By Trudie Mitschang
When I got my dog, Ginger, she was a tiny brown and white fluff, barely eight weeks old. A surprise gift from a family member, she was not the kind of dog I’d planned on. What on earth, I wondered, was a Shih-Tzu? My husband and I both loathed yappy little dogs and had our hearts set on a Golden Retriever. But that first night we brought her home, Ginger snuggled and cuddled her way into our laps and hearts, and she’s been a part of our family now for 15 years.
Pets enrich your lives in ways you can’t imagine. My dog has helped me laugh through tears, encouraged me to lighten up when I’m taking myself way too seriously, and in so many ways made our house a home. I remember when she was young how she would suddenly go berserk, racing through the house at break-neck speed, pausing at our feet for a quick tummy rub, and then taking off again. If only we all could embrace life with that kind of joy and enthusiasm! A typical canine, she always gulped her food like it was her last meal, and then she’d search us out and burp loudly in appreciation, wagging her tail as we burst out laughing every time.
A few weeks ago, the reality of how short a dog’s lifespan really is was driven home for me. I woke up to find my old girl (who is mostly deaf and blind already) confused and disoriented, wandering in circles and staring at the wall. Panicked, I rushed her to the vet, praying frantically that this would not be the day I had to make the “decision” every pet owner dreads. The thought of putting her down stabbed me with such grief I barely held it together while speaking with the doctor. I left Ginger at the vet that day — they needed to run a series of tests — unsure what the verdict would be. When I walked into my empty home without her and saw her favorite toy on the floor where she’d left it, I wondered how we would ever get past losing her.
As it turns out, Ginger recovered from that close call and is happily on the mend. The “decision” has been delayed to some future dark day, and we have been given the blessing of more time to tickle her belly, nuzzle her neck and enjoy her silly doggy antics. I am so thankful.
How about you? How have your pets enriched your life and your family, especially since your diagnosis?