It is with great sadness that I tell you of Grace’s passing. It was an honor to give her her freedom. The one thing I could not do for her until now. She left us while enjoying grapes and acorns. It has been determined that the physical downturn we witnessed in these past two weeks or so was most likely caused by a clot or stroke. While my heart hurts with this loss and she will be missed dearly, she is now a free spirit to run fast, climb high with no visual or physical impairments. I thank her for what she brought to Woodlands and all those she touched in some special way. I know we all have good memories of Grace and I find myself smiling at those through my tears.
Grace arrived at Woodlands almost 13 years ago weighing only 4 pounds and in bad shape. As she lay on my lap and slowly started to recover from treatment she was named Grace because we figured it was by the grace of God.
Grace was eventually housed with Katy bear and the two of them were so small that they used to run on the counter between their two carriers as we began to introduce them to each other! Later that year it became apparent that Grace was not developing the same as Katy. By release time nothing had changed and we thought she was too small to survive in the wild. We had begun to notice other anomalies as well – her short legged-ness, her small feet, and the way she moved all began to look like a form of “dwarfism”. Because of these genetics it was decided to keep her for education and scientific reasons. It is also because of her genetics and later diagnosed osteoarthritis that we have always known that she would most likely not live a normal lifetime. However, she lived longer than expected! The science of Grace will live on forever because the American Museum of Natural History will study and archive her. Grace will continue making a difference.
Throughout the years Grace was the “matriarch” for just about every cub that passed through Woodlands! She would hang out by their side of the enclosure and at any moment would huff or shake the chain-link, sending them all up the tress/platforms! Just as a mother bear would teach her cubs to do so. I think Grace just did it for fun! Grace loved her big red ball, fresh green grass and skunk cabbage, and oh yes, her fire hose hammock!! But nothing made her happier than a fresh green pine tree in the winter! It was like catnip for her.
This time last year Grace developed an international fan club through the Advancing Bear Care Conference delegates that visited Woodlands! That group helped us adjust her enclosure and enrichment to support her physical limitations and keep her happy in her aging process! She was seen by one of the best bear vets – Dr. Heather Bacon and new medical protocols were started. The Winton Foundation for the Welfare of Bears located in Scotland took her under their wing, gave her a Face Book page (Grace’s Appeal) and set about raising funds to support Grace’s increasing medical care. Grace touched many, far and wide. We are grateful for everyone’s support.
Grace had a good, easy life here at Woodlands and over the past few years as her vision and condition began to decline we were honored to have her under the very best veterinary care and certainly in the recent weeks. Yesterday, with her head on my lap we came full circle as she became another beautiful spirit in the sky dancing with other bears that have passed through Woodlands and then beyond before her. I am happy she is free…
I thank all of you for caring for and about her. God speed and thank you Grace