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The Healing Power of a Fuzzy Face by C.H. Admirand

There is always a flurry of activity the weekend before Christmas because that’s when I usually bake…except for this year. This year I had a double-deadline (A WEDDING IN PURITY due on December 15th and copyedits for JESSE due on December 20th) I knew it was going to be a tight squeeze to get everything in. I turned in AWIP on time, but then the unexpected happened, our darling dog Ginger woke up on the 16th and we knew something was definitely wrong with her.

Our oldest son carried her to the truck for me and he followed in his car. Looking into Ginger’s sweet face with her Cleopatra eyes, I could see that she was in pain and knew that she wanted me to fix it. My heart broke because I knew I couldn’t. The Vet showed us her x-ray and explained that our dog had a cancerous mass that burst—she was bleeding internally—and there was nothing they could do, except ease her suffering. How do you say goodbye to a faithful friend after 12 years? My husband, our oldest son, and I were with her when she passed. The aftermath was like a huge black vortex sucking us down into the darkness. I knew she was going to be the last dog we ever had, how could we even think that another dog 
    would take her place?

Saturday morning our youngest son was frying an omelet and stopped and looked at me asking, “Who’s going to eat the extra egg that doesn’t fit in the pan?” I had just eaten a piece of bacon—except for the fatty part on the end, I always saved that for Ginger—and just stared at it. When I started crying my husband grabbed the piece of fat and ate it. After finishing his coffee, my hubby got up and opened the closet reaching for Ginger’s leash before he stopped, looked at us and put the leash back and sat down.

I was working on my copyedits and switched screens and Googled animal shelters in our area. As our oldest son walked in for breakfast, I had the info, aside from the one in town where we adopted Ginger 12 years before, there were two really close by. I finished my tea and told my guys I was going to the shelter and before I could ask the room was suddenly charged with positive energy and my guys were united with one thought in mind: rescuing another dog. They were ready to leave before I could grab my sweatshirt. 

I was waiting for the one dog to look at me and silently ask me to take him or her home—the same way Ginger had. Ginger had been a Christmas puppy before she’d been given to the shelter.  She never really liked when we put up the tree, but she came to accept it and really loved opening her presents with her little weasel teeth.   We went to two shelters on Saturday. The last one on Sunday. We saw all of the dogs except the one being walked. When they brought her back, I didn’t even see her face at first—I couldn’t get past the fact that she was the skinniest dog I’d ever seen. 

 Her ribs were showing and her hip bones and shoulder bones were protruding from her too-thin body. I knew then that no matter what, we’d be rescuing that poor little dog.  Josie is tan with two tiny black eyebrows, a black beauty mark on her cheek and a black muzzle. The shelter had her down as a Shepherd Mix, but we’re thinking there might be hound in her. Josie’s story is so sad—she was born in a shelter in New York State, and was transferred to one in New Jersey—she’s never lived outside of a cage in a shelter. Once we heard her story, we knew she needed a chance at her forever home—just like we’d given to Ginger.

Josie is settling down in her new home. She’s skittish and still shies away if we move too suddenly. She’s eating like a starving wolf, but is starting to put some meat on her bones. She still prefers to sit in her cage with the door open and watch us, but is venturing out more and more exploring her new domain. I write in the kitchen (my office is still a mess) and she follows me whenever I’m gone for more than a few minutes. While Josie will never replace Ginger, there is enough room in our hearts to love another dog.

So this Christmas I already have everything that I need: a loving family and a puppy under our Christmas tree who is slowly healing the ache in our grief-filled hearts.


  1. Colleen, I'm so sorry about Ginger, but so glad you found Josie. We had a similar experience a week before Christmas last year when our 2 year old boxer/husky mix had a massive, on-going seizure--on Sunday. Took us 40 minutes to get him to the emergency clinic. By then, the damage was done.

    A month later, we brought home our Doberman rescue, Ryder. He's been tearing around our house ever since. :)

    Josie is a very lucky doggie.

  2. Colleen, what a heart story. Ginger was so lucky to have had your family as hers and is probably whispering in Josie's ear not to be afraid.
    Merry Christmas to your family.

  3. Oh sweetie, I'm so sorry about Ginger. A pet's death leaves a huge hole, doesn't it? My eyes started stinging, yet I was smiling, as I read about who'd eat the extra egg. Mark and I lost our lab-rat terrier Licorice to old age four years ago, yet we still occasionally wish aloud that Licky was with us to lick the pan - or as we called it, "help with dishes." (The cats try, but their tongues are smaller and they're much more finicky.) Bless you for providing a loving home and some overdue TLC to Josie.

    Spoil that dog rotten.

  4. Fuzzy Mastiff passed away peacefully at the age of ten--very old for a mastiff--and off I went to the shelter because BooBoo Bull Mastiff and I needed another friend. My daughter is studying to be a vet tech and told me about Black Dog Syndrome. Nobody adopts black dogs, old dogs, or big dogs.

    So I adopted the biggest, oldest, blackest dog at the pound, and lo, Sarge is a saint on four paws. He and BooBoo are my writing buddies, and what a blessing that is.

    You did a wonderful thing, Colleen. Every Christmas that dog will ever need walked through the door when you showed up at the shelter.

  5. Colleen, our condolences! Furry love is a cherished gift. I wept as I read your post. It reminded me of our dearly departed Rotty and the special experiences loved ones bring into our lives. Much love to you, Dave, and the kids! Many blessings with Josie! Thank you for sharing... xoxo

  6. Anyone who has ever had a dog can relate to your post, because sooner or later, we always lose them. I'm glad you found Josie, and I'm sure she will brighten your days better than any other gift could. Merry Christmas!

  7. Colleen, I'm sorry about Ginger. We lost both our cats in the past two years. Hugs!

  8. You have me sobbing but it's a wonderful thing that you did. We've had two wonderful dogs with sad endings. We did the same exact thing after we had to put down our first dog, said no more but then got another one at the pound who was priceless. When we lost her I had started helping feral/stray cats and at one time had 7 so no more dogs. Unfortunately I only have 3 inside and 3 outside at the moment. Only one went peacefully in her sleep. All the others were very traumatic but I wouldn't stop having pets for anything. They give us so much.


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