Saturday, July 5, 2008

Dog on the Blog: Ginger, Our Special Girl...

Ginger was living in Kingman, AZ with some well-meaning folks who wanted to help dogs, but got in over their heads and just could not take care of them all. This was in the Spring of 2005. The authorities got involved and rescues from all over Arizona came to these dogs' aid. Smiling Dog Farms agreed to take the dogs who were "left over" after all the rescues had taken the dogs they felt they could place. Fourteen dogs came to us from Kingman, through the tireless work of Dr. Debbie Wilson and Betsy Senn and many others.

But Ginger was not among those fourteen. She was placed with an older lady, whom Ginger adored. Ginger was so happy to have a home of her own and a special person in her life, she would do anything for that lady. Unfortunately, when the lady's grandchildren came to visit, Ginger didn't understand they meant no harm; she was determined to protect the lady whom she loved with all her little doggie heart. And in one of those horrible ironies life is so filled with, Ginger's intense love for the lady doomed their relationship. Ginger's growling and snapping made the lady decide that Ginger would have to leave. Ginger had no where else to go, and we agreed that she could come live at our farm.

Ames McGarey drove Ginger down to our farm in Pinal County, AZ. I will never forget Ginger's expression. She was so very sad because she did not understand why she had to leave the lady she loved so much. That day, Ricky and I promised Ames and Ginger that we would make Ginger feel special, and try to make up for the heartbreak of leaving the lady.

That night, we brought Ginger into our bedroom expecting her to spend the night. We gave her animal crackers and hugged her and loved on her, and she soaked it all up for about 15 minutes. And then she was finished. She jumped off the bed and stood at the door, telling us she was ready to go back to her place. That night we began a ritual we have maintained ever since. Ginger comes into our bedroom for 10 minutes or so every night for us to fuss over her and share animal crackers with her. So she will feel special. And then she goes back to her place.

Her place is actually the dining room. Another of Ginger's idiosyncracies is that she does not enjoy being outside! Unlike most dogs who look forward to their time in their play yard, Ginger goes grudgingly to do what she needs to, and then she wants to come back inside.

One day she came trotting into the kitchen when she was supposed to be outside. When I went to see how she got in, the door to the yard was wide open. I closed the door and Ginger went back to the dining room. But the next day, the same thing happened. This time, I examined the door more closely and noticed that the exteriior door knob had dents all over it from where Ginger had been grabbing it with her teeth and turning the knob to let herself back into the house! We started locking the door when Ginger went out after that!

Because Ginger does not enjoy being outside, she staked out the dining room as "her space" early on, even back in Arizona. Intead of a play yard and cottage, Ginger has the dining room and her dog bed. The picture on the left, above, was taken in Arizona, when she first came to us. The second picture was taken in our kitchen, here in Texas. You can see Ginger has put on a few pounds (haven't we all!!).

Three years ago, Ginger gave us a scare. She was laying on her bed in the dining room when another dog went racing by. Ginger made an attempt to jump up and bark at the other dog... but instead, she screamed -- and kept screaming. We thought she had gotten her leg caught between her bed and the wall, but it was far worse. Somehow, Ginger had wrenched her back and her back legs were not working.

We rushed her to our local vet (those were the days prior to Dr. Stern) and he did not know what to do, so he sent us to a specialist in Houston. We took her right up to the specialist, where they performed a series of tests, including one in which they injected her spine with dye. The prognosis was not good. A couple weeks and a couple thousand dollars later, the specialist said that Ginger's spinal column had been injured, probably when she jumped up quickly to bark at the dog running by her. He said she would probably never walk again.

Fortunately, we got help from our friend, Sandy Cross, who is a vet tech here in Wharton. She gave us a sling to put under Ginger's tummy to hold up her back legs. Sandy said if we took Ginger outdoors in that sling, it would help Ginger to learn to use her back legs again. As long as we held up her back end with the sling, Ginger could use her front legs to walk. It was a slow process, but it seemed to be working. Then one day, while we had Ginger out in front walking in her sling, one of the cats stopped near by, as if to taunt her. Ginger took the bait and took off after the kitty, with Ricky barely keeping up behind her with the sling!! It was funny to watch! And we learned from that day to use the cats to motivate Ginger.

Every day we would take Ginger out for her therapy in her sling, and we made sure we had a cat strategically placed to get Ginger's attention. And then she was off to the races!

Long story short, the expensive specialist was wrong and Sandy was right... Ginger did learn to walk. Today she runs again. She has a slightly offset gait and goes down the road with her back legs and hips slightly askew to the right, sort of like a car that has been in an accident and the frame has been bent! But she walks and she runs and she is living her life with no complications from her spinal injury. Ginger is a special girl in more ways than one!
Jay Hellerich, executive director
smiling dog farms
a 501(c)3 corporation
wharton, texas

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