Thursday, August 13, 2009

Tribute to our dear Ginger

We waited until he paused. "Is that it? Anything else?" We braced ourselves for the bomb to drop. "No, that's it. So, you have some good news here," said the vet. We breathed a collective sigh of relief. Everything seemed good to us. Ginger is going to be fine, after all.

Ginger as a puppy. She was about a year old here, in our old apartment in Syracuse.

It's ironic that it took a dramatic event for me to get around to posting a entry on Ginger, our dear companion of 9+ years. I've been meaning to do one on her for awhile, but just haven't gotten around to it.

We always celebrate Ginger's birthday with a cake. The cake is mostly for me, the cake fiend, but she gets her own serving.

I was afraid we were about to come close to losing our cherished pet this past week. Already arthritic, Ginger started showing signs a few weeks ago that something else was wrong. She had become increasingly weak and was avoiding putting too much weight on her right paw. We took her to the vet last Wednesday. $230 later, we walked out with a small pharmacopia to treat her newly diagnosed Anaplasmosis, as well as an ear infection and skin infection. Poor dog! We were instructed to come back in 10 days to check on her recovery. Well, "recover", she did not. In fact, she got worse. Finally, I said, we can't wait ten days. She might not even be able to WALK in ten days.

When we saw the vet again, he booked her for xrays and did a complete blood count. Turns out she has some compression of the cervical vertebrae and arthritis in the shoulders, but no cancer and no other diseases. I can't say I'm surprised about the compression. Ginger has packed into her nine years, the activities of several average dogs. She's hiked Mount Marcy in the Adirondack High Peaks, where she was the sole witness to our engagement. She used to run nearly 10 miles a day between my run and Joe's separate run with her, as a puppy. She's logged endless miles on trail runs through our favorite abandoned quarry in Syracuse, Cockaponsett Forest in Connecticut, Pine Bush Preserve in Albany, and Central Park in Schenectady. And even as she grew unable to run much, she was still climbing our stairs several times a day, especially once Jonas was born.

Our epic hike up Mount Marcy, Oct. 15, 2o02, when Joe proposed to me. Joe would be in the picture too, except that he had to take the photo. As a younger dog, Ginger LIVED for the woods. As an older dog, she still drags me down the sidewalk, some days, toward the park, where she can tromp around and stick her nose down mole holes.

We were on Cloud 9 when we heard that she should be fine. When we returned from the vet's office, she was more animated than usual. Our hearts burst with joy. But little by little over the weekend, she slowed and became increasingly stiff. We took her off her new arthritis medicine for fear that she was reacting negatively to it. No change. This morning, she was the weakest that I've seen her. She collapsed multiple times. It broke my heart.

In a panic, I called the vet's office first thing this morning. She's going to start a steroid tomorrow and finish out her course of anti-biotics for the Anaplasmosis. Tonight she gave us cause for more excitement, when she returned to the kitchen with a ravenous appetite and played with Jonas and her ball.

Ginger is such a trooper, and she's so good with Jonas. He continually pokes and prods her and she endures it all with unbelievable patience. She is protective of him and at the same time doesn't hesitate to steal food out of his hand. I guess all is fair in love and war.

Up and down, up and down. I feel like we're on a roller-coaster these days. I get one good night of sleep, followed by two bad ones, during which I'm worried and on edge as I listen for Ginger in case she trips when she's walking around at night. Sometimes she'll need to go out at night, which means I have to don the sandals and quasi-lift her down the porch stairs, all the while trying not to lose my own balance.

One unanticipated, but positive, outcome to last week's drama is that I am highly aware that Ginger's time with us may be limited. I certainly hope not, but one never knows. I am going to pour as much love as I can in these last years, because she deserves it. She has been such a wonderful companion to us all these years. And I confess I feel a little guilty that in Jonas' first months of life, I often grew impatient with her and perhaps on occasion took her for granted. Now, it's no longer a burden, but a pleasure, to take a little extra time to make sure that her bed is extra comfy, and that she has ample treats and special surprises, like impromptu car rides. These days, I take nothing for granted. It's for the best that way.

Jonas and Ginger
Christmas 2008


Andy said...

Ginger is wonderful. Send her my love.

annejay said...

Having lost our dog Cedar in March and always worrying about our nearly 13 year old Maple, your tribute brought me to tears! You are completely right that this is the time to pamper her and love her completely. I'll be thinking of her! She's lucky to be with such a loving and appreciative family!

Anonymous said...

Lizzy and Joe: Brought back so many memories-had my kleenex with me when I read this. I will never forget my introduction to Ginger-the large brown puppy jumping over the red couch in your apt. to greet me. She is truly a wonderful companion and will always be in my heart. Continue pampering, loving her and take this one day at a time. LOL Mom