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.
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.
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,
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.