Don’t Try to Tell Me How to Love My Children.
And the Band Plays On - Autism is Now 1 in 100

Saying Goodbye to Ginger

Ginger dog By Michelle Linn

I had to say goodbye to a dear autism warrior last week.  Ginger was an old and wise, somewhat crazy, German Wire-haired Pointer.  She was not, as some people liked to say, “easy on the eyes.”  She had a rumpled mustache (not the most feminine feature) and yellowish eyes that tended to scare strangers and small children.  Someone once told me she looked like a schnauzer with a thyroid problem; I thought she resembled a character from Dr. Seuss or the Muppet family.  Aside from her appearance, she was a remarkable dog, living a healthy 15 years and two months as opposed to her expected life span of nine years.  The fact that she did it flanked by two boys with severe autism is a miracle.  This is not a “Marley & Me” story.  If anything, Ginger was the antithesis of Marley, a calm, obedient, and loyal friend who provided love and support to our family through some of its darkest days. 

We adopted Ginger in the late summer of 1994 from an attorney and his family in Houston.  My husband John and I were attending graduate school there, and my oldest son, J.W., was just getting ready to turn 1 year old.  I was six months pregnant at the time.   For some bizarre reason John and I thought it would be a great idea to have two babies and a puppy in the house, sort of a “let’s get it all over with at once” mentality.   Had we waited another year or two, I’m sure we would have decided otherwise. 

Ginger was one of a litter of eleven, the runt and the only female remaining when we responded to the ad in the paper.  The house where she was born was pure chaos, with five kids, two adult dogs and the six remaining puppies.  When we went to look at them, Ginger practically jumped into John’s arms and gave us both a “please get me out of here” look that melted us.  I remember the mom of the house being fascinated with J.W., who was walking quite well by then and toddling around her house.  They warned us that Ginger would probably miss her siblings and mother and cry for the first few nights - - the exact opposite was true.  She seemed so relieved and happy to be coming back with us; she took to her house immediately and never made a peep.  She was home.

Some of the most incriminating footage I have documenting J.W.’s regression is of him playing with Ginger when he was about 14 months old.  He is running and laughing, playing peek-a-boo with her in her house (completely spontaneously).  He independently picks up her leash and mimics hooking her up to it (he can’t quite work the clasp but gleefully knows what it is for and chases her with it). 

Now nearly fifteen years later, J.W. has yet to get back to that level of spontaneous functioning.  I mind terribly that he hasn’t, but Ginger never did.  She accepted and loved him and his younger brother, Joshua, through all of the screaming, crying, biting, hitting, and hair pulling.  She accepted it all with an occasional yelp, and only retaliated once.  Josh was about six years old when his short fuse (the shortest known to man) went off and he bit Ginger on her back.  It came out of nowhere and she, by shear reflex, snapped back and left one small puncture mark on his nose.  The shocked look on his face was priceless and I remember trying so hard to withhold my laughter (so much for the behavior plan that day).  I never needed to scold Ginger – she was sick about the whole incident, staying in her house for hours afterward and moping around the rest of that week.  She never bit him again (and vice versa).

John spent quite a bit of time training Ginger when she was a puppy, and she was a phenomenal bird dog.  She provided John with a great escape through hunting, and they shared a bond that I unfortunately did not have the opportunity to partake in.  She was simply a great pointer and retriever as well as the most obedient and mild mannered dog I have known (let alone owned).  I can recall conversations where we talked about Ginger and bragged about her like she was our child.  Afterward I would feel sad because we never seemed to have much to talk about regarding the boys’ progress.  Sure we’d always recite the ever optimistic statements about how they were “coming along,” but the specifics were usually too complicated or insignificant for the casual acquaintance, so the conversation would ultimately turn to Ginger.  She was easy to talk about and easy to have around. 

On bad days, when I was cursing God and feeling sorry for myself for the struggles our boys were going through, I always had to concede that at least he gave us Ginger.  Yes, she was our consolation prize after losing the daily double of autism.  

