A small group of people gathered at the University of the Philippines’ Mass Communication auditorium. Compared to the hot day outside, it was chilly inside the room. Everyone was either silent or spoke in hushed tones. Newcomers were greeted cordially, albeit with awkwardness, while some indulged in hugs.

In the middle of the stage was a table. On top of it was a worn-out leash, used chewable toys, a rusted bowl, and a hand-drawn picture inside a frame. Beside those was a beautiful wooden box.

A man walked up the stage, held the microphone close to his heart and started to talk. “She was our firstborn. We love her. Maybe more than we love ourselves.”

The beautiful wooden box on the table was Ginger’s urn.

A big ball of sunshine

Ginger, as her name suggested, was someone whose happiness was rather contagious. For such a small being, Ginger did many great things.

She was a Golden Retriever, a guide dog for her blind brother Kimchi, a daughter to Thea and Eric Suguitan, an “ambassa-dog” for the non-profit organization Compassion and Responsibility for Animals (CARA) Welfare Philippines, a stress reliever, and a big ball of sunshine.

“Ginger was a really sweet, affectionate dog. Puppy pa lang siya, malambing na talaga siya,” Thea said during Ginger’s memorial. She said this as if she was narrating a story from only yesterday, her lips curling at the corners into a warm smile.

Ginger, her fur-parents shared, came into their lives as a puppy on a hot summer day.

“Isa sa favorite memories ko sa kanya is nung puppy pa kasi siya, tine-train ko siya mag-potty train, sit, lie down. Pero nung pinagalitan ko siya kasi nag-pee siya sa loob ng bahay, hindi kami nagpansinan,” said Thea. “[Pero] ang unang sumuko [ay] si Ginger.”

Dubbed a “master at begging” because of her irresistible charms, Ginger was often given treats and an unlimited amount of petting everywhere she went – animal-related events, school trips, and family outings!

Everyone loved Ginger. But nobody realized she loved only one.

Inspiring bond

For a very long time, Thea and Eric tried to find a compatible dog companion for Ginger. “Ginger was about six years old. Wala siyang kasama, so we wanted to adopt and give a homeless dog a chance of a new life,” said Eric.

Eric and Thea introduced Angelo, a four-month-old asong pinoy (aspin) to Ginger, along with many others. However, Ginger didn’t like any of them.

They were about to give up when a dog named Buddy came into their lives and changed everything.

Kimchi shows affection towards Thea’s family during Ginger’s memorial.

Buddy, who was skin and bones with partial blindness, was rescued by CARA in 2012. Eric and Thea adopted Buddy and introduced him to Ginger. Like a match made in heaven, Ginger did not show any aggression towards Buddy and they started to bond.

The family adopted Buddy who now everyone calls Kimchi.

Eric recalled one memorable moment when he and Thea leashed Kimchi with Ginger so that Kimchi would not wander off, given how he was blind.

“We were getting some stuff from the car. So para hindi tumakas, tinali ko sila [together]. Nakita na lang namin na naglalakad na sila ng sabay,” said Eric. “Hindi lang naman kami ang nag-adopt kay Kimchi. Ginger adopted Kimchi.”

“’Yung bond kasi nila, iba,” said Thea. Ginger and Kimchi could not live without each other – they played, walked, ate, and slept together.

T-Bone, Eric and Thea’s animal companion, bonds with guests during Ginger’s memorial.

But what would happen after Ginger crossed the rainbow bridge?

The pawprints left behind

Ginger passed away on January 19, just days before her 13th birthday. She had a heart attack.

Everyone who knew her loved her. She was the life of the party who made everyone happy.

“Remember the first time we met?” said Ella, a CARA volunteer, who met Ginger through the organization’s events. “You are one of the few who gave me light when I [was] in my darkest [hours]. I love you and I miss you so much.”

Although Ginger had passed away and was no longer with the people who loved her physically, she had left quite mark that no matter where she was headed, she would be remembered.

“Ginger was our daughter. She was our firstborn, our unica doggie hija,” said Eric in his Facebook post. “Ginger was our daughter, someone we loved more than ourselves.”

Photos by CJ Raquion

This appeared in Animal Scene magazine’s October issue.

Related stories:
– Remembering Stan Lee: The creator of the greatest animal heroes
– Meet Louis, the cat who looks permanently angry and grumpy
– You can now turn your pet’s ashes into a glass art that you can always carry with you