Fang was a Great Dane/German Shepherd mix. He was King of the Dogs. People loved him and other dogs loved him, too. Small children especially loved him and even though he was big, they were never scared because he was so gentle. Fang had kidney disease, hip dysplasia, and arthritis. I ran home from work at lunch time every day for about a year and a half to feed him and take care of him. Toward the end, he couldn’t go on his walks without having to stop and lie down for a bit. On Thanksgiving day, 2006, he didn’t want to get up for his morning walk. I sat down with the leash attached and cried and cried because I knew that it was his time. I’m crying now as I type this. The next morning, we took him to the vet to put him down. It was the hardest thing that I ever had to do in my life. He was 12 1/2, which is a long life for his breed. He is missed.

Marc from CA


One Response

  1. Marthann Witzig Says:

    How can I describe the events of that fateful day without breaking down in tears again? My heart broke that day, and I have not been able to get over my grief at losing her so suddenly.
    It began as any other day. We awoke together, I let her out to do her business and gave her a bowl of kibble for breakfast. She lay on the living room rug in the sunshine and rolled over on her back to enjoy rubbing her spine on the carpet and making her guttural “happy sounds”. We puttered around the house and Tom and I got dressed to go next door to our neighbor’s 50th birthday party. Since it was going to be a garden party, and our yards are right next door to each other, we decided to crate Ginger during the party time so she wouldn’t stand at the fence and be tempted to bark at us.
    We got home from the party around 9:30 that night, and I went to let Ginger out of her crate to come upstairs. She immediately ran to check her food bowl (in case food had mysteriously appeared in it, as she always did). I was on my way to the bathroom when I heard a thumping sound–and then nothing. Instantly, I changed direction and ran to where Ginger was lying on the dining room floor.
    She was hardly moving, but her eyes were open and she was having trouble breathing. I knelt down and began rescue breathing while yelling for Tom to come help me. I closed my hands over her mouth and breathed mouth-to-snout for Ginger as Tom knelt to feel for a pulse. He told me her heart was beating a mile a minute, but even as he said so, her heart stopped, and we began CPR. It was quickly evident that our Ginger was slipping away from us despite our best efforts to resuscitate her. I told Tom to go get our neighbor, Larry (the birthday neighbor) who had dogs of his own and might know what else we could do to try and save her. As I cradled her in my arms, I crooned to her that, “Mommy’s here. It’s going to be all right, Ginger. Don’t worry, Mommy’s here, baby.” I rocked her back and forth and held her close to my chest. She looked up at me with her big, brown eyes that were pleading with me as if to say, “What’s happening Mom? Help me, help me, please!”
    By the time Tom got back with Larry, it was obvious that our Ginger was gone. I continued crying in earnest now as I moaned beside her on the dining room floor–my arms around her lifeless body. All I could see amidst the tears was her loving, brown eyes looking up at me in her last moments of life. I felt so lost and bereft at that moment, so alone, and so very sad—crushed that I’d lost my best friend.
    At first, I was horrified to think that I’d been the last one to hold her and witness her tragic death. I felt powerless to do anything to stop the inevitable. (It wasn’t until a few days later that I realized how much worse it would have been to have come home and found her dead in her crate—not knowing what had happened to her.)
    I stayed there on the dining room floor with Ginger while Tom went to fetch her dog bed. We gently placed her into the soft, round nest she loved so well. I lay with her there into the wee hours of the night trying to ease her passing, and my own deep sense of loss.
    By the next morning, she was stiff and cold. I called our vets’ to ask them to recommend an animal funeral parlor that I could contact about cremating our Ginger’s remains. They were very kind and told me about a place in Alexandria called Sunset Pet Services. I called them and arranged for us to drop Ginger off at noon that day—still curled up in her soft, doggie bed. We were able to pick up her ashes the next day.