She was more than just a bright spot we found solace in; she was a true friend and protector to the boys, especially J.W.  She was the first one they both shared with, becoming a connoisseur of all things GF/CF handed or thrown to her.  We can remember J.W. sitting on the couch with a small bowl of GF crackers, handing Ginger one as she approached.  When John or I would ask for one, he would matter-of-factly shake his head “no” and pull them in closer.  We were not worthy.

We used to think maybe the boys just gave her their food to get rid of her, because she did beg from them incessantly at times.  About five years ago after Ginger had surgery, we noticed J.W. placing a GF animal cookie and cracker next to her head while she slept.  Even the day before she died, Josh had rolled her three grapes that sat next to her bed (yes, she ate grapes, but only if they gave them to her). 

Ginger started life as an “outside dog” due to my asthma, but over the years moved herself inside to her prime location on the main floor between the dining room and living room, away from the upstairs bedrooms.  Of course no training or gate was required, she knew the upstairs was not her place and rarely ventured up there.  That is until J.W. started having seizures about four years ago.  I remember waking in the night to hear the soft jingle of her collar as she came up the stairs.  Then I’d hear the click click of her toenails on his laminate floor.  She would pause a while, sniffing him to make sure he was OK.  Then she would turn around and go back down to her own bed.  The visits stopped once we got his seizures under relative control with meds, but she was always nearby when he had one or was not feeling well.

I think she lived so long because she knew we needed her.  She was there to frantically alert me the first time J.W. scaled and hopped over our backyard fence.  She was there through the hours and years of home ABA therapy, always a willing participant.  She was there through all of the sleepless nights and gastrointestinal episodes.  She was there when John was deployed to the Middle East during 9/11, protecting us and making me feel safe then, and again when he went to Iraq a few years later.  She was there to fetch the newspaper from the driveway for me every morning for twelve years.

Now that she is gone, as I reflect back on these years, I have to admit things are better now than they have ever been.  While the boys are still profoundly affected, they have come a very long way.   We will continue to do all we can to heal and recover them, but we are proud of the healthier and happier young men they have become.  We definitely have a sense of having made it “over the hump” on this crazy autism journey.  Ginger played a huge part in getting us to this point and we will be forever grateful.  Goodbye Ginger-girl, and thank you.  We’ll see you on the other side.

Michelle Linn is the mother of two boys with severe autism, ages 14 and 15.  She is the President of Alpine Autism Center, a non-profit in Southern Colorado providing intensive behavioral intervention, advocacy, and information.  She is a military spouse and is employed as an Air Force Civil Engineer.


John Fryer Chemist


They cost too much.

That's simply because no one asks for them and industry doesnt want informed patients.

First off if there was a demand the price would tumble and for me would end up less than a fraction of a vaccine cost.

Second off a titer evaluation could save a life or certainly a maiming.

A first vaccine correctly administered and not giving resistance will lead to ANAPHYLAXIS and possible DEATH if the vaccine is readministered.

This work was done by Professor Charles Richet who found that any repeat vaccine was a risk too far.

Sonja for Benedetta


Yes, you can measure titers in humans as well. Any vaccine created has a corresponding titer test. The only barrier is cost. Insurance companies will cover vaccines but usually not the titer tests. Take Care.

Benedetta Stilwell

Thanks for the reply guys. pancreas trouble is what our new puppy had trouble with. But is there such a thing as titers for human beings?

Sonja for Benedetta

Hello Benedetta,

The rabies titer test cost me $250...the shot would have cost me $60. Also, the vet mentioned that no other client in the practice has ever asked her about a titer test. My guess is that they do not really know about it. I also learned that none of the other shots are required by law and are generally rare to contract except maybe kennel cough if your dog boards. I hope this helps pet owners who read this site...for what you would pay to get the other 6 shots that are not necessary, you could get a titer test for rabies and spare the pet additional vaccine damage.


Thanks to everyone for your kinds words and touching stories. We still miss her but are doing better each day--
Michelle Linn

K Fuller Yuba City

I almost cant type this comment. Our Angel was a Border Collie. Sadie followed our son as he circled the yard hundreds of times per day. Where ever Nick went Sadie followed.
Donating to Animal Companion organizations is a worthy cause. Dogs make a difference in our childrens lives.
So sorry for your loss.


