Good night, Ginger Bear!

Ginger, Ginger Bear, Ginger Binger Bear, Mama’s Girl, Ginger Pie…  These are some of the many affectionate names for my girl. Ginger was found in the summer of 2007 on my way to work. She was running down a street parallel to the street I was driving on with some parkland between us. I drove to her immediately. She looked frightened and ran some more. I desperately crouched down to make myself smaller and began to baby talk. This was apparently her language. She turned, looked my way, and began to run straight for me. GingerBefore I knew it, this dog was in my crouched lap and we fell to the ground with me laughing in the middle of the street.  She gave me kisses and I coaxed her into my car. She was bleeding from a very swollen vulva and had milky teats. I tried to search the area for pups with no luck. I got to work late, with blood on me and my car.  Fortunately, my boss was a dog lover and she allowed me to put her in a pen on zoo grounds until I could get her home.  I did not know at that moment she would be my beloved family, but I was going to take care of her until we could figure out where she belonged. This was the beginning of my life with Ginger, my red nosed pit bull, my silly girl, my challenging child, my loving new family member.

Life with Ginger has been a joy. She is not the most well-behaved, as Angela can attest.  We attended training classes together many years ago. Ginger is sometimes dog aggressive, has a habit of eating inedible items, has anxiety about storms and fireworks, and is mischievous.  She is the most vocal dog I have ever known.  She will scream for any occasion!  Excitement that I am home, squirrels, other dogs, waking up, squirrels, anyone walking down the street, anyone pulling in the driveway, squirrels, fear, pain, happiness, the list goes on and on.  All occasions are met with frequent and often loud vocalizations.  I have come to love waking up to her morning song of love and joy.  I am not as fond of her time to go to sleep song, which is the reason for this story.

Ginger is beginning to show signs of aging for a few years now.  We started with an issue with her neck. She could not lift her head much, had trouble with stairs and was a bit sullen. The vet diagnosed her with a cervical disc disease.  Somehow, we managed to get through this scary episode, and she has bounced back. Next came kidney issues. We started a kidney diet that has managed her symptoms amazingly well. She occasionally refuses her diet, knowing that the other dogs have tastier food.  Like me, she loves to eat, so she caves and devours her food eventually. Concurrently, she has begun to lose vision and hearing.  Bonus side effect is that her hearing loss has reduced her anxiety about fire works and storms!  Her vision loss has had an impact on her night time behavior.  I believe the darkness makes her vision loss worse.  I think she also has a little dog dementia that seems to intensify at night.

Ginger has been wanting to go to bed earlier and earlier this past year. It started out at 8 PM and has moved all the way to 6:30PM.  She begins to scream, cry, and grumble while we cook, eat, do dishes, or dare to sit down to watch TV.  Historically, she stayed up until I went to sleep, whatever time that was.  I thought maybe the vision issues made her want to go to sleep when it became dark, but that theory went out the window this spring when it was light out and she still wanted to go to bed.  She has her own room and bed.  She always has access to her room, but she does not just want to go to bed, she wants a night-night cookie and for me to shut her in her room.  She also wants us to turn off all lights and tv and go upstairs.  We finally relented and now Ginger has set our bedtime as well as hers. I had no idea that her bedtime song of her people would mean the end of any time spent on the first floor of our house after 6:30 PM! Small price to pay for the joy of having Ginger in my life for as long as she graces us with her presence. Old dogs are full of surprises. You never know what challenges you may face. Ginger has grown old gracefully, apart from her new bedtime singing.  I always end up laughing at her and give in to her persistent demands that we all obey and go to bed! I am thankful for her joie de vivre, constant smile, endlessly wagging tail, and unconditional love.  She adores me and I feel less than deserving of that adoration sometimes. Being human, I am full of faults.  Being a pit bull, she is perfection in dog form.   She always makes me crack a huge smile, as she sings me into the day and even into the night, despite it being a little early for bedtime at 6:30 p.m.! I am so thankful to have her songs to bookend my days…  Goodnight, Ginger Bear!

— Natalie Johnson