Saturday, February 19, 2011

My First Half-Basenji Girl

                           Ginger loved riding in the car!
     A new dog arrived in my life on my 12th birthday. Mom said she was a boy, so I decided to name her Baron following Mom’s suggestion. Already well seasoned as a babysitter, something just didn’t seem right about her being a boy. We performed a closer inspection and Mom agreed that Baron wasn’t a boy. She already had thought of a girl’s name as well. She said the pup’s color reminded her of ginger and so my new dog transformed instantly from Baron into Ginger.
     At that time, I was a confused mess of hormones with nine older brothers and sisters. I often felt lost in the crowd. Ginger served as everything from my doll to dress up, to my confidant to share special secrets with, to my walking companion who would return at my whistle. Mom and my brother Steve had discovered her at the pet shop and chose her especially for me. They told me that she was half Afghan hound mixed with something else. My mind’s eye envisioned the very sophisticated looking, sleek sight hound, but my physical eyes told me something different.
     Even as a little pup, Ginger sported button down ears, brown eyes that bore right through you and an uncanny independence that showed up as a slight rebellious streak. Her fur nearest her skin looked tan and was finer than baby hair. This inner coat was covered by thicker guard hairs that started blonde, but at the far end were black as night. Her soft-as-velvet coat kept her comfortable all winter and shed profusely in the spring. I patiently waited for Ginger’s legs to stretch out longer and for her fur to take on the long, luxurious coat of the Afghan hound she was supposed to be.
     As she neared her first birthday, an instinct inside me said there was no way she would ever look like I’d originally thought. Still she had the cutest white socks on all four feet. Her tail curled neatly over her back with a white tip on the end. Her body looked more like a Beagle than anything else; square, solid and well muscled at about 16 inches tall at the shoulder. But I’d known Beagles in my life and Ginger didn’t act anything like one. She was nearly always silent and certainly never bayed at anything the way a Beagle would. One day I came home from school and Mom excitedly told me that Ginger had finally barked while she’d been running the vacuum cleaner. She did have a voice, but not one we heard very often.
     Anytime we’d go to the library or bookstore, I’d search through every dog book trying to determine what breed Ginger might be. A couple of years later, I’d nearly given up. Staring at the pages of one more dog book, my jaw dropped open when I turned a page in the hound group. I looked at the picture quickly comparing size, shape and style of the dog on the page with Ginger’s characteristics. I read quickly through the text below the photo and knew I’d found the source dog for my favorite companion. Ginger was half Basenji! Her coloring and coat were different, but her markings, body type and demeanor couldn’t be denied. My girl was a Basenji and my education about this breed was barely begun.