Yesterday was one of the hardest days of my life. We said farewell to our wonderful beagle, Ginger.

It was time. She let us know that. She was 13 years old, and we knew it was coming. I am so glad she made it to see another summer, to remember the feeling of laying in a sunny spot and soaking up the warmth. And she got to come camping one more time, take one more boat ride, enjoy the smell of summer (important to a beagle!) and all it has to offer.

She’s my “once in a lifetime” dog. I found her on the highway the summer before my senior year of high school. Long, funny, sweet story… but let’s just say that it was meant to be.

She’s been an amazing companion over the years. When I would cry she would climb up on me and rest her head on my chest or cheek. She always knew when something was up with me. I’ll always remember when I got my positive pregnancy test (my husband was out of town). I could hear her slow steps up the stairs and down the hallway to check on me. She knew something was up. She’s technically the first one I told! And we sat in the future nursery and she cuddled with me while I cried excited tears, and we plotted the future together. I’m so sad she won’t be there for that next positive test. For those next steps in our lives.

While part of me feels a little guilty that her last year was spent in the shadow of our son, I’m also so glad they got to meet each other. They are both amazing. One of his first words was “Ginger.” He loves to say it, which makes this even harder. He’s been looking around for her, especially this morning (first thing in the morning, he loves waking up and seeing the dogs wake up and excitedly walk around the room, waiting for pees and breakfasts). She loved to snuggle with him, and was so patient with him and his antics, especially for a cranky old woman!

He keeps saying his heartbreakingly adorable, high-pitched “Ging-uh!” While it makes it more difficult, I also love that he says it. I don’t want him to lose that word from his vocabulary. It’s a word I wanted him to know and say often, and it’s sad that it will start to fade. I will keep it going, somehow. We will remember her.

I’ve been through so much with this dog… from high school graduation, to college, to multiple apartments and houses, to our wedding, then pregnancy (she loved to cuddle on the couch with me during those long first trimester days!), and then baby.

I talked to my best friend yesterday morning, who was with me the day we found her, and she joked that Ginger held out for my son’s birthday, which made me laugh. Never one to miss a party, there for every milestone. I like that idea. That she wanted to see him turn one before she left us.

She had a wonderfully peaceful passing. She was outside on a beautiful day, in my lap being kissed while I told her how much I loved her. I’m so glad I was able to do this for her, and be there with her when she left us. While my husband couldn’t be there, my best friend was. It was fitting and how it should have been… she started and ended her life with the two of us.

My heart is just broken. It’s becoming so much more real. It keeps hitting me in waves and the reality, the FINALITY, of it is setting in. Being home is hard, with all of the little reminders around. Expecting to hear her get up for a drink of water. She won’t be jumping around howling at me, trying to convince me to feed them dinner early. I already miss her amazingly soft ears. Her sweet eyes. The way her white-tipped tail wagged. Her sassiness, even in her old age. She was amazing and awesome and I just can’t believe she’s gone.

I can’t stop crying, even now. She’s really gone.

I miss her. It breaks my heart to see our other dog (Kizzy) laying by herself on the big dog bed under the coffee table. They spent most of the day cuddling together. She seems melancholy today. She knows, I think. When I came home from the vet yesterday she was sniffing me like crazy (which she normally wouldn’t do unless I had been with a different dog, but not Ginger), then just laid down. I’m giving her as much love as possible. Cutting her a break. Being more patient. Cuddling more.

I don’t know how to adjust to being a one-dog household. We’ve done things in pairs for so long. We buy 2 toys, 2 beds, 2 crates, 2 types of dog food, put together 2 sets of doggy Christmas presents. We let the dogs out. We feed the dogs. “Honey, do the dogs have water?” I came home from the vet yesterday, and the first thing I see is the sign I made on the front door: “Shhhh… Sleeping Baby and Barking Dogs.” When my husband came home from work, he said it was so weird to only be greeted at the door by Kizzy.

Last night, I didn’t want to go to bed. As morbid and strange as it might sound, yesterday she was alive. I knew when I went to bed, that would change. I’d have to start out a whole day without her. There will never again be a day where she’s here with us. Where I can kiss her cheek or bury my nose in the scruff of her neck. Get her to howl that sweet sweet howl, where she’d sway back and forth.

