Ginger and Me
Just the Two of Us

I love my Ginger. Next month, on October 28, she will be celebrating her second birthday. I picked her up a couple of days before Christmas in 2016. I drove from my home in Crown Point, IN to Home, PA, which is an hour and a half east of Pittsburgh. The drive to Home took less than seven and a half hours. During the drive, I thought about getting my first Irish Setter whose name was…Ginger, which was a half century ago.

I had just returned from Scotland where I did a year of post-graduate studies at the University of Edinburgh. The first thing that I did back in the States was to get a job and then get my first Irish Setter puppy. The drive to pick up Ginger II was a drive filled with memories from a time long ago. When I got to the area near Home, I found a motel that evening, but, early the next morning, I picked up my puppy at 9:00am.

The return trip from Home to my home in Crown Point took several hours longer. Why? My puppy wanted out of the carrier. Now, the carrier was designed for a dog two or three times the size of Ginger. Besides, I had brought towels on which Ginger could rest in comfort on the trip of her lifetime. While Ginger enjoyed the extras, she wanted out. Therefore, I stopped about every half hour and let her out to walk around. I had stocked up on bottled water, food, and treats…enough for several days.

During the nearly ten hour trip, I talked with Ginger and told her about my excitement. While Irish Setters are extremely intelligent canines compared to other breeds, Ginger hadn’t yet learned to speak to me in English. Nonetheless, I verbalized my happiness with her. As I chatted with her, I told her about looking forward to our times together while mentioning her predecessor, Ginger I, a half century before her.

I spoke about my happiness with Ginger I. I also expressed to Ginger II that one of the two saddest days of my life was when my first Ginger died. Ginger was healthy for most of her dozen years with my family and me. However, various medical problems affected her. One day, it was obvious that Ginger was going to die. Fortunately, she wasn’t in pain. She laid down next to her food, which she hadn’t eaten. I laid down on the floor next to her and gently rubbed her stomach. Several hours later, Ginger died and so did part of me. However, that was long ago, but I still cry even thinking about that day.

Five decades later, I am in my twilight years and returning home with a puppy. I get the poignant juxtaposition. Trust me. In the last decade, I have done two dances with death. Both were critical medical situations, and both were resolved. I have recovered from both. Interestingly, I was recently diagnosed with sleep apnea and am using a breathing device when I go to sleep.

In spite of all three dances, I am doing fine. However, I learned a lesson from Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture. Dancing with death teaches those wishing to learn, a critical lesson. All of us are finite. While we all realize that reality, it is data that doesn’t hit home until you have come close to dying. The realization that we live in this world on a temporary basis can awaken us to our finiteness. Man, I get that. I enjoy the time that I have with

If a person is honest about their transitory presence here in the world, it is a great feeling. While that sounds like an oxymoron, it isn’t. I’m more alive than ever before. Different things matter to me and at a very different level of intensity. I know that my clock is ticking. I attempt not to waste the time I have wishing that I could change things. I hope that I live another fifteen or twenty years. Nevertheless, in the time that I do have, I will Carpe Diem.

Ginger and I walk around the lake every morning. Sometimes, there will be a couple hundred geese on vacant lots. She will point by raising one leg and stare at the geese. She won’t move until I say, “Go!” It is funny that instinctively she knows to point. My command gives her permission to charge. When she has managed to scare all the geese into the lake or into the air, she comes back to me having me telling her how great she is. She has done that with deer, rabbits, and regular birds.

Even when Ginger and I are together in the house, and I mention how much I love her, she will get excited and looks for a bone or toy that she brings to me. It is her way of expressing her love to me by sharing her treasures.

One game that Ginger loves is my attempt to get a toy away from her. I’ll chase her around the room while I growl at her. In response, she’ll growl at me. It is funny how the two of us know that our growling is meant to be humorous. We actually get involved in a growling match with each of us growling louder and louder.

Ever since Ginger became my puppy, she watches what I do. One thing that I do every morning and night is to take my blood pressure. She knows the routine and will sit down next to me on the bed while I take my blood pressure and record it. During the possess, she will place one of her paws on my thigh as if to say, “I’m with you. Things will be okay.”

Finally, Ginger is extremely affectionate. No matter where we are, she needs to be touching me. I spend hours in front of my computer while teaching and writing. She will sit at my feet, but touching is important to her.

When we go to sleep, it is a ritual for us. I take my blood pressure. When I record my reading, I get up and tell her to sit in the papasan next to the bed while I go to the kitchen and retrieve a carrot. I get into bed and put the carrot on the pillow next to me. Then I say, “Ginger, treat.” She bounds upon the bed, grabs the carrot, circles clockwise several time, and drops down onto the bed as close to me as possible. When I get up in the morning to get dressed, Ginger will move over to my place in the bed. She loves to rest where I have been, because dogs can smell 10,000 to 100,000 times better than humans. Her ability to smell is like I am still present with her.

After returning from shaving and getting dressed, I am greeted by Ginger’s posing for me.

Thus Ginger Spoke

Thus Ginger Spoke

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Dancing with Death

Dancing with Death

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The Last Lecture

The Last Lecture

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My Hauntings

My Hauntings

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