Ginger was a Minpin… but almost nobody knew she was a Minpin just by looking at her. She was all tan (ginger-colored hair) which happens with Minpins but seems to be seldom that it happens. She had her tail snipped a bit too short and she had big ears, people often commented how she looked like a little deer. They’d ask if she was a chihuahua, some type of terrier, some type of mix. Nope, Ginger is a Minpin.
If Ginger was with her sister Pepper, you’d see Pepper and be able to tell she was a Minpin. Then, you’d see the resemblance and connect the two together. Ginger and Pepper were born in the same litter in March of 2008. The only two girls in a litter of six. Evelyn had them from a very early age. By the time I met them, and they became my kids, they were about 7. And I had some amazing times with them both.
Pepper passed away in August of 2021 and that was extremely tough to handle. I wanted to commemorate her life the best way I could, while simultaneously helping myself to deal with the situation. And thus, I wrote “The Life of Pepper.”
Sadly, now, I am writing, “The Life of Ginger.”
I spent plenty of time with both those kids, together and separately. Pepper passed away in 2021, during the pandemic. I was working from home, and she was always with me. Ginger was with me a lot too, but often went to Evelyn’s parent’s place. It became easier to have Ginger here with me for a number of reasons, and so she started spending all her time at home pretty much. That meant she was right by my side through a lot.
Ginger was my coffee buddy, sometimes she'd even head to the kitchen to drink water when she smelled me brewing my coffee. It was her own little cup of coffee, I guess. She was there with me while I worked. People at my job knew Ginger well. She definitely showed her face in a Zoom meeting or two, unleashed her screaming-bark in a couple as well. If she had to switch from one bed to another and I was in the way, my coworkers might be lucky to see the tiny ginger lady waltzing across my lap.
If you read my piece on Pepper and read this one on Ginger, you’ll notice many similarities between the sisters. Ginger loves her beds. There are little beds with blankets all over. Usually, a minimum of two on the couch. And another one on the chair by the big window in the living room. Known as The Chair Bed or The Window Bed. Ginger developed a routine when Evelyn would be getting ready to leave for work. Oftentimes, she’d want to follow Evelyn around as it became apparent, she would be leaving for work. Once Evelyn left and closed the door, Ginger would race back to the couch so she could make her way up to The Window Bed. She’d perch herself next to the window and stare out, waiting for her mom to walk out of the building. Evelyn would turn back and wave and head off for work, but Ginger would watch her all the way up until he couldn’t see her anymore… then she’d relax.
It was her routine. She got anxiety when we would leave, but as long as she got to see Evelyn leave, it made it okay somehow. I guess she needed to be sure that Evelyn was heading to her car. She knew Evelyn would return and she’d see her later that night. And she had me with her all day, working my regular job, doing my freelance work, writing, we were together in the apartment all the time.
Another one of Ginger’s routines, as she was diabetic and had to receive insulin twice a day, she would get her breakfast or dinner, and then Evelyn would prepare her insulin. I only had about 10 seconds from when she finished eating to when the barking would begin. It was an excited barking, because after the insulin she got a little bit extra of her food. An extra treat. So, I think she wanted to hurry the process along. And the barking also told me that I needed to pick her up, as that was how she received insulin. She would rarely hold still for that, so I had to carry her while Evelyn administered the insulin. As soon as I picked her up, she stopped barking, and then she waited patiently for the insulin… and subsequently the last bit of dinner.
It was funny how she would stop barking immediately when I picked her up. It was as if she was reminding me of my part in the routine. “Hey Dad, pick me up or I’m gonna scream… repeatedly…”
If Ginger wanted us to pick her up at any other time, she would give a very specific look. If we didn’t pick her up right away, what followed was a very specific groaning noise. The same thing went for if she wanted us to lift up one of her covers in her bed so she could go underneath it. She loved getting tucked in. She figured out how to display unique looks and noises in order to clue us in to what she wanted. She was so smart.
Many people in the neighborhood knew Ginger and would ask about her. They would talk to her when they saw her. Ginger used to bark at people all the time if we were with her. I think it was her being a Protector. Yes, she used to be 20-something pounds and eventually made her way down to 13… and I think even about 11 more recently… but she still saw herself as a tough kid. She once growled at a nearby coyote (five times her size) while in the middle of going number 2. In the most vulnerable of positions, saw a coyote in the street, and she growled at him. He looked bewildered… and I quickly took her inside.
