Paige, who leads dog-walking adventures in San Francisco, shares this story about her own special canine.

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How did you meet, and how did you know this animal was special? For us it was love at first sight, then terror. I saw a rescue poster and was stunned by her beauty. Then I read about how she was no ordinary pup: she liked car rides and cud

dling and was about as quiet as they come and extremely shy.

When I went to meet her, I was practically mauled by all the other rescue dogs vying for my attention. When they finally let me sit, this sweet little mangy mutt, dressed in a pink tutu and fake pearls (I assume to make her appear more of a party animal than she was or to detract from the bleeding and bald mange on her snout) jumped in my lap and gave me a kiss.

“Oh yeah, she’s yours,” said the rescue worker. “She is afraid of everybody. I’ve never seen her do that.”

A moment later she jumped off me and started shaking. But I felt like I understood her. I was just like her as a child and having her in my life is like caring for my shy, misunderstood little girl self.

After she initially jumped into my lap she regained her senses and remembered that everyone scared her. For the next 24 hours she acted as though I was the grim reaper and I began to wonder what I had done. (Think Dustin Hoffman in the bus scene in the movie The Graduate.)

Do you feel you two have a spiritual connection? Gracie and I are bonded. Is that spiritual? (When I pay attention I notice that the spiritual connection I have is with all of it, so she just happened to be the dog closest and most attractive in the moment we met.)

When I leave her with friends, they always know ahead of time that I am coming to pick her up because she starts pacing. We both have experienced bouts of serious illness and neither one of us would leave the other’s side during those times without being pried away by concerned friends.

What special things do you do together? I run a dog-walking business with my dog as my partner. We do all the walks together. She is a diplomat as well as a monitor with the other dogs. She’s older now, 13, so she doesn’t make every walk but she plays like a puppy on the beach with the other dogs. We love our job. You can check us out here.

What special ways of communicating do you have? She sits on my feet when she knows I am getting upset. If she can’t do that she puts her snout in my face and just sniffs at me. It’s uncanny.

She lets me know when she is overwhelmed by leaning on me and I accommodate her by changing her environment. She throws a little tantrum if I cough and leaves the room. It really upsets her and she acts like she is almost insulted. She goes from ignoring me to staring at me and sometimes she starts shaking. Luckily I don’t cough often.

How have you benefited from knowing this animal? When Gracie and I met, I had absorbed the popular rhetoric that my dog must be disciplined in order to feel safe and “know her place.” So I would dominance roll her to remind her that I was boss and snap her leash if she started to pull. Gracie has always been benevolent in her interactions with me. In 2001, while grieving 911, I realized that Gracie responded to my lightest touch with such sweetness that I decided to try using the least amount of pressure possible in teaching her. Since then our relationship has been only kind and she has come more and more out of her shyness. I have also become kinder with myself and others as a result. What a gift she is! Gracie taught me that dogs need tender companionship. Through her sensitivity she has taught me that kindness leads to trust and trust leads to joy.

There was also a dark time when caring for her was all I felt I had to offer. Holding her and feeling her devotion and dependence may well have saved my life.

If you have a special connection with an animal, we’d love to feature you—just contact us Mali & Joe, authors of The Soulmate Experience: A Practical Guide to Creating Extraordinary Relationships