Love and Loss

Gina_and_daphne

Sorry I don’t have much to say about food right now, but I am not feeling very hungry.  This
afternoon we are saying goodbye to our darling Gina girl. Regina Marie Puppy, if you want her full name,
but always Gina to us. She is 14 and
very sick and it’s her time, but oh, how too-short that time has been.

It
was spring of 1993 when we got her and her sister Daphne, two wriggling
balls
of puppy tummy and sweet baby dog breath. They were yellow labs, but
really almost white, like buttery cream. Maybe it’s the food person in
me but I always
thought that if you can have a chocolate lab, surely you can have a
vanilla
one. We had two, my little vanilla beans.

It
was June of that year, a crazy time of life. We had just bought but not yet
moved into a house with acres and acres of land, I was less than a week out of
cancer surgery, and one morning Jerry woke up and said, “I just had a dream
that when we moved to the new house we had two yellow labs named Daphne and Regina."   

To
my knowledge, that is the only dream he ever felt compelled to act on, but that
morning we checked out the paper and yes, there were yellow lab puppies for
sale over in Linton, Indiana — 40 minutes away. We made a call and drove over to see them and
they were beauts. Too tiny to take home
yet, they were funny and intrepid and clumsy and adorable.

We
recognized Daphne right away. She was a
Daphne if ever there was one, and in the nearly 13 years we had her she was
perfectly Daphne every single day. It
was harder to find Regina in the crowd of tumbling white fluff, but eventually we saw her, regal, even
at 6 weeks, and a little standoffish — earnest and lovely at the same time.

A
few weeks later we brought them home, besotted. Not so much our miniature schnauzer, Max, who did his best to ignore
these fuzzballs of terror who swung on his beard, nipped at his legs and otherwise
disrupted his sedate and middle aged existence. He was not amused.

But
soon we were a family, all moved into the new house. Daphne and Gina grew like fury until they
were way bigger than Max, even though none of them ever recognized that fact. Daphne
became an adult with the face and disposition of an impish cherub; Gina retained that queenly, somewhat horsy
face that her name decreed she would have, always keeping herself to herself, unless
she loved you very very much. Then she
was a lovely, goofy girl, a side only the privileged few ever got to see.

By
the summer of ‘94, when we adopted Zoë,
we had a pack of four, and then
two years
later, when Ginger adopted us, we had five. Five is a good number of
dogs to have, a perfect fit for who we were. We lost our beloved Maxer
in 2001, but found
Bandon the year after, and the pack stayed full for nearly five more
years.

But
2006 was a sucky year for dogs in our house. Daphner got sick in
February and went quickly. Never one to tolerate pain or discomfort,
she
wanted out, quick, and we let her go. Zoë went next, diagnosed in March
but lingering until December, sweet
and loving every single day.

We were just settling into our new life,
adjusting
to being the people with only three dogs, when last month the vet told
us that
it was a tumor causing Gina’s cough, and that she probably had only a
couple of
months. She hasn’t quite made that, but
the poor old girl has had enough.

A
very wise woman I know told me once that when we grieve, we don’t just mourn
the one we lose, but also who we were in relation to that loved one. I know that’s true for me. On Fathers Day, a
month after I lost my Dad, I felt doubly bereft. I missed him, but also, I realized, I missed
me, the girl who had a dad, who called him up on Fathers Day and sent him silly
golf cards. Who the heck was I, without
that man? Sometimes, just three years
later, I still wonder.

And
as I am mourning the loss of these very dear friends, my furry family, I know
that part of what I grieve for is the me and Jerry of 14 years ago, two crazy
people, reinventing ourselves in the country with a pack of much-loved dogs,
still with a good chunk of life ahead, full of surprises.

Tonight
we’ll be just two middle-aged folks with a couple of old dogs, living on a
property that takes more time and energy than we have these days, thinking
about retirement looming ahead and wondering what the next stage of life brings
us. I am excited to find out, but right
this second, I sure miss being the crazy lady with five dogs, more than I can
say.

Goodbye, my sweet Gina.

28 Comments Add yours

  1. Krissy says:

    Well, Dave and I are both in tears. So sorry for the loss of your buddies this year. We’ll miss them too. Our thoughts are with you today.

    Like

  2. I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. Y’all are in my thoughts.

    Like

  3. Jeanie Jones says:

    Christine,
    When I opened the pictures of your doggies!!!!…..they look just like my dog “boomer” He is a yellow lab mix….
    I’m sorry to hear the sad news. “They” are our “family”
    Hugs,
    Jeanie

    Like

  4. Dawn says:

    Christine,
    I’m sending lots of love to you… I’m sure glad to know the Christine you are today. Gina, Daphne, and Zoe sure were lucky girls. What you said about your father, very moving.
    Dawn

    Like

  5. Patrick and Julia says:

    Such a sad time. A beautiful tribute to a dog who fully deserves it. And to a dog who fully deserved the wonderful life she shared with all of you.

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  6. A beautiful tribute and hopefully a bit therapeutic for you. I have never connected the dots about the impact of a loss but after reading this post, I understand a bit more. I have felt those feelings about losing my mom but could never really put it into words. Thanks. One more thing: my guess is that these losses are exactly what we need to reinvent ourselves once again.

