The Velvet Underground
"Say a word for Ginger Brown..."
I have few quiet moments in my life these days, so I have to steal away the time if it appears. Right now is not when I want to write about the beauty of my best friend, Ginger. Right now, I just want to hole up in some quiet time and fall asleep. I could even curl up in a ball on her dormant bed, seemingly so quiet and lonely now. But if anything would make me return to this blog, it would be the memory of that dear dog and wanting to catch whatever pieces remain in this physical world.
(This post is disjointed and from multiple sittings)
I left the house this morning hoping not to incur a crazy vet bill. Really though, I wasn't facing the reality about what I was walking towards. Gingy knew. She knew she would come out from under the stairs in the basement and never return. In that moment she looked at me and I guess I knew too, though I hoped I was just being dramatic. We looked at each other, I sighed and promised her it would be okay.
The past few days she had become so sallow; her breathing labored and her belly gone. I woke on Wednesday night wondering who was sawing something outside at 3 am only to realize it was Ginger breathing in her sleep. This morning, when she wouldn't take bacon from miss M, I knew I had to bring her in to get checked out. As I sit here now, I wonder how blindly indulgent I was being with her health to keep her in my days. I also wish I would have taken more time leaving the house this morning. I wish I would have laid down with her last night and cuddled one last time.
We walked into the clinic and almost immediately Ginger was rushed away from me by the vet tech listening to her breathing. The receptionists knew. I caught them eyeing each other, one shaking her head. I started to cry and went to the bathroom to get some toilet paper.
Later after I was alone in a room waiting, the Vet came in to tell me she called off the rest of the tests she ordered once she saw Ginger's chest x-ray. She knew. She said it was a really ugly form of cancer: Hemangiosarcoma. I had her write it down so I could look at the word on paper. She said her dog died from the same thing. She said it was invasive but fast; and ultimately it meant Ginger was bleeding pretty badly internally.
I'm still unsure if I realized the gravity of the situation at that point. I asked the Vet if I could bring her home and bring her back in an hour or two - just so we could say goodbye in our own space. She said she had to be an advocate for Ginger and she thought it would be too traumatic. Ginger would probably collapse in front of the kids. An advocate? (I appreciated her saying it and hated thinking I wasn't being Gingy's advocate at that moment).
There I was, living a day D and I had talk about for years; living a day I didn't want to live. Ginger and I would not be leaving that building together.
I called D to come over with the kids. It was not how I wanted it to happen but I didn't want her to be in pain any longer. I sat with her. My sweet friend on one side of glass, getting oxygen piped in to a kennel so she could breath easier, me trying to pet her as much as I could through the little arm window. I wanted to hold her in my lap and remember all the times we had together. I wanted to apologize for drifting from our relationship in the wake of kids. I wanted her to know how much I loved her, how much joy she brought in to my life, and how lucky I felt to have her love. And I wanted to say a million apologies for failing her in her final days; for not paying attention to her pain, and possibly making her suffer.
D came with the kids and our blood shot eyes met. How could we already be "here"? As with all things related to death, it felt too soon and way too fast.
Coming home was a sad, silent let down. I took her collar out of my purse. The heart of the tag clanked on the counter.
Ginger has been in my life for almost eleven years now. I don't remember a time when her sweet way wouldn't greet my days. I don't want to wake up tomorrow without it. I told miss M now she lives in our hearts but the truth is, Gingy has always had a deep place in my heart even when she was standing right in front of my face.
I tried to run it out today. I went over to the High Line Canal, where we took our family photos, and I tried to get all the horrible dead energy and heartbreak out of my system. It didn't work. I was running and crying an listening to music and stopping and sprinting. In a brief moment of sunny comfort, I was thinking about how cool it would be if Gingy was "out there" somewhere, catching up with Roxie and Sadie, Whiskeydog and Daisy; meeting Leroy, Mukluk and old Bailey Padden. Anchorage came on my play list.
Later in the run, I broke down by some trees. I was alone in the open space, off the main canal trail. I was standing in some shade trying to cool down, trying to keep my wits. A dog came running across the trail and I started to pull myself together to move on. The owners came up behind him. They caught me crying too as I walked away. The dog followed me and I finally bent down to say hi. He gave me kisses on my cheek and ran away. I was craving that energy, that dog energy (dogs bring a certain levity to it all that is irreplaceable). The owners said thank-you, as if I had been kind to them. They didn't know.
People talk about how their pets are their children. I appreciate that reference because it encompasses how much love they have for their animals, and I get that. I just never personally resonated with that statement because I considered Ginger my contemporary. I literally considered her an equal and my best good buddy. Hell, she took care of me in some of my darkest times.
We were kindred. We communicated well together. I knew she would eat a cucumber but only if the slice was cut in half. She talked to me like Chewbacca (but she would do this to anyone given the right food situation), we howled together, I trusted her implicitly with my kids. She was the friend who was always by my side even if I wasn't always by her side.
This might have been where I failed her. She was a being I said I would take care of and I wasn't listening to her, paying attention to her pain like a caregiver. D and I both had moments where we stared in to her eyes yesterday and she knew. We knew. Later last night, I told him I felt like we lost our best buddy - she was practically there for our whole relationship and clearly now a chapter ended. I felt like a third of us was gone.
This day was a beast of it's own making. I thought I had bridled the pain but every day life and schedule left me feeling the echoed silence at a heightened level. Finally talking on the phone to friends and crying as I walked in to work. I couldn't find a way to tell them what happened. The words would not come out of my mouth all day. I look like a truck hit me. I was quiet for the most part; kept my head down. D was having a hard day too. We would eat dinner out; the house was too quiet to go home to.
Miss M cried to me tonight about Ginger. How can a 3.5 year old come to terms with death when a 38 year old can't. I cried too. We talked about good memories and how great Gingy was. We talked about how she was our best friend. We told each other how much we loved each other too. Because if death is good for anything, it's good for making people present and filled with gratitude for what they do still have in their days.
I touched her bed before work today. There was no warmth from a prior night's sleep. The front door was open when I pulled in the driveway at the end of the day but no one came out to greet us. The back yard seems menacing. I look out the back window and something is missing. The space is hollow and I can't really be back there right now. Cody was out barking, running back and forth along the fence waiting for his friend to come bark back. The silence hung in the air. How will he know?