Christmas gifts sometimes wrapped in fur

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 17, 2009

By Marcia T. Kirtley
For the Salisbury Post
Everyone knew I had been wanting a dog. My most favorite companion, a Schnauzer mix dog, walked with me for 17 years and helped me raise three boys to manhood. Then, eight years ago, she succumbed to old age and I tearfully said goodbye to all but the memories she left.
The years passed and there was a continuing question in my mind whether my active, single lifestyle would allow enough time for another dog. The last six months I decided a void needed to be filled and I earnestly began searching at the animal shelter and in the classified ads for a dog.
My idea of the perfect pet, a dream dog, was a small breed puppy, a female, non-shedding, well mannered and beautiful four-legged animal with cropped tail. Every day passed without a bit of assurance that I had found a dog to add to my life. My friends encouraged me and they gave me advice to consider as I pondered the questions and the inconveniences each posed.
Last month, I was looking forward to Thanksgiving and to Christmas. I would have family and friends for dinner and I knew the weeks ahead included many enjoyable activities as Christmas approached. I did not plan for a friend to come to me before school one Tuesday morning with news that an animal was found locked in a storage building outside the school. She asked if I wanted to help get the animal out.
The large storage door was opened and a tiny, brown, dog sat in the corner with bones barely covered by skin and a body shaking uncontrollably. We tried to pick it up but it growled and we retreated. We persisted with gentle words and tried to wrap a towel around it, but it ran to another corner. Two adults chasing a dog seemed silly but our compassionate natures had taken over. After many minutes of chase and catch, we were able to pick up the tiny female dog and put her into a freezer basket to transport her to my classroom window. The dog was bewildered by the rough and tumble capture but she became my responsibility when she entered my life through the window.
This was the beginning of my heart being stolen by an animal that was ugly at first sight, frightened into a timid and cowering state, and seemingly abused and frail. This was not my “dream dog,” but I could not take her to the animal shelter because I believed her destiny would not be promising.
My conscience told me I should take the dog to a veterinarian to see if she was healthy. The vet estimated she was approaching ten years of age and, because she obviously had many litters, she needed to be spayed. A heart worm check came back negative. Then there were the usual vaccinations and a rabies shot. I was advised she was a Chihuahua mix and she would shed. I didn’t need to hear how unattractive she looked and the vet encouraged me to consider keeping her. Thoughts kept running through my mind.
For two weeks, I kept the dog at home and tried to find the owner. The first week, I ran an ad in the newspaper in the lost-and-found column. The second week, I put up fliers and placed an announcement at the local truck stop and at the animal shelter. I replied to an ad in the paper for someone that had lost a Chihuahua. It seemed nobody was searching for this dog that had become my house guest.
Thanksgiving came and family visited. My new “friend” was the recipient of several jokes regarding her outward appearance but she performed very well with the visitors and with the animal that accompanied them. The great grandmothers, who were only able to navigate from sofa to dining room table because of advanced age, were enamored by the small, warm, snuggling body in their laps. There was no barking, no growling, no hyperactivity, and there were no demands. We took a vote and named the dog Ginger because of her color and because that is a favorite Christmas cookie on my baking list.
I began to think about my “dream dog.” I had not found her. I go home from work in the evenings to an unassuming little animal named Ginger. I imagine she could tell me her life story and it would not be without trouble and sadness and inattention. I am touched by her affection and I welcome the small inconveniences that she requires.
At my house this year, Christmas and a dog named Ginger go together. I realize my idea of “perfect” and “dream dog” are not what I needed. I had been mistaken by what I saw and I had failed to look beyond the visible. I have much to learn from Ginger. She may have had a troublesome beginning but she will have a happier ending. I smile when she wags her long tale and frisks around for me to watch.
We, Ginger and I, have fallen in love with each other and we are not presumptuous about making demands. The meaning of Christmas is renewed for us as we know love has found us when and where we least expected it. Christmas will be special this year because of the gift, the unexpected present that has entered my life. After all, this is what Christmas is really all about.
Merry Christmas, Ginger!
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