    The box now rests on the hearth in our living room. The most difficult part was phoning our children to tell them the sad news. Carolyn, we reached at her home in Arlington the night Ginger died. Joseph, we were not able to tell until he called us the next day from Oregon. He was working in a state park all summer as an Americorps worker. Unfortunately, he did not get cell phone service in the forest at Alsea Falls State Park, and had to drive nine miles each way to the nearest town in order to use his cell. Fortuitously, he called us that next day and I told him the sad news. As further confirmation to me that he and Ginger had a special connection, he told me that he had a premonition the night before that he was not ever going to see Ginger again. It broke my heart.
    The kids were devastated and Tom and I were totally shocked. None of us had expected Ginger to go like this. We still don’t know exactly what happened. From my experience as a healthcare professional, my best guess is Ginger suffered a fatal heart attack. It had to be something acute to take her away from us so suddenly and without any warning at all.
    I know pets are animals, and not human, but no one can tell me that our pets are not bonifide members of our family. We mourn their passing in a similar fashion to how we mourn the death of a beloved human family member. I would never presume to equate losing a pet with the loss of a child even though they become like children to us. I don’t think that kind of grief ever passes.
    As an expression of my love, I have made a sort of shrine to Ginger’s memory on our living room mantle. There are many photos of Ginger during the eleven years she was a part of our family, and several condolence cards we received from friends and neighbors. Everyone knew how much we loved our Ginger and how dear she was to us. Her exploits were legion, and many of the neighbors called us personally, or e-mailed us, to express their condolences.
    Sadly, when Tom’s mother, who was almost 95 years old, passed away just four days later, on July 12, 2007, we enlarged the mantle shrine to include her photograph and many, many more sympathy cards. Blessedly, Tom’s mother went peacefully and uneventfully in her sleep–in her own bed, in her own home, where she’d lived for the past 52 years.
    Our Ginger, however, went traumatically and unexpectedly–in my arms, on the hard dining room floor, after just eleven short years with us. I have not been as successful at finding peace with her untimely death. It haunts me still.
    I will never know for certain what caused Ginger’s demise. All I know is, I miss her soft, furry head in my lap and the warmth of her shoulders leaning against my leg. I miss her dog tags that jingled when she shook her head, or scratched herself with her back foot. I miss her unending enthusiasm for life and her unabashed love for her everyone she met. I miss her excitement at the least little thing, and the way she greeted family and friends who came into our home with that curly, happy-tail of hers.
    I have a theory that dogs “smile” with their tails, and that there are various “tail smiles” for various occasions. For example, there is the tentative, shy smile when the tail barely moves side to side. There is the smiling windmill tail for people she’s meeting for the first time. Finally, there’s the full-body-whole-tail-wag, reserved for beloved family members and friends. This one is so powerful it almost makes her fall down and is usually accompanied by happy whines, punctuated with squeaks and squeals, and tender nibbles on the wrist!
    Other physical signs of happiness that Ginger expressed included the daily “roll- over-on-your-back/feet-in-the-air-wiggle” maneuver. This one is accompanied by guttural moans and whines of exquisite contentment. It was performed on the living room carpet in a patch of warm sunshine. I loved hearing her do this from another room. It never ceased to make me smile. The last time I heard Ginger do this ritual was the morning of the day she died. At least I know she was feeling just fine that final morning.
    I have a small collection of pet ID tags that I’m trying to decide how to fashion into a keepsake for the pets I’ve had over my lifetime. There have only been three. The dog of my childhood, “Josie” lived from 1967 to 1982. Tom’s and my cat, “Mipsey” came next. She lived from 1973 to 1992, (and is the subject for another book in her own right). The last one is our sweet Ginger, who lived from 1996 to 2007. I guess you could say we are serial pet owners. I do feel that we were short-changed on our time with Ginger.
    I feel blessed and privileged to have had these three, cherished animals in my life. I will never forget them, nor will I ever be able to replace them in my heart. They were incredible companions who enriched my life beyond measure. One of the amazing things about love is that the more you give away, the more capacity you have for loving. I am sure I will be able to love a new pet again, but it won’t be to the exclusion of these three dear furry friends who’ve gone before, and who reside in my heart forever.