Owning a dog is not something special for all people. I mean, almost half of Americans own a dog, but the bonds are all different. I have owned dogs since I was six years old and have developed a love for them that is hard to describe. The closest I can think to explain it is an adult wanting to be a parent. You know those people, maybe you’re one of them? Ever since you were little you dreamt of having children and it excites you to think about it all coming true and terrifies you if something should keep you from it. That’s how I feel about having dogs. I want a dog like a woman wants a baby. Laugh if you must. I’m not offended.
The above picture is of one of my dogs, Ginger. We called her Ginger Bear. We had little nicknames for all of our dogs. Chrissy Girl, Duncan Boy, Ella Bella Boo Boo Boo (oh yeah! The whole thing! lol) Ginger Bear, and Harley Darr. Harley is the only dog left in the family. He stayed with my parents when I moved away. But as I mentioned, this story is about my Ginger Bear.
Ginger came into the family a year after Ella. Ella decided to adopt Ginger as her baby. This is cute in theory but the execution is rather annoying. Ella would lie on top of Ginger so you could not touch her. Ella knew we were not going to hurt Ginger, but that didn’t matter. This was her baby and she said no!
Despite Ella being an overbearing adoptive mother, Ginger grew to have a rich and loving personality. Bringing her to a dog park was fun because she enjoyed socializing with the other dogs and hanging out. Of course, if Ella was there, she would yap and nip at dogs running past having fun as if to say, “Hey! Stop running! No! Don’t do that!” Sometimes Ginger would heed her mother’s warners of fun and go sit next to her.
At home, Ginger was a cuddle bug! She would sit on my mom’s lap every morning at the computer while my mom checked her e-mail and did her Daily Devotions. If I was sitting on my bed she would come up to the edge of the bed and chuff at me to get my attention. I’d then look down and say, “You can come up.” She’d back up to get a running start and jump onto the bed to lay with me. I was the only person who could get her to pose for pictures. It was adorable! I would take my phone, point it at her and say, “Ginger! Ginger, say cheese!” She would stop what she was doing, either look directly at the camera or turn her head to the side, lick her lips and stay perfectly still. When the shutter clicked I would say, “Good girl! Good cheese!” She’d wag her tail and wiggle her whole body with excitement then come over to give me kisses. She loved taking selfies with me too. I would be sitting with her, hold up the camera or phone and say, “Ginger, say cheese.” She would stop, pose, and wait for me to tell her she was a good girl. The above picture is one of those times. She was so photogenic!
When she was in her chewing stage as a puppy she used to gnaw on the corner of the coffee table. Not fully chew and take chunks out, just gnaw on it like a teething ring. She would also lick the wall. She never put a hole in the wall. I have heard horror stories of people’s dogs who chewed through walls and doors! No, she would sit there and lick the wall. Once I was sitting in the living room and looked over to see her doing this. I said, “Ginger Bear, what are you doing?” in a very perplexed tone with my eyebrow raised. She stopped mid-lick, never took her tongue off the wall, and moved her eyes to look at me. When I didn’t look away she slowly put her tongue into her mouth. It was very funny - and of course super cute!
She was a licker too! Not all dogs like giving kisses. It’s a sign of trust and love for dogs. Most people write it off as, “No, it’s gross, I don’t care the reason.” But it never really bothered me. I’d just go wash my face. But Ginger had special kisses for me. She would nibble on the end of my nose. It didn’t hurt at all and was a love nibble. When I asked my parents about it they looked at me like I was nuts. My brothers later said that she had never done it with them either, it was just me! It made me feel special to have that small nibble just for me.
It’s so hard for me to talk, or even write about her without crying fat, hot tears of memories and sorrow. I was with Ginger when she died. I never left her through a whole, grueling, horrible, painful process. It started in the morning. I was getting ready to leave for work, and was late to boot, when my dad asked me, “What are you doing?” I said, “I’m going to work. I’m going to be late. What do you need?” I was annoyed because my father has a tendency to feel that his requests should come before whatever other priorities I had. His next words changed my mood entirely. He said, “I think there’s something wrong with Ginger?” I replied, “Well, I’m not going to work today.” I went to my parents’ room where Ginger was laying next to their bed on the dog’s blanket bed. When I got next to her I noticed a lot of drool and what felt like water on the blanket near her mouth. Now, we lived in Florida and there are a lot of lizards, frogs, and other animals that dogs enjoy chasing but, some of them are poisonous. From my experience with this, I thought she got an animal she shouldn’t have and brought her to the tub to rinse out her mouth and get any poison out. While I was in the tub with her she had a seizure. I didn’t know it was a seizure at the time. We brought her into the living room onto the ottoman where she laid without any intention of getting up. Ella came over and started nudging her insistently. In cases like these, it’s important to pay attention to other animals and how they react to a situation. Especially Ella, as she was “mom” in the pack. So we got Ginger to her feet and helped her move around a little. I called out of work for the next couple days and we all took Ginger to the vet.