This morning was really tough. I was hoping it was all a bad dream. Lying in bed, it was like I could pretend she was still just sleeping and would get up any minute. It was so QUIET, with just one dog. Without her pouncing around for her breakfast, or hearing the tap-tap-tap of her claws on the wood floor. Not hearing her snoring the morning away. Not watching her roll around on her back when she wakes up from a nap, making that funny “gator face” and snorting. All those little things, those noisy things… her absence is deafening.

We will keep her memory alive, and she’ll live on in our hearts forever. We’re already laughing about little things she did, even though those thoughts bring on more tears. She was one in a million, irreplaceable… but how lucky I was to have had the chance to know her.

Grant just woke up from his nap and the first thing he did was say her name. It’s heartbreaking. I was “prepared” for this time, but are we really ever? My heart literally aches. My stomach hurts. I don’t feel like eating. I don’t know how to handle the heaviness of these emotions.

Grant helps, of course. I can’t stay in bed crying all day when I have to chase after him. He needs me, and it feels good to hear him giggle and play. Life goes on, somehow.

Ginger, thank you for finding me that day. Thank you for giving me everything you had, and gracing my life with your presence. I promise I won’t be this sad forever, but it’s going to be really hard for me to relearn how to live without you. You’ve helped me get through so much, and I never fully realized what a rock you were to me until now. That’s just a testament to the amazing dog you were, and how much I loved (and continue to love) you. I hope you get to spend eternity sniffing around, snoozing in the sun, eating lots of yummy food without ever getting too fat, and having that spot on your neck itched. I love you, beagle butt. More than you could ever know.

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Dog Days

December 13, 2010

Well, it’s far from summer (you should look out my window and see the results of our latest storm; it’s still snowy and windy). But the dog days are here… our poor dog, Kizzy, is still miserable from her “seasonal allergies.”

We are at our wits end with her, and I’m sure she feels the same. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be so uncomfortable in your own skin (literally) every single day.

Her issues began maybe six months after we got her (she was 17 months old when we adopted her from our local animal shelter, and is now over six years old). She had terrible fall allergies that kicked in around August or so. Ragweed, most likely.

It grew from there. She started getting them in the spring, too. And then the itching lasted through the summer, too. And then, last year, it didn’t end after the fall allergies were over. Nope, they kept right on going.

We’ve pretty much tried it all. Changed her dog food a gazillion times. Allergy shots. Natural therapies. Sprays, powders, creams. Prescription shampoos. Benadryl. Serious medication (i.e., prednisone, an evil evil little pill that WORKS WONDERS but has some terrible side effects). We’ve worked with vets. We’ve worked with a natural animal health “guru.” And still, she itches.

We recently tried to wean her off of her prednisone. Again, big mistake. But at what point is enough, well, enough? It’s not meant to be used long term for allergies. We can’t stand her when she’s on this medication; she spends her days licking the floor with a cracked out look in her eyes. At the same time, at least she’s comfortable?

After doing some research, I decided to give one last thing a try. Another diet change. This time, no more kibble (even though we fed a very high quality dry food that has cost us quite a bit of money, I think she may be having issues with the processed kibble). I’m now making her food. Fresh meat, carrots, eggs, pumpkin puree, etc. It’s worth a shot. And we’re supplementing with “The Missing Link,” which is supposed to help fill some of those nutritional gaps and has helped many dogs with skin issues.

At this point, I don’t know what to do anymore. I hope this works. If not, we’ll try an elimination diet. Our vet said the next step is allergy testing and shots to build up her immunity to the things she’s allergic to, but it doesn’t always work (actually, it OFTEN doesn’t work) and it’s very expensive. We’re down to pretty much one income right now and we have an infant. It’s just not in the picture, especially with our other (older) dog having kidney problems now.

It’s frustrating to take good care of a dog, spend a lot of money on food and supplements, frequent vet care, etc. and still have a dog that wants to chew off her skin, gets frequent ear infections, and has regular anal gland issues. *sigh* It takes so much energy. We spend so much time just trying to stop her from itching (she will get into a zone and itch or chew, especially if left alone, which only exacerbates the problem). And she spends so much time trying to free herself of this misery, and trying to find ways to itch so we won’t notice.

When it rains, it storms, huh? Only around here it winter storms.

