It’s been about a month since we had to finally have our family dog, Ginger, euthanized and able to share some thoughts about the old hound. While we were never sure just how old she was, somewhere towards the high end of 12-14, she was obviously old when we parted ways. And while her mind was relatively sharp ( although sometimes she stood in front of the refrigerator and barked when she needed to go out ) the sad truth is that her body was failing. Arthritis, an enlarged heart, chronic cough… as the vet said, we knew it was time.
We got Ginger from the Elmira Animal Shelter after I saw an ad in the paper. I’d been wanting a beagle, and one day there she was. I went to visit her, later returned with my wife, and then a few days later she was home with us. Over the past seven years she made up for whatever hard life she may have had before she was at the shelter. She often got a little something we were eating and developed a special love for pizza. If one of the boys were sitting in "her spot' next to their mother on the couch, she would bark and fuss until they moved. In short, she had it pretty good here.
Now I don’t want to paint any fairy tale pictures about her time with us; it wasn’t always easy. Truth is, she was a difficult dog at times. We were assured she was housebroke. She wasn't. I may or may not have texted the director of the shelter, and old friend of mine, and told him he was getting her back if she peed on someone’s bed one more time. She must have heard me though, because with that threat combined with a promise of being allowed on the furniture if she caught on, one day like magic she got the message.
Also she was listed as spayed. Well, someone at Cornell missed a tube, because she went into heat. Back to the vet for that.
The 2012 newspaper pic that started it all.
She got in the garbage, had farts noxious enough to gag a maggot, begged at the table, and, as she got older would eat her own poop if we didn’t pay attention. No amount of supplements or preventatives could seem to assuage her love of a frozen turd on a cold Winter’s morn. Woe unto those who let her lick their face. And for the past year or so she’d be up at night about every two hours unless medicated enough to knock ME out. ( Seriously. Valium, Trazadone, Benadryl, melatonin… a couple more I forget now. )
Even the vet admitted, she’d been a complicated dog. Still we loved her. She was a pain in the ass, but still, she was our pain in the ass.
I never liked using the term “rescue” when asked where we got her. It was more a work of fate that we came into each others’ lives when we did. She needed someone to love her, and I needed something to motivate me to do something I’d long stopped doing, but loved: going for long walks daily. Makes you wonder exactly who rescued who.
But despite all those difficulties, when the decision was finally made, it was honestly one of the hardest experiences we’ve ever gone through. Like, you know on an intellectual level that yeah, having a dog put down plain sucks. However until you experience it… I know we aren’t the first to have done it, but it was the first time for us.
Rather than bury her in the cold, wet ground, we had her cremated. Well worth the money if you ask me, and she’s in a pretty little wooden box that we intended to put in the ground when things get warmer. However a part of me is okay with that little box being on the mantlepiece, so we’ll see.
It's funny how they come into your life and when you're not looking become such a big part of it, and how much it hurts when they leave. Life isn't the same around here now, even a month later. I still eat my breakfast, which I would share with her every day, the same as when she was here. I catch myself thinking, “I need to get home and let the dog out.” I look for her on the couch sometimes when I walk in the room. Like one of this site's long time members once wrote in a bittersweet way that sums it up well: "Damned dogs."
But you know I have to admit, it’s nice to not nearly trip and fall over her as I’m cooking supper. Yet I still have to remind myself that I now have to bend down and clean up the dropped food because she’s not there to get it the moment it hits the floor.
Although as I type this, I could swear her box just shifted when I dropped a crumb. Strange…
*Extra special THANK YOU to Dr Delaney, Dr Speek, and every single person on the staff at Compassionate Companion Care in Elmira. Not only for the years of excellent care for Ginger, but the added care and compassion shown other family in the final days and after. You ladies are awesome.