Ginger and I
Our Trip Down the Yellow Brick Road

It might seem odd to the casual reader that Ginger, my Irish Setter, and I have a very close relationship. We communicate a great deal on a personal level. Ginger is six and has been down at Purdue Veterinary Hospital three times. On one occasion, she was in ICU for several days and fed intravenously. Ginger has inflammatory bowel disease and takes a dozen pills and a packet of probiotics daily. She eats only prescription dog food. I also give her a vitamin B12 shot weekly.

I can’t count the number of times that I have taken Ginger to Hobart Animal Clinic, especially in the past three years. As I drove to the clinic, I wonder whether Ginger will make it. I love Ginger, and my two dances with death makes me ultrasensitive to Ginger’s dances.

The three primary issues driving me at 80 years old are teaching, my family in Myanmar, and Ginger. Our days usually consist of getting up around 6:30, having breakfast, and playing Chuckit. I work at my computer, which is often interrupted by Ginger bringing me an empty plastic toy, which I fill with her dog and psyllium. The psyllium is to aid in helping her intestinal issues. After lunch, we played Chuckit again, and I returned to the computer. After bringing her plastic toy again, I pack it with her dry dog food as her mid-afternoon treat. That satisfies her cravings until dinner.

Finally, around 10:30 pm, Ginger and I take a long walk, which will allow her to go potty. After our walk, I’ll be getting ready for bed while Ginger lays down on my side of the bed. Actually, her head will be on my pillow. This has become a nightly ritual. She’ll reluctantly move over when I am ready to get in bed.

Ginger on the pillow

What follows is for both of us an important quiet time. Ginger will listen to me reflect upon the past day. When Ginger had a difficult day medically, I’ll tell her that I will care for her, especially when she was not feeling well. I’m sure a part of my message is understood. What Ginger doesn’t grasp verbally, she will understand based on the tone of my voice. It seems as though this has a calming effect on both of us.

Our going to bed is so ritualized that I’ll turn out the light, she will get off the bed, walk into the bathroom, as if she was going to lie down on the tile floor, walk to the foot of the bed and wait. She quietly waits until I say, “Ginger, get up here.” She bound up and lay down next to me. Most of the time, I’ll be asleep before she moves again. When she thinks I’m asleep, Ginger will move to the foot of the bed as if she is going to watch for a possible intruder. Interestingly, Ginger will make sure that she is touching my leg while she protects me.

Occasionally, I’ll get up during the night to go to the bathroom and discover Ginger asleep in the tub.

Ginger in the tub

Surely, Ginger hears me, but she remains in the tub until early the next day. Then she goes into the dining room and lies on the tile floor where she can protectively watch me. When I wake up, I’ll yell, “Where is my Ginger?” She will bound into the bedroom for our morning talk. I’ll tell Ginger that when Ti Ti gets her student visa, she will have to modify our routine. Ginger doesn’t know who Ti Ti is, but she knows my tone of voice and that it is something important.

Ginger will be ecstatic when Ti Ti moves into our home. It will be interesting to watch Ginger tie the name to the person. Then Ginger will rush around to find one of her favorite toys and bring it to Ti Ti. Her gift tells Ti Ti, “I’m glad you have here.”