But, in addition to thinking she was a big, tough girl, she also thought she was tiny. She was… but she thought she was even tinier than she was. That’s why he squeezed herself into the most miniscule of areas on the couch, on our laps, etc. And she’d act like a little innocent kid that never barked at anyone, especially if she had to go the vet. Everyone there thought she was the cutest. She’d beg for them to hold her and carry her, and they would. She even sometimes got brought out of the main area where the pets were kept and the vet techs would bring her around with them, or let her chill in their offices. Once we were told she hung out on the lap of a receptionist for an hour after her appointment was over while she waited for us to come pick her up.
Just like her sister Pepper, Ginger loved blueberries, and bananas, a splash of olive oil in her bowl, if you had fries, she’d BEG for one, and the favorite of both of them, cucumbers. Something about them, she would go crazy for. If someone was chopping cucumbers for something, you better set aside a pile of finely diced cucumbers for her.
Ginger had her routine with her snacks. She stopped drinking water at one point, and she was getting a lot of added water in her food, but we wanted to be sure she was getting enough water. The solution, Evelyn would make Ginger her special broth. Ginger would get a tiny cup of broth after her snack, with added water. So, she would eat her snacks, wait for me to put her vest on (and her sweater if it was cold (and also her coat if it was really cold)), we’d do our little walk, come back inside, and she would promptly head into the kitchen and stare up at the counter… waiting for the broth. She knew it was up there waiting for her. She knew her routine.
There was a little while in the summer of 2022 when Ginger decided she wanted to start doing some sunbathing. Funny enough, in the middle of a heat wave and on a 99-degree day. She laid down in the yard and soaked up the sun. This became a regular thing, so she and I would sit out there, her on the ground, me in a chair, or also on the ground, and we’d chill out.
Watch the pigeons, soak up some Vitamin D, and listen to some music. Maybe some Fleetwood Mac, she enjoyed their greatest hits.
Inside, Ginger also enjoyed a lot of other music and TV. The Beatles, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, soothing jazz music of any kind, that was the best to chill and nap to. She loved watching reruns of Seinfeld, Cheers, Frasier… as soon as she heard the theme songs and those familiar voices, her whole body relaxed.
Because Ginger was diabetic, she had to go to the vet often for checkups. She began to develop other health issues, some tied to the diabetes. She had to have teeth cleanings… and teeth removals. When she developed cataracts on her eyes, we had a surgery done to remove them which vastly improved her eyesight. And there was a whole host of other things that came up. Ginger HATED going to the vet. She just wanted to be home with us… but luckily, everyone at the vet knew her and loved her. We were told some of the vet techs even spoke Spanish to Ginger, which she loves and appreciates, being a bilingual kid.
Ginger did begin to mellow out as she got older… with people she saw as we walked around… but I mentioned before she was a tough kid. She still was a tough kid. When it came to surgeries and checkups and every other reason that she had to go the vet, she toughed it out. She’d come back home, sometimes needing to recover, but she always would. She was a tiny kid, but she had some spirit and some toughness. It might take a couple days, but soon enough, we’d have the kid barking before her insulin, and prancing around the apartment, and begging for cucumbers.
She even endured a couple of spinal strokes, just like her sister Pepper had. Once she suffered one of these strokes and the whole left side of her body went out. She essentially had no ability to move her left legs and her left eye went blind. Slowly but surely, her legs started to come back. I don’t know what’s expected, I know the vets said her function in her legs may never come back, or it may take a while to see minor improvement. She couldn’t use them the first day at all. After a couple days she was moving with some assistance… after a couple of weeks she was basically back to normal, with the exception of her eye.
I told you, she is tough.
When you have a tough kid like that, you just start to think that she is going to make it through everything and that nothing will hold her down.
More recently, Ginger began to endure some other issues. She was having issues with her kidneys. She was switched onto another new food, one for her kidneys. Then, she began having issues with her pancreas. There seemed to be not a lot to do for that, other than to wait for improvements, and hope that improving the kidneys may help. Ginger was clearly uncomfortable and in some pain, she would be shaking a lot, unable to get comfortable in her beds. She had to visit the vet several times.
During one visit, she endured another spinal stroke. This time, both her back legs and her front right leg essentially went out. It was getting to be a lot. Too many things at once.
But then, the toughest and tannest Minpin you’d ever meet, she looked like she was recovering. After just a day, she was able to start walking again! Her legs were moving, and she only needed a little assistance. We assumed everything would follow suit!