Canine Vaccine Survey

It is well known that there are risks associated with vaccination of dogs, just as there are risks for humans. The trouble is, no one has adequately quantified the risks. Is it true that only a tiny minority of dogs suffer adverse reactions to vaccines, or is the problem more common? And what is a vaccine reaction? Is it something that happens immediately after the jab, or can you expect a reaction to manifest weeks or months later?

Christopher Day, Honorary Secretary of the British Homoeopathic Veterinary Association, told us that, in his experience, where the start date of a dog's illness is known, a high percentage (around 80%) begin within three months of vaccination.

Canine Health Concern tested this observation and has analyzed the histories of over 3,800 dogs post vaccination. This critical mass, by any standards, is a very high number from which to draw valid statistical conclusions. Most commercial scientific research involves significantly fewer dogs (tending to base their conclusions on data involving a couple of litters of puppies, if that). We have been able to show a definite statistical correlation between a vaccine event and the onset of a number of specific illnesses. Our published conclusions have satisfied mathematical or inferential statistical tests at a level of confidence of 99% or better.

Overall, we found that 66% per cent of all sick dogs start being sick within three months of vaccination, which is considerably more than double the expected rate of illness. Worse, 49% of all illnesses reported in the survey occurred within 30 days of vaccination. This is over five times the expected percentage if vaccination had no bearing on subsequent illness. More damning still, 29% of sick dogs first became sick within seven days of their vaccine jab. This means that a dog is 13 times more likely to become ill within seven days of vaccination than at any other time.

In the study, 69.2% of allergic dogs first became allergic within three months of being vaccinated - more than double the expected number. 55.8% of dogs with autoimmune disease developed the condition within three months of being vaccinated - again, more than twice the expected figure. Of dogs with colitis, 65.9% developed the complaint within three months of being vaccinated and, of dogs with dry eye/conjunctivitis, 70.2% developed their conditions within three months - both nearly three times higher than expected. 73.1% of dogs with epilepsy first became epileptic within three months of vaccination. As 2% of all dogs in the UK are epileptic, vaccines are clearly causing horrendous damage. For statisticians, our Chi score for epilepsy is 96: any Chi test statistic higher than twelve gives a 95% confidence about the conclusions. Without doubt, then, the majority of epileptic dogs in our survey are vaccine damaged.

But perhaps most astonishing is the fact that a majority of dogs (64.9%) with behavioral problems appear to have developed their difficulties within three months of vaccination. Similarly, 72.5% per cent of dogs with nervous or worrying dispositions became nervous within three months of their jabs (with a Chi score of 112), and 73.1% per cent of dogs with short attention spans lost their attentiveness within three months of vaccination.

All of our evidence ties in with research in the human field, and a growing body of veterinary research, which says that vaccines cause allergies, hypersensitivity reactions, autoimmune disease, encephalitis, epilepsy, personality changes and brain damage.

The CHC results are statistically very significant, and carry with them very high statistical certainty. This means that the evidence is strong that the above diseases can be triggered or caused by vaccination.

Other diseases that were highly represented within three months post vaccination included cancer (35.1%) , chorea (81%), encephalitis (78.6%), heart conditions (39.2%), kidney damage (53.7%), liver damage/failure (61.5%), paralysis of the rear end (69.2%), and pancreas problems (54.2%).

Research conducted at Purdue University shows routinely vaccinated dogs developing auto antibodies to a vast range of normal canine biochemicals - which corroborates our findings.

Interestingly, our study showed that arthritis and Chronic Destructive Reticulo Myelopathy (CDRM - a degenerative disease affecting myelin in the spinal cord) occur in clusters nine months after vaccination, suggesting that the damage from vaccines resulting in these two diseases takes longer to develop or to show their symptoms.

Many contend that vaccines are a necessary evil; that we need them to protect our dogs against certain deadly canine diseases. However, our survey found that high percentages of dogs are developing the diseases we vaccinate against, soon after vaccination.