Today, I am cautiously optimistic. She’s less red today. She’s currently snoozing peacefully. Her skin looks more dry than irritated, so we have the humidifier running (darn dry winter air) and that supplement should help. Cross your fingers!

First Snow

December 5, 2010

It started snowing last night–real snow this time, the stuff that sticks around and leaves more than a fine dusting over the stiff grass.

I woke up this morning and everything was very very white. There’s a calm and peace that comes with the first real snow of the season (well, until you have to shovel it). It is quiet. Everything is clean and pristine; in a few months there will be high snowbanks and everything will be gray and brown from all the road sand and salt, and the clumsy paths humans make through the snow will create a maze in our city.

But this morning? Well, as much as I hate the stuff, it’s almost pretty out there.

Almost. Then reality hits and I think about whether we’ll want to pack G up today to drive him across town to visit family like we planned to, and how long it will take J to snow blow the driveway before we go, and how people forget how to drive in the snow every year (the first snow is terrible to drive in, especially with young out-of-towners going to college here).

I started the morning off with a laugh as I let the dogs out. Here’s the play by play: both dogs hurry out the door as usual (gotta speed pee so you can eat) and practically tumble down the back staircase. They squat and awkwardly pee, trying to keep their girly bits out of the snow. They have a brief moment of excitement (omg snow!!1! *pounce*), remember that it’s breakfast time, and then struggle to bolt back up the snowy steps.

Ginger, our oldest dog, is twelve years old. All white in the face now. As the seasons have changed this year and I watch her age (and have her first real health problem), it makes me wonder how many more winters she’ll endure. Was this her last year to bask in the hot sun, lay in the fallen leaves, pounce through the snow? She’s doing very well, but I know how suddenly an old dog can go downhill (especially since we almost lost her about four months ago).

*tear*

I’m sipping my coffee and munching on homemade banana bread, with a fire going in the fireplace. It seems the best way to ring in winter. G’s first winter.

Christmas is less than three weeks away. Our tree is up but STILL not decorated. Yesterday was going to be The Day (after talking about it since the day after Thanksgiving) but we made the mistake of watching one of those home improvement shows in the morning. We’ve been sick of our cramped living room set up, and we want it nicer in here for when G becomes mobile. So we spent yesterday shopping, putting up new window treatments, getting rid of our couch, etc. We still have a lot to do today but we’re already pleased with the results. I wish I had taken “before” pictures. The tree WILL get decorated today.

Nothing gold can stay

October 10, 2010

Nature’s first green is gold,
her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower,
but only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf,
so Eden sank to grief,
so dawn goes down to day,
nothing gold can stay.

I’ve had this Robert Frost poem memorized since I was in high school. Ah, if only fall could last forever; it’s such a fleeting time of year, in the process of ending before it even begins.

Yesterday was one of those perfect fall days. Woke up to another day of sunny, unseasonably warm weather (and it’s supposed to stay nice all this week, too!). My husband and I took Little Guy out for muffins and lattes, then to the farmer’s market (mmm, pumpkin butter…), and then headed out on our first annual family trip to the corn maze.

(yeah, not the most flattering picture)

We spent the afternoon walking through the corn and hay mazes, surrounded by the laughter of children. Big Guy’s strategy actually worked, and we hit every checkpoint with ease. We picked out pumpkins. Breathed in the crisp fall air and enjoyed the fall colors on the long drive. I look forward to future years, when our son can help us through the maze, pick out a pumpkin, nervously pet the goats, share in the laughter as he plays with other kids, and point in wonderment at scarecrows while apple cider drips from his lips.

Little Guy… my “gold” that cannot stay. What will he be like next fall? And the one after that? It’s going by so fast. This baby phase is about as fleeting as fall.

I came home and took my dogs for a walk. Well, two separate walks; the 12 year old can’t quite keep up with the 6 year old anymore. The younger one dragged me through the leaves, the park, along the cemetery… hot on the scent of some critter.

As we walked along the edge of the cemetery, I saw a couple getting wedding day pictures taken (it’s a beautiful cemetery, so it’s not as morbid as it sounds; even high-schoolers go there for prom and senior pictures). And I thought how crazy it is that it’s been almost a year already since our own wedding, since our own pictures in that very spot, since our amazing son was conceived. What a year it’s been!

Yes, I do think yesterday was the perfect day.