Photo: Michel Arnaud

Weeks have passed. And the pain has not subsided. Every time I think about it, my heart starts racing and I feel like I just got stabbed in the chest. It's a jolt, still. Gracie's death.

Gracie is the smallest of the golden retrievers photographed with me on O, The Oprah Magazine's January '06 and '07 covers. She had just turned 2 on May 21. I thought we'd grow old together.

She choked to death on a plastic ball she found in the grass (it belonged to Sophie, my 12-year-old cocker spaniel). The goldens were not allowed to play with those clear little balls that light up. I feared they'd chew them, or worse.

The worst happened on May 26. Gracie was out with her dog walker, on a walk I often do myself after their evening meal. On this sunny Saturday, having just returned from a late lunch with friends, I decided to let the caretaker do it—walk all three.

I hugged them all goodbye, leaving a lipstick print on Gracie's furry white forehead, where she loved getting kisses. Twenty minutes later, I got a call: "She's down and isn't breathing."

I ran barefoot out of the house and found the dog walker and one of my security guys pumping her chest. Just as I reached them, the security guy looked up and said, "I'm sorry, ma'am. We tried everything. I'm sorry. She's gone."

Gone??!! I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Yes, I saw it. I saw the caretaker rocking back and forth on the ground, his arms wrapped around himself, crying hysterically. My brain took in the whole scene, but it wasn't tracking properly. The first thing I remember saying is, "It's okay. It'll be okay. Tell me what happened." Through his sobs I heard: "…choked on a ball."

And I knew, this was real. Gracie is gone, Gracie is gone, Gracie is gone kept repeating in my head.

I stood there dazed, stunned, crying—and watched as they placed her in the back of a golf cart, her still-warm body with the lipstick stain on her fur.

But even in my stunned state, I knew this was not what it appeared to be: a freak accident with a clear plastic ball that lit up inside. I don't believe in accidents. I know for sure that everything in life happens to help us live.