We were moved by this article in the New York Times today.
A Dog’s Grace
By KIMBERLEE AUERBACH BERLIN
I was standing on a ladder in the closet, cleaning out the shelves,
when I noticed Gracie, our standard poodle puppy, throwing up in the
“Ethan, could you please help?” I asked my husband.
He wiped up the mess with a few paper towels, but she threw up again, and then again.
“I’m taking her to the vet,” he said, grabbing her, practically carrying her limp, dehydrated body out the door.
He came back empty-handed. They wanted to hold her for observation.
hours later, the only things left in my beloved 600-square-foot Upper
West Side apartment were dust balls and a broom. I couldn’t believe I
was moving away after 15 years; it was longer than I’d ever lived
anywhere else. The place had history. I didn’t want to leave, but Ethan
and I had just gotten married, and I was almost 40 years old, pregnant
with our first child. The apartment was clearly too small for our
growing family. But I still had to get out fast before I started crying.
called to check up on Gracie as we drove over the Queensboro Bridge to
Long Island City, where our new, bigger apartment awaited us.
“We think she might have an obstruction is her small intestines. We’re going to have to keep her overnight,” the vet said.
I caught my breath.
“It’s going to be O.K.,” Ethan said, rubbing the top of my hand.
the movers had gone, and the “couch doctors” had successfully broken
our couch to get it inside, Ethan and I sat in our new kitchen, eating
pizza, missing Gracie at our knees.
The next morning, the streets were covered in snow, inches and inches
of white snow, the kind that creates an unusual hush for New York City.
The phone rang. It was the vet. “You need to bring Gracie to the
emergency clinic on 55th. She needs an operation and we don’t have
anyone here who can do it. You have to pick her up within the hour.”
body started to shake and I held my stomach protectively. I was only
nine weeks along, but we’d heard the heartbeat, and I didn’t want the
baby to know how upset I was. “If we still lived on the Upper West Side
we could just cross the street and get her,” I said to Ethan, wishing we
could have afforded a two-bedroom in my old building. Now we had to
walk seven blocks to the E train and transfer to the 2.
arrived, Gracie hobbled over to us with a catheter taped to her front
right leg. Her tail was wagging, but she didn’t have the energy to jump
up on us. We rushed her outside and tried to hail a cab. The first
driver took one look at her and kept driving. The second one didn’t see
her until we had all slid into the back seat.
“Get out,” he screamed. “No dogs!”
“But she needs surgery!” I screamed back.
Then I lost it. I started crying, cursing, my eyeballs bulging, yelling at this man with no heart.
carried Gracie out of the car and stood on the corner, waiting for
someone who would take us. I kept crying even after a taxi picked us up,
was still sobbing by the time we met with the new vet.
be sure that there is something in her small intestines,” he told us.
“But if you look here, you’ll see this dark shadow is not normal.” He
pointed at the scan on the screen. “It’s your call, though.”
“If there is something, could she get sepsis and die?” I asked, finally calm enough to speak.
“Yes,” he said.
and I went off to discuss what we should do. It was the first real
decision we’d ever had to make as a married couple. To spend $4,000 we
didn’t have. And to put our dog through something that she might not
“This is why it’s scary to love anything,” Ethan said.
I hugged him, and then we decided yes, we would do it.
We left Gracie and took the two trains back to our box-filled apartment with a washer and dryer, two bedrooms and no dog.
A few hours later, the doctor called to tell us there was nothing in there.
the next five days I had to ice Gracie’s belly, lined with 30 staples,
every four hours, give her painkillers and antibiotics, and make sure
she wasn’t developing a post-op infection. Teaching online classes from
home made it easy for me to take care of her. Ethan’s work had gotten
crazy and he wasn’t getting home until 2 a.m. It was just me and Gracie,
lying on the floor, out of place in this new space, both feeling our
Two weeks after the move, I tied Gracie’s plastic
cone to her neck and left her in the crate so I could go to my 11-week
“Is spotting normal?” I asked.
“Let’s take a look,” the gynecologist said.
faces both turned to the monitor, seeing the same thing at the same
time: a dark blob, no flickering, no life. I had lost the baby.
“You did nothing wrong,” she said.
But I had. I had moved. I had yelled at that cabdriver. We had given our puppy unnecessary surgery.
Ethan left work to meet me. We held each other on the couch, cried and called our parents, taking back our good news.
wanted to shut my eyes and go back home, to my real home, on West 72nd
Street, back to the refuge that had gotten me through 15 years of
breakups and bouts of depression and changes I couldn’t control.
night, Gracie put her chin in my lap and looked up at me. She couldn’t
give me medicine or make my night sweats go away, but she wagged her
tail and forced me outside to explore our new streets of Long Island
When the weather got warmer, Ethan and I took her to the dog
park two blocks away and watched her jump high in the air trying to
catch the ball. She was O.K. Turning to Ethan, I was starting to feel
O.K. too. This was my family, and it helped to know that whenever Gracie
bounded up the stairs after playing, she had no clue why the back
bedroom, the reason we moved in the first place, was empty.
Kimberlee Auerbach Berlin is the author of the memoir “The Devil, The Lovers & Me: My Life in Tarot.”