Pets are people too!
It has been said many times that pets are not only wonderful companions for everyone, but that they essentially become part of the family. Over the years, we have been blessed with many wonderful memories of our extended family, but there are always those that tend to stand out from the crowd, and make more of an impression than others. This lens showcases one that did just that, the original BratDawg. I hope that you'll enjoy her story, and that you too will be lucky enough to have a special pet touch your life as she did with mine!
Adoption is the way to go.
They may be mutts, but they're the best!
Like many, I grew up with a lot of pets over the years, and looking back I often wonder how my parents survived the ordeal. None of the dogs or cats were pedigrees, but always made great companions and provided joy for the entire family. Oh, there were moments of course when they were aggravating, but it soon subsided and it was back to business as usual!
When it came time for my daughter to have a dog, we made the rounds of the Humane Society and other shelters to find the perfect pet. Much to our delight, we did just that when we visited Pet Rescue in the greater Miami area. We had barely stepped inside when a little beige and tan ragamuffin waddled up to the fence to say hello and it was love at first sight! Soon after, "Ginger" as she had already been named, was making the trip with us to her new home! The only information they could give us was that she was a little street waif, born sometime in December about 6 months earlier, and that she was a mixed terrier. More importantly, the connection was made, and off we went!
A BratDawg is born......
you could call her anything but late for dinner!
Looking back, it's hard to tell when the BratDawg moniker first appeared. My daughter Meagan who had a penchant for funny names, often called Ginger everything except by her real name! Chi-Chi, Ginners, Ginny Winnie and the more colorful Hackey Patacky and Potatoes Mohawkie (another story for another time) were amongst the plethora of pseudonyms assigned to the poor thing. Ginger was always a trooper though and took it all in stride. She remained unflappable as long as she got fed!
It didn't take us long to realize that although she was a loving and faithful dog, The Ginmeister must have been part cat! Her aloofness and indifference at times brought us to the conclusion that she was indeed a brat...and before we knew it, the official BratDawg came into being. We continued to call her by a variety of names depending on one's mood (and certainly Ginger's), but she always remained a BratDawg!
Her early years were spent like most pets, making the transition through house breaking, and the inevitable chewing as a puppy. I can't say that it was extremely tough to get all of that under control, and Ginger was always ready to go with the flow. For her, it was truly the lap of luxury to be able to lounge around the house, and have someone prepare her meals and give her snacks! What more could any litttle mutt want? Life was good!
People aren't the only ones with medical mis-haps.
The vet soon becomes a regular.
As all of us go though life, medical maladies are something we all have to deal with, and anyone that has owned pets know that they are no different. Of course regular shots and check-ups are the norm for dogs, but occasionally it goes beyond and when it does, it can be difficult to not go the extra mile in trying to remedy the situation.
Ginger's problems started when we noticed an increasing thirst and in turn a need for relief. It was obvious that it was more than the South Florida heat making her thirsty, so off to see the good Doc for answers. After a few tests, his speculation was confirmed, our little BratDawg was diabetic! In all honesty, I had never thought about the possibility that dogs could have diabetes, and soon found myself getting quite an education on the subject!
While there are some that would have looked to other means of eliminating the discomfort, Ginger was a full fledged member of the family by that time so the decision was a no-brainer. It meant some lifestyle changes for her as well as us, but as long as she could lead a comfortable life and be happy, we would do whatever we could. Before I knew it, I was buying insulin and syringes to give shots twice a day. Quite frankly, I know that Ginger handled it much better than I did, but then again she always got a snack to eat afterward, so she soon learned to stay still and simply take her medicine! After all, the reward far outweighed the minor inconvenience of a shot!
We managed to get her diabetes under control through the shots and a special diet. Not very appealing food, at least by appearance, but we always doctored it up a bit with a little gravy from our other dog's dinner. Gin, with her ravenous appetite, polished off her bowl of food, and then patiently stood by so she could lick the other bowl when her canine counterpart finished. If there was one thing the Bratdawg truly loved, it was eating!...especially her favorite, "bakey" aka Beggin' Strips.
Watching as health deteriorates
Can anything else go wrong?
Fortunately, Ginger's diabetes stabilized. She learned the routine well, and continued to handle the shots far better than I ever could. Oddly enough, it seemed to be the extra care involved that created even more of a special bond between us. There was no doubt in everyone's mind that she had truly become my dog!
As it is with humans, life often has a way of taking more turns, even when you feel that you're already going in circles. Ginger was destined to travel one of those paths, and of course it included many more trips to the Vet. Her next round of problems came when she developed a 'hack' that made it obvious she was having difficulty breathing. Sure enough, she suffered from a collapsed trachea, an ailment not unusual for the smaller breed according to the doctor.
It had progressed to the point that it required a weekend stay in the hospital so they could get it under control. My wife Angie and I were heading out of town for a business trip and all things considered felt it best to let her stay in the hospital so our daughter wouldn't have to be concerned with it in our absence. Had anything happened while we were away, I wouldn't have been able to forgive myself. As it was, we went away feeling horrible, and wondering what we might return to find. Thankfully, our little girl improved and the doctor's office called Saturday morning to let us know that she seemed to be out of the woods. A call that truly made our weekend!
