Saralee Perel

Award-winning columnist, Saralee Perel, can be reached at 

Her novel, Raw Nerves, is now available as a paperback and an e-book on

Healing A Wounded Heart

I’m finally beginning to recover from the loss of our dog, Gracie. She died in October. A vet said, “Remember the good times and she’ll always be with you.”

Well, that’s easier said than done. All I’ve thought about was her ending … until now.

Ever since my spinal cord injury, Gracie became my guardian. She would have given up her life for me by blocking cars I hadn’t seen or bikers or aggressive dogs. Because of her help, I defied medical opinions and learned to walk again, making it to 10 miles. She truly was my saving Grace.

During her last months, she’d get confused wandering in our backyard. She wasn’t afraid because I’d be by her side – the same way she had been by mine. The feel of my hand on her golden forehead always grounded her in safety and love.

One Sunday evening, her body went into a complete paralysis. A loving veterinarian named Gayle came to our home.

Knowing how upset Gracie would get when I’d cry, I would not let her spend her final minutes worrying about me. It was a far greater accomplishment to not cry than it was to have walked 10 miles.

As Gayle administered the medications that would end her mortal life, I was on the floor in front of Gracie’s beautiful face so that my face would be the last thing she’d see.

The last thing she heard was my voice, quietly singing a final version of our song.

Amazing Grace, how sweet you’ve been. You saved and strengthened me. I once was lost, but now I’m found. And you are safe right here … with me.

For one more time, the feel of my hand on her golden forehead grounded her in safety and love.

That night a friend said, “Gracie helped you to end your paralysis. Today you have done what you needed to do to help her end hers.”

I’ve wondered, “Was having her worth the anguish of losing her?”

After my pal, John, lost his dog, I asked, “Are you still glad you had Clancy?”

He said, even through tears, “I wouldn’t have missed a minute.”

So, how do I come to terms with losing Gracie? Hearing those words from John and others helps me. It also helps to realize that my sadness is so deep because it is in direct proportion to the depth of my love for her.

A pain-free loveless existence would feel flat. What is a life without love?

As a dear friend wrote, “I know that the moment Gracie died was one of great love and hurt and conflict for you. She shared your pain and you shared hers as she grew older and less able, but no less willing, to help you. Her pain is gone, but like a song in the room, her love and yours will linger on forever.”