Our sweet, strong and feisty dog-child left this physical world on Wednesday, February 24, 2021.
We are broken-hearted and feel her absence everywhere, but at the same time, grateful she is out of physical pain and on to her next soul assignment.
This is the story of her miraculous journey.
Lost and Found
A small dog in terrible condition was found as a stray in Enfield, a rural town in upstate New York, in August of 2009.
No tags, no name, no history.
It appeared she had been abandoned on a country road, limping and severely matted.
She could have easily been hit by a car or attacked by an animal, instead, a compassionate person spotted her and brought her to the SPCA of Tompkins County in Ithaca, NY.
Surviving her life until that point was a powerful act of resiliency.
Relief at the shelter
Free of twisted and matted hair, her skin and bones were given space to breathe; her enormous soulful eyes emerged and filled with light.
When no one came to the shelter seeking this lost dog, Auntie Lisa (which we later began calling my cousin, who has volunteered at this phenomenal shelter for over 20 years), brought this special pup to her home in Ithaca to foster.
She had an intuitive feeling about this dog and wanted to give her a chance at a better life.
We had been sailing off the grid on Cayuga Lake for a week, so you can imagine the many voicemail messages that had accumulated by the time we disembarked.
Lisa’s message stood out: a shih tzu had been rescued and brought into the shelter. She suggested we make the four hour drive from Nyack to meet her because she just knew we were going to fall in love (despite the fact that Doug was a self-proclaimed “big-dog” person and we weren’t really looking to adopt a dog at that time).
Well…the Universe has its own plans.
Unbeknownst to Lisa when she left her message, we were just ten minutes away from her house.
The Big Meeting
I felt a joyful burst in my heart the moment I saw her, but this dog instinctively knew she had to win Doug over.
Without any human prompting, she confidently walked up to Doug, wagged her tail, laid down before him, put her head on his foot and looked up at him as if to say, “I have claimed you. Now rub my belly.” He was immediately smitten. And yes, he rubbed her belly. A lot.
We learned quickly from veterinarians that based on her overall condition, they thought she was about nine or ten years old. They surmised she had been born with hip dysplasia and weak knees, easy fixes for younger dogs.
They explained that without surgery now, she would never be able to go up and down stairs unassisted or go for long walks, but that she could still enjoy life with the time she had left.
None of this deterred us. Ginger, which we would soon name her, already felt like she belonged in our family and we were going to take care of her no matter what.
No one realized, including us, what a determined, spunky and resilient dynamo we were about to adopt.
Adoption Day and First Sailing Trip!
We adopted Ginger on September 5, 2009. She was welcomed enthusiastically by our large, extended pet-loving family.
Her corrective surgery was scheduled for the end of September, which gave us time for her first adventure on Cayuga Lake before the procedure.
When you join a sailing family, you set sail right away!
The Transformation Begins
Over the next year and beyond, Ginger’s true visage and fun-loving personality began to emerge.
A successful surgery followed by physical rehabilitation, acupuncture sessions, chiropractic care, herbal remedies, energy healing, dog training, expert grooming, long walks (yes, she was able to do them with ease along with racing up and down steps on her own), and a diet so healthy that our friends commented often that Ginger ate better than they did, plus oodles of love and cuddling, made our vets realize that Ginger was actually two or three years old at adoption, and not even close to ten.
Amazing what love can do!
Ginger’s photo went on to win an SPCA calendar contest in 2011, her beautiful face and energy lighting up the cover.
Jumping for Joy
As Ginger grew strong and “buff”, we realized she loved to leap. Our wonderful dog trainer told us Ginger had precise posturing, a sharp ability to focus, and a genuine love of learning. We began what is called fun-gility as a way of keeping her physically fit, mentally active, and most important, to have fun!
Ginger was a perfect combination of adventure girl and couch potato. She was easy to travel with and had no fear of trying new activities. She enjoyed going into Manhattan where she couldn’t get enough of the many pungent aromas (a dog’s paradise!). But like most dogs, she also loved to smoosh on pillows and nap for hours, parking herself in front of the air conditioner on steamy, August days.
