Leaning Into the Thin Places
Montana Grace. Nov 11 2009 – May 13, 2020
Yesterday was a sacred day in the life of our family. Montana, our Belgian Malinois, fiercely loved us and we fiercely love her. I often joked that my girls were raised with a wolf, or rather, partly raised by a wolf-dog. My daughters called Montana their second mother. Wolves are incredibly intelligent, loyal, and beautiful creatures.
I found Montana on Craigslist. Arie was six years old and Sophia was three. I knew Montana was a 9 month-old pup of police dogs and was told she was a purebred German Shepherd.
But she didn’t look exactly like any German Shepherd I had seen. Her back legs were taller, she was so muscular, and her coat so short and sleek. She was midnight black.
She could also open locked doors, the garden gate, and once, on a road trip with us, released herself from INSIDE her kennel, opened a locked hotel room door and ran down Main Street in Topeka, Kansas looking for me and my daughters. When she couldn’t find us, SHE RETURNED TO THE HOTEL to wait for us. (The manager told me it took 3 janitors and 3 maids to coral Montana back into our hotel room. They secured the door from the outside.)
She was extremely intelligent. She also had a very aggressive bark. Those who knew us learned to blow it off and just walk in the house. She never bit but she did greet strangers like she was on the front lines of a drug raid. As a solo, widowed mom who is somewhat public about our journey, I viewed her bark and intimidating presence as an asset.
Arie named her Montana and I added the middle name Grace a year or so later because I NEEDED grace to guide such a powerful creature.
Montana could play soccer but always deflated the ball in one bite. We took to using a soft, cloth, stuffed ball.
We all loved and laughed hysterically when she played tag with my girls. Montana would stay with me until I gave her the word to chase. Then she’d run down my children like she was in pursuit of a drug lord.
It was spectacular to watch her effortlessly bound toward my daughters as they ran across the yard. She was so agile and efficient. Arie and Sophia would squeal with delight and more than a touch of excitement. Montana would tag them and if they didn’t run back to me fast enough, she would gently nip them in the tush until they returned. My girls asked to play this game of tag for years and only stopped when Montana could no longer run.
Montana would scale our rock wall in two bounds and then slide down the backyard slide with my girls. She was available for all tea parties.
A friend saw a picture of her and recently said, “That’s not a German Shepherd. Montana a Belgian Malinois.” I looked up the breed and it fit Montana perfectly, both physically (taller back legs, very muscular, short sleek coat) and with regard to her character. Belgian Malinois are employed in the police force and in elite military missions. A Belgian Malinois took down Osama bin Ladin. They have the ability to assess a problem and find effective solutions. Malinois are highly intelligent working dogs, can be very aggressive, and are extremely loyal.
That explains a lot. We unknowingly rescued a purebred Belgian Malinois and she knowingly rescued us for many years in return.
God sent our little family an unbelievable gift in Montana Grace.
Montana Grace loved us all, and I am honored that she chose me as her main human. My girls were her human puppies and she guarded, guided, played, and nipped them in the tush when they got out of line.
When my girls were little, if they swung too high on our playset swings, Montana gently nipped their pants to remind them to swing more safely. When we added Penelope the rabbit to our family, Montana went against her instincts to chase and eat this prey animal and instead made herself as small and still as possible so Penelope was comfortable enough to eventually touch noses as a sign of trust with Montana.
Montana claimed our outdoor cat, Gigi, as her own. She once rammed a visiting dog, knocking it clear off its legs, when it started to chase Gigi in our backyard. Montana used to chase Gigi herself and then lick her head when Gigi allowed her to catch up. They had a pre-existing agreement.
Montana gently walked beside my father for years after his stroke and kept him company while he lived with us.
Montana was a kind and faithful companion to our family-friend Kirk in the last year of her life. Her hips had failed her and Kirk kindly raised her back legs every time she needed to go outside, multiple times a day. For. A. Year. Kirk extended her life by his extreme care. This gave me the time I needed to be able to peacefully release Montana. We are so very grateful.
Montana taught us many lessons about loyalty, love, forgiveness, and enjoying life.
Yesterday she taught us about graceful passing.
None of us had ever ushered a pet through death. It was at once incredibly heartbreaking and extremely beautiful. I had determined to be fully present for Montana and crafted this time for her, my girls, and Kirk.
Earlier in the day, I shared with Arie and Sophia, “Girls, we are about to enter into what I call one of the ‘thin places.’ The ‘thin places’ are where the realms of heaven and earth are very close to one another. Births are one of the ‘thin places’ and so are passings. We will be with Montana as she passes from us and is birthed back into heaven.”
Montana Grace passed outside in the sunshine surrounded by the people she loves while hearing the birds sing. There was no fear. I highly, highly recommend Dr. Clay Allen and his mobile service called PeacefulPassings.net.
Montana inspired incredible love and loyalty from all of us. On her last day she taught us to lean into loss together. She brought out in each of us amazing gifts that we didn’t know we had. My daughters witnessed and hugged her through her passing. I hugged her and sung her through this world into the Lord’s hands. It was a powerful time and gave us lessons we will never forget.
Dr. Allen mentioned later that he had never seen children participate in a pet’s passing, much less children who responded with no fear, great maturity, love, and presence.
I hugged my girls and shared with them how proud I am of the powerful young women they have become. Their human mama and wolf-dog mama are both proud indeed.
We will forever miss our Montana Grace and be grateful for her.