Grace Belongs

By Linda Porter Carlyle

Joseph Anderson Donetti and Mac waited under the shelter of the Humane Society’s porch while G.M. carefully spread an old blanket across the backseat of Joseph’s mom’s car. When she was finished, they dashed through the rain. Mac jumped into the backseat first and scooted across to the far side. The dog jumped in after her just as if she had been jumping into Mom’s car all her life. Then Joseph climbed in and slammed the door.

“Whew!” G.M. exclaimed as she started the motor, buckled her seatbelt, and turned on the windshield wipers. “What a day to get a dog!”

Joseph laughed. It might be stormy outside, but he was sunny and warm inside. It was a perfect day to get a dog!

The dog sat up straight, panting. She looked over the front seat out the front window. Joseph looked at her. He couldn’t believe that she was really his! He put his hand on her head just to make sure she was truly real and truly there beside him. The dog lay down with a big sigh. She put one paw across Joseph’s leg and laid her head on it.

“Oh! She knows she belongs to you!” Mac said softly. “She already knows she’s your dog!”

Joseph stroked the dog’s beautiful head. Then he looked at G.M. “What did you say you wanted to name her?” he asked.

G.M. steered carefully through a huge puddle in the road before she answered. “Grace. I thought Grace would be a good name. She’s your dog now because you picked her, just like we are God’s children because He chose us through His grace. You didn’t have to choose that dog—you wanted to. You really, really, really wanted a dog. God didn’t have to choose us to be His children—He wanted to. He really, really, really wanted us. That’s grace.”

“I like that idea,” Joseph said, stroking the dog’s leg.

“And,” Mac put in, “Grace could mean like ‘graceful’ too. Not clumsy. Did you see how gracefully she jumped into the car? She jumped like a deer.”

“OK,” Joseph announced. “Her name is Grace.” He looked at Mac. “How do I teach her what her name is?” he asked.

“I think you just say it to her a lot,” Mac answered. “When I first got Mabel, I called her ‘Mabel’ all the time when I talked to her. She learned her name right away. She was just a kitten though. She hadn’t had any other name before. I wonder what Grace’s name used to be.”

“Do you think Grace will have a hard time learning she has a new name?” Joseph worried.

“I think it will all work out just fine,” G.M. assured him. “And here we are at Pet Country. We’re going to have to buy a collar for her license and identification too.” G.M. pulled into the parking lot in front of the store. “You can take Grace inside if you want to,” she said.

“I can?” Joseph asked, astonished. “I didn’t know you could take dogs into stores!”

“Well, you usually can’t,” G.M. replied as she parked. “Not unless they are seeing eye dogs or hearing ear dogs that are in training. But you can take pets into Pet Country.”

“Cool!” Mac exclaimed. “I like that!”

Joseph held Grace’s leash as he opened the car door. He got out, and Grace leaped out after him. They ran together to the door.

Inside the store, Joseph stopped and looked around. He hadn’t known pet stores were so big. He saw tall stacks of dog food and cat food bags. He saw big cages of colorful birds. One whole wall was lined with many, many fish tanks. And there was a cage of fat, fluffy hamsters close to the cash registers.

“There are the collars and stuff,” Mac said, pointing. “Maybe you can find a red leash too. Then everything will match!”

Joseph, and Mac, and G.M. stood in front of the display of dog supplies. “We have to buy the right size collar,” G.M. muttered. “I don’t know which one to get.”

“Can I help you?” a cheerful voice asked.

“We want to buy a collar for my new dog,” Joseph said, looking up. “But we don’t know which one is the right size.”

The clerk stepped back. He studied Grace. “I think she probably weighs about 45 or 50 pounds,” he judged. He scanned the display and then picked a red collar off the wall. “Do you like this one?” he asked.

The clerk showed Joseph how to put the collar on Grace and how to check to be sure it fit her properly. Grace licked his hands when he finished, almost as if she were thanking him. The clerk laughed. “She’s a mighty pretty dog,” he said. “Is there anything else you need?”

G.M. thought for a minute. “We’ll need dog food, and a dog dish.”

“Do you have a bed for her already?” the clerk asked.

“No,” Joseph said. He looked worried. “There sure are a lot of things you need when you get a dog! We didn’t even think about a dog bed!”

“That’s true,” G.M. admitted. “But she’s ours now. We’ll just have to get what she needs.”

The clerk got them a cart, and Mac pushed it up and down the aisles while Joseph led Grace. The cart filled up quickly. A 20-pound bag of dog food. A seven-pound bag of dog bones. A bowl for food, a bowl for water, and a soft, round bed stuffed with cedar chips.

Joseph tugged at G.M.’s sleeve. “Thank you!” he whispered. “Thank you for letting me have a dog and for buying all this stuff!”

G.M. put an arm around his shoulders and gave him a squeeze. “I think it will be nice to have Grace around the house!” she said.

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