On the Road Again
Ginger, the Pooh Dog, and Me

Ginger had to be down at Purdue Veterinary Hospital at 7:30am. It takes a little less than two hours, but there is a time change. So, my alarm went off at 3:45am. I reluctantly got up, showered, got dressed, had breakfast, and took Ginger for a short walk to go potty. Besides being early, Ginger wasn’t allowed her meds or food. She looked at me while cocking her head as if to say, “I was expecting food. You can pass on the pills, but I’m hungry.”

Instead of explaining the medical marching orders that PVH needs to do a series of blood tests after fasting, I started singing one of Ginger’s favorite songs. This is how Willie Nelson sings the song.

Being in the car with me is one of Ginger’s greatest highs. I’ll open the back window halfway, allowing her to smell the breeze from the outside. This was the first time it was dark, which didn’t bother her enjoyment of the breeze. Finally, after a half-hour, she laid down so that her head was between the two front seats. Ginger enjoys the physical connection between us.

There is something about our relationship that is unique. In our journey down our yellow brick road together, we have both done the dance with death twice. Realizing that one came close to going belly up teaches that person that their clock is ticking. Everyone knows, intellectually, that they aren’t immortal. Doing the dance is felt in one’s gut. I wouldn’t like to go through being in the ICU for a month after falling off a ladder and hitting my head on a retaining wall, causing a subdural hematoma. It is equally true when dealing with prostate cancer that had spread beyond the prostate. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t delete either dance from my life.

Ginger has also done the dance with death in the last several years. While that reality isn’t something she could articulate, she surely feels it. When Ginger gets really sick, she knows that I will help her. Once she begins her recovery, she won’t leave my side.

We were on the road to Purdue Veterinary Hospital for a wellness exam. Last month, Dr. Gibbs started her on cyclosporine and is weaning her off of other drugs that weren’t working or she might not be needed. Ginger is excited about her monthly road tour to Purdue. She is feeling much better and hasn’t had any major concerns. From Ginger’s point of view, she loves to visit the hospital. She will play with anyone with whom she sees. Additionally, since it is a teaching hospital, she has had contact with students getting a degree in veterinary medicine.

Before starting our road trip, Ginger made sure to bring Winnie the Pooh, which was her recent birthday gift


We got to her appointment with time to spare. They hadn’t opened the door when we arrived. I registered Ginger and turned to find Ginger had gone down the hall of the waiting room.

Ginger was at a loss to discover she didn’t see any of her friends. I called her, and finally, she returned to where I was. However, she passed me by and continued looking at the other end of the waiting room. Ginger was a dog with a mission.

It wasn’t long before one of the students had us go to an exam room. She reviewed the game plan for the tests that Ginger would take. She said it would take several hours, and I could go for breakfast while they dealt with Ginger. Off Ginger went with the student, happy as a lark.

I returned just in time for Ginger’s medical report from the examining doctor. I looked up to discover it was Dr. Derrè. I took Ginger to Purdue a couple of years ago because she had stopped eating. Ginger was taken into the emergency room, but Dr. Derrè finally had to move Ginger from the emergency room to the ICU. That allowed Ginger to be fed intravenously. However, Ginger still wouldn’t eat any food. Before going home late one evening, Dr. Derrè tried again. He called me the following day to tell me she had finally eaten some food the previous night. I have written about this and have told nearly every person I know about his caring. Ginger hadn’t eaten for over three days.

When he came to outline Ginger’s condition, I was speechless. They had sent out several blood samples. Ginger is doing very well, but it would be another week before he wanted to change the meds that she is on presently.

I told him about his caring and my being distraught a couple of years ago. I feared that Ginger wouldn’t make it. I was choking up. Then Dr. Derrè took off his stethoscope and showed it to me. What did his stethoscope have to do with Ginger? It was evident that I was out of the loop. Then he pointed to an evil eye that was tied to his stethoscope. I had given him the evil eye when I picked up Ginger a couple of years ago. He attached it to his stethoscope. During the past couple of years, a part of the evil eye broke off, but he didn’t want to remove it.


Little did I know what being on the road again would be like it was today. I thanked Dr. Derrè and left PVH with Ginger. Ginger was exhausted from playing with the students, staff, and others Friday morning. Ginger rested while I pondered.

Ginger and I have parallel life experiences. Doing the dance taught us about the brevity of the time we have. We are both damn lucky to be alive. In the grand scheme of things, neither Ginger nor I came into this world with a reason for being. That is true for everyone else, whether a person or animal.

We are here for a very brief moment in time. When we are gone, our journey down our yellow brick roads of life will be forgotten. Several short generations after which no one will remember us. Doing the dance teaches us to live in the moment.

What intrigues me is the dichotomy of this oxymoron. We live lives and are here one day and gone the next, which really signifies nothing. It is one side of the dichotomy. The other side is that the nothingness of our lives should force us to live and produce meaning for our brief moments of time. That paradox produces an opportunity to make our mark by reaching out to each other. In the grand scheme of things, it means nothing, and, at the same time, it means everything.