Ginger and Linda
I saw you on the day you were born. A beautiful soul entered my life. Two days after my Bonnie left me and after my 16-month battle with Lymphoma, Ginger was there to put my heart back together. My brother’s Maggie had a litter. I knew nothing about border collies, but I hit the jackpot. Endless games of fetch and wonderful days of training were in store. Ginger had all the best qualities you could ever ask for in a dog and not a bad habit ever. She was free in the house before she was one and was house-trained in less than a week.
Ginger was my pride and joy. She was an angel from day one. Her temperament was amazing but her health—that was a challenge. We saw a specialist to correct her bite. I never knew to check for that. Luckily after removing two baby teeth, her adult teeth came in and didn't create more problems. Puppy kindergarten, Manners One, Manners 2, CGC prep class, Pre Agility, Tricks, Agility... all were the best days! How smart she was. Talking to Ginger was like speaking to a human, but much better!
New Year’s Day 2010. As I sat exactly where I am seated right now, Ginger within eyesight from the desk chair. I witnessed the most horrific thing I've ever seen. My Ginger began to convulse and shake and twitch. Little did I know I would witness this over and over and over until I was almost insane. Many nights were spent in the hospital, but Ginger always pulled through. She was my miracle dog. God granted her this life to teach me about faith. She had a seizure in every room of my house before we finally got the right combination of medicine to gain control of this wretched disease. I was terrified to leave her alone. Epilepsy is relentless.
I was always there for her. I could anticipate a seizure and kept her safe countless times. When we added Potassium Bromide the grand mal seizures
finally stopped in 2011. God knew I couldn't take much more. After that, a focal seizure once in a while was nothing compared to what we had endured. Sure, they were still frightening, but I was always one step ahead of her and caught her every time before she fell down the stairs, ran into a wall, or crashed into the furniture. My life changed and I made sure she got her medication on time. I never left her for more than 4 hours and never left her at night. Every hour of every day revolved around when Ginger was spunky and ready to PLAY BALL. My life was hers. I beamed with pride as we set out every day on our countless walks through the neighborhood. Ginger, never on a leash, under my total voice control. People would comment, "That's the best-trained dog I've ever seen". My heart would soar with joy. I never regretted a single sacrifice. We had a wonderful life. I knew deep down she would not live as long as most border collies. Ginger had so many friends. She loved everyone and had not a single mean bone in her body. She was pure love.
Four months before she died, a feeling came over me. I knew she was going to leave me. I kept telling my friend. I could see her aging before my eyes and could detect the slightest hind end weakness. A blood test to check her medication levels revealed she was in the therapeutic range.
The Christmas of 2016, Ginger was so lively and so much fun. It was as if she was giving me one last Holiday to savor forever. New Year's Day 2017 I snapped a photo of my best girl that captured the gray and old age in my perfect puppy.
The week leading up to her death was like a slow-motion nightmare, yet I remained calm and serene. Every day was spent taking her back and forth to the vet and then to specialists, including a neurologist. One morning Ginger had a bloody nose and the next morning she could not walk. There was no improvement and she progressively became worse. I carried her and she slept next to me like she had her entire life. At first it was thought Ginger had Lyme disease but eventually the neurologist concluded my dog suffered from cervical and possibly brain disease. I brought her home for one more night. Her friends came by to say so long. She feasted on organic chicken tenders. I stayed by her side, never leaving her for a second.
That morning, Friday, January 13, 2017, I carried Ginger one last time to my car. Alone with my dog, to the vet I drove. I danced around the waiting room singing to her. The love of my life, how can you go? "Get well, get well soon, I want you to get well" (the song from an old Seinfeld episode). I give myself credit for actually being able to find humor in the most horrific day of my life. I had lost my dad, brother, mother and my Bonnie all before this. The days, weeks, months and years since Ginger left turned out to be worse. I felt lost and alone without any purpose. EMPTY and BROKEN.
The day Ginger left the earth, part of me left with her. There were times I thought I might have to be committed, that's how much it hurt. I would walk in the door and my life was no more.
Somehow the gift of empathy gets me through the day. To reach out and console others when they are suffering in pain, to let them know they are not alone. Losing my Ginger broke me in two, but made me more loving, more caring and maybe someday, stronger. She made me better. She was my love. Love never dies. And Ginger lives forever in my perfectly broken heart.
Lindy and Maggie
Can you relate to Lindy and Maggie's story?
Walter Stoffel is a substance abuse counselor and GED teacher in correctional facilities. When not behind bars, he likes to read, travel, work out and watch bad movies. Major accomplishment : He entered a 26.2-mile marathon following hip replacement surgery and finished—dead last. The author currently lives with his wife Clara, their dog Buddy (another rescue), and cat Winky (yet another rescue).
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