But then things took a turn for the worse. Her legs appeared to go out again… or it was that she lacked the energy to move them. She was having difficulty keeping her head up and lifting her neck, she spent a lot of time just laying down. And she wouldn’t eat. She didn’t want to eat anything. And we were trying it all. Sometimes she would tire of some of her foods, so we always had backups to try out. Usually, she desired a different food and a simple switch did the trick. But we tried all the foods we had. We bought baby food. She didn’t want any of it. We were offering her her favorite foods, and it’s never a good sign when your dog doesn’t want to eat them. Evelyn cut up some cucumbers, her favorite. She brought them over, Ginger sniffed them, began licking them… but then that was it. Even the cucumbers she didn’t want to eat.
We went to the vet once more, looking for answers. Hoping there would be something to do to get her back on track. After more assessments on Ginger, they decided, there were technically ways to keep her going, but she’d have to stay at the vet overnight, constantly monitored, given a feeding tube, all too much for a 15-year-old girl who hated the vet. The other option they told us, the one that made the most sense, was to start preparing to say goodbye.
Not what any pet owner wants to hear. We were devastated. But we did understand. They gave us a list of doctors that could come to our home and provide those services for us. They said it would probably be something we wanted to do in the next couple of days. We went home with Ginger and sat on the couch with her. We talked to her and pet her and hugged her like we always would, making sure she knew how much we loved her. Ginger was in one of her beds, but it became clear she wanted to be held. So, Evelyn held her in her lap, and we were holding her and talking to her.
It wasn’t much longer after that, it happened. At the very least, it was quick. I suppose I’ll spare too many of the details, but it was one of the toughest things I’ve witnessed. But at the same time, I was glad we were there with her in her final moments. For her. And for us.
Ginger passed away on June 19th, 2023. She was 15. She was such a sweet girl. She was the best cuddler. She was my buddy that watched sports with me, she watched reruns of our favorite shows, she watched all the new movies and all the old movies I wanted to watch on our Tuesday Movie Night, she kept me company while I worked and while I wrote. Since the pandemic, I have had to begin freelance work on top of my regular job, it's all been from home, so I've spent a ton of time at home, and she helped to keep me sane during that because she's been with me through it all. She was such a tough kid for her small size, but the odds were stacked against her. It was too much all at once for that tough little kid.
Everyone knows dealing with death is tough. Nothing makes it easy. Some things can make it easier, even if only by a little. I will finish this up the same way I finished up my piece about Pepper, because writing it, reading it, and sharing it… it helps me a little bit.
Dealing with the death of a loved one, no matter if it’s your pet, your family, your friend, it is always tough. It is never enough time. But as long as you cherish the time you have with loved ones, that will make it all worth it. I think because we view everything in a linear fashion, we are often so broken up when a loved one dies. Because we keep thinking of the last moments… the worst moments. But someone’s last moments are but a mere blip on the timeline of their life. If you really cherish all the time you have with someone, and you make the absolute best of your time with someone, then that is an amazing life right there.
Cherishing your time with someone isn’t going to make death much easier. Nothing will. But to cherish all the time you have with a loved one means you will not have regrets later on. I can happily say, I cherished as much time as possible with Ginger. This is extremely tough to deal with and it feels awful losing that little kid, but I don’t have any regrets because we spent so many happy days together. And perhaps this is a bit of a tip to others… to cherish time with loved ones. But not just for a couple days, not just for a couple weeks, and not just after you hear someone’s sad story. Cherish as much time with loved ones as possible, always.
That is what Evelyn and I did. And I do not just say this, I absolutely mean it with every fiber of my being… I have never seen anyone love and take care of their pets the way Evelyn does. She taught me that. She taught me how to show true love and give the most phenomenal life to Pepper and Ginger by doing it all the time. And I am glad I learned that because I was able to do the same thing for them.
Ginger was so lucky. She lived the good life. She had a mom that gave her everything and did the most amazing job taking care of her. And she had a mom that taught her dad how to do the same.
We will always want more time. But it will never be enough. It will always be sad at the end of it all. But during the time you have, just make it the best. Ginger had a life full of cuddling and napping and playing with toys and sunbathing in the yard. She ate like a little queen, all her favorite foods, her favorite vegetables and fruits, olive oil, broth, and, of course, the cucumbers.
She had her own playlists that helped her to relax and fall asleep. Ginger had beds galore, blankets galore… she even had a bed by the window designated for her! Ginger was such a good girl and I hope wherever she may be, they got plenty of cucumbers and olive oil. And we still play your favorite music and TV shows here Ginger… and Pepper. Just in case you need something relaxing to listen to while you fall asleep.
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