A dog named Gracie died today. She wasn’t alone, but passed in peace, held in the loving embrace of a shelter staff member. Gracie was not an old dog, but she had endured a long, hard life, and when the Lakeland Animal Shelter became her guardian, the hope was to give her the best possible existence for whatever time she had remaining.

It didn’t take long for Gracie to become a favorite of everyone who met her. Volunteers took slow and patient walks with Gracie, waiting for her to gather the strength to move and helping her to stand when her legs gave out, and there was always a bowl of chicken or other special food for her, something her other life rarely provided. When the weather was just right, Gracie was given a special place outside to rest and watch the world go by, and it was a common sight to see Gracie asleep on the soft green grass, beneath a clear blue sky, with the summer sun warming her weary, worn-out body. The common daily greeting among concerned volunteers was, “How’s Gracie doing today?”

Gracie had a life no animal should have to experience, but in the end, she was given the medical treatment she needed, a safe, comfortable place to live, healthy food and clean water, and a group of people who loved and cared for her. In return, Gracie forgave the past and died with peaceful dignity, a lesson for all of us.