Four-footed sunbeam

Today I found a toy dog bone under my bed. It was carefully placed there by a little brown Poodle who really didn't want to play with it or chew on it but who didn't want her German shepherd companion to have it either. I left the bone under the bed.

Nine years ago a bedraggled-looking Miniature Poodle arrived at our doorstep on a bitter cold winter evening. Hungry and thirsty, she responded to the offerings in our kitchen with a look that said, ''Hi, folks, I'm here to stay!'' Pathetic as she looked, we thought she must have an owner somewhere, and we called the police who picked her up and took her to the local animal shelter. Every few days, we checked up on her and found, to our surprise, that no one had claimed her. Several weeks later, we decided to adopt her, and we gave her a name that matched her spirit if not quite her color.

Much to Ginger's surprise and chagrin, she was not to be an only child. She expressed concern in poodle fashion when she learned that our household consisted of two young children and, even worse, a huge German shepherd who happened to be my husband Brian's Seeing Eye dog. Then there was Sam-the Cat, otherwise known as Notorious Sam. Sam ruled our household with an iron paw. He told everyone what the rules of the house were, such as who ate where and who ate first and who slept where - little matters of protocol. Ginger sulked.

Day by day, Ginger's authority made itself known in little ways. A nip on the foot warned Pete, the shepherd, to keep his distance from her dinner bowl. A snarl and a bark caused Sam to button his lip. Neither Sam nor Pete really seemed to mind the little intruder very much - she was somewhat of a novelty to them, and they simply laughed among themselves about her antics.

Gradually, another change took place. Ginger mellowed. Her health improved, her previously sparse coat became lush and curly, and she became very affectionate to all of us, but especially to Pete. One evening as we were all seated at the dinner table, we looked down and saw Ginger curled up next to Pete , her tiny paw resting on top of his giant one. She gazed up at him with adoring eyes. Pete had become her hero, and she had become his constant companion.

We realized just how far the relationship had gone when Ginger slipped out the door with my husband and Pete as they left for the office one morning. Unknown to Brian, Ginger positioned herself next to Pete and accompanied him on the one mile hike downtown. According to amused witnesses, as they entered the revolving door of the fifteen story office building, Ginger slipped neatly under Pete's legs as if she'd been doing this sort of thing every day. It was at this moment that Brian sensed there were several extra legs with him in the triangular confines of the revolving door. He continued on through the lobby, discounting that ridiculous notion, as Pete guided him into one of the elevators , but, as Brian sat down at his desk, two damp noses affectionately touched his hand.

We discouraged Ginger's further ventures into the business world and she quickly became adapted to domestic life at home. The high point of her days became Pete's arrival home each evening. Her high-pitched incessant greeting would begin the moment Brian and Pete rounded the bend on the final approach to our house. She would stop whatever she was doing and race to the back door and carry on with the enthusiasm of one welcoming a long-lost love. Pete would drop a playful paw on top of her little head, and she would instantly begin jumping up and down like a yo-yo. This noisy seven-minute ritual was repeated at our home Monday through Friday for nine long years.

Ginger died last week. While our sadness is hard to bear, we can also smile a bit as we recall the happy, funny moments created by this little scamp who fortunately happened our way that cold winter night and turned so many occasions into sunny moments. She brought us laughter and devotion and love - and tears. What friend could do more?

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