ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — This time last week, Ginger the dog was sitting in Dogwood Animal Shelter after waiting seven years to be adopted.
Now her life has completely changed.
On March 9, Mission Driven posted a photo of Ginger on Facebook with the permission of Dogwood Animal Shelter.
“Hi! I’m Ginger!” a sign clipped to her kennel read. “I’ve been here waiting 7 years, 9 months, 2 weeks, 2 days. I’m a good girl! I promise! I just need a 2nd chance.”
The post was shared 32,000 times in two days. It was then posted by PawsUp, an Instagram account launched by Ellen Degeneres to publicize adoptable dogs. It got more than 120,000 likes in less than a day.
Ginger, 9, came from an abusive situation. Her experiences left her with "medical, emotional and behavioral issues which left her unadoptable for quite some time," the shelter said. She needed a family with no dogs, no small children and a lot of understanding and patience.
Within days, Ginger received dozens of adoption applications as people across the globe connected with her story.
One of those applications was Beth, who said she never even saw the viral post about Ginger.
“I did not know she was that famous. All I saw was the Petfinder. A good friend sent it to me and I was like 'Oh my god, I need her.'”
Beth had to undergo her own journey on her way to Ginger.
A few months ago, she said she was driving down Interstate 270 near the Gravois Road exit at about 4 a.m. when someone in another car randomly shot her window out.
The incident left her with anxiety and other PTSD symptoms. The first day she tried to return to work, the sound of a plane flying overhead sent her into a panic attack.
"I just walked right back out the door," she said.
As she worked to deal with those issues, she started looking for a canine companion. She checked out a few dogs but none of them felt right.
Then she saw Ginger's Petfinder page.
“I was like, ‘What if she dies and never had a family? That’s so sad.’ There was no ifs ands or buts, I was getting this dog.... I applied, I was like, 'I’m not gonna hear anything back.' Then I was like, ‘I’m gonna be pushy’ and I emailed them.”
She got a call back, and on March 13 she drove more than three hours from St. Louis County to meet Ginger.
The shelter warned her that she had aggression issues and had been returned three times, she said. Beth has experience with aggressive dogs, so it was a challenge she was ready to take on.
"She literally walked right over to me and gave me her bowl. Me and her just clicked really well," Beth said. "When I was leaving with her, they were like ‘good luck, she’s sponsored by a lot of people.’"
She had no idea just how many.
"My friend called me and said, 'You're on Ellen's page,'" Beth said. "I said, 'No I'm not.' She said, 'Just look.'"
People even recognized Ginger while she was on a walk. "She’s loving the attention, walking with her head high,” Beth said.
At Walmart, Beth said she was recognized as the person who adopted Ginger. She said people even showed up at her home after someone posted her full name.
"The first day was overwhelming because I wasn’t expecting so much attention. I had to make her an Instagram page just so people would stop showing up to my house."
The account, keepingup_withginger, has been cataloging Ginger's journey from pound pup to housepet.
The first night, Ginger slept at the foot of Beth's bed. “I woke up to her licking my face and then she went back to the foot of the bed. “I was like, 'Are you afraid of me? You don't have to be. You’re safe here.'"
Ginger is afraid of the stairs and has had bouts where she cowers and shakes, but Beth is being patient with her. “It is a lot of work but I signed off on it, I’m gonna do what I can to make her comfortable.”
In the past couple of days, Ginger has started wagging her tail and playing more, and she happily tore up all her toys at a record pace.
"Her personality is really starting to shine."
Beth said support for Ginger has been through the roof.
People asked her to set up a Venmo and Amazon wishlist for Ginger. Someone offered to give her a day trip to a dog spa. Someone offered to pay her way through obedience school.
While Ginger works through her anxiety, she has also helped Beth with hers.
“I feel like it’s a really big sense of 'Who rescued who?' Yeah, I rescued her, I gave her a home. But like, she gave me back my home." Beth said. "It's like, if I didn’t go through what I went through, would I have Ginger? So things happen for a reason."
Beth posted a before and after photo to show people what a difference adoption makes.
"I want everybody to see how happy she is now — I just don’t want everyone to remember her as the sad dog in the kennel," she said. "I want them to know she's happy. She has a good life, she’s an amazing dog and I’m glad I got the opportunity to adopt her."
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