In 1984 when I was 11 years old, my family moved to a new state. I had few friends, and this move was hard on me at the time. It was late in the summer, and my dad was away on a trip. We were going to the mall and along the way spotted the local SPCA. My three sisters and persuaded my mom to stop. She did, and upon stopping I met my soon to be best friend. She was one of four lab puppies who were abandoned in the woods, and come across by a passerby. Ginger was the one who came right up to the door of the cage, tail wagging, and immediately started to lick my hand. While the other three remained in the back, I knew instantly she was the one. I talked my three younger sisters into picking her out as well, and we each persuaded my mom by chipping in $10 each to get her. That also covered the neutering fee. My dad came home to a surprise, and being a sucker for puppies allowed us to keep her.

Ginger grew up with me and became the best friend I could ever have. While I was in school she would sit outside under her favorite tree and wait for the bus to come at which time she would come running and essentially tackle me to show her affection. Our neighbors marvelled at how she would walk with me to the bus stop, and then go home and wait all without a leash. And she always knew when I would come home because she would be waiting at the bus stop.

Ginger loved to play basketball, frisbee, and would really enjoy it when I threw a lacrosse ball for her. She was easy to train in those regards and would even drop the ball in my stick. She was a great defensive player in basketball because she would try to get the ball and many times would succeed. She also loved the snow. She really enjoyed coming out when I shovelled the driveway and just play in the piles of new snow.

As I got older, my bond with her grew stronger. I am a fervent believer in how pets often pick their owners. I had more of a bond with her then my sisters did, and when I went away to college I heard stories of how she would wander the house looking for me. Fortunately I went close to home, so I got to see her at least once a week.

As Ginger grew older, her love of playing frisbee, chasing balls, etc.. continued. Only her endurance was on the decline. She would often times rest more frequently, but the enthusiasm was there. She was also a great chaperone whenever I brought a girl home. Anytime I kissed my girlfriend, she would start barking, and she would nuzzle her head between us when we sat on the couch.

Then when she was 13 years old, she developed a tumer in her jaw. When the vet attempted to biopsy it, the growth swelled up like an apple. It turned out to be bone cancer of the jaw. The only treatment available was essentially taking her jaw. That was unacceptable. Since the cancer had also spread to her liver, we knew it was only a matter of time. She continued to get worse, and my family had to make the hardest decision that continues to haunt me today. We ended up putting her down.

That last day we were with her was the hardest day of my life. I got home from work, and she was tired, eyes glassed over, with a ball in her mouth. She greeted me in her usual manner, but had to lay down. Once we got her to the vet, I put her on the table. The whole family said their goodbyes, and the vet did his job. She let out a slight wimper, and then she was quiet. That was the only time in my life I ever saw my father cry.

Today I am a physician and continue to think about my dog. My schedule doesn’t allow me at this time to give enough time to be fair to a puppy. The only thing is that only people who have had that sort of bond with an animal understand what it is to go through something like that. She was my best friend, and her devotion to me and my family was without compromise.

Thank you, Mark for writing this book. I can relate to everything you went through, and in a way it has helped me bring some closure to what I had to do.

Brian from NJ