|Lala & Ginger @ 6 month on the way to the dog run|
As I prepare for the 4th birthday of my magical puppy dog angel Lala, my father is preparing to make the tough decision to put his puppy Ginger- who is exactly the same age- to sleep. Tonight he and I exchanged a few sentimental texts back and forth and it got me thinking about my book title and how many of us recall phases of our lives by what pet we had at the time. For the past four years, my dad ate, slept and breathed Ginger, very much as I do with Lala. We bonded over our puppy love and texted dog run pictures back and forth like proud parents bragging about our toddler's vocabulary or bladder control. When I came home to visit he'd wake me up at the crack of dawn (literally, like 5am) and we'd head out to take the doggies on 5 mile walks before anyone else woke up. Our dogs were our sidekicks and perhaps our security blankets. It breaks my heart to think of my Daddy without his.
A little over a month ago my family noticed that Ginger's belly was a little swollen and they took her to the emergency vet. A few hours later the diagnosis: Stage Four liver failure. Without sugar-coating it one bit the vets told them she had "weeks, not months" to live. At first, my Dad was beside himself and could barely leave the house. And boy, can I understand that! She was still a puppy, and in great health, how could this be possible? He was angry and swore he'd never get another dog again. Luckily though, he soon realized the best thing he could do for his little girl was to have as many good times with her as possible, while she still felt good enough to have them.
Everyday instead of talking Ginny for a walk, he'd just play ball with her- for an hour at a time. Like two kids they'd frollic in the backyard, Ginger following the slightest motion of the ball with her eyes and then leaping into action as soon as her master released the prey. I was home a few weeks ago and sure, she had a swollen belly and her muscles were starting to deteriorate, but she still had her spunk and often sat by the door just waiting for her Daddy to come down the stairs and take her out to play. Tonight it seems that the little lady had taken a turn for the worse. Although my dad is truly sad and heartbroken, he understands what a great life they had together and that it might be best to have her last memories be ball-playing and people food, even if they only used it to mask her pills. We've even succeeded in convincing to get another dog because he just has too much puppy love to give! Whatever dog he ends up rescuing will certainly be one lucky bitch.
Instead of being sad, I decided to think about all the joy Lala and Ginger have brought into our lives and reread the long-forgotten pages of my book. I'll leave you with a tiny excerpt that describes the way I felt the first moment I got Lala home from the pound:
She was MINE. I could hardly believe it. She wasn’t a neighbor’s pet or my family dog or one of the puppy-pinups that I’ve ogled on the internet. She was my very own. When she was cute and cuddly, she was mine. When she was naughty and destroyed shoes, paper, blankets, and furniture she was mine. Through thick and thin, sickness and health, better or worse- she was my bitch, and I was hers. I didn’t know then how much we’d go through together and how much she’d actually get me through. I didn’t know that as much as she was mine, I was also hers. When I was sad she would know it and be able to cheer me up. When I was sick, she’d hang by me all day, curling up into a tiny ball next to me on the couch keeping my feet warm. When I wanted to go for a jog she’d be down- so long as I allowed her to stop and smell some butts along the way, that is."