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A Very Good Dog

April 17, 2017

I once saw a cartoon speculating on what dogs think. In the cartoon, owners were talking to the pooch but all it was hearing was, “Blah…blah…blah…Ginger,” poking humor at the millions of dogs forced to live with the ubiquitous name.


Years ago while I was toiling in retail, Mrs. Chatterbox and CJ went to the pound the day after Thanksgiving, the busiest shopping day of the year. I recently came across a picture of our very own Ginger. Our son CJ had initially wanted to name the dog G.I. Joe, which didn’t seem appropriate for a female dog. We asked him to reconsider, and he chose Ginger.


Many families have a menagerie of pets over the years, and Casa Chatterbox is no exception. Ginger was not our first dog, nor was she our last, but she’s the one we remember most, whose departure from our lives left the largest hole. I wasn’t there but I’ve heard the story often enough. CJ and Mrs. C. were studying all the dogs in the pound and were drawn to a beautiful golden retriever. The shelter attendant pointed out the fact that this gorgeous dog wouldn’t have any difficulty being adopted and guided CJ and Mrs. C. to another cage, marked with #9—dogs were only kept nine days before being euthanized.


“This is the sweetest dog here,” he said, “a perfect dog for a young family. Adopt her and you won’t be disappointed.”


According to Mrs. C., her eyes locked onto the disheartened-looking dog who reeked and rattled with kennel cough, and the deed was done. Ginger became a member of our family.


I came home from work later that evening and saw what looked like a dingo/jackal sitting on the couch between my wife and son. Seeing me for the first time, Ginger growled, ready to protect her new family from any intruder. She looked like a small beige deer, with pointy ears and a black bra around her middle. All I could think to say about this Heinz #57 dog was, “I hope it doesn’t break because I doubt we can get parts for it.”


That fellow at the pound was right; we never regretted adopting Ginger, who lived with us for over a decade. I don’t know to what capacity dogs think, but Ginger always seemed to know Mrs. C. saved her from certain death. She tolerated me and CJ, but Mrs. Chatterbox was the sun she orbited. If my wife got up in the middle of the night to fetch a drink of water, Ginger hopped down from the bed (yes she slept on our bed) and shadowed her. I’ve no doubt that if Mrs. C. had gotten out of bed to lie down in the backyard snow, Ginger would have accompanied her. It didn’t matter that I fed and walked the dog; she had eyes only for Mrs. C.


When Ginger’s kidneys failed, we were forced to put her to sleep. The vet told us we’d know when the time was right because she’d stop doing the things she loved, like eating and padding along behind Mrs. C. When that day came, the three of us took Ginger to the vet, held her, petted her and told her we loved her, saying over and over that she was a very very good dog. Her caramel eyes blinked at us a few times before closing forever.


More than twenty years have passed. CJ has moved on, as young people do. He was fortunate to have adopted Charley, a giant Maine Coon cat with a sweet disposition. Mrs. C. and I would go on to adopt other dogs but she still pines for Ginger. I suspect she always will.




CJ and Ginger 1984



Was there one special pet that tugs at your heartstrings more than any other?



