I cried while I was driving to the gym this morning.
Exercising doesn’t (usually) cause me to burst into tears, but my parents broke some terrible news yesterday, and I’m still dealing with it.
Usually, my parents call me or vice versa on Sunday afternoons. They were camping this weekend, and so I thought little of it when my dad didn’t pick up his phone. Maybe they were at a movie or somewhere in which they couldn’t talk on his cell. As the evening progressed, they still hadn’t called me back. I sent my mom a text, just in case my parents hadn’t checked my dad’s cell for some reason. Another hour or so passed, and that’s when I started to worry a little bit. Finally, my dad called.
“Hi honey,” he said, his voice shaky and quiet. “Are you home?”
This is a question I’ve heard a few times before. Whenever tragedy strikes our family, my parents ask this before telling me bad news so I don’t become too upset while I’m driving or out in public.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
Silence. I could hear blood pumping in my ears.
“We had to put Ginger down today,” he uttered. He could barely get the words out.
“I’m so sorry daddy,” was all I could get out as I started to cry.
My parents explained to me that she was having seizures/fainting spells the day before. She started crying and growling in pain, and then she couldn’t urinate. My parents knew it was time.
They said she went peacefully. She wasn’t suffering anymore.
I remember the first time we met. My family and I drove 5 hours to Harvard, IL to pick up this rescued cocker spaniel named Ginger. That’s all I really knew about her at that point. I was still grieving over the loss of our first cocker, Penny, who had been put down two months before. Even though she didn’t like me very much (it was a “Lady and the Tramp” kind of situation), I still missed her. So when my mom said she’d found another dog she wanted us to adopt, I was hesitant.
When we finally arrived at the Cocker Spaniel Rescue League, I saw a sea of dogs running toward my dad’s truck. As we opened the truck doors, one dog tried her hardest to jump into the cab. Of course, it was spunky little Ginger. She even decided to join us ladies as we took a bathroom break after our long journey. She already knew she belonged with us, even if we weren’t so sure yet. After talking with the rescue league owner and paying the fees, she was ours. We took her home.
We’ve been best friends ever since.
Even though I’m tearing up as I write this, I’m also smiling.
I thought I’d share some of my favorite memories of Ginger with you. It’s the least I could do for such a wonderful friend.
The funniest memory I have of her happened the first Christmas she spent with us. My family makes cookies every year from a recipe that has been passed down for almost 200 years. These cookies are made one at a time, and cooled on paper towel covered tables. Our first dog, Penny, passed at the ripe old age of 18, and my family wasn’t used to having such a spry dog in the house anymore.
Of course, Ginger was by our side the whole time we were making these cookies. Until, for a moment, she wasn’t. I didn’t realize this until I had brought some warm cookies into our dining room.
There she was, on top of the dining room table with a pile of cookies in her mouth. As I yelled her name, she scrambled to get off the table, cookies spraying in all directions as she did so. At the time, I was pissed. But looking back on it, I can’t help but smile.
I could talk about her all day. There’s another memory that sits at the forefront of my mind at the moment.
You never really know how much a pet loves you until she feels she has to protect you.
As you probably know, I’ve had GI issues for several years now. When I was 22, I had my gallbladder removed because it wasn’t functioning properly. After the surgery, I was in a lot of pain. I got into bed as soon as I got home. When my mom came into the room, Ginger hopped up on the bed as she normally used to do. She could sense that I was in pain though, so she settled herself near my feet.
My mom didn’t want Ginger on my bed, as she was worried that she would try to come up to me and potentially cause harm. She told her to get down.
Ginger would have none of this, however.
As my mom tried to nudge her off of my bed, she growled threateningly at her. This was the first time in ten years of having Ginger in our home that she had ever growled at a family member, let alone my mom, who spoiled her every day.
My mom immediately backed off, a look of confused shock on her face. As she did so, Ginger relaxed her body and resumed her happy disposition, tongue lagging out of her mouth. My mom and I exchanged looks, and I told her that it was ok she stayed with me.
After thinking about it, this instance wasn’t all that surprising. Whenever I was sick, Ginger would come into my room and check in on me. She literally would walk in, raise her head to make sure I was still ok, grin, and walk back out. If we were the only ones in the house when I wasn’t feeling well, she would either sleep at the end of my bed or in my bedroom doorway. I didn’t realize until having my gallbladder removed that she wasn’t only doing this to comfort me; she was protecting me. If that’s not a sign of true loyalty and love, I don’t know what is.
There are so many little quirks like that I’m going to miss.
I’m going to miss her licking me relentlessly as I tried to do sit-ups after a run.
The way she would curl into a “C” shape because she was wagging her tail so hard.
The expressiveness of her eyebrows.
The way she’d rub her whole body along the length of a couch while snorting.
How excited she would get when her leash and collar were brought out of the drawer.
The way she couldn’t fall asleep unless she had a tennis ball with her.
When I moved away to college, my mom said Ginger would scratch at my closed bedroom door and leave tennis balls there.
I don’t think I’ll ever fully get rid of the guilt of leaving her.
I wish I could’ve been there to say goodbye.
If you have a pet, cherish every minute, every flaw, every slobbery lick.
This is for you, my sweet, ornery, loyal best friend.
Ginger’s Favorite Muffins
4 cups old fashioned oats
1 Tablespoon baking powder
2 ¾ cups warm water
¼ cup honey
¼ cup peanut butter
1 individual container apple sauce (about 1/3 cup)
1 cup diced apples or bananas
Preheat oven to 350F. Spray 2-12 cup muffin tins liberally with cooking spray. Combine oats and baking powder in a large bowl. Whisk together water, honey, peanut butter, and applesauce. Combine wet ingredients with the dry, and add diced fruit last. Scoop muffins into sprayed tins with a standard muffin scoop. Bake for 50-55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean or almost clean with baked crumbs stuck to it. Allow to cool in tins before removing and freezing in freezer plastic bags. Frozen muffins will keep for up to 2 months. To serve, thaw muffins out in the microwave for about 20 seconds or overnight at room temperature.