I picked Ginger up that Monday, and despite her grogginess, she seemed happy to go home. As joyous as the occasion was though, it came with a caveat. The doctor warned that with her condition, she could get excited and essentially choke to death in a moment's notice. Needless to say, we always tried to keep her as calm as possible, and when she did get a little riled up, we held our breath that she would get through it. Fortunately, our family managed to get about another four years of enjoyment so the weekend stay was well worth it to us!
Is it safe yet?
One never knows what's around the corner!
As we continued to cope with Ginny's ailments, she managed to get along quite well. I think she realized that she couldn't bark her fool head off like before, and went on to perfect her feeding frenzies and playing beached whale. Her indifference at times was almost comical but she always managed to come around when it was dinner time. She had one of the best internal clocks I've ever seen, or else she truly learned how to tell time. If it was time to eat, she would patiently sit by your leg and actually "tsk" repeatedly until you got up! She might not raise her head when you returned home, but don't get in her way at dinnertime!
We started to notice one day that her nose was beginning to appear crusty, and all indications was that she had a cold of some sort. Off to see the doctor (we should have gotten our own parking space by this time) and once again encountered a problem not seen before in any of our pets. It seems as though Ginger could no longer produce tears, and the lack of it dried her nose severely. Ever wondered about a dog's wet nose? When it is, that's a good thing, but the little BratDawg's was bone dry!
Well, we already had a routine on a daily basis for insulin, so why not add another? This one involved an ointment that needed to be applied in the corner of her eyes. We had to try several from the doctor until we found one that worked well, and thus begat the new step at bedtime. It became a family ritual that our daughter Meagan soon coined the "goops ceremony". It became the last thing we did before retiring for the evening. Meagan, who got upset if we didn't invite her for "goops", loved to make a grand entrance into our bedroom, generally singing the Tonight Show theme, and then proceeding to rile the dogs and getting them worked up by playing. Then, she would prance off to bed, and leave us with two wired mutts that wanted to do anything but settle down for the night!
A Star is born
The BratDawg name goes international!
As a pet, we enjoyed Ginger tremendously. Her quirkiness often provided many laughs and proved to be a unique and faithful companion. When I found myself needing a username for an industry forum, the only one I could come up with was "BratDawg", and to this day, many still know me by that name. Little did I know at the time, Ginger would prove to be a major asset to our business, and become a part of it!
As a manufacturer and distributor for the Dye Sublimation Printing Industry, we constantly looked for new and unique items that could be utilized for this type of specialty imprinting. Since this process requires polyester for fabrics, many of the items commonly printed simply were not available since it's cheaper to produce them in cotton. While testing fabric for another item, the idea occurred to me that one item not available in poly, was dog shirts. Voila! After some quick correspondence with the factory overseas to be sure they could be done, the BratDawg Dog Tees joined our line-up.
Ginger graciously accepted her role, and proudly modeled her line for the entire world. As ads and announcements went out, our little BratDawg graced the pages of trade publications as well as the Internet. She seemed to take it all in stride and didn't let it go to her head despite the fact her royalties were paid in milk-bones!.
The name lives on...
but all good things must pass
Over the years, the Bratdawg line of products grew and kept the name going. I still use it as a username on some forums, and have been proud to associate it with the little hairy eating machine that I had become so close with. Unfortunately as with all wonderful pets, her time with us was all too short.
The diabetes took it's toll on Ginger, and the last year or so left her almost completely blind. We exercised great care to not move furniture about, and having the layout down pat allowed her to still do just fine. I can still see her grabbing her morning Bakey after her shot, and paddling down the hallway to jump on the couch to eat. She occasionally missed at the first jump, but undeterred, she simply stepped back and leapt again, settling down with her prize snack between her paws and cheerfully chomping away!
At the age of just over 10 years, Ginger's throat problems surfaced once again to provide complications. After an extremely rough night, an appointment was made to see the doctor, but my greatest fear as I spent the day with her was that it might be her last trip to see Doc. As my wife Angie and I headed out that afternoon, Ginger looked at me with a reassuring demeanor. It was like she knew herself, and as we drove, she gently licked my hand as if to say she understood and accepted it.
My fears were confirmed after an examination, and the Vet calmly explained that due to even more complications and tumors that had appeared, there was simply nothing he could do. Although I clearly knew what had to be done, that has to be the hardest decision for any pet owner to make even when it is truly the best thing. Doc allowed some time alone and Angie and I tearfully said our goodbyes. Upon the doctor's return, we held her gently while she slipped away into the peace and comfort she truly deserved.
It's now been several years, and I can honestly say we still miss her. We are extremely grateful though that she left us with many memories, and to this day provides laughs as we joke about her ways and her personality. We're glad to have had her be a part of our lives, and thankful we got the number of years we did in spite of her ailments. The fact that her nickname remains a part of our business assures that her memory will always be in the forefront and continue to help us reminisce and enjoy her legacy. So here's to Ginger, the original BratDawg who stole our hearts. May she always rest in peace and find that big stash of Bakey in the sky. She earned it and deserves it!
My favorite dog stories from childhood
As I was growing up, I spent many hours reading stories by Albert Payson Terhune. My favorite, Lad: A dog, was the first I read and made me want more! Definite enjoyment if you like heartwarming dog stories. Here are some that are available from Amazon.