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There's always that one special dog, isn't there? And of course the dog slept on your bed. Where else would she sleep?
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on April 17, 2017
our boxer was like that, the one you never got over. still makes me tear up all these years later. Minnie though, she's a contender.
By: Ellen Abbott on April 17, 2017
I might be a newer reader here, but this post confirms that your blog is worth following for more than just the humor. Only our three Rottweilers were a conscious choice - the others chose us. We live in a rural area and have taken in many a dumped dog. We currently have nine and I love them all.
By: Kelly on April 17, 2017
Odd, I don't think I've ever heard of Ginger as a dog's name, let alone a common one. Our Gypsy was visibly husky but Heinz 57 under the fur. She died last year but I suspect we'll miss her for many years to come.
By: Botanist on April 17, 2017
Your sweet blog made me tear up. Our cats and dogs always will have a special place in our hearts and memories. We had a few dogs when the boys were little, but overall we are cat people. We have had as many as four at a time. All sleeping with us. We have no favorites as they have each been unique and lovable. But right now our Lucy is our favorite! She really is a character and quite smart!
By: Kathe W. on April 17, 2017
I had a dog and a cat like that, though neither came from the pound. It's always sad when you have to say goodbye to anyone, even a pet.
By: PT Dilloway on April 17, 2017
What a lovely story. Isn't it odd that our society has such a loving way to part with animals/pets when they reach the end of their lives, yet when it comes to humans, the way out is oftentimes filled with all manner of terribleness. I suppose you living in Oregon is different as you have doctor assisted death for those who are terminally ill with no options. But in other parts of the country, there is no such thing (like here in Utah) and they would keep you living through tremendous suffering and pain and then keep your body alive if you become brain dead. It's ridiculous.
By: Michael Offutt on April 17, 2017
Okay, you made me cry today. This is the second blog I have read where people have lost their dog. I still miss Bonnie, our black lab we had for almost twelve years. I bawled like a baby when we had to put her down. I have a hole in my heart from losing her. Everyone should have a dog.
By: Kate on April 17, 2017
I have a scrapbook with a couple of pages of all of our pets we have had over the years. I loved them all, but I think the death of one of our horses was the saddest pet death for me. I still cry if I dwell on her for very long. We've had so many (half were strays that adopted us). Now we have two- one cat and one dog.
By: Terri@Coloring Outside the Lines on April 17, 2017
The best dog that I know belonged to my daughter. He name was Fio; short for Fiorina (little flower). My daughter was her favorite because she fed her, but I was her second favorite person in the world!!
By: fishducky on April 17, 2017
I meant HER name.
By: fishducky on April 17, 2017
What a pretty little fox like dog. I had to laugh about not finding parts. Most of my dogs have been like that. Those special ones never totally leave our thoughts. I have had many dogs but Sissy, a 2 1/2 pound fierce Chihuahua, is the one I still get a lump in my throat over..
By: Arkansas Patti on April 17, 2017
in rescue, we call them "Heart Dogs". The term can apply to other animals, of course. We went to Easter Lunch yesterday with a woman that had adopted one of my fosters. We both agreed that Abbey-Rose was Heart Dog for both of us. Abbey was a mature dog when rescued and passed away a couple of years ago. She''ll always be missed and never forgotten. Bravo to the shelter staff for guiding your family to the dog in greater need.
By: english rider on April 17, 2017
White Kitty. He was special. They were all special, he was more so. Ginger was beautiful with lots of hybrid vigor, i'm sure.
By: messymimi on April 17, 2017
I think Ginger would attract my attention. My daughter had a little schnauser that was very hard to resist..
By: red Kline on April 17, 2017
Most doge are good, but I think you only get one great dog in their life, I have had mine.
By: cranky on April 17, 2017
Sweet Ginger! She KNEW she was saved by Mrs. C.
By: Val on April 17, 2017
Yay for Mrs C and CJ making the compassionate decision, and look how Ginger repaid the choice ... All my pets over the year have a special place in my heart, all for different reasons. Lovely story, Stephen.
By: jenny_o on April 17, 2017
Mine was a golden cocker spaniel named Honey that was my teeny childhood companion. My dad had to put her down when I was in maybe the second or third grade. I've never had a dog since but many, many cats that have left holes in my heart.
By: Catalyst on April 17, 2017
My mother hated animals. She tolerated hamsters (in their cages) for about 3 years of my childhood and I then had tropical fish. Of the pets Jerry and I have had and loved, Sherlock our hand-reared yellow-naped Amazon parrot was our 'first child.' We said good-bye to him 23 years ago and we both still miss him.
By: Mitchell is Moving on April 18, 2017
Faulkner the smooth collie was and always will be the dog of my life. We were soul mates. By the way, collies hate the name Lassie. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on April 18, 2017
My heart almost broke as I read this, yes these pets become a big part of our lives, they are definitely family, we have a dachsund that will be thirteen this year, we have had her since she was five weeks old and I can't imagine losing her. I am posting again if you would like to stop by JimmysOpinion
By: Jimmy on April 18, 2017
My heart almost broke as I read this, yes these pets become a big part of our lives, they are definitely family, we have a dachsund that will be thirteen this year, we have had her since she was five weeks old and I can't imagine losing her. I am posting again if you would like to stop by JimmysOpinion
By: Jimmy on April 18, 2017
Your post is heart filled and wonderful. Ginger found a good home and certainly felt loved. It is difficult to lose a beloved pet. They do leave whole in our lives when they pass. I remember each of my dogs and all of the cats in our lives.
By: Tom Cochrun on April 18, 2017
I must admit I'm typing this comment with teary eyes. We have a rescue dog, and I love him dearly. I've put down 3 dogs over the years, and I knew it was the humane thing to do, but it still hurt horribly. I hope Jax outlives me and the thought of losing him is hard to even think about.
By: scott park on April 18, 2017
This story is as sad as it is beautiful. Her sweetness and beauty jump off the page. I really like your description, too, that Mrs. C. "was the sun she orbited." May loving memories continue to warm your hearts.
By: Robyn Engel on April 18, 2017
Goes to show, once again, that mutts ... I mean, mixed breeds, are the best.
By: Tom Sightings on April 18, 2017
I can Identify. Dogs can get up close to your heart. We've had a lot of critters but only a few GOOD Dogs. Good job Stephen.
By: Rick Watson on April 18, 2017
I remember, as a child, climbing into my dogs kennel one day when I felt sad. She was a German Shephard named Saber. I curled up with her and fell asleep. Little did my parents know how safe and sound I was. Lovely post. Thanks for sharing.
By: Nicola on April 19, 2017
Dogs become our best friends by understanding who we are... in our hearts and minds. Wonderful post, Stephen.
By: Daniel LaFrance on April 19, 2017
I've had a number of cats over the years, but you are right - some of them just get closer to you than others. Smokey, our grey cat, was to me what your Ginger was to Mrs. Chatterbox. She's been gone for a number of years now, but I still catch myself stretching to reach for her at the bottom of the bed with my toes.
By: Pixel Peeper on April 23, 2017

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