Gracie Lou casts a magic spell

There’s nothing graceful about Gracie Lou. She’s a chocolate Lab, not a ballerina … although you’ll soon learn she’s pretty good on her toes!

Chocolate Labs are supposed to be sweet yet goofy, and that’s definitely Gracie Lou’s m.o. Since being salvaged from a shelter in Gatineau, Quebec, Gracie Lou has been focused on bumping into, leaning up against, sitting on, pawing at, and basically melting the hearts of her rescuers. If you’ve got legs, she’s in between them in a flash. It’s a classic Lab maneuver, but she goes one step further. Once the unsuspecting human is fully entangled, she casts a magical love spell with the most beautiful pair of puppy-dog eyes.

In other words, she’s engaged in a full-on, Labrador retriever-style manipulation of the world, beginning with her foster home. The technical term for this is megalomania – a belief that one is entitled to rule the world – but there’s another ‘mega’ term that has Gracie Lou rising above the rest. That’s because her life depends on it.

Gracie Lou PHOTO: Sarah O’Neill
Gracie Lou
PHOTO: Sarah O’Neill

The life-threatening disorder Mega-E was first mistaken for kennel cough. Similar to the common cold, it can spread like wildfire in a shelter. Gracie Lou needed placement with a reputable rescue group before the shelter staff had an epidemic on their hands. They knew who to call.

Sit With Me Dog Rescue has been making its mark as a dedicated all-breed dog rescue since 2012, spanning from its home base in Ottawa to wherever committed foster homes can be found. Despite its name, it hasn’t taken long for Sit With Me to earn a reputation for standing up on behalf of overlooked shelter dogs regardless of breed, age, or health.

Gracie Lou made a pit stop at the rescue group’s veterinary clinic for an examination and antibiotics to nurse that cough, and descended on her foster home in Ottawa for some much needed TLC. Unfortunately, things weren’t as simple as recovering from a cold. Despite the medication and cozy foster home, Gracie Lou became increasingly worse.

Before long, she was hospitalized after developing pneumonia. X-rays revealed the unexpected truth: canine megaesophagus, or Mega-E. It’s a condition where the muscles of the esophagus fail to do their job of propelling food or water to the stomach. Instead, freshly gulped meals pool in the esophagus within the chest cavity, which can lead to aspiration pneumonia and the need for immediate medical intervention.

Gracie Lou requires specialized foster care until the perfect adopter is found, so she moved in with Jenna, rescue coordinator for the GTA region. Nestled on a friendly street in Cobourg, Jenna’s home is just what the doctor ordered.

I arrived at the door right when Gracie Lou was about to stand up for breakfast. Mega-E dogs must eat and drink from elevated bowls to ensure gravity does its magic. Feeding has been made much easier since the invention of the Bailey Chair. It resembles a toddler’s high chair, only for dogs. Jenna is in the midst of acquiring a donated chair for Gracie Lou.

In the meantime, she’s jury-rigged a feeding station on her kitchen wall. It may not look pretty but it does the trick! The proof is in the food-smeared look of utter bliss on Gracie-Lou’s face following the six-step system:

Step #1 – Take icky pill 15 minutes before dining and wag tail patiently while kibble soaks in water.

Step #2 – Stare longingly as food is scooped into blender then poured into bowl with an antacid.

Step #3 – Eat like nobody’s watching!

Step #4 – Make a huge mess!

Step #5 – Help clean mess by licking kitchen wall.

Step #6 – Follow foster mom into living room and cuddle sitting upright for 30 minutes until completely de-burped.

It occurs to me after reviewing these steps that I may have been a bit hasty with my initial description of Gracie Lou. Life may be more complicated for the girl with the captivating eyes, but she’s okay with that, and so is anyone who falls under her spell. She’s wagging proof that it’s all worthwhile – the good, the bad, and the messy.

Did I mention how many kisses I got during Step #6? Gracie Lou approaches everything with … pure grace.

Gracie-Lou is an approximately 4 to 6 year-old chocolate Labrador retriever standing TALL, pretty, and soon to be up for adoption at Sit With Me Dog Rescue. Learn more about canine megaesophagus and the Bailey Chair, or watch a video of Gracie eating breakfast.

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