Forgive me, please for being emotional and downright maudlin, but I just got a call from my wife. Our beloved dog, Ginger, is being put to sleep even as I type this. The grief I feel right now is sharp and keen--overwhelming in fact. I closed my office door and sobbed for several minutes. Now I need to write it out. Why do I feel like this? Death is part of life, part of how things are, right? This was our dog, not a child. And yet, the pain I feel inside takes my breath away. I can't describe how it feels without pulling out cliche after cliche.
At this point, all I can do for Ginger is pay tribute to her and remember her for the good and loving dog she was.
When we got her several years ago, she was literally skin and bones. She had been rescued a few weeks earlier from an abusive home, but was severely malnourished and had problems with parasites. Instead of being fierce and mean because of her abuse, Ginge was the sweetest most unaggressive dog I have seen. She was gentle with everyone and I have never been nervous when she was around small children--my own, or someone else's. She was affectionate and sweet-tempered.
The exception to her sweetness and lack of aggression was if she felt someone or something was threatening the family. Person, dog, or anything--it didn't matter. Not long after we got her, we were burning some leaves in the backyard. I was with some of the kids watching the flames. As soon as the flames got between us and Ginger, she turned into a wolf. She barked and growled and charged the flames. She got her whiskers singed and almost got some serious burns, but she was determined to fight them to the death because she was worried we were in danger. I grabbed her and pulled her out, but I know she would have died to save us.
Before she developed arthritis, Ginger and I used to take long walks through the back country roads where we live and I will always treasure the memories or long, lazy southern afternoons in the quiet hills and valleys of Tennessee.
She had some kind of auto-immune disease that made her prone to arthritis, ear infections and an itchy skin condition, as well as some other things, so she was often in discomfort--sometimes severe. She was incredibly stoic and tough, though. When we took her to the vet, something we did with increasing frequency, she tended to get a lot of sticking and poking and prodding. It was all for her own good, of course, but very uncomfortable. She never even growled at the vet or the assistant--just patiently endured it. Her deep, intelligent eyes seemed to reflect her saying, "I understand you're doing this for me."
Ginger loved cold weather. During the winter, when it snowed, we often found her sleeping outside of her house. She really seemed to relish it, something I thought was kind of unique about her.
We'll bury her down at the bottom of the yard, down by her house. We'll bury her in the shade of the trees she loved to sit under during the summer. When it snows, it will make me happy to think of her out there in it.
Ginger was a joy to us. She was a good, loving, loyal, brave, and patient dog. I hope I can be like her some day--to love as unconditionally and constantly, to endure without complaint. The thought that I will not see her again opens up an ache that I cannot describe--an emotional pain beyond reason or logic.
I think that flowers and dogs may be two of God's most wonderful gifts to we poor mortals trudging through this existence--two comforting and soul-filling blessings that lift our spirits, give and give and never take. Ginger was a wonderful blessing for our family. A furry guardian angel who watched over us. All dogs go to heaven, of course. But I'm sure Ginger gets a special place. Good-bye, old girl. I'll miss you.
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