The little brown dog with the biggest heart of all


I wanted to let those of you who knew my brown Jack Russell Ginger know that we put her to sleep today.  Ginger was an amazing dog.  She came to us from a breeder in Kentucky who bred Jack Russells for hunting.  He told us his dogs were tough but that was an understatement.   Ginger was the dog who got me hooked on dog agility and changed my whole life.  I was very into horses when I got her and she would come to the barn and run with the other barn dogs while I rode.  The barn was located off a very busy intersection but I never even thought twice about opening the car door and 4 hours later whistling for Ginger who would run out of somewhere and jump back in the car with me after hunted mice and playing in the stables with the other Jacks.  Sometimes she would sit by the ring and watch me ride but she was always a lady and never undignified enough to chase a horse.  She had so much energy and was so athletic I signed up for a dog agility class after seeing a demo at a horse show I was in.  Jean Munger had the classes in her backyard in Elgin which was down the road from us.  I was hooked very quickly and Jean encouraged me to show Ginger, we started in UKC agility   This was 15 years ago.  Ginger then became pregnant accidentally when my pet sitter let Tex and her out together when she was in heat.  My 13 year old Devon is from that litter.  Kurt and Jean Matushek were our next instructors and really encouraged us to reach a higher level and we started doing USDAA agility.  Ginger was in the finals of Steeplechase and Grand Prix at nationals jumping 18" which for a 12.25 inch dog was pretty high but she did it with little effort and scaled 6'3" aframes with ease!  We traveled all over the country and met many people, many of whom have become good friends.   She was the 10th Jack to achieve the ADCH title and she has a long list of accomplishments including a win at NADAC nationals and 2nd at AKC nationals which now seem pretty trivial in the grand scheme of things.  I was just lucky to have been her mom and to have such a game and forgiving partner for my first agility dog.   I had to learn to be more interesting than dirt and used to carry a rock to play with by the ring so she didn't run off sniffing but when she was working, she was amazing, I had her attention in the ring but out of the ring she was always looking for a hole to dig or something to chase.  I eventually got so involved in agility and Les did also that I sold my horses and we moved to a house where we could train in our yard. Ginger and Tex also got us involved in flyball which eventually led to us having our own team and winning regional championships.

5.5 years ago we were in our backyard and I threw a Jolly ball for Ginger right across Tex's return path where he was running back to me with his tennis ball.  The resulting collision is what caused Ginger to break her back and be paraplegic.  I can't pretend I don't feel totally responsible for her accident, I used to ask myself "what if I had not thrown that ball that direction on that day?"  Thankfully Ronda was in town teaching for me and knew how to stabilize her enough to get her to the ER alive.  They advised us very strongly to put her to sleep, saying her quality of life would be bad.  We decided to get a second opinion at Buffalo Grove Speciality clinic.  Kurt was nice enough to meet us at the Orthopedic surgeons office hours later and when they advised us to put her to sleep he told us the ups and downs of having a disabled dog but certainly it could be done and the dog could have quality of life.  We didn't want to say goodbye to her like that, in pain and afraid.  We selfishly decided to put her through surgery to fuse her spine and many months of hard rehabilitation at Tops.  I lost my job of 13 years at that exact time and had been given a large buyout since our company relocated.  I decided to use my much needed time off to rehab Ginger.   It turned out to be so coincidental that I had the time and means to rehab her I thought it must be meant to be.  Ginger practically lived in the car and doing rehab 5 days a week for quite sometime.  At Tops they couldn't believe what a fighter she was, how determined she was to walk.  The first time she did the underwater treadmill by herself we all stood there and cried.  She then learned how to use her front end to walk, her back legs helped support and turn her and even though it was thought to be just spinal walking, she could really get around and did!  We turned our house into a series of runways for Ginger putting wool rugs over the hardwood so she could motor about.  We took her with us up and down stairs and she sat in a donut bed so she could sit up and be part of the family.  She could get around the backyard so fast Les couldn't catch her!  She hated the cart we bought and the Vets at Tops thought it was best she build muscle by being allowed to do her own kind of walking anyways.  She always slept in our bed and we just added a donut bed so she could not fall and she seemed very happy.  Some people I know thought we were wrong for keeping her alive this way but those who knew Ginger before and after the accident would all tell you differently.  Dogs do not feel pity for themselves, they accept what is handed them and learn to adjust and go on.  Ginger still ran the house, disciplined the puppies that came through and was top bitch always.  She was not in any pain.

