State Of Grac(i)e

You’ve already read about being jealous of a cat this month (and if you haven’t, read it now!). I, on the other hand, am jealous of a dog. She’s not even MY dog, technically — she lives with my parents in Indiana. Her name is Gracie, she’s a golden retriever and, like Sami’s cat Brioche, she’s a little over 2 years old.

I get that cat lovers have their reasons, but I find it hard to be jealous of a judge-y, aloof animal who poops in a box. I also get that reading about the delightful traits of other peoples’ animals is kind of boring, because no other pet could possibly be as wonderful as one’s own. But I can only write about the dog I know, as she is the one I wish I could be.

Golden retrievers are like the Jennifer Lawrence’s of the dog world — totally gorgeous and charmingly goofy. I read somewhere that humans are attracted to the breed because goldens’ mouths look like they’re smiling. Gracie is especially lovely, with eager brown eyes and a thick sandy-blonde coat. She hasn’t had a bad body image day in her life. She never has to worry about what to wear. Even when she needs a bath, her cute face more than makes up for any slight stinkiness (try getting away with THAT as a human). She does not fret about getting a little plump in the wintertime. Yes, a fur coat may be hot in the summer, but Gracie knows when to insist on cutting her walks short, retreating to one of her favorite spots on the cool kitchen floor. She’s never felt compelled to “push herself.” She spends much of her day curled up on the couch, but nobody calls her lazy. Her food is boring, but she’s always enthusiastic about it. (Unlike her predecessor, the equally beloved Molly, Gracie has never tasted peanut butter toast crusts or steak scraps.) She also receives daily full-body massages.

It’s not just the ease of Gracie’s physical life that I covet. Gracie has a great attitude. She has no social anxiety — she assumes everyone she meets already loves her. From puppyhood, she has been showered with constant affection and praise. As a result, she’s probably the most confident being I know (except when there’s a thunderstorm). Gracie doesn’t get embarrassed. She asserts herself, vocally and bodily. She barks if she senses it’s dinnertime, leans against your legs until you pet her and climbs up onto your lap while you watch TV, completely unaware that she is no longer puppy-sized.

Maybe I’ve got underlying issues tied to Gracie’s rapport with my parents. Here I am, slogging through the trials of young adulthood in Chicago, while Gracie’s living an eternal, ideal childhood. Her relationship with my mom and dad is friction-free. When she misbehaves, her transgression is more likely to be met with a sighing “Oh, Gracie…” than a reprimand. In the rare event that she is scolded, she pouts on her dog bed, making YOU feel guilty for saying “no.” If she were a human, all of these factors would probably make her a manipulative, spoiled narcissist. But even though Gracie obviously loves herself, she loves everyone else, too, and she has zero capacity for malice.

Mostly, though, I’m envious of Gracie’s ability to effortlessly inspire happiness in others. I wish MY sheer presence elicited coos of adoration. It’s difficult to be 100% soul-crushingly sad around her… I know, because I went through a tough period of depression last month. I felt totally numb, worthless, like my life was a waste. Fortunately, I got to spend a few days at my parents’ house. Although she certainly didn’t “cure” me on her own, Gracie played a big part in helping me feel better — and she did it not out of caring concern, but a selfish desire for more tummy rubs. When people are relentlessly self-interested and needy, it can be annoying. In contrast, Gracie’s innocent insistence on being loved somehow makes her MORE endearing. She has no shame, whereas I can become paralyzed with it. My dog does not doubt that she deserves love, while I sometimes I convince myself that I don’t. Gracie never judges, though… not herself, and certainly not anyone else. I know I can’t have her life, but I could try to be a little more golden retriever-y in my outlook. After all, Gracie’s not jealous of anyone, unless that person happens to be sitting in her favorite spot on the couch, and even then, she doesn’t just sit back and feel sorry for herself — she’ll do something about it.

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