YORKTOWN, N.Y. – Tens of thousands of patients have come through the doors of Yorktown Animal Hospital since opening on Veterans Road in 2002, but it was one dog in particular that caught the attention of Dr. Phillip Raclyn, the hospital’s owner.
Gracie, a 7-year-old mutt, has been Raclyn’s patient since 2009. The two developed such a special bond that Raclyn told the dog’s owner, Polly Berends, that if a time ever came when she was unable to care for Gracie, he would give her a home. Berends, 75 at the time, agreed.
Raclyn, remembering his own mother’s difficulty in caring for her dog, said he feared for Berends’ safety. Twice, he said, his mother’s arm was broken when the leash became tangled around her legs, causing her to fall down.
“It was an 85-pound dog being walked by a 75-year-old lady,” Raclyn said of Berends. “As sweet as [Gracie] is, you couldn’t really tell who was walking who.”
Over the next two years, Berends constantly reminded Raclyn of their handshake agreement—“Look, there’s your next family,” Berends would tell Gracie during visits to Yorktown Animal Hospital.
“She started asking me that if anything happens to her, if I would take her,” Raclyn said. “I promised her that I would. I’ve already got five dogs, I have a big yard and Gracie’s a great dog. I just didn’t expect it to happen so soon.”
Berends, 77, died Sunday, Feb. 12, at her Putnam Valley home. When Raclyn returned from a conference in Florida a few days later, his staff informed him about what happened. Soon after, Berends’ adult sons brought Gracie to the hospital.
“As soon as I heard Mrs. Berends died, I knew what my responsibility was, but I also knew that I wanted to,” Raclyn said. “I really do love Gracie. I was happy to give her a home.”
Raclyn, who lives in Briarcliff, officially took Gracie in Monday, Feb. 13.
“She’s getting along with everybody and all the dogs are getting along with her,”
Over the course of his career, Raclyn said he had made the offer to several other clients, with one couple even putting in their will that Raclyn would take ownership of their two cats. In that scenario, the two cats died before the owners.
“This is the first time it’s actually happened,” Raclyn said.