Travels with Ginger — If you own a dog then you know it’s a member of the family. Bill Clinton once advised; if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog. A dog is a man’s best friend isn’t a truism that came from out of nowhere. And, today, of course, a dog is also a women’s best friend.

After Dana and I bought our first home we got a dog. We’ve owned a dog ever since. We’ve had four dogs to date, Charlie, Buddy, Sam and then Ginger. Just like people have their distinctive personality and idiosyncrasies, so do dogs.

Ginger became our Rin Tin Tin and Lassie. It wasn’t because she pulled people out of burning buildings or caught bank robbers. It was because whenever we came home she raced down the stairs to slobber us with kisses. It was tonic for a bad day and the cheery on top of the ice cream sundae on a good day.

And for the residents of the Loch Raven Genesis nursing home Ginger was a hero. She served as a Pets on Wheels volunteer for more than three years. Bringing smiles and comfort to the residents, she leaped onto the beds of the bedridden and curled up alongside those confined to wheelchairs.

She loved and demanded affection. During our walks when we met other dogs she’d do the doggie rear inspection, sniff and greet, and then immediately go to the owner. She’d look up at the owner with her big eyes and anxiously waiting to be petted

When we adopted Ginger she was six months old and a handful. She became a project. If she hadn’t been an issue for someone else then we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to adopt her.

A family rescued her from a shelter shortly before she would have been euthanized. Their 10-year-old boy wanted a dog. She was their first dog and for novice owners she was too unruly and hyper.

She was a canine Tasmanian devil. She understood the command to sit but couldn’t do it much longer than a nanosecond.

We repeated two dog obedience classes at Pet Smart. She was stubborn and smart. She selectively followed our commands, unless we offered a treat. We made the mistake of letting her run off leash too soon at Cromwell Valley Park. She seemed to always find deer bones and would elude us until she finished chomping on her prize.

Finally, we found an outstanding dog distraction trainer in Columbia, MD. Ginger was two at the time and the training was a godsend. We learned commands together using a pinch collar. Yank up, she sat; pull back, she stayed. She learned hand commands. Ginger, clever and smart, absorbed the training.

Ginger graduated and was not a new dog just a better dog. If we let her walk off leash at Cromwell Valley Park, I no longer worried about who or what we would encounter.

About this same time, I began to take my camera with me everywhere including on my walks with Ginger. She would be with me as I captured sunrises, sunsets, fog, beautiful blue skies, deer, insects and flowers. Sometimes I’d want to catch golden light but I knew the photograph needed another element so she served as my canine model. Her orange fur provided just the right accent.

I would post the photos to Facebook and little did I know or appreciate the following she was developing. I had no clue until she passed away. That unfortunate day, I let real and virtual friends know on Facebook that she left us too soon because of liver cancer. It was so sudden that the news of her demise seemed to surprise everyone as much as it saddened and shocked us.

Then on Facebook condolences came from folks who don’t typically comment on social media offering their sympathies and saying they were going to miss our travels thru the park and other places. I still miss them too.