Of dogs with hepatitis, 64% contracted it within three months of being vaccinated and, of those with parainfluenza, 50% developed it within three months of their shots. Also, 69% of dogs with parvovirus, 56% of dogs with distemper, and every single dog with leptospirosis in the survey contracted the diseases within three months of vaccination.

Our figures support the view that vaccines don't confer guaranteed immunity and may actually cause the diseases they're designed to prevent. Our figures appear to demonstrate that vaccines cause illness in one in every hundred dogs - and this is a conservative estimate.

For human beings, the World Health Organization considers a reaction of one in 10,000 unacceptable. Surely the same statistics apply to dogs. Worse - and bordering on corporate dog slaughter - is the fact that we are urged to vaccinate companion animals every year. There is no scientific justification for this; it is a crime.

For further details contact Catherine O’Driscoll at Canine Health Concern, PO Box 7533, Perth, PH2 1AD, UK, email


Benedetta Stilwell
I started reading this website daily (AofA)because of my dog Gully. I don't have children but I have a very vaccine damaged dog.
I noticed that when Gully went in for his yearly boosters that his allergy problems would become worse than before the booster. At first I thought it was just bad timing or didn't even think about it at all. Then about one week after one of his boosters he developed a golf ball sized cyst at the injection site. I thought, "why didn't this show up at the vet visit last week? why now? Now I have to take him back to the vet!"
Hah! How stupid! Never did I think, gee why would a golf ball cyst form at the exact same place that the vaccine was injected?
Fortunately for Gully I started to research allergies in dogs and found out that 66% of all dog illnesses show up within three months of vaccination.
There have been studies that show that vaccines last at least 7 years and that more so they probably last the lifetime of the pet. (what pharmaceutical company is going to pay for that study? The 7 year study was independently done.)
I have Gully on a raw, grain free, species appropriate diet. (No gluten or casein ^_^ lol) I have stopped his vaccinations and he will never receive another one for the rest of his life. Because of this I have seen his allergies almost disappear for a full year(since I started this). Although he has relapsed a bit this summer, which I can only hope is some seasonal factor that I cannot control. I am extremely glad that he is not scratching himself raw or bloody anymore.
My next dog will come from a non vaccinating breeder (I believe in adopting at shelters, but would like to try to not getting a chronically ill dog again) Interesting note, I have always wanted a great dane, but have shied away from them because of the short lifespans of 5-7 years. An NR(naturally reared)no vaccine, raw fed and minimal pharmaceutical influenced great dane lives 10-14 years.
go to vaccine at the top and then scroll down to more options and then click on Canine Vaccine Survey

Kimberly Linderman

This made me cry like a baby, your Ginger was our Winnie. Some dogs are amazing, if you have an angel dog be thankful and thank them every day, we lost our dear Winnie to the melamine poisoned food from china, our son has never understood what happened and now that he can speak he comments on Winnie. I know he thinks we took her away. Try explaining that one. Thank You for the story.

Benedetta Stilwell

If lab can measure titers then why is everybody just gettin boosters? Is getting a titer expensive? I would have paid for it? Do you have any ideas on this?????


Thank you for that wonderful piece. I am so very sorry. Max just came over, as he was wondering why I was crying (our wonderful, patient, cuddly labradoodle). With deepest sympathy to you and your family.

Kathy Blanco

Strange, but lots of autism families, have sick puppies, which reminds me of stealth viruses that are catchy from human to animals. Think this is no coincidence that many pets of our children, are sick...

Angela Warner


I am so sorry to hear about Ginger. I've had to say good-bye to a few of my own over the years, and as a former Vet. Tech. more than a few. I remember each and every one of them. Part of my job involved getting them ready for burial or cremation, and I've never shared this with anyone (although my former co-workers know); I cried with every single family, and offered "counsel". You have to understand that these folks and their pets were family to me. When it was time for my "other" job of getting them ready, I would bawl my eyes out; mourning and praying that my words had brought some comfort to the family.

My heart goes out to you during your time of sadness and grief. So do my hugs and love. Ginger is a doggie with what I used to call "crazy hair". Speaking with my vet tech hat on, Ginger's type were my favorite patients. They were the best, and from how you described her, Ginger certainly fits the bill.

