Jill Zarin holding her beloved Chihuahua, Ginger, who has been in ailing health recently
Jill Zarin/Instagram
September 17, 2018 11:05 PM

It hasn’t been an easy year for Jill Zarin and now it’s gotten even tougher.

Nearly nine months ago, the Real Housewives of New York alum lost her beloved husband, Bobby Zarin, to cancer.

On Monday night, Jill said goodbye to their beloved 14-year-old Chihuahua, Ginger, after making the gut-wrenching decision to put her down because she was so sick.

“It’s terrible,” Jill told PEOPLE in between tears. “I’m inconsolable.”

Jill Zarin's 14-year-old Chihuahua, Ginger, resting over the weekend
Jill Zarin/Instagram

“I didn’t want her to suffer,” she said just hours before her longtime vet, Dr. Cindy Bressler, performed the procedure. “I know it’s the right thing to do but I’m just so sad.”

While very sad, Zarin tells PEOPLE Ginger’s passing “was a beautiful moment…with music.”

The tiny but mighty Chihuahua enjoyed a pampered life, “traveling the world” with Jill and Bobby when she wasn’t zipping around with them in Manhattan or summering in the Hamptons.

But in the past six months or so, Ginger hadn’t been herself, says Jill. “She’s been going downhill for a while.”

In the spring, Ginger went blind, nearly drowning – twice – because she couldn’t see where she was going, she says. “After that, I didn’t take her out anymore. But she ate, she drank. She walked around the apartment and she was OK.”

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When Jill flew to Los Angeles for a business trip recently, Ginger had another health scare in the middle of the night, she says.

“The friend who was watching her called and said they were at the ER at the animal hospital because Ginger started walking in circles in the middle of the night and seemed imbalanced,” she says.

“I rushed back and after a full workup was told that she likely had experienced a stroke but that they also found metastatic cancer in similar places as Bobby.”

“They found she had cancer all over,” she says, breaking down again.

Bobby and Jill Zarin
Dave Kotinsky/Getty

Over the weekend, Jill posted an emotional message on Instagram about Ginger’s ailing health because she thought she was going to have to put her down earlier than Monday.

In the post, she said, “I will never forget you my Ginger girl.”

“She can’t keep her food down,” she continued. “Her left front paw is limp from the stroke and we can’t let her suffer anymore. She will be surrounded with love from us and all of you who have prayed for her and my family and I will never be able to repay the favor but know how grateful we are.”

In her heyday, Ginger was known to be fierce – and rule the roost.

“She was very feisty,” says Jill.

“Ginger was an only child,” she says. “Ginger was very independent and I could leave her home for many, many hours.”

Ginger loved luxuriating in her Manhattan apartment or poolside in the Hamptons but also relished getting outside when she could to stretch her limbs. “She loved to run,” says Jill. “She was such a great dog.”

She was also a four-legged jet-setter. “She went to St. Bart’s, Aruba, California and Costa Rica,” says Jill. “She went crazy when she saw monkeys in the backyard.”

But in recent weeks Ginger became increasingly listless. “This is not Ginger,” says Jill. “She’s just a shell of her former self now.”

RELATED ARTICLE: Jill Zarin Starting to Date After Husband’s Death in January: ‘Bobby Would Want Me to Live Again’

While Jill lavished Ginger with attention, “she loved Bobby the most,” she says. “Ginger was Bobby’s dog. When it came to Ginger, he melted for her.”

Jill took Bobby’s death hard but says Ginger helped her through the tough times.

“I thought she was going to die a few months ago,” she says. “Bobby made sure she stayed with me long enough to make sure I’m OK.  She’s going to go to heaven tonight. She’s going home to be with her Daddy.”

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