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  7. This is a poignant post, Christine. I’ll be thinking good thoughts for you.
    Best,
    Susan

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  8. Kevin Makice says:

    There has been a lot of pet loss this week, it seems. I think it is wonderful you can use this blog as an outlet to share your relationship with your friend. It’s a great insights about what we mourn when we lose the creatures that accompany us through our adventures. I wish you a resilient heart and a long memory.

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  9. Susan Wolfe-Bittle says:

    Dear Christine,
    I am very sorry to hear about your precious Regina Marie Puppy. Having been through this loss twice in the last eighteen months, I know how difficult it is. Please know that wherever our loved ones are, they are closer than we think.

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  10. We are very sorry that Gina is going to the Bridge, but very happy that she will be reunited with Max & Daphne & Zoe. Sending you purrs and soft woofs.

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  11. braingirl says:

    Oh, Christine, I’m so sorry to hear this. But what a beautiful post. I know it’s been a tough year in your doggy family. Hang in there.

    Like

  12. Ellis Hollow says:

    Our son (now 26) learned to walk by pulling himself up by our yellow lab’s ears (and other body parts). He lived to be 16. And our second roumd of pups are getting up there, too. I know how you feel. God bless you.

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  13. trishinomaha says:

    Christine – I am SO sorry for your loss. We have a black lab about 8 and 1/2 years old. I’m already thinking about that day and how I’ll ever be able to get through it. Labs are the best! I have a lump in my throat right now…Bless you – You’ll be in my thoughts.
    Trish

    Like

  14. Joe says:

    Christine – I’m very sorry to hear about the loss of your Regina Marie Puppy =(

    Like

  15. Ellie says:

    My eyes have teared up reading this post, and my heart goes out to you 😦 Our pets are our children, companions and friends with oceans of unconditional love, so to lose them is a heartbreak 😦 You have written beautifully and eloquently of your losses, and if it is any consolation, I’m sure that the puppies loved every minute of being a part of your family as much as you loved having them a part of your clan.

    Like

  16. Lydia says:

    Beautiful post, and beautiful memories to carry forward.

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  17. Kevin says:

    Oh boy. Once again it seems that we are exchanging soggy virtual hugs. Thanks for sharing your lovely experience. How amazing that those two black eyeliner-wearing “vanilla beans” reached out specifically to you through Jerry’s dream. I love that! I will patiently await the sunny day when your appetite returns and you are ready to share the next chapter of your experience with us!

    Like

  18. Alanna says:

    Aii, I’ve been away and just now ‘heard’ the news. I’m so sorry, can only begin to imagine how quiet it must seem without Gina there all wriggly beside you. And besides Gina, it’s a beautiful post, and I featured it on Blogher http://blogher.org/love-loss this morning. A big hug to you my friend …

    Like

  19. Megan says:

    I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your lovely Regina Marie Puppy. I have a sweet little cocker spaniel who’s just about to turn fourteen and has her own little old age ailments. Every time I see her these days, I give her an extra hug to let her know how important she is in my life and with an eye toward the day I won’t be able to do it anymore. Regina was a lucky pup to have such a caring family. Hang in there.

    Like

  20. Kalyn says:

    What a beautiful post. I’m sending you good thoughts as you adjust to the loss of a treasured companion.

    Like

  21. Momo Fali says:

    I am so sad for you. Just a couple of weeks ago I wrote in my blog about my yellow lab getting older, so this really hit home. I’ve had dogs all my life, but this one is the first for us as a family. My kids’ first dog. It takes me back to when I lost my first dog. It breaks my heart to know what it will do to me, but also what it will do to my kids. Ouch.
    http://momo-fali.blogspot.com

    Like

  22. Larry says:

    Hey, Christine – sorry for your loss. One more reason to stop when you are in the area. My big yellow Lab, Cooper, will supply some of those missing kisses…………

    Like

  23. Terry B says:

    Christine–so sorry to hear about your loss. A beautiful tribute and thoughtful view of grieving. I know what you mean about mourning for for our own pasts. I can also tell that the road ahead for you and Jerry will be just as interesting and rewarding.

    Like

  24. Cynthia says:

    Christine, please accept my heartfelt sympathy. Send you lots of hugs.

    Like

  25. Zane says:

    I’m so sorry to read about your furry friends. May your heart heal quickly.

    Like

  26. jared says:

    You and your pack have seen so much loss this last year or so, and all of us that have loved a mutt or three grieve along with you. Those buttery pups rolling along and loving us make life rich, and we are better for it.

    Like

  27. Christine says:

    All I can offer you is a virtual hug (((((Christine)))) and a little story that helped me when I lost my Nico a few years ago. (BTW,Your “vanilla beans” are gorgeous. :))
    The Rainbow Bridge
    Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
    When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.
    There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
    There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
    All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.
    The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
    They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
    You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
    Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together….
    Author unknown

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  28. Shella says:

    I am really sorry to hear of your loss. I u’stand how you felt. I was devastated when I lost my Spitz. She was my first love truly.

    Like

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