Ginger’s Vet…
My Psychiatrist

I’m the type of guy that really doesn’t enjoy leaving home. I’m not a recluse, but, between my webpage, teaching, and Ginger, I’m busy and don’t go out just to do so. When I do journey out, I make of list of all the stops necessary and get them all done at one shot. So it is with going to Ginger’s vet and my psychiatrist.

To be honest with you, I am haunted by all sorts of things that I want to fully understand but haven’t. For example, why did I get an Irish Setter in my mid-70s. I have had two Setters at the beginning of my work life. Setters are lovely dogs, but they are high maintenance. They don’t get out of the puppy mindset until they reach two years of age. In fact, some never grow up. I knew that from past experience. Therefore, why did I do get another in my twilight years? This time in life is supposedly when people slow down and chill out for the remainder of their lives.

A large part of replicating getting my first Irish Setter a half century ago had to do with reliving the past. Guess what my first Irish Setter’s name was. It was an attempt to relive the past even though I am not in my late 20s. Back then, I had just come back to the States from a year going to graduate school at New College at the University of Edinburgh. I got a job, and then I got my first Ginger.

I have a large number of memories of Ginger that float around in my mind even today, a half century later. I trained her to run next to me on a leash as I rode my bike. I remember waking up in the morning with Ginger looking at me wondering what was taking so long for me to get up. Back then, I had a VW camper and drove up the East Coast of the States and Canada finally winding up at Nova Scotia. Ginger loved that trip except for the bagpipes at a parade at Peggy’s Cove. She also loved going to the Jersey shore. For me, Ginger was just another child. Ginger loved being with our three children as they each learned to walk. Ginger stood next to them so that they could hold onto her to avoid falling.

However, by the time my first Ginger got to around twelve, she started developing some medical issues due to her age. There wasn’t anything that could be done for her. While she wasn’t in pain, it was obvious one Saturday morning that she was dying. She just laid on the floor, and I laid down next to her for several hours. During her last hours, I merely rubbed her gently until she died. That was one of the saddest days of my life. I still choke up writing about my first Ginger’s death.

However, when I moved to the subdivision in which I have lived for fifteen years, I would ride around the neighborhood and provide treats for three dogs of my neighbors. The dogs would see me on my bike and knew a treat was coming. In fact, one of the dogs saw me kayaking on the lake behind me house and would swim out to me thinking that I had a treat for her. I did that for years. I told Maureen, one of my neighbors who had two labs a couple of years ago I had been thinking about getting another Irish Setter. She thought about my comment for a nanosecond and said, “Do it.” And I did.

I got Ginger just before Christmas 2016. What a gift that I gave myself. I told Ginger that she made me happy. Ginger replied, “Well, I’m lucky also. We have each other…just the two of us.” This was Ginger whispering that to me. Maureen took the picture.

Ginger was excited about everything including the snow.

After picking up my puppy at a breeder in Home, PA, Ginger and I went to the Hobart Animal Clinic for our first visit. The receptionist asked me about which vet that I wanted to see. Since it was our first visit, I didn’t know anyone. The next thing that happened was being called to the examining room with Ginger. What a fortuitous moment for Ginger and for me to meet Dr. Ashley Sabedra.

Dr. Sabedra checked out Ginger who couldn’t have been a dozen weeks old. She gave Ginger her shots and then asked precisely in the same way that Dr. Marchand, my cardiologist, would ask me after he checked out my heart, “Do you have any questions?”

My only question was that Ginger whines when I put her in her little crate before she goes to bed. I told Dr. Sabedra that I ’d check her again to determine if there was a problem that needed to be addressed. After making sure she wasn’t tangled up with her bedding, I returned her to her crate, which resulted in her whining again. As I write this, I realize that was a stupid question, but, at the time, it was a serious concern for me. This is where Dr. Sabedra moved from Ginger’s veterinarian to my psychiatrist.

And as with Dr. Marchand, Dr. Sabedra looked at me for a couple of seconds before she said anything. Then she uttered this profound statement, “Either you are going to train your dog, or your dog will train you.” Granted, that insight won’t get her a Nobel Prize, but it was exactly what I needed to hear. I allowed my love for my puppy overwrite my judgement. She followed up her comment about training by asking where was Ginger’s her crate located? I told her in my bedroom. She suggested that I put her crate at the other end of the house. Thus, began Ginger’s relationship with her vet and my relationship with my psychiatrist.

You have no idea how many times that haunting comment comes to mind in the past two years. While Irish Setters are extremely smart, they are often extremely independent as if they are in charge. I see that streak of independence when we play Chuckit. She will retrieve the ball and then for no apparent reason, she will just sit down as if to say I am a bit tired.

