With heavy heart, I write to tell you about Ginger, our nearly-14-year-old Norwegian Buhund. Gingy had been part of our family since she was a mere two months old. She was our daughter’s dog, and the two of them have grown up together.
But age catches up with animals faster than it does us. In many ways, this seems unfair (I’ve done my share of wrestling with God on this point recently). They are, it sometimes seems, better people than we are. In particular, dogs are fur-covered love and give us a glimpse into God’s heart for us. They love unconditionally and want little else than to be with us.
When we first met Ginger, she was a cute, but slightly odd-looking, little thing. She had crazy whiskers and a tongue that was too long. She also had razor sharp little puppy teeth, and she loved to chew and bite – so much so that one of her first nicknames was “Ginga-bite-us.”
The nicknames that stuck the most were BuBu (since Jax was Bu) and Itty Bitty (since she was so small when we got her). As, of course, did Gingy and Ging. I have a thing for making up nicknames, so she was also It Bit (if Itty Bitty felt too long) and sometimes It Da Bit. I know it doesn’t make a lot of sense, but she didn’t seem to mind. She was just happy to hear us talk to her, no matter what we called her.
At one point, she managed to escape for a “great explore” that lasted a couple of days right at Thanksgiving. We were terrified we had lost her, but a local family found her and saw our lost dog signs. When they had first seen her, they thought she was a coyote, but they quickly brought her in. They named her Shortbread, which also seemed to fit. I think they were disappointed to find Ginger had a home to go back to, but we were beyond elated to have our little girl back home.
At the time we got Ginger, my Eskimo Spitz Shadow was getting old and grumpy. He was 17 and none too pleased we had brought in a puppy that constantly wanted attention from him. It was just too cute when Ginger decided the best way to snuggle with Shad was to slowly back her way into him while he was lying down and then curl up between his front paws. I think even Shad got a good laugh out of that one.
Gingy and her older brother Jax (just a year older) would have the most intense wrestling matches I’ve ever seen. They looked and sounded like they were trying to kill each other, but it was all in fun. I’ve since seen other Buhunds who behave the same way when they play, but it worried us at first.
Ginger and Jax have always been super close. They would often sleep snuggled up with one another when they were younger. Even as they aged, they’d often lie down or sleep touching in some way. And when they didn’t do that, they would often end up in the same angle and position, something we called “twodling.”
Gingy may have looked a little funny (but cute!) as a little puppy with her too-long tongue and crazy whiskers, but she grew into a beautiful little girl. You knew she was happy because she’d give you the cutest little tail flutter wag you’ve ever seen. And she did that little flutter wag quite often. It was one of her defining traits that garnered lots of attention from her many admirers.
She also loved to curl up in what we called her Arctic Fox position. With her pointy snout (Jax’s snout is a bit more squared), she did look a lot like a fox.
While Jax prefers to stay inside and make sure we don’t wander off and get lost, Ginger preferred to stay outside. She really enjoyed surveying her queendom from the backyard. She always looked very royal as she watched squirrels and birds. When she was a young dog, she would stalk them, and catch them more often than we’d really like. But she was the queen, so who were we to tell her she couldn’t hunt?
She is also the only dog I’ve ever known who wouldn’t even attempt to catch food. She was too regal to do dog tricks, although not too sophisticated to eat the treat off the floor after it bounced off her snout.
Gingy was cat-like, particularly in her younger years. She was a bit aloof, and she groomed herself. She wanted attention, but she wanted it on her terms. However, she always stayed close to Ally. As Ginger matured, she became a terrific cuddler. She loved to “hug” by rooting her head into your body and then just holding it there while you rubbed her. She gave great hugs.
She was always very interested in, and very gentle with, little kids. She loved getting to know someone new. Like her brother, she had to greet every person who came into her path. Guests could always count on having a small tap on their leg by Gingy’s nose just to say hi (we call that “being snouted”), but Ginger’s greetings were usually more gentle and considerate than Jax’s.
Ginger had a way of making everyone feel special. There is no doubt Ally was her special person. But there is also no doubt Maggie, Linda, Eric, and myself were also her special people. She made a habit of sneaking into Eric’s room to roll on his bed just to have his scent, and she always greeted him with excitement and asked him for a quick rub. She cuddled her way into Linda’s heart and welcomed her to our family, showing her unconditional love and trust. And, once Ally went to college, Ginger followed Maggie everywhere; they shared eggs in the morning and devotionals in the sunshine whenever possible. And Ging made sure to greet me every day when I got home from work. It’s hard to describe how much Gingy loved us. And she knew, without doubt, she was loved right back.
Without question, her favorite thing was being outside with all of us. She loved walks, and the more off the beaten path, the better. She enjoyed exploring new trails and checking on new scents. We knew were in crisis mode when, less than a week ago, Ginger quit on a walk and had to be carried home. But even then, we didn’t have any idea how bad things were. Until then, our only warning was that she was getting very picky about what she’d eat.
Ginger enjoyed a good life, and our lives are richer for knowing her and experiencing the joy of those soft brown eyes looking back at us with unbound love. Kidney and liver failure snuck up far too quickly. On the bright side, she didn’t linger and suffer long. But we were entirely unprepared for her rapid decline and departure from our lives.
We’re hurting, but she no longer hurts. And that is the part we can hold onto at this point. That and the memories of a life full of love, wags, snuggles, and a bit too much fur. And those soulful eyes.
Now, she’s gone on another great explore. We love you, Gingy, and we’ll always miss you, little girl.