I’m missing Gingy something awful! Her gentle eyes and smile, they way she danced around when anticipating a treat belying her sixteen years which would be 75, 85, or 95 human years — depending on which website you consult — I even miss the way she’d fuss in the car.

From the beginning, the firing up of the engine would prompt whimpering and her Beagle-like warble which continued until we reached our destination. On the way home, I would notice how calm she was, as if anticipating being back in her bailiwick. The last three car trips she took, that behavior was reversed. It wasn’t until it was all over that I realized it probably meant she was aware her time was limited.

When she came to me, she’d spent a week or two in the hospital directly from a long time in the “wild.” The quotes reflect the animal communicator’s assertion that some of that time was spent as a guest in someone’s backyard. Still, she was found wandering around the South Shore neighborhood of Chicago in a dazed condition. My friend Carol saw a woman carry her off the railroad tracks, but poor Gingy staggered into the busy street. Carol ran out and picked her up. She found the woman and asked if she wanted to take her, but being on the way to work she couldn’t. Carol took her to her vet and sprang for medical and dental attention for the abscess that had worn through her cheek. Given her seven cats, Carol couldn’t take her home so she uploaded Gingy’s beautiful mug to Facebook.

As the name in the microchip was something that could be taken as insulting, Carol asked me what I wanted to call her. I told her I’d have to think about it. I stared at her face and its gentleness which reminded me of my mother. Though I wondered about the propriety of naming a pet after a parent, I couldn’t give up the opportunity to sing “G-I-N-G-Y. G-I-N-G-Y. G-I-N-G-Y. And Gingy was her name-o” for someone other than my departed Mom.

Lucky me! About a week before my home was ready, Gingy came to me: cataracts, arthritis, heart condition, reported deafness, sweet disposition, gentle eyes, beautiful face, radiant smile and all!

When she’d had a moment to get used to her surroundings, we drove her, whimpering and warbling to the natural pet store and, of course, the staff was taken by her. We stopped at a drug store on the way home and picked up a big blue pillow for her bed.

She trotted around her new home, passing the pillow once before stopping to regard it, then climbing up and falling asleep. Boy, did I wish I had a camera! The first of many times. Another happy surprise, I clapped my hands once and she turned around. So much for being deaf. We suspect she learned to ignore certain noises while living on the street.

She came to live with me in February of a particularly cold winter. Getting her out in the snow was nearly impossible. In our whole six months together, I only saw her relieve herself outdoors once. The rug was nearly carpeted with training pads, but she still managed to christen the carpet in between the 1.5′ squares. Why not? I suspect while I was treating her for hitting the pad, she seemed to take it that her good fortune was for the bodily functions themselves. As time went on, Gingy drank more and more water. I thought perhaps, she was training me to give her more treats.

As we got to know each other better and the weather became less brutal, her life was filled with treats and massage. Even in good weather, she seemed to prefer to stand at the open balcony door and watch life go by. She got out occasionally, but still with a reluctance that made me less inclined to force her out. I’d feel the same if I’d been homeless as long as she had been.

Homeless, apparently, did not mean starving. Everyone kept telling me she was overweight and I needed to feed her less. I wasn’t feeding her so much that it seemed an issue. Although, I was making her hamburger or chicken to put on her prescription dog food. She rarely finished the dog food, usually only if it were laced with powdered probiotic and prebiotic. Or if I had to be out for a long time.

She particularly liked beef and chicken. Wellness has “Petite Treats” at four calories a pop. Most of them have ginger or spearmint, and hardly smell like dog food at all. With her lost teeth, she wasn’t eager to chew a lot of the crunchy treats, but she ate them with relish for the fowl. However, as time went on, she appreciated them more.

The second time we saw one of the vets at the local hospital, she took me aside and said when she’d first seen Gingy she’d though we’d only have a few weeks at best. At that second meeting, she saw Gingy’s new found energy and revised the prognosis. She thought she’d have several months — maybe even nearly a year.

