no hidden agenda. Dogs are out there. They love what they love, and they love it forever. Dogs never change their minds about love. Never. There is no canine phrase for I-don't-really-know-what-happened-I-guess-we-just-grew-apart.

Their joy is a permanent part of them. So is their fear, if they have ever encountered cruelty, and so is their aggressive response to it -- but Grady was blessed never to know much about fear.

"Grady remembered every place, from Florida to Maine, where he was ever given a cookie...ever."

Grady would stop by St. Clement's, often, on his afternoon walk. He attended services regularly, thought he was not a communicant. He was kind to poor dogs, and even to poor cats, volunteering his Buddha-like presence at the church's free clinic for the pets of homeless and poor people. Fifteen dogs and cats on a Saturday, receiving for free the good care Grady's moms lavished on him at considerable expense. Kind, he was. Dogs are pure. If admission to heaven is based on good behavior, dogs are the only ones up there. "Grady nursed his Moms faithfully through major surgery, the death of a parent, morning sickness, and any crisis at hand."

Through the lens of blessed memory, a glimpse of resurrection:

"In our memories, he is a young, strapping hound flying across the beach and tackling the surf at high tide...he is the brilliant beast who carried his own leash for 15 blocks on the walk home, when our arms were laden with groceries...he is singing in the back seat of the car as we approach the lake...he is the grey muzzled, but still game old boy who hobbled along beside us, trying to play, even when his back legs refused to comply..."

And, like all the beloved dead,

"He is a great love of our lives."


The poor love their animal companions as much as the rest of us do, and they may need them more. St.Clement's Episcopal Chruch in Manhtattan has run a free clinic for the pets of homeless and poor people since 1998. If you would like to remember Grady or a beloved animal friend in your own life with a donation to the clinic, the address is:
St. Clement's
423 West 46th Street,
New York, 10036.

Note "Vet Clinic" on the memo line of your check.
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