(This story is part of a continuing series, Learning Grace, about a girl and her dog. The first part begins here.)

I don’t mind that people think I’m crazy. My only child is a Labrador Retriever, and nothing makes me happier than her happiness. Grace Lola Lou Hicks Clark was born on March 16th, 2010. It was another agonizing eight weeks before I could bring her home though.

While waiting for daily photos to appear in my inbox, I did a lot of reading to prepare myself for her arrival. The canine version of What To Expect When You’re Expecting is How To Raise the Perfect Dog—or basically anything written by Cesar Millan.

Baby Grace
According to Cesar, bringing a baby canine home comes with a checklist of considerations. For instance, when you introduce your newborn into her new environment, you don’t want to give her full access to the house too soon. It’s overwhelming. So the responsible parent gets a small crate and stocks it with things like a piece of fabric that’s picked up the scent of the surrogate mother, snuggly toys that replace the writhing siblings she’s come into the world with, a hot water bottle to seem like there’s another warm body in there with her, and maybe even a battery-operated furry thing that emits a heartbeat so your innocent child who’s known nothing but her surrogate mother and siblings won’t cry all night like she’s being tortured and stripped of everything she’s ever known in the world causing you sleepless, tearful, fretful nights feeling like the most horrid person on earth.

Good grief.