Friday, August 15, 2014

Ginger Grau February 2000 – August 15, 2014

The truth is that I am not really a dog person. I grew up with great cats, but we never had much luck with dogs. They slobbered too much and were too hyper, too dumb, to rough, or too valuable and stolen.  I always figured I would be a cat person the rest of my life. Until I fell in love with someone allergic to cats.

Ginger was born in early 2000, but came to us in September of that year. We had gone to the SPCA to adopt a beagle after enjoying one of our friend’s dogs. But when we went to see the beagle, this gorgeous ginger-colored dog was sprawled across the kennel like she owned the place while the beagle shivered in the corner.  It was love at first sight. After being spayed, we brought her home and she was still so mellow… only to find out a few days later that she was suffering from Parvo.   It was touch and go, but after a few days at the vet (and a few bills later), she recovered.  And then we met the REAL Ginger: protective, active, energetic, sweet, snuggly, insistent, smart, fast, and strong enough to pull a sled (if we had the need in Texas).  We learned she was not a big fan of dog parks or other dogs for that matter, especially when she was just with me because she considered herself to be the head of the pack when Jeff was not around.  Her bark was much worse than her bite (she was not a biter); however, she loved to chase squirrels and rabbits and caught a few of them, too.  She loved riding in the car with her head out the window as well as on our boat. Her favorite treat on road trips was her own cup of Sonic Ice. She also loved camping and exploring the woods with us, but let her off her leash and she was out of sight in a split second… only to come home hours later smiling like she had just been at a huge party.
We never knew her exact breed. She had the personality, body, and markings of a Canaan, but  more than likely she was a Husky-Sheppard mix. In Texas, this meant she was ALWAYS shedding her white undercoat. I am pretty sure we had enough hair each year to make several small dogs!!  Moving to Arkansas was not much better since colder winters brought on a thicker coat so Spring was still quite a shedding mess. But the trade-off was that she had a silky soft coat that you just couldn’t help but pet.
Ginger was meant to be a crated dog, but early on she convinced me that she should sleep on the bed when Jeff traveled. She usually took her place on his side of the bed. This was our secret… well, mostly.  Ginger was a great comfort while we were going through infertility treatments for several years. When Jeff was gone, It was Ginger that sat by me as I charted and tested, listened to me cry, stayed up to watch movies, and shared ice cream and popcorn.  She was also my protector – barking at strange noises and hunkering down with me on stormy nights in our “safe” room. 
When Jillian came home, I was concerned that our fur baby of 10 years would be jealous. But she took to Jillian immediately: sleeping on the floor of her room; kissing her head; snuggling next to her on the floor; chasing each other around the house; letting Jillian adorn her with hats and pearls and crowns; taking walks and sharing snacks.  Even as she grew older and had more pain, she never once bit down on Jillian. Yeah, she yelped and nipped a few times in the past year, but we could not have asked for any better behavior from a senior dog.   

At age 14 ½, Ginger had cataracts, was losing teeth, starting to lose weight, limping, losing footing and slipping, having trouble with stairs, panting heavily most of the day, and experiencing obvious pain when moving too quickly or changing positions.  Over the past few weeks, she became incontinent and seemed to experience pain in her stomach area. However, she gave us glimpses of the perky dog she used to be and she remained a patient, loyal, and sweet girl to us all.  Making the decision to let her go has been one of the most difficult decisions we have ever had to make. She is pain free now and I hope chasing squirrels in a heavenly field. We will miss her fur on our clothes, her gentle nose nudges to make you go where she wanted you to go, and her bark reminding you that she was waiting at the door to come back inside.