Hippie Squared: When Gracie Loved Beneath Her Station



Gracie in the Bush

a blogumn by Jeff Rogers

One afternoon not long after Gracie had recovered from her distemper and the loss of her whole litter of puppies, Elise walked Gracie down the hill from Angelino Heights to Echo Park and around the lake.

Near the entrance to the park Elise noticed a forlorn looking red-orange dog, his head in his paws, lying not far from a picnicking family. She assumed he must be their dog. But as she came back around the lake she saw the same dog sitting near a couple old guys drinking beer on the grass. “Oh no,” Elise said to herself. This dog didn’t have a family. But he was in the market for one. He seemed to be hoping one of these groups would look up and go, “That’s right. Almost forgot we had a dog,” and take him home.

Instead, Elise looked back a little further on and realized that he was following her and Gracie. Elise’s ethic has always been, if a dog asks for her help, she can’t turn away. But she knew I’d be mad. So after he followed them home she let him sit on our porch, but wouldn’t let him in the house. And when I got home, she was right, I was mad, and I forbade her to rescue another dog. Of course, I’d forbade her to rescue the first one for all the good it did anybody.

She bargained me down to this: when we went out to the Brite Spot for dinner that night we put him outside the front gate, with the understanding that if we was still there when we got back, we’d have to deal with him. Put up flyers, try to find his home. Of course he had no tag. And he seemed to me to be an utterly plain, unremarkable hound.
On our way home we drove up Edgeware from Bellevue, and nearing the crest we saw him lying in the middle of the street. Near some guys working on their car, who took no notice of him. There was something so sad, yearning and sweet about it that we had to take him home.

Gradually he won me. We have a photograph that captures something close to when he became my dog and there was no turning back. I’m lying on the couch reading the biography of Bukowski by Howard Sounes, and Red is lying on my chest, his peaceful face perched within he paws, the golden fringes of his ears tufting out, and the love is already there on both our faces.

Red was a sweet fellow. He was no alpha; no match or mate for Gracie. She ruled him in all things from the first. She dissed him daily. Meanwhile, he needed nothing but food and love. On walks he was content for her to lead, while he dawdled behind, smelling every tree and bush, munching on every clump of tall grass.

We hadn’t gotten either of them fixed before Gracie went into heat. We tried at first to keep them apart but their mutual drive was unstoppable. Before you knew it they were having furious dog sex, and then getting stuck together, where they would stand, ass to ass, with pained and embarrassed looks. “That’s gotta hurt,” I would think, looking at Red. But it didn’t stop him. They went at it several times a day.

And Red became a nervous wreck. He would shake and growl at Gracie when they weren’t copulating. He seemed to think he had to step up and be alpha now, to earn the right to be her mate. On walks he shouldered her aside, snapping and barking at her to stay behind, but he was a rudderless, insecure leader. He literally quivered in his harness.

It was a fascinating example of an unnatural pairing. As if Gilligan and Ginger were the only castaways on the island, until finally Ginger couldn’t take it anymore, she just got so horny that she jumped Gilligan’s bones. Red never would have stood a chance with Gracie in a real pack, and they both knew it. The power dynamics were all wrong.

We let it run its course and then we got them both fixed. We’ve often wondered over the years what their litter would have been like. How Red’s golden-pit mix (not a plain old hound at all) would have blended with her terrier-blue heeler strains. How would their personalities have expressed themselves in a new generation.

But they went back to their old stations. Neither of them seemed to speak of it again. It had all been some fever dream, a wrong affair from the get-go. Red dropped back to smell the flowers again. He rolled merrily onto his back and kicked his legs in the air for belly rubs, unconcerned with who was boss as long as he got the boundless affection. And out on hikes at Elysian Park, they would run up the hill together, until we couldn’t see them. Then as the ritual had it, we’d yell, “Where are the dogs?” until they came charging down together. “There’s the dogs!” we’d yell, when they spilled down onto the path, both of them with big old doggy smiles on their faces, just like brother and sister.