She's in doggie heaven doing her job again as a young one. She's either fetching birds or tennis balls, but I know she's having a blast!
Love to you and your family.


Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful story. Ginger provided further proof that all dogs do indeed go to heaven. Rest in peace good girl and all the best to you.


Thank you Michelle for your beautiful story. We, too, have a wonderful labradoodle who understands autism. She loves to wrestle with the boys but will become completely still and docile with my daughter as if she knows Anna needs a different approach. I am amazed at the tolerance and patience of this dog and the complete devotion to my family. She is unconditional love. Interesting story...she developed a sebaceous cyst in a hair follicle and I had to take her to the vet to have it drained. I had not taken her to a vet since her puppy shots at 2 months (5 yrs ago)where she became completely lethargic for a week after wards. This was about the time I was beginning to understand this whole vaccine problem and decided she would not be vaccinated anymore as well. The vet told me she was 5 yrs overdue and would need to be vaccinated...I refused and she kindly treated her anyway. She mentioned that by law I needed to show she had sufficient immunity to rabies or get the shot...I opted for the titer test. A week later the results came in and even the vet was amazed...the CDC requires sufficient immunity to be 1:5 and her results were 1:1100. The vet was amazed that after 5 years she had these kinds of numbers. It appears to me that the one I gave her at 2 months will last her her entire life. It is not just the kids that are affected by over-vaccination. We also need to protect our pets. You were so fortunate to have had Ginger for so long...may we all be as lucky.

Carolyn M

Thank you for posting this wonderful tribute to your dog. Pets, whether dogs or cats, quickly become family members.

A few years ago we lost our cat. He had been great with our daughter. Once she was in a toddler bed, if she went down for a nap he curled up right next to her. He would look up to see who it was if one of us came into the room - and keep watching until we left. He would also try to play with her - if she laid down on the bed to stim, he would lay down beside her and flip his tail into her face until she grabbed it. He would do this repeatedly and never get upset at her if she grabbed too hard - he would just walk off. She was learning how to pet him when he died (he was 19).

The hardest part was trying to get my daughter to understand that our cat was not coming back from that final trip to the vet (we did not put him down, he started having seizures and died at the emergency animal hospital). I hope that you do not have as much of a problem with explanations as we had.

Jake Crosby

That is so sad. I have two dogs of my own, I can't imagine what losing them would feel like.


Michelle, my deepest sympathy to you and your family. I called my mother to read her your brought us both back, with tears, to my childhood and our wonderful terrier, Moi, who took care of us:) What wonderful memories.
Thanks for sharing and I hope that soon you will be able to remember Ginger fondly without the pain you must be feeling now.
Thank you for sharing.

Benedetta Stilwell

Yes, we have been through this too, I teared up reading this story, esp. your little ones giving her their food.

We had two red dogs (a mother and her son), they watched over our family as our chldren grew up. They walked with us many of a night over frozen, crunchy fields during those cold winter nights when my son would wake up and felt like he was going to have a seizure. I really can relate to Ginger being disturbed about epilepsy, they can smell it!
They add a lot to our lives, don't they!


This gives futher proof to what I always say "some of the best people I know are dogs".

Thanks for sharing your beautiful Ginger with us!


Thank you Michelle that was beautiful.


Thanks for this story. My daughter loves our 3 dogs, especially Otto and he adores her. They put up with her (occasionally now) screaming tantrums with saintlike patience. She is 14 and still remembers our old dog Sharky who died in 2001. I well remember how horrible it was to lose her.
Goodbye Ginger. RIP.

candace passino

I am also dealing with a elderly llaso she is 16 and has seen 3 of my children grow up the last being justin 11 with asd...she has good days and bad days and more than 3 xs a week i say to myself i must put her down..but i cant..she has also seen us thru the autism days and is a ingrained part of justins world..when i exsplained that we might have to put her asleep, he said yes, but not this year mom, not this year,, she also dutifully begs and watches over the house, tears streamed reading this because i relate so well to your story..soon to be our story..candace

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