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  • Writer's pictureKurt J. Kolka


(Originally Posted: Tuesday, May 21, 2013)

Our family is going through a difficult time. A few weeks ago, we learned our dog, Ginger, wasn’t going to be with us much longer. We’ve been keeping her as comfortable as possible with the help of medication her veterinarian has provided. But each day our family gets up,

I wonder how much time we have left with her.

Ginger is a 60-plus-pound German short-haired pointer. Most days she spends her early hours lying on her bed, only occasionally asking to go out. Then, in the afternoon as everyone is returning home, she seems to suddenly come to life, greeting each person as they come through the door. Once everyone is accounted for, she attacks her favorite chew toy and gobbles up all the food in her dish. At that point, we know she’s still doing OK. We breathe a sigh of relief.

Her bowls sit up on an old wooden crate so she can eat and drink more easily. And we’ve constructed a temporary ramp for our back door so she doesn’t have to climb those steps.

Often at night, after we’ve gone to bed, we will suddenly hear her call to us. A moan-like dog voice calls out as if to say, “Are you still in the house somewhere? It’s hard for me to see in the dark and I want to know you’re still here with me.”

I crawl out of bed, go into the living room and pet her. “It’s OK, buddy. We’re still here.” I lie down on the couch until she relaxes again and she crawls up with some difficulty from hind legs that aren’t as strong as they used to be. She snuggles close to my feet, needing to feel the warmth of another.

We don’t know where Ginger came from. Some friends of ours found her abandoned in the woods a few years ago and brought her home where they nursed her back to health. The veterinarian could only guess at her age. Her teeth were well-worn from whatever she had been eating to survive. She already had white around her eyes. The vet believed she had likely been part of a puppy mill, released when she had outlived her “usefulness.”

When the friends’ situation changed soon after and they could no longer keep her, they gave her to our family. It was the day after Christmas. And she quickly snuggled her way into our hearts.

If you’re a pet lover like we are, you remember each pet for certain characteristics or events. Ginger is no exception.

As you might anticipate, after being abandoned by her original owners, Ginger had significant issues with being left alone for any length of time. On the vast majority of days, she was fine by herself, but then would come those odd days. We would come home and be astounded by what had happened.

Try as we might to keep objects away from her, she continually amazed us by her ability to reach items we thought were out of her reach and then either eat them or tear them up. It was nothing find a wrapper on the floor, minus an entire loaf of bread. Stuffed animals always had to be kept out of sight. Socks might be found partially digested in the yard. One time we came home to find my daughter’s school paperwork with a huge chunk bitten out of it. And I probably shouldn’t mention the S.O.S. pads.

One time my daughter was selling candy bars as a fundraiser. We came home to find the box empty of the last few bars. Of course, we assumed she had eaten them. Well, that is, until they later discovered them at the back of a closet, underneath some fallen clothing. Must have been part of a rainy day dog fund.

Of course, like many dogs, she was faithfully by our side through all of life’s situations. When any of us was sick or saddened, she was there by our side — sometimes on the floor, sometimes on the couch with us. Occasionally, she climbed into bed with us, which was not one of the qualities my wife appreciated.

She has been a thorough maid — the perfect vacuum sweeper for food; mop for spilled milk; and, when she could reach the dishes, dish washer (well, initial dish washer). And, oh yes, a determined squirrel hunter.

Then, there was the snoring. The first day she was with us, we sat down to eat supper at the kitchen table. Suddenly, there came this loud snoring from under the table. We all broke out into hardy laughter. Throughout the last five-plus years, that alone has made her a point of conversation for visitors.

There have been times we’ve wondered if she doesn’t experience identity crises from time to time. Once when we had a friend over with a small lap dog, Ginger decided she should be a lap dog as well and proceeded to crawl up on my lap. After a short time, however, she decided it wasn’t quite as comfortable as it looked.

She also loves to dress up with my daughter. Put her in a costume and she marches along, head held high, just craving attention from those around her. Ginger has won awards in the annual Alpenfest Pet Parade on various occasions. I can’t believe last year was her final time entering that event.

We keep reminding each other of these stories, as her final day draws closer. We laugh as we massage those silky ears of hers, because it’s better than crying. And each night, as we go to bed, we know we may get that moan-like call in the night for a few minutes of attention, but that’s OK

​Because, we know, sometime soon our life won’t be the same without that little dash of Ginger.

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