Siesta time is a fine time
Autumn and Winter
Ginger tolerated Halloween costumes like a grumpy old man, marching with her Dad in Nyack’s annual Halloween parade. Her favorite season was winter and she loved to romp in the snow.
Click on arrow on video to play.
Ginger was mellow and wise. She could sit patiently without flinching reflecting on nature’s beauty, and walk leisurely keeping step along side us. She was a perfect meditation companion.
The Comeback Kid
Ginger would go on to have a few scary health events in her life, including a botched emergency surgery in 2012. She spent three weeks in the veterinary hospital. We thought we would surely lose her, but she astonished all of us by making a complete recovery.
Years later, she experienced a vestibular disturbance (inner ear issue that causes gait imbalance and is common among senior dogs). The emergency vet told us to prepare for euthanasia.
Clearly, she did not know Ginger.
Not only did she fully recover, but the condition’s signature head tilt, hanging tongue, and veering off to one side when trying to walk, all miraculously went back to normal, which does not always happen.
The Last Year
In 2020, many of us found ourselves sequestered at home because of Covid, which allowed us to take care of our precious girl in a way that we would not have been able to do had we been still running around in our over-scheduled lives.
Ginger chose her “slowing down time” wisely, and it seems, she always had a knack for choosing wisely, including choosing us to be her guardians.
She was about sixteen or seventeen years old now, and her arthritis and disc issues became more pronounced, so we transformed our first floor into an old-age home for a senior dog, lining all of the floors and rugs with yoga mats, and putting cushions, padding and bedding at the perimeter in case she took a tumble.
We made a promise to her and each other that as long as she was trying, so would we.
She was still eating, drinking and managing to walk on her own, but gradually, she began to lose control of her back legs. We supported her hind quarters with a sling.
In February of 2021, Ginger’s veterinary chiropractic confirmed our fear that it was time to let her go. She said her bones felt like feathers and could easily break. Her skin was becoming paper thin and there was a deep fatigue in her eyes that had not been there before.
The night before she was to be euthanized, I laid down next to her and tried to sleep. At around midnight, she flung herself into me and managed to land her head on to my pillow, squirming close so she could cuddle for the rest of the night, something she had not been able to do for a long time.
I choose to believe she knew her time to cross over was imminent, as she mustered all of what little energy she had left to offer me a farewell snuggle. I am so thankful this mystical connection occurred, to feel her heart gently beating, her quiet breath on my face–one last time.
The Lap of Love organization sent to our home a euthanasia vet, who was an angel disguised as a human. Patient, kind and so gentle with our beloved girl, we were comforted by her presence.
We made a beautiful ceremony for Ginger replete with poems, candles and her favorite meditation music playing in the background.
The vet thought of every detail, including casting her paw print in plaster as a remembrance, and bringing a large, rectangular basket with a lavender blanket and matching pillow to transport Ginger after she transitioned. The amount of love and care she put into this experience eased our broken hearts.
Ginger passed peacefully while on my lap and in my arms. Her gargantuan Spirit was now free.
Ginger persevered and overcame challenges in a way that we had never experienced before. Animals are exemplary in this way. They don’t judge or ruminate or feel sorry for themselves, which allows for healing to happen naturally. Ginger, who had been through so much in her life even before she joined our family, lived courageously, never anxious or worried about whether she would make it. She just knew she could and did.
She was a force of love, strength, fun and joy. We miss her so much, it hurts everywhere.
Ginger was not sent to us to simply be a pet. She was sent to us as a powerful, spiritual teacher.
Thank you, precious girl, thank you. It was a gift to share this life with you. See you in the next one. Love you forever. xoxoxoxoxo
Thank you for honoring Ginger’s memory by sharing in this tribute to her. Love and light to all, Rosemary and Doug.
Please consider adopting a pet and supporting your favorite animal rescue organization.