Grazie is a 50 pound Chow/Samoyed mix. She has a curly tail and a photogenic face. Loving and playful, she is quite a feisty puppy.

favorite photos

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In late January of 1996, I took Greta, Garbo, Gable, and our neighbor, Comet to the Celery Bog ("marsh," actually) Park across the road. As we played in the open grassy area near the entrance, two dogs appeared from the neighboring woods. One was distinctly GSDish, the other appeared to be a Chow.

The six dogs played together for awhile and I finally had a chance to get close to our new-found friends. Both were in fairly bad shape. The shepherd looked starved and both had coats in need of attention. Neither wore a collar.

I decided to take care of them until they were healthy enough to find homes. Unfortunately, I had only brought a single leash with me (for Comet) on that day, so I ended up fashioning it into a double loop to hold both of our new friends.

Neither dog had learned to heel on lead and I ended up quite literally dragging them back to the house. I was exhausted by the time I got them home, and they were quite happy to go into the crates and eat (and eat, and eat, ...).

When Kitty came home, I greeted her outside and immediately tried to whisk her away to dinner. She quickly caught on and asked quite precisely "Is there a German Shepherd Dog in Greta's crate?" She's amazing. (I had to think for a couple seconds to recall which crate I used for each dog, but she was right.)

My father has wanted another GSD on our farm since the loss of Mia years ago. The shepherd looked a lot like Mia. Kitty somehow sensed that I had completed my search.

No one looked for the dogs through the police or shelter and we ended up keeping them for much longer than we had expected. Both had intestinal parasites and the shepherd had heartworms. It seemed that they were at the vet's office every weekend for treatment (and surgery).

I tried not to get attached to these two dogs so I decided to call them by generic names to be changed by their permanent owners. I chose "Shep" and "Chow" because they were simply breed names.

Shep (now "Zack") eventually went to live the life of a farm dog with my father. He gets to run (and bike) several miles a day with my father and ride into town each morning when Dad goes to the radio station. During planting and harvesting, Zack spends his day running back and forth in the fields with the tractor/combine. He is quite content to be near Dad.

"Chow" eventually became "Grazie." (Italian, get it?) I spoke often of finding a good home for her, but we didn't have the time or inclination to actively seek parents for her. Her bedtime snuggling with us did not encourage our home-finding quest at all.

Finally, a visitor to our neighbors (Comet's family) expressed an interest in Grazie while we were playing there. Kitty and I took Grazie down to meet and interview the woman. As we returned home, I sensed the inevitable ending was finally going to occur. Sure enough, Kitty broke down (in a big way) and declared that she did not want to give up Grazie.

And so it goes...we now have four wonderful dogs - two blonde girls, and two black boys - just right for our sled. Although it's getting more difficult to travel, Grazie has done a remarkable job of keeping our oldest dog, Garbo, active. As I type this, I can hear them running the circuit from the dog room through the master bedroom into the great room - with occasional jumps through the window from the dog room to the great room. Before this, Garbo had begun to slow down a bit. That has been reversed.

I have purposely not trained Grazie much at all. She knows "sit," "down," and "paw," but I have not worked much with "heel" and "come" (although she does both quite well). She has picked up most everything from the other dogs. She is quite eager to learn.

One of the reasons that I've avoided "heel" is that I was hoping she'd do well pulling a sled. That has paid off for me. She does a great job of pulling. I often put her in a lead position to keep things moving (and to keep Garbo from turning around to watch me).

1999 update

Since we found her, Grazie has shown that she has her share of "baggage." Grazie is unlike the other dogs in many ways, but I love her. At night, when the TV goes off and Garbo is curled up at my feet, I whisper "Grazie!" and she slips in and curls up against my pillow and face. That's worth every challenge she produces.

We've learned from neighbors that there was a male Samoyed who often roamed the neighborhood (and was "gotten rid of" because of it). There was also a Chow Chow female tied up across the street. We believe these were Grazie's parents.

2003 update

Garbo's osteosarcoma moved to his lungs in June. He had been able to keep up with us after his amputation but his decreased lung capacity slowly made our daily walks impossible. I had decoupled him from Grazie and now she was pulling forward while I strained to go slowly for Garbo. My arm ached and I was reconsidering my choice not to teach Grazie to heel better.

Leaving Garbo behind was not an option so I quickly assembled a wagon for Grazie to pull for him. This worked amazingly well and she continues to use it daily.


On January 19, 2002, Grazie earned her AKC Canine Good Citizen and Therapy Dogs Internationalb certifications.

In 2003, Grazie passed her Delta Society Pet Partner evaluations with Kyler and then with Kitty. She is still initially shy around strangers but she works very well in some situations. She took over Garbo's physical therapy jobs.

the end

Grazie's hearing and vision declined dramatically after age 13 but she continued to keep the young dogs in line. She died at home and was discovered on the morning of September 7, 2009.

owned by: kyler


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