Our Ginger was adopted from the Hall County Animal Shelter in February 2010. Just as most parents are certain their child is exceptional, most rescue pet owners are sure that they lucked up on an extraordinary dog or cat. We're no different.
According to her paperwork, Ginger had been picked up on White Sulphur Road, sans ID or tags. When we brought her home, she adjusted quickly to our wild kingdom of a household, learning to defer to the cats and keep her distance from the parrot.
She was housebroken in no time. After an incident in which she trashed a bedroom and gnawed her way through a half dozen pairs of reading glasses, she learned to hop into her crate whenever she heard "Go to your room, Ginger."
She has a vast repertoire of tricks but, like most 2-year-olds, when asked to perform for outsiders, she just acts goofy and is suddenly deaf to all commands.
For a long time she ate like a stray, inhaling her food in seconds, as though it might be her last meal. I felt she'd finally realized she was home to stay on the day she paused before eating and rolled over for a belly rub.
She's a big beautiful girl, deep chested with honey and white wavy fur, floppy ears and expressive amber eyes. She has a few brown spots on her muzzle and a milk chocolate colored nose that makes me think of a spaniel.
Whenever we go for walks, someone always asks, "What kind is she?" Indeed, she looks as though she should be some special breed since all of her features mesh perfectly to create this striking animal. Surely she must be the result of generations of exacting breeding and not the product of a faulty backyard gate.
I've always used the question of her breed as a springboard to champion the adoption of shelter pets. After all, who needs to spend hundreds, even thousands, for a purebred dog when there are so many Gingers crowding the shelters, many with the clock ticking.
I admit I was curious. What was her lineage? I researched mail order DNA kits. With prices as high as $300 and our daughter about to begin her senior year of high school with all it's inherent expenses, I'd just have to keep wondering.
Then one day I went with my friend Cheryl to Dollar Wise Discount Grocery, the new uber-low-priced grocery salvage store that opened recently on Bradford Street. While I was in the back filling my buggy with boxes of 50-cent couscous, Cheryl wandered over to the pet supply aisle.
She came back with a small carton. "Didn't you say you wanted to check Ginger's DNA?" she asked. She handed me the package, a mixed breed DNA kit from Wisdom Panel Insights. The orange price sticker read $7.99. Well, heck yeah, for that price, let's give it a shot.
According to the accompanying literature, they would use a 170-breed database to produce a report of significant (50 percent), intermediate (25 percent) and minor (12.5 percent) breeds in Ginger's ancestry. All I had to do was swab the inside of her cheek with the two enclosed barbed sticks and mail them back to the company. Then I registered online and waited for the results. When I registered, I noticed the retail price for the kit was $69.99. Oh, how I do love a bargain.
Last week we received the results. Ginger's the product of an English springer spaniel and a mix breed on one side and a golden retriever-English springer spaniel cross on the other. The other five breeds showing up in her profile are chow chow, Shetland sheepdog, Doberman (Dobie? Really?), pointer and akita.
It's all good to know. Springers tend to suffer from eye and joint problems. Goldens are prone to cancer, hip dysplasia and heart disease. Now we can watch for early signs of these disorders.
I should note that not everyone has been pleased with their test results. In scrolling through message boards and other postings, I read comments by people who felt they'd been taken. One posting came from a man who couldn't see how his 50-pound, long-legged pooch could possibly be the result of a love match between a Chihuahua and a dachshund. I can certainly understand his puzzlement.
So what is Ginger? Is she a golden spaniel or springer retriever? Nah, she's just Ginger. She's gloriously one of a kind and, thankfully, she's ours.
There are lots more Gingers waiting for just the right person to find them at the Hall County Animal Shelter and the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia. Please don't make them wait much longer. In the end, you'll never be quite sure who rescued whom.
Teressa Glazer is a Gainesville businesswoman. Her column appears biweekly on Fridays and on gainesvilletimes.com.