As Carol said, we always knew it would be a short gig. The reason she’d rushed to bring us together was she wanted her to have a quality life at the end. Over our six months together, Gingy flourished for five months. Then in July, she began to fade rapidly. As long as she relished her treats and meals I steeled myself to her uncooperative hips and periodic breathing issues. Even when I’d rush her to the vet for issues I did not need to worry about, her problems were adding up.

In the second to last week of July, one of the vets decided to x-ray her chest because of the cough they’d attributed to her heart issues. The black spots on her lungs might have indicated an infection, heart failure, or cancer; so they sent us home with an antibiotic, a heart medication, and something else — I forgot what it was for immediately. Though we were told to come back in three or four days, there were too many emergencies in this summer of dog flu. We couldn’t get an appointment until a week later. On the last Thursday of July, the vet confirmed it was cancer, but could not say whether the lungs were the primary site or it had metastasized from somewhere else.

Now, the vet said, all we could do was spoil her until her quality of life was gone. She could even OD on the beef Joint Rescue treats ( without being hurt by too much glucosamine condroitin.

That night, for the second time in our life together, her stool looked suspiciously dark and in the morning there was fresh blood. I called the vet. Though she said they had meds that would fix the symptom, I postulated that, being the second time, her colon may have been the primary site of the cancer. Add to that how much trouble she was having getting her back legs to stand and stay up, it was probably time. Besides, I’d seen people go through cancer and enough was enough. She made an appointment for us the following day.

Other than beef treats and hamburger meals, she hesitated over food, if she took it at all. So, on the rare occasion she came over for a treat or a forehead massage, I’d either give her the Joint Rescue or make her hamburger and rice. By breakfast time, she was leaving more hamburger in her dish.

One of the women from the office brought me papers to sign and said for $100.00 more (I’d asked about prices) I could take her ashes home after cremation. Not my style.

Carol and her husband drove up from South Shore and my friend and neighbor Tammy, who works with Adopt-a-Pet, met us there. Gingy was never alone and from the moment we left the house. She was surrounded by loving friends as the tech tried twice to insert the IV before succeeding on the third try.

When the attending vet came in, she hugged me. I said, I knew it was late in the game, but if she wanted to talk me out of it, I’d listen. She said it was the right decision, the time had come, and I was disappointed.

Then, having learned I’d never been through it before. She explained what would happen. In a three shot procedure, she would be sedated and fall asleep. Then, the doctor would inject a saline solution. That was the only time a needle touched me. I had moved my hand to cup Gingy’s cheek.

By the third injection, my dear girl was snoring. I took it as a sign she was aware of four sets of hands on her — even of the five sets of weeping eyes. My forehead had been touching hers since the first shot. Despite her aging, dry nose that she had scratched raw over the months, refusing all attempts to coat it with petroleum jelly, she could smell my skin and breath. I don’t know whether she could hear at all by then, or if she’d just learned serenity in the face of scary noises, but I sang to her one last time: “G-I-N-G-Y.”

With the overdose of anesthesia, her tongue dangled between her teeth and she was no longer snoring. We continued to pet her and kiss her. The vet hugged me again and presented me with the plaster cast they’d taken of her paw while I was otherwise distracted. All the blankets, bowls and dog beds Adopt-a-Pet had lent me went back, but I kept Gingy’s collar, wrapping it around her paw print which I put in my parent’s breakfront where it is near me while I work.


About Judy M. Goodman

Freelance writer, aspiring novelist, and board member of Jane Stories Press Foundation.
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6 Responses to Gingy

  1. drgeraldstein says:

    A very tender, understated eulogy, Judy. My condolences.

  2. cfmdesigns says:

    Gingy went where all Good Dogs go. You are a hero for taking care of her when she was helpless and inconvenient. In the last photo, with the two of you on the couch, she looks like a baby puppy. For a moment I thought you were already fostering a new child!

    Dog is G-d spelled backwards, but her outlook was always forwards.

    • Judy M. Goodman says:

      Thanks, Carol! Please keep reminding me. You’re right! She does look like a puppy. 2nd Childhood….

  3. What a sweet dog. I’m glad to read such a loving piece.

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