I had Dr. Sabedra spay Ginger at six months and tack down her stomach. Some varieties of deep-chested dogs will flip their stomach, which will cause death in a matter of a couple hours. I brought Ginger in early in the morning and was going to pick her up in the evening. However, before I returned to the clinic to pick her up, Dr. Sabedra called and said that she wanted to keep Ginger overnight to be on the safe side. Instantly, I recalled my first Ginger’s last hours. While Dr. Sabedra wasn’t concerned about Ginger’s life, I was. She didn’t want Ginger home with me due to some slight post-operative complications. Again, our discussion went from talking to Ginger’s vet to talking to my shrink. I was comforted but still worried until the next morning when I picked Ginger up. Ginger was perfectly fine and was delighted to see me, but I was far more delighted to see her.

There were a couple trips to the vet that were a bit concerning in the past couple years, which didn’t amount to anything. However, at the beginning of the fall, Ginger started licking her front paw. I wrote it off as she might have hurt it while running at the end of the lake. It is a daily routine. The first thing that Ginger and I do each day is to circumnavigate the lake. At one end of the lake, there is a dirt road through an undeveloped area of about a mile. I take off her leash and off she runs. Ginger is in heaven running free. I just assumed that she had hurt it during the run.

The next morning, she was still licking her paw. Again, I looked at it. It was very red. However, it was soon obvious that she had licked about eight or more places all over her body. Two places on the upper leg were bleeding. Ginger had licked the skin away and I could see her muscle on one of those areas. When I saw that, I told Ginger that we were going to the vet.

When I got to the front desk of the Hobart Clinic, I blurted out the question to the receptionist whether Dr. Sabedra was working. The receptionist said that she was on duty to which I replied, “Thank God.” The receptionist laughed and said, “You are the one who calls Dr. Sabedra the Greek veterinarian goddess.” While I have referenced Dr. Sabedra in that manner to the staff, it reflects my opinion of her veterinarian skills. Nonetheless, I was still concerned about Ginger.

A couple minutes later, Ginger and I were ushered into the examining room. I told the tech why I was there and in walked Dr. Sabedra. I was relieved. I rushed through the sequence of events about this situation started the night before, etc. Dr. Sabedra was calm even if I wasn’t. She ran some test and returned with Ginger wearing the same type of collar that she had after spaying. Dr. Sabedra ordered scripts and said that this would take care of Ginger’s open sores. It seems that Ginger had a seasonal allergic reaction to fall allergens in the air especially while running through the tall grass at the end of the lake. I was to call her if this didn’t take care of the matter.

Ginger recovered from her allergic reaction rather quickly. In less than a couple of weeks, I have taken off her collar. The medication resolved the open sores. However, a couple of weeks later, I had to take Ginger in for a routine flu shot.

While I didn’t need to see Dr. Sabedra about Ginger, I needed to thank her. Randy Pausch in his Last Lecture said to tell people when you appreciate what they did for you. Don’t put off thanking people, because you might not be around to do so latter.

I did precisely what Pausch said. I told Dr. Sabedra that I wanted to thank her for dealing with Ginger. Then I added that I wasn’t emotionally together when I had brought Ginger in a couple weeks ago. Dr. Sabedra handled my comment about being emotional distort by smiling and said, “You seemed troubled….”

However, there are a long list of other sorts of questions that I want Ginger’s vet and my psychiatrist to address in future trips to the Hobart Animal Clinic.

  • Ginger is extremely affectionate. She needs the tactile sensation. She wants to play all the time. However, when I am teaching online or writing, she will sit at my feet and be content by just touching my foot.

  • Why was it that I got a dog in my early 70s having danced with death twice? Since her lifespan and mine actuarially parallel each other. Irish Setter lifespan is 12-15 years. Social Security estimates a person at my age will last about the same amount of time.

  • It interests me that Ginger absolutely loves praise. Saying to Ginger, “Ginger, I love you. Yeah Ginger” gets her very excited, and she looks for things to bring to me.

  • At nighttime, I give Ginger a carrot before we go to bed. After she chumps the carrot, I look at her and tell her that I love her. I then kiss her goodnight on her forehead. She then licks my hand for a few seconds. However, the next morning, she will lick my hands and arms. It is more than the taste of salt on my skin.

I love Ginger, but our relationship haunts me. So, I sat down with her. I told her that I had written this essay about Dr. Sabedra and how I am haunted about our relationship.

Ginger looked at me for a few seconds and said, “We have a nice relationship…you and me. We both need each other, and we supply love to the other. I don’t need to have all the answers to questions that you have. I enjoy the moment. I know our routine. I am glad to be your Ginger.”

I thanked Ginger for her comments and said, “Let’s go for a walk.”