Things only started to change about 6 months ago when we noticed her no longer wanting to sit up and eventually not being able to sit up but rather she was always laying down on her chest.  She still seemed ok, ate (and loudly let us know when we were even a few minutes late with dinner), slept and was not in pain but she wasn't able to hold a standing position when we put her in one.  She was starting to get obsessed with water at that time.  About 4 months ago we noticed her getting very obsessed with water and having episodes of panting and crying for no apparent reason.   Her blood work was normal and for 16 years old my vet thought she was in remarkable health with full hearing and eye site!  The xrays showed her body was so badly misshapen and "twisted"  from the odd walking she did that her accident was starting to take its toll on her poor body.  The last few months she started turning for the worse.  Blood in her urine, constant diarrhea, obvious discomfort and lack of interest in things she used to love, like watching T.V. with Les at night.  She was often aggitated suddenly and for no reason that we could see.  She couldn't be comforted by us.  It was very amazing to watch the other Jack Russells in my house start to take turns laying with her in the donut bed.  They would put there back against hers and lay there with her.  It appeared they were taking turns but I know that sounds crazy.   She started ignoring the puppy she loved to tell off and she couldn't eat unless I held it up and then she choked alot.   Last night she was vomiting and crying and Les took her to the vet and they said she was in kidney failure.  He didn't want to hear what I'd been telling him for some time, that you can't cure old age and eventually it will be time for us to let her go peacefully when we are there,  not alone when we are at work and afraid.  Les drove an hour to the ER vet today after visiting our local vet in desperation and they confirmed that she was in kidney failure and that her mouth was full of infection from her teeth.   They said it would be best to euthanize her but they were willing to keep her on I.V's for 3 days and try to jump start her kidneys.  They thought maybe we would have a few more months with her, maybe not, they couldn't guarantee anything.  Les called me crying and said he looked in her eyes and she was telling him she was done fighting, she was tired and ready to be let rest.  She had fought more than any dog should have had to and she was just tired.  She was nearly 17 years old, she had a right to go in  peace with the quiet dignity that was always who Ginger was.    I called my vet who told us to come to his house and we could euthanize her somewhere she was not afraid, at his office.  Beth and I drove to his place and I brought her bed and we fed her peanut butter treats and she looked happy.  She even tried to sit up and picked her head up.  It was the best I saw her look in many months. We almost backed out because she was so perky and eating so well.   I have never in my life put a dog to sleep, I was so afraid it would be painful or a frightening thing but Ginger left this world so quiet and peaceful that we didn't know when she passed, Dr. Genge had to tell us.  She looked like she was just laying there watching us all cry.  I know people say it is the greatest gift we can give our old dogs when they have no more quality of life and having watched 2 of my friends die of horrible cancers I now get what they mean.    Les and I and Beth cried and when we got home we cried some more but then Les and I admitted to each other we were feeling this tremenous sense of relief which made us feel guilty.
We should be miserable but we both felt a weight lift.  We had been dreading the inevitable and we knew we were not doing what was in Ginger's best interest the last few months. Thank you Loretta, Beth and all my friends who have gently told me what I needed to hear these last few months, that it was time.  We gave her 5 more years and she was telling us she was done fighting now.  I can be pretty stuborn, yes a big shock, and Les can put his head in the sand with the best of them so we were both waiting for the other to make the decision.  Ginger made it for us. Rest in peace Ginger, we love you so much.    I know we will see you again someday.  I know you will be walking again and no longer in pain and hopefully you find the right size rock so you can hike it between your back legs again!

Love Diane and Les

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