Remembering the dog who loved cats
August 28, 2005

Ginny, a schnauzer-husky mix from Long Beach, Long Island, who made headlines a decade ago for saving sick and disabled cats, died Thursday of old age. She was 17. Ginny's interspecies exploits were detailed in a best-selling book, "The Dog Who Rescues Cats: The True Story of Ginny" (HarperCollins, 1995).
Co-authored by her owner, Philip Gonzalez, it has been translated into eight languages, including Hebrew, Finnish and Japanese, and was followed by another compilation of her cat capers, "The Blessing of the Animals," in 1996.
A former steamfitter, Gonzalez, 55, adopted the quirky mutt with the bat ears and boa-like ruff of neck hair in 1990, in an effort to shake the depression he was feeling after severely injuring his right arm in a work accident.

Finding strays
On their third day together, a barking Ginny led Gonzalez to a vacant lot, where she found a stray cat amid the tall grass and promptly spent an hour fastidously grooming it.
Gonzalez estimates Ginny saved some 800 cats in her lifetime -- some motherless, some deaf or one-eyed, some afflicted with feline AIDS or cerebral palsy. Rescued herself from dire circumstances -- Ginny's previous owner had abandoned her in a locked closet for a week with her three puppies -- she located the cats in Dumpsters, drainage pipes, even the glove compartments of cars.
Gonzalez obtained vet care for the cats, had them spayed or neutered, and sought out adoptive homes. At one point, after Ginny's whining and whimpering led him to a couple of pregnant cats, Gonzalez's one-bedroom condo housed a multi-generational continent of 67. Today, he is down to 18, which lounge on every available surface.

A special radar
Some behavioral experts interpreted Ginny's affection for her species' ancestral enemy as maternal instinct gone wild. Gonzalez has a less clinical theory, once attributing it to her "radar of the heart." Even more unusual, he says, is that the feeling was mutual:
"Most stray cats want nothing to do with dogs, but they come running up to Ginny," he said shortly before she died.
Gonzalez acknowledges that Ginny rescued him as much as she did any wayward kitten. And every day, from 2 a.m. until sunup, he makes the rounds of 19 feral cat colonies Ginny helped him find, feeding an estimated 320 cats.

Without her
In Ginny's absence, "I'm going to keep rescuing cats," he said. But he will likely do it without four-legged assistance. None of his other dogs -- 2-year-old dachshund Ziggy, 10-year-old sheltie Jean-Luc and an ancient shih tzu named Yo-Yo -- has Ginny's animal altruism.
Incontinent and arthritic, Ginny stopped eating about a week ago, and had lost 20 pounds when Gonzalez decided late Thursday to have her euthanized.
A memorial service was held yesterday at 11 a.m. at Regency Forest Pet Memorial Park in Middle Island.

Copyright (c) 2005, Newsday, Inc. --------------------

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