A Forever Friend

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It’s a cool, crisp autumn day. As I admire the aftermath of a violent storm, I can’t help but smile as my dog Ginger gently nudges my leg; this is her signal to me that she wants to play. I pick up her favorite toy and prepare to throw it, and she is already running in anticipation. Her run reminds me of a deer prancing, her tiny body held high in effortless grace. She reaches the toy and picks it up, but does not bring it back. She has never participated much in the common game of fetch; she is far too spirited and independent for such a mindless game. Some may argue that she is too dumb to know that she should bring the ball back, but after spending some time with Ginger it becomes clear that this is not the case. She wants to play a game where her playmate is equally involved. Throwing a ball and expecting her to bring it back requires little effort on the human’s part; no, this is not how Ginger plays. She wants her playmate to chase her, to try to get the ball away from her. This game is frustrating, but Ginger enjoys it very much. She knows she is faster than me, although her little lungs do not allow her to run for as long as she would like. As I chase her around my yard, she lies down and starts to cough. This pitiful sound is her signal that she is done. I walk over to her, and pick her up gently. As I walk back to the house with her cradled in my arms, I remember a time when I did not have Ginger. She licks my face playfully and I smile, knowing that I am never alone with her by my side.

For as long as I can remember, I have dreamed about having a dog. My dream was similar to a scene from a typical Christmas movie, the children opening an elaborately wrapped box and the adorable, bumbling puppy that would emerge. In these movies, the children were overcome with joy. I yearned for that feeling and wished that someday, I too would open a box and find my dream puppy. However, my dream seemed far-fetched for most of my life; my mother’s allergies to dogs, cats and other fluffy animals prevented our family from having pets other than fish. By some unexplainable force, I continued to voice my dreams of owning a dog even though I knew it was improbable. Then, after fourteen years of wistful desire, my dream was put into motion. It was a simple statement I said to my mother while in the car that made all the difference. “I’m never going to have a dog before I go to college, will I Mommy?” To this day it baffles me that such a simple rhetorical question could have such an impact, but I am eternally grateful that I decided to keep complaining.

I did get my dream puppy. In fact, she is everything I ever wanted and more. Even though she wasn’t wrapped in a big box with a bow on her head, her arrival was just as perfect as I had imagined for so many years. My mother and my father announced to my sisters and I that we were getting a puppy by presenting us with a pink bag filled with dog toys. The sheer joy that I felt once I figured out I was getting my puppy was priceless. Ginger, named after her deep red color, is a miniature poodle. She is two years old now, but we received her at the age of four months. I still remember seeing her for the first time; she was a tiny ball of shivering fluff, swaddled in a blanket in her crate. My parents bought her from a poodle breeder in North Dakota. Ginger’s trip to Pennsylvania was a stressful one; she was boarded onto a plane with nothing but a blanket and a bowl of water. We picked her up at the Philadelphia airport on a cold December night. Her arrival had been delayed for several weeks due to an ice storm. My mother later told me that she had wanted to keep Ginger a surprise until Christmas morning, but it was just not possible. The first one to hold Ginger was my mother; she shivered from cold and fright for the entire journey home. When we finally arrived back in Harleysville, Ginger perked up a little bit. We placed her onto our hardwood floors and laughed when we realized she was the exact same color. (It is still a challenge not to step on her, as she blends right in with the floor.) She began to run around excitedly; the pitter patter of her puppy paws uplifted our spirits and brought an undeniable cheerfulness to our house. That night was unforgettable.

When I announce to people that I have a poodle, I sometimes get snide remarks about how poodles are “not really dogs,” or how they are prissy and girly. Despite my infuriation at these remarks, I cannot blame people for having false connotations of the poodle. The typical poodle stereotype is of a prim and proper white dog with a bow in her hair, being carried by a celebrity or otherwise rich and snobby individual. Poodles in the media are not often seen on the ground, but carried in doggie carriers or baby carriages. It is an embarrassment to poodles that they must endure this torture. As a poodle owner, I know that poodles are meant to run around, chase wildlife, and play just like any other dog. In fact, poodles were bred to accompany hunters on their trips. Poodles are excellent swimmers, and they have an instinctual drive to catch their prey. The stereotypical “poodle haircut,” was actually developed to help keep important joints warm while poodles swam in cold water. The mass of hair on top of the head (lovingly nicknamed the “afro” by my family) was kept unshaved so that hunters could grab the poodle out of the water more easily. Even the prissy looking bow on the head was used for a reason; these bows or strings aided the poodles’ human companions in locating their dogs. The poodle is the second most intelligent dog in the world, preceded only by the Border Collie and followed by the German Shepherd dog. It is often a surprise to people that Poodles are smarter than German Shepherds, because German Shepherds are most often used for protection and law enforcement. However, poodles are even more trainable and have a better temperament than German Shepherds. With this important yet little known information, it is clear that poodles have been unjustly stereotyped.

On a hot morning in August, I was setting out for a serene canoe ride with my mother and sister. We were at my grandparent’s house on the Chesapeake Bay, a place filled with wildlife and beauty. Naturally, Ginger accompanied our family on this trip and enjoyed the excitement of a new place to explore. As we prepared to push off the dock, Ginger became increasingly distressed and began to make pitiful noises. It was evident that she wanted to come with us on our canoe ride. My mother instructed my father to pick her up so that she would not jump in after us, and he did. However, after we had gone a significant distance away from the dock, he placed Ginger on the ground assuming that she had given up. It seems we all underestimated Ginger’s courage. As soon as she was placed on the ground, she ran right back to the dock and leaped into the water. She began to swim, her red afro moving up and down like a fishing bobber in the water. She made it about ten feet before realizing we were very far away. Her small body and lack of lung capacity would not allow for her to swim all the way out to our canoe, so she turned around and swam back to the dock, defeated. At this point, my father was screaming at us to turn around so that we could meet Ginger halfway. I have never paddled faster in my entire life. My concern for my puppy was all I could think about, and we reached the dock in record time. Ginger jumped into our canoe and we all praised her for her undying loyalty. She sat quietly for the rest of the canoe ride, watching cautiously for any dangers that could harm her beloved family. This incident opened my eyes to how loyal Ginger is. When my family is swimming in a pool, she does not jump in the water. She simply watches us carefully and makes sure everyone is okay. However, when a situation arose where she did not know if we would be safe without her, she instantly jumped into a body of water much larger than a swimming pool. She was simply protecting the pack, as we have come to call our family. Despite her ten pound size, she is our guardian watchdog who will never fail us. Ginger never ceases to amaze me.

In the two years that we have had Ginger, our family has become united by a common bond: our love for our dog. We are now not just a family, but a pack. We must protect the members of our pack, human and non human. Ginger has proven to me that love really is blind; she treats us as if we were her blood related dog pack. Her eternal affection brings joy into my life, and reminds me that no matter what happens she will always be there for me. The poodle is a misunderstood breed, marred by a bad reputation and soiled by the media. However, I will always have a deep respect for this particular breed of dog. Poodles are beautiful, intelligent creatures that will never fail their companions. As I glance at my beautiful Ginger drifting off to sleep, I now understand why my family never got a dog until now. We were simply waiting for the right one to come along.





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