Let’s talk about my dog.
She’s a twenty year-old, fifty-pound(ish) dog and just the toughest ol’ girl ever. Hell, she’s older than my high school graduate.
We’re Talking Two Decades—and that’s not in dog years, that’s in human years
Way back in the spring, maybe summer, of 2000 this cute little stray was running around in the street, and a friend grabbed her up into his family minivan and offered her to my girlfriend’s family. Well all sorts of things have happened in these past twenty years, but to make a long story way shorter, Ginger’s been my girlfriend’s dog the whole time and “my” dog for a good few years now.
Her formal name is Ginger Pye, from a really sweet children’s book by that name, and yes, she’s pretty much a ginger color, but with a lot more white mixed in on her face nowadays.
She’s kept her girlish fifty-pound-ish figure all these years by running off and eating out of garbage cans and recycling bins every chance she gets (and my goodness, is she stealthy). Also by begging at the table (no home-training, I know), by eating kitchen scraps such as strawberry caps, kiwi skins, tomato ends, rotten tomatoes (yum!), and the occasional egg yolk or egg white, by eating whatever falls on the kitchen floor, especially popcorn when I’m popping some on the stove, and by cleaning up dinner dishes. (If that grosses you out, sorry. We do put them in the dishwasher afterward, if that makes it better.)
Oh, and by searching the yard for cat poop, which is disgusting to everyone but Ginger. Nutro (for seniors) is the actual dog food we feed her—obviously dullsville compared to scraps, trash, and cat poop.
How to Live a Long and Healthy Life, à la Ginger
Basically Ginger is here to tell you that you can eat like a junkyard dog and still live a long and happy life. In fact, I believe that Ginger’s philosophy is that you should eat like a junkyard dog if you plan to live a long and happy life.
Here’s Ginger on Christmas morning 2019—not an exciting movie or anything, but clearly the girl’s got a spring in her step.
For any dog with a few years on ’em, Ginger’s list of ailments isn’t long at all. She takes a daily carprofen (basically ibuprofen) for her achy joints, and she takes an eye drop twice a day for a speck of an ulcer inside her right eye.
We also give her a fish oil capsule every day and a supplement called Dasuquin (which we call her “dayquan”), but those aren’t from the vet.
And here’s part of being the best dog ever: Ginger loves her daily carprofen, she loves her fish oil capsule, she loves her dayquan, and she loves her monthly heartworm pill. Seriously, she gobbles it all right up—it’s all a treat to her. She’s a truly grateful dog.
Oh, and even though—just like a lot of old folks—Ginger’s eyesight and hearing have waned, damned if she can’t smell some cat poop or garbage or a half-emptied can of sumpin’ good within 500 feet or more. That’s miracle material right there.
Admittedly, these days it can take Ginger a bit of effort to get up and get moving. Some days she looks pretty tired and rickety and we think, “Well, this is it,” but then she turns around and has a pretty good spell for the next little while. Hell, just the other day she chased a cat out of the yard. And every time she tries to sneak out of the yard to go on a treasure hunt, I just think, “That’s my girl—she’s still got it!”
She’s a Dixie Dingo; a Carolina Dog
Breed-wise, Ginger is what my gf calls generic, and what I call all-purpose. She’d be easy to take for a lab mix, but her build is a little more like, say, a Chow, and since she’s got a little bit of black on her tongue, that’s probably a good guess at least partly.
She’s also got these big, pointy, expressive ears and a curled tail. A while back a friend sent me an article about how maybe Ginger was a “Dixie Dingo,” also known as a “Carolina Dog,” which is pretty much perfect. Here’s one article about Dixie Dingos/Carolina Dogs, and the picture looks a lot like our Ginger.
When Ginger was younger she was kind of on the snippy side, and sometimes even scary. She’s not small, after all, and just had a bit of an edge till not that long ago, so when she’d snarl or snap, you’d step back. She was a damned fine watch dog, obviously.
But she’s mellowed with the years, probably due to not hearing and seeing so great, but never mind, she’s happy and lives a charmed life in her old age.
Her daily routine consists of napping a lot, punctuated by two meals, a few trips outside, and multiple trips to the kitchen to check for food—especially when someone’s cooking so she can stand in the way a lot. And since she no longer moves out of the way when you want her to move out of the way, we just work around her, figuring she deserves to be accommodated at this point.
At Your Service
Several months ago we got Ginger a harness to help her up and down the four steps at the back door—some days are better than others, and Ginger seems to appreciate the help when she needs it. We call it her “handle.” It also helps us gently steer her when we need to get by her in our small house.
When I said that the new harness made Ginger look like a service dog, my teenager remarked, “Aren’t all dogs service dogs?” And to that I just nodded yes, because of course they are.
There’s no telling how much longer Ginger will hang on. We shake our heads when we see her bursts of energy outside in the yard, and when she’s hanging around the dinner table (again, no home training!), and when yet again she tries to sneak out of the yard to go exploring for trash. We keep thinking it can’t be much longer, but it appears Ginger’s got her own plans.
So here’s to Ginger, a very fine dog, filled with gusto, gratitude, and an all-around good attitude. And I just love petting that soft head of hers and giving her a good ear rub. What a girl.
There’s simply no better dog. No better dog.
UPDATE on Ginger, December of 2020: I published this piece very early in 2020. Ginger left us in October of this year at almost 21 years of age. She was the finest dog I’ve ever known.