HIGH SPRINGS ‒ Walter Bickmeyer and Gracie were inseparable. For the past 13 years, people never saw one without the other. Bickmeyer had multiple health issues and Gracie always kept an eye on him whenever they went out, making sure he was okay and making sure everyone else was also aware of her concern for him and dedication to his wellbeing in case she needed help. That devotion and dedication went both ways as Walter always made sure Gracie was okay as well.

The duo was well known in High Springs, especially Gracie, who was friends with everyone, meeting new people every time they went out in public while watching Bickmeyer as well. Everyone at various restaurants and venues knew both of them, especially Gracie who became somewhat of a local celebrity. They traveled together as well, taking a seven-week trip across the country to California in 2021, along with multiple smaller trips, always together, sharing adventures.

Gracie was not Bickmeyer's spouse, significant other, or girlfriend. She was his dog, with a unique calm and friendly disposition that everyone who met her was attracted to.

“I got her as a puppy from the pound, but on the way home she pooped on my car seat and I questioned whether I made the right decision,” Bickmeyer chuckled. “But it never happened again, and she grew to be a calm, well-trained and intelligent dog that became my constant companion. We understood each other perfectly.”

But one of the unfortunate facts of life is that our pets never live as long as we do, and last week Gracie passed as she lay on Bickmeyer’s lap. Anyone who has pets knows this loss, but with Gracie it affected the community beyond just her owner.

The Pink Flamingo Restaurant in High Springs was a popular stop for Walter and Gracie. Upon learning of her death, the staff and management planned a tribute to Gracie.

“She brought a lot of joy to both the staff and the customers, greeting people at the tables, never intrusive, just quietly greeting each one. She was a very loved dog by our entire staff and customers, and I know it was the same at other places as well,” said Pink Flamingo employee Laura Jean Knight. “We decided we wanted to host a celebration of life for her in tribute. Walter and we decided we wanted it to be a fundraiser to give money to organizations helping animals in honor of Gracie. We picked the Alachua County Animal Resources and Care (ACARC),” Knight said.

On May 15, the Pink Flamingo sponsored the Celebration of Life for Gracie. There was no special events or speeches, just a gathering of people to remember a special dog and show support for Bickmeyer and his loss of a partner.

The Flamingo also encouraged people to bring their dogs as well and at least nine people did. Over the course of the afternoon, over 100 people stopped in to pay their respects and donate to the cause of helping other animals in Gracie's name. Over $300 was donated as well as animal food and toys to go the ACARC facility.

“For the pet supplies and toys, we have a large barrel, and it will stay here for donations until it is filled,” said Knight. “We also have a painting of Gracie that we are going to hang in the restaurant as a permanent tribute to her.”

Anyone who would like to pay tribute to a unique and dedicated dog by supporting the shelter and the animals there, can call the Alachua County Animal Resource and Care facility at 352-264-6870 to arrange a donation. It is suggested you mention Gracie's name, so they know it is in tribute to a dog helping her fellow pets that don’t have a loving human companion like she did.

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