June 19, 2013

A Lesson From Coffee Dog

Giacomo & Slick

Giacomo & Slick

What I Learned From Coffee Dog

A few months ago I did a post about Gracie, the coffee dog. What I didn’t say in that post was that Gracie had been suffering from diabetes for a few years. Now the disease has progressed rapidly, bringing on complete blindness. She gets insulin shots twice a day, and she’s on a special diet, but the diabetes is affecting every part of her body, including her kidneys.


It was heartbreaking to see coffee dog struggle with everyday life. She bumped into doors, fell going down the step leading outside, hit her head on tables, and continually walked into the gate separating the kitchen from the dog room. My wife and I discussed putting her down, but on the very morning that we were talking about that—as I made a second cup of coffee—Gracie started her “coffee dog routine.” She stood at the gate, prancing in place, and barked at me. That convinced us she wasn’t ready. She was telling us, “hey, I’ve got some life left.”

What To Do?

My wife started working with her, using clicks and finger snaps to teach her where to go. Before long Gracie could get from her bed to the door without bumping into things. She learned a lot of other tricks along the way:

  • She finds her way out the door quite easily now, and even gets around outside without bumping into too many things.
  • She has learned where the water bowl is on the side porch, and she navigates the maze of chairs and small tables as if she had 20/20 vision.
  • She knows when one of the cats approaches her, and she jumps to full alert when she hears the UPS truck rumble down the gravel drive. (UPS is an arch enemy from way back.)
  • Most important of all, she knows exactly where to go in the morning when we share our coffee.

What Did I Learn From This?

To answer this question I have to bare my soul a little, and that’s something I don’t like to do. I’m getting old. There, I’ve said it, and it only took me an hour to type those words. I can’t do the things I used to. Don’t get me wrong; I feel blessed. I can still work 14-hour days—at the desk—and I still require less sleep than most people. I have my memory and wits, (my wife would argue that point) and I laugh every day. But I can’t do the physical things I used to. I can’t lay stone anymore, or pour concrete, or dig footings, or build fences. Especially not in the Texas heat. And I have to admit, the inability to do these things sometimes got me down. And then, when I least expected it…

Here Comes Gracie

Gracie showed me that life isn’t over just because you’re getting old.

  • She taught me that obstacles were things to overcome, not insurmountable objects.
  • She taught me persistence. When she lost her sight, she must have walked into our end table a hundred times before she learned just where it sat in her new world. And it took months for her to realize that when we opened the door, she had to wait for it to fully open before she tried going out.
  • She taught me to learn from my mistakes. We have a gate between the kitchen and the dog room which presented a problem for her going in and out of the kitchen. At first, she walked into the gate all the time; now she stops and waits for someone to let her in, or out. She’s also more careful when she reaches the step to go outside. She slows, then stops and sniffs, then she treads slowly and puts one foot down until it hits ground.
  • She taught me to never give up. It took her two months to learn the layout of the back porch.
  • She taught me to enjoy the simple things in life—like sitting in the grass and letting a breeze blow across her face; lying next to someone, enjoying their company; curling up on the porch on a rainy day…
Gracie & Freckles Coffee Dog

Gracie & Freckles

Or Sharing A Cup Of Coffee With An Old Friend

After seeing how much progress Gracie made in a few short months, my wife and I were impressed, and we were convinced she had time left.

Gracie is still happy. She wags her tail when she hears us. She greets us every morning with a bark. And most important of all, she still goes crazy when I make my coffee, demanding to join me on the porch for our “coffee time.”

I don’t know how long she’ll last. Hell, I don’t know how long I’ll last. But I’ve decided that while we’re both here, we’ll enjoy our time together. At least in the morning—over coffee.

Ciao, and thanks for stopping by,




Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of MURDER TAKES TIME, MURDER HAS CONSEQUENCES, and A BULLET FOR CARLOS. He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.”

8 Responses to “A Lesson From Coffee Dog”

  1. Well, you know I always love to stop by and read your stuff! Great story and I can appreciate the dogs strengths and survival instinct. I’m also convinced they can read your mind! whenever I had to make a serious decision regarding my dog, he would come to me and place his head on my lap and look up at me with teary eyes! So, Gracie got a hint of your thoughts and decided she is staying one way or another.

    And as for you, I think as long as your housebroken you will have a home for a long time. Your wife has love and patience.

    As always,

  2. Thanks, JJoyia. You’re right. Those animals can read minds. At least it seems that way.

  3. It’s interesting that you brought up the subject of realizing you can’t do all the things you did when you were younger now because I was just talking about a time when we had to convince your Mom of that the other day.

    I remember walking into the kitchen and seeing Mommom standing on top of the washer (!) to rearrange the cabinets above it. She was about 80 (!) at the time, her eyesight wasn’t great, and there was this little 5′ tall woman pulling out big containers — all while balancing on the washer.

    It took a lot of persuasion (from more than one family member) to convince her to have someone else help, or to use a ladder at the least.

    Mommom loved to arrange things in the cabinets so that everything was just so. In fact, she liked it so much that it came to be expected that when she came to visit your cabinets would be in tip-top shape when she left.

    She still got to do that for the rest of her years, just with some adjustments, like Gracie’s.

  4. HaHa, I remember that. And yes, you had to make her quit doing things.

  5. I have a feeling I’ll end up a lot like your mom. I never think it’s going to be dangerous…until I fall. 🙂

    I’m glad you gave Gracie another chance to prove she could make it. Like you, I hate admitting that I can’t do the things I used to. I’ll find some way of getting it done even if it takes me longer.

  6. Mikki did wonders working with Gracie, and when she’s in her familiar territory it’s hard to tell she’s blind. She’s a good girl. The amazing thing is to observe how much better her other senses have become.

  7. Thank you Giacomo for an uplifting story on animals wanting to live and continue sharing their lives with their masters. You and your wife did a good thing to let Gracie live.

  8. Hi, Lilian, and thanks for stopping by. It’s sometimes a tough decision because you never want the animals to suffer, but after having so many come through our sanctuary, we have gotten to be pretty good at looking for their signs.

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