Her three boys were teens, and the dog they’d grown up with was almost a teenager himself. Looking at her nearly 12-year-old Boxer, Major, Stephanie Barber knew her Pennsylvania home would soon be quieter than it had been in a long time. Worried about what Major’s inevitable exit would mean for her family, Stephanie turned to Petfinder and found Gracie, the blind puppy she never knew she needed.
“With my kids getting older, they don’t need me as much, and her companionship has meant a lot,” Stephanie tells Dogster.
It’s a story she tells in detail on her blog, Furever Gracie. She says she writes the blog in the hopes of helping others who are where she once was — hesitating over the adoption application for a dog with special needs.
“I went on Petfinder just to look around and see what was out there, and I just fell in love with her picture,” Stephanie recalls. “I thought I was crazy for looking at this dog with special needs because I had three kids and an older dog.”
Stephanie had logged onto the site because Major was showing his age and slowing down. Her boyfriend Todd agreed, it was a good time to welcome a new dog into the family, and when Stephanie sent Todd a picture of Gracie, he fell in love too.
“We had been talking about getting another dog just so [the new dog] could spend some time with Major and maybe give him a little excitement in his life again,” says Stephanie, who wasn’t imagining a blind, 5-pound fluff ball like Gracie when thinking of a dog who could befriend Major and her boys.
The Poodle–Pomeranian mix drew her in, though, and soon Stephanie was contacting the rescue that listed Gracie on Petfinder, The Last Dog Rescue in York, Pennsylvania. The organization had pulled Gracie from a local animal shelter where she had been surrendered, the product of a backyard breeder whose line frequently includes dogs with birth defects.
The breeder didn’t want Gracie, but Stephanie and her family did. When the rescue brought Gracie over for a home visit, it quickly became clear that she was never leaving.
“I went out to the car, and she was sitting on the passenger seat. I just went up to the window and was like, ‘oh Gracie!’ and she scurried over and just practically jumped out of the seat into my arms,” Stephanie recalls.
The rest of the family felt the same way.
“Major fell in love with her. She was so small, she would climb under his legs,” Stephanie remembers.
The home visit became a home for life. Gracie bumped into a few things, but the blind pup used her other senses to figure out her surroundings. With Major and her three human brothers doting on her, Gracie quickly became everyone’s little princess.
“She’s definitely spoiled by all of them. The boys all carry her around everywhere and snuggle with her,” Stephanie explains.
A year after Gracie’s adoption, the family lost Major to cancer. Everyone was devastated, including Gracie, who slept on the spot Major’s bed had occupied until Stephanie put it back.
“I knew that she was confused, and that this would help her with the transition. As soon as I put it back down there, she just started sleeping on it.”
Having Gracie to keep her occupied helped Stephanie cope with the loss of Major. She kept herself busy by selling custom dog accessories on Etsy and at craft fairs, using Gracie as a model.
The visually impaired dog is always by her human’s side and as much a part of the family as Major was.
“They can still do all the things a sighted dog can do. We’ve even taken Gracie kayaking,” says Stephanie.
Two months after losing Major, a family friend needed to rehome a beloved Miniature Pinscher, and Stephanie knew Gracie would make room on Major’s bed.
Despite her blindness, Gracie can find her new brother, Cody, wherever he goes, listening for the jingling of his collar on hikes and in the backyard. Stephanie hopes others will follow her the way Gracie follows Cody and adopt a special needs pup.
“They might surprise you and be the perfect dog.”