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His Dog Taught Him a Lesson in Love

Gracie the golden retriever—and a nudge from God—showed him that love doesn’t always come easy. 

Illustration of a dog holding a pair of sunglasses

The two-mile trek up Monument Mountain in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, is a ritual adventure for me and all the dogs I’ve loved. Especially Gracie, our three-year-old golden retriever. It is her favorite place in the world. She’s not a huge fan of the car, but when we head toward Monument Mountain, she nudges me from the back seat, tail a-wag, as if to speed us along.

The other day, a hot sunny morning, we stopped halfway up the mountain at a cherished trail juncture so we could both have a drink. I rested my sunglasses on a rock and busied myself getting her portable water bowl out and filled after stealing a peek at my work e-mail on my phone (I know better, but I did it anyway). Meanwhile Gracie scurried off into some undergrowth, her hindquarters to me. Wonder what she found?

“Gracie, come get a drink.”

She didn’t come right away. She bolted up the trail instead and then darted back to lap sloppily at her bowl, glancing up at me. A group of hikers passed by, greeted cheerily by my golden. Then we were on our way. Except I couldn’t find my sunglasses. My new, pricey prescription sunglasses. I knew at once: Gracie.

I searched for five minutes before I found the mangled remains a few yards up the trail, gnawed nearly beyond recognition and then crushed underfoot by the recent hiking party.

There had been intent. There had been deceit and concealment. “How could you?” I wailed, shielding my eyes to better glare at her.

She had moved on up the trail by now, tail aloft, while I clutched the remnants of my glasses. I wanted to scream—or to weep. Instead I laughed. No, I thought, love is never easy. If it were easy, it wouldn’t be love. Maybe that was the lesson on this hot, sunny day.

Dear God, keep teaching me to love when love is the hardest.

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