When we got to the vet’s office she was walking around as though nothing had happened! She was a happy and content dog, saying hello to people and sniffing around. It was so strange! My dad was saying in the waiting room how he thought we should put her down. I said, “How can you say that!? She’s fine! Look at her! This is night and day from earlier. We need to figure out what is wrong before we jump to conclusions.” Along with that, my mother and I are not for putting a dog to sleep unless absolutely necessary. Fifteen to twenty minutes later we saw the vet and they took blood work which wouldn’t be back from the lab for a couple of days. Little did we know, Ginger didn’t have that long.
We got her home and I stayed with her. She walked around for a little while and seemed okay. She didn’t eat or drink anything though. After a while, she went into my parents’ room again and laid back on the blanket. About thirty minutes or so later she had another seizure. She had a full bladder at the time so she peed all over herself and the blanket. I changed the blanket and washed her. She had another seizure in the tub. I tried to give her little bits of water with an eyedropper because her mouth was like chalk and I thought, “she must be thirsty. Or in the least, uncomfortable.” She took the water because I gave it to her. Not because she wanted it.
Everyone else in the house went to work or school and I stayed in the room with her. I think I left a couple of times to get a glass of water and to use the restroom. Other than that, I was sitting with her. I talked to her, pet her, and held her through every seizure she had (there were a lot).
When my parents got home we moved her from their room to mine where there was more room for me to sit and her as well. I laid on the floor with her all night as she continued to have seizures. She would try and get up to move, but it would trigger another seizure while she was standing so I would have to hold onto her and make sure she didn’t get hurt. Then she started yelping. Almost like barking but a very high pitched bark that sounded like she was screaming in pain. I laid with her and sang to her. Singing helped keep her calm and not to move as much. It was important to keep her from moving because movement triggered a seizure. I sang “Once Upon a December” from Anastasia to her. Over, and over, and over, and over again.
I can’t express to you how painful and heart wrenching it was to watch all of this. My baby was dying and there was nothing I could do to help her. At around 3 am I went into my parents’ room, face tear stricken, and said, “We have to do something. There has to be something we can do for her!” My mom found an emergency vet clinic that was about 20 minutes away. My mom knew we were going to have to put her down (something she said she would never do again after putting Duncan to sleep). I was hoping they would be able to help her. She didn’t have any seizures in the car, but she continued that yelp barking the whole way there.
When we got there, the vet and nurse met us outside to help. They were really nice people. Very caring and concerned. Good bedside manner. We put her on the exam table and the vet came in. He looked her over and listened to her breathe. He said that there was nothing they could do to save her, that the only thing we could do was put her down. My mom and I agreed. The vet took her out of the exam room and down the hall. He was gone for maybe a minute when he came back in and said, “She just had another seizure and is about to go on her own. You should come say good-bye.” We went through the door, turned left and there she was, lying on a metal table, staring at me. My mom went behind her on the other side of the table and was petting her back. I went to her head and pet her. I told her, “It’s okay baby. You can go. I’m here. You’re safe. It’s alright my love.” And I watched her take her last breath. She went limp, and the life went from her eyes. My Ginger Bear was gone.
A few days later we got a call from the vet with GInger’s blood work. The woman left a frantic message on my mom’s cell that we needed to bring Ginger in right away! She had kidney failure. Gaining the information about how she died, my mom and I started talking about her behavior near the end. The vet had said she would have been drinking more water than normal, but we had three dogs drinking out of the same bowl, so it was really hard to tell. There were other signs. But we didn’t catch them. My mom realized something that I hadn’t caught, but when she told me I agreed. She told me, “Ginger knew she was going to die.” I asked, “How do you know?” She said, “The week before, she spent a whole day with each of us. I didn’t think much of it at the time. But looking back, she took one day per person and stayed with that person all day.” I sat at the bar in the kitchen and pondered this. Then began to cry. She was right. Ginger had done that. I remembered because, even though Ginger was an affectionate dog, there was one day the week before she died that she seemed to make an effort to be with me all day long. She was so special to us. And, as we now know, we were very special to her.
I sit on my couch, a good seven or eight years later writing this and I have had to get up to wipe my eyes and blow my nose several times. I miss my Ginger terribly. I miss all of the dogs I have lost. But losing them never gets any easier. The pain is never dulled from one to the next. They are all my babies and I will continue to love them until it is my time to go and I can be with them all again. That … that will be a good day.
About the Creator
I was born in New York and raised in South Florida. I enjoy writing as a hobby and a means to transmit knowledge and wisdom obtained over the years. I love animals - they're better than humans. I can't stand it when people are late.