Ginger #1’s Story

Ginger was a tan-colored terrier mix with pointed ears that bent slightly forward at the tips and a tail that curled over her back like a corkscrew.  Ginger was also the first dog that really impacted my life, became my first best friend, and somehow got me through those early adolescent years.  

Ginger came into my life shortly after losing Skippy to distemper.  I remember we all got into that 1950 Ford with the pinstriped seat covers, and Grandpa took us back to the Detroit Humane Society.  I can remember the long room with the tiled floors and cages on both sides of the room.  The silver bars on the cages seemed so thick, at least to a 3-year-old.   We looked at the adult dogs first.  I honestly think that Grandpa and Grandma wanted to get a older dog who wouldn’t need as much training and also not be at such a high a risk of developing those diseases that take the lives of young puppies (like Skippy). It was Mom who asked to see the puppies again and my grandparents finally agreed.  The lady at the shelter took us to another room that had both cages and big open pens.  There were big puppies and little puppies, but I can remember walking to the end of the room.  There in the last cage was a little puppy all by itself.  The lady said its littermates were adopted the day before.  To this day I honestly feel I was attracted to this puppy because I, too, didn’t have any brothers or sisters and not even any other children in the neighborhood to play with.  This little puppy was alone, just like me.We took Ginger home with us that day.  Today I am a firm believer in crate training a young puppy.  In those days I don’t think that puppies were trained in crates, or even that the crate as we know it today even existed 50 years ago.  I don’t think my Mom or my grandparents even had the slightest idea how to train a young puppy.  To make a long story short, Ginger spent the first couple of nights sleeping in the bathtub with big boards across the top to keep her from getting out.  She had a blanket on one end and was expected to use the end with the drain as her bathroom.  I really can’t remember if this is how it turned out.  But I do remember Mom getting Ginger a little collar with a bell attached to it.   After a couple of nights in the bathtub, Ginger learned how to escape from her big porcelain crate”.  I still remember so plainly sitting in the living room with Mom and Grandma watching our first black and white television set, and then we hear the “tinkle, tinkle, tinkle” of Ginger’s bell collar.  All of a sudden she appeared in the doorway to the living room with that little corkscrew tail wagging overtime.  This was the last time she was put in the bathtub.

Ginger and I grew up together.  She became my best friend, my protector, and the center of my world.  She was with me on that first day of kindergarten right through elementary school.  I would even allow Grandma to walk me to school just so that Ginger could walk along.  I would look forward to getting out of school because I knew Ginger would be there waiting for me.  After school we would always play in the backyard together.  I taught her many tricks and she was a very willing student.  I set up a regular agility course in the yard with boxes, metal frames, and anything else I could get my hands on.   Ginger learned quickly and was always anxious to please.

In January of 1960 I turned eleven years old. Ginger turned eight years old.  My grandfather died on my eleventh birthday giving me my first real experience dealing with death.  Ginger was there for me, helping me get through the loss.  Then in the Spring of 1960, Ginger lost some of that sparkle she was well known for.  She began to lose her appetite and slept a lot.  I remember how she tried to force herself to play with me, but her heart just wasn’t in it.  Mom finally took her to the vet.  In those days pet sterilization was uncommon.  Very few pets were spayed or neutered.  Ginger had developed an infection that would have never occurred if she had been spayed.  I could tell by the way the vet was speaking that it was a very serious situation.  The only chance she had was a very slim one assuming she could survive the surgery.

Ginger stayed at the vet’s office overnight.  The surgery was scheduled for the next day.  Mom let me stay home from school.  I can remember spending the day mostly in tears, but praying very hard for Ginger’s survival.  It was a very long surgery and the call came in the early evening hours.  Ginger didn’t make it.  She never woke up.  I was devastated.  I had just lost my very best friend  —   the one who was always there for me.  

One very valuable piece of information was obtained from this experience.  Spaying or neutering a pet at a younger age can definitely save its life and eliminate or lessen the risk of certain cancers.  I only wish that this technology had been available all those years ago.  It may have given me a few more quality years with my Ginger.

This is me at age 3 with my first Ginger.  This little puppy left pawprints on my heart that are still there, even today.  
This is me at age 5.  Ginger is 2 years old.  
In this picture I am 7 years old.   Ginger is 4.
Ginger at 5 years old (above) and
Ginger playing with our cat
(to the right)

This is Ginger at 8 years of age.   This picture was taken the month before she died.