10 January, 2013

The Cocker Spaniel Who Wasn't

The rescue posted a second or third plea for someone to foster a poor, sick dog that had come into rescue with heartworms. Thomas and I had plenty of dogs at home seven years ago (two, but that seemed like enough) and weren’t looking for another, but I kept thinking of this sick dog who just needed “a quiet place to get better.” We discussed it, and decided that we could foster until the dog was well and could be spayed and go on to a permanent home.

Picture me, driving to the Animal Hospital, with my do-gooder hat on. In my mind I was going to pick up a dog that was the canine equivalent of someone who had recently had surgery and could walk, with the aid of a walker, but was very slow and sick. Possibly, in my imagination, the dog was wearing a ratty bathrobe and had to stop every few steps to cough weakly, leaning on her (imaginary) walker.
I arrived, gave the receptionist my name and sat down to wait for my new Cocker Spaniel buddy, the sad, sick doggy. The reception area was busy with people, dogs, and cats in carriers so there was a lot to look at while I waited. I heard someone call out “Cocker Spaniel Rescue,” and looked around. Seeing no Cockers, I sat back. A few minutes later, a somewhat peeved sounding voice shouted, “Is anyone from Cocker Spaniel Rescue here?” I stood up and identified myself and was presented with something that was...well, that was not a frail Cocker Spaniel. No, I was given Ginger, who bore no resemblance to:
a.     A Cocker Spaniel or
b.     The poor, sick puppy of my imagination.

Ginger was a medium-sized red and white dog with a soft, double coat and the floppy ears and full tail of a Beagle. She was surely some sort of Beagle mix. Her tummy was sort of loose and hung down almost to the ground, making me wonder how many puppies she had before being rescued.
Ginger was also not weak and sickly - she was cheerful and SUPER! DOOPER! EXCITED! to meet me and get to leave the vet hospital. She hauled me all over the parking lot, sniffing at everything she saw. She also “talked” constantly, making happy little yips and woofles and whines. She talked to me the whole drive home, as I did my best to keep her in the back seat and get us home safely.

Ginger didn’t get the message that we were going to be her “rest” home. She was a go, go, go girl. If we left her in the backyard for a few minutes alone, she tunneled under the fence. If a door was left open, she made a break for freedom. On walks she wanted to go miles. We learned to manage her, although not without some bad moments. Once she went walkabout just after she had come into heat (she was spayed as soon as that was over). She was gone for a couple of hours. I was thrilled to find her safe and sound, trotting across the road toward the house, but I was worried about possible consequences. I told Thomas and our friend Christine, “It is going to be so embarrassing if I have to tell the rescue that I let this dog get knocked up!”
Thomas fixed the fence so she could not burrow under. We started taking longer walks. We updated her bio on the CSAC homepage with glowing descriptions and waited for her forever family to contact us. Weeks went by. Months passed. Ginger was still a happy girl. She got along well with Jake and Dru.
I suspect that the reason no one ever applied for Ginger is that when someone finds their way to the Cocker Spaniel rescue page, they are looking for a Cocker Spaniel or some dog that has Cocker Spaniel roots like, a Cockador or a Cockapoo. A red and white Beagle mix with a full, white tipped tail, maybe doesn’t appeal to those people. In the end, the two people who were not looking for a third dog realized that they had one anyway, and she was home for good.

Other than the fact that Ginger was a dream dog, what can I tell you? She liked all people. She loved the vet and all the ladies in the vet’s office. She liked our neighbors and friends. She loved Christine’s dogs, and all other medium, and small dogs. She did not like Labrador retrievers (especially the black ones) and she did not like groundhogs. She once fought and killed a groundhog and came away with only a few puncture wounds.  The vet told us Ginger had been lucky, that an adult groundhog could kill a dog.
She loved snow, and would burrow around the yard, creating a maze of stomped-down snow. She wasn’t a swimmer, but rain didn’t bother her. She never met a lap she didn’t want to sit in, or a hand she didn’t want to pat her. She slept with us most nights, and for a 35-40 lb. dog she was almost impossible to push over in bed.
We called her our “hair farmer,” and she was. Her thick coat shed constantly, and when we brushed her we got massive amounts of red and white fur. Our house, our car, our clothes were sprinkled with red and white hairs. When I swept, I joked that I got small piles of fur that I could have knit into a new dog.
She was healthy. Her stomach, skin, hair, and ears were delightfully free of the problems we were used to with Cockers. She could, and would, eat the most revolting things she found on the road or in the ditch, with no upset tummy to follow. She would whine until we followed her into the kitchen, where she’d look meaningfully at the treat jar.
Months ago she started coughing. We took her to the vet. We took her to the vet again and again, and they tried lots of drugs. X-rays showed an enlarged heart and fluid build-up near the lungs, probably a result of the heartworm damage from her earlier infection. We had her tested to make sure there were no new heartworms. There weren’t. We found a combination of drugs that seemed like they were helping some, and figured that the coughing was just something we’d all have to live with.
Last Saturday she and I took a walk in the morning. She was maybe a little slow, but she walked a long way, and danced in circles when I was putting her food down. She slept most of the day, and when she got up, she wasn’t right. She had urinated on her dog bed, and she would not eat. She tried to walk a little and did her business, but could not really walk or stand well.
She died at about 1am. We'd been watching her and thinking that we would take her to the vet in the morning, but when we realized that she was unconscious, we loaded her into the car and drove like maniacs to the Vet ER. It was no good, she was dead when we got there.

Thomas and I are both shattered. Ginger was the shedding, silly, demanding, loving heart of the house and we miss her so badly. Many tears have been shed.
Ginger, you were a good, good girl. We love you.


  1. She had a loving home and her last day ended with a good walk. She died in her own place with people that she loved and not in a vet's office with the smell of other dog's fear and strange hands doing strange things. No dog would want it any other way.

  2. I am sorry. Ginger will really be missed, she was a great girl. It must be so lonesome around your house, from 3 to 1 in a short period of time.