Ginny – the Shelter Dog that Rescued Cats

Humans have been trying to figure dogs out for centuries and there are no dog “experts” who can fully explain why dogs do some of the things they do. People who witness inspiring behavior and unprecedented compassion from a dog for humans or other animals can only theorize the “why” as they stand in awe of an extraordinary dog. Ginny, the shelter dog, is the only known dog that rescued feral, lost, sick, injured and disabled cats on her own, without being trained to do so. This is a heartwarming and true story about a dog who loved cats and what she did to save the ones that needed to be rescued. And what makes it more amazing is how the cats seemed to understand Ginny was there to help them. An unlikely friendship between wild cats living on the street and a dog with a genuine love for the cats she searched for and saved.

Ginny’s story begins in an abandoned apartment. The landlord found her hiding in a closet with three puppies. Shelter vets who examined her thought at first she was too far gone to be saved and considered putting her down, but they had a change of heart and decided to give her a chance. After she regained her strength, Ginny and her pups were put up for adoption.

Ginny was half Siberian husky and half terrier Schnauzer. I don’t have a picture of her to share, but I was able to find a You Tube video with Ginny and her owner, Philip Gonzalez. As it turned out, Philip was Ginny’s first rescue. Sheila Harris, Phil’s neighbor, convinced him to adopt a dog to help him recover from depression. An on the job accident left him with little use of his right arm while he was working as a steamfitter in Manhattan. He reluctantly agreed and the two of them went to a local animal shelter. Philip had his heart set on a purebred Doberman he had seen, but fate had another dog in mind; Ginny. A worker at the shelter encouraged him to take the little mixed dog out for a walk. Annoyed and impatient to return for his Doberman, Philip tried to hurry through his forced walk with Ginny; until she sat down in front of him and refused to move until he looked at her. That brief moment changed Philip’s life forever and put man and dog on a mission of saving cats that were in desperate need of help.

Philip adopted Ginny in 1990 and he quickly discovered she had a remarkable instinct and desire to locate and save stray and feral cats that would have died without her help. But it wasn’t the healthy cats she searched for among the feral colonies in alleys, construction sites and abandoned buildings. Her mission was focused on cats that were in dire circumstances and she was the only one that heard their cries for help.

Rescuing feral cats is a difficult task for humans to accomplish. Even with an offering of food, most wild cats will not easily give their trust to a human and never to a dog. But Ginny had a unique ability to create calm and trust as she searched for the sick and disabled among them. The cats showed no fear and treated her as if they had known her their entire lives.

Animal behaviorists theorized Ginny’s unique and rare relationship with cats was due to an overactive maternal instinct. She somehow knew the cats she searched for and rescued were the ones that were most likely to die if they weren’t found. Ginny knew which ones were injured, sick, blind, deaf or disabled in other ways. These were the felines she searched out.

The number of lost and feral cats Ginny rescued is estimated to be around 900 to 1,000. In 1998, Ginny was named Cat of the Year by the Westchester Feline Club to honor her many feline rescues. Sometimes there is no logical reason why a pet does certain things. Maybe it was fate that put a man and a dog on the same path with a mission to help stray and feral cats trying to survive the best they could, out of sight; away from society. Ginny was born in 1988 and passed away on August 25, 2005 at 17 years of age.

You can read stories about the hundreds of cats rescued by Ginny, Philip and Sheila on the Ginny Fan Club website. You can also find information about Ginny’s Fund on the website, but I haven’t been able to find updated information on the non profit organization and it appears they are no longer accepting donations. Two books, “The Dog Who Rescues Cats: True Story of Ginny” published in 1995 and “The Blessing of the Animals: True Stories of Ginny, the Dog Who Rescues Cats” published in 1996, were co-written by Philip Gonzalez and Leonore Fleischer and have been translated in different languages around the world.

Ginny was truly an exceptional dog and her story very easily could have turned out like millions of dogs and cats in shelters if Philip hadn’t gone to the shelter that particular day. Her chances of being euthanized was higher than being adopted. Please consider adopting from a shelter if you’re ready to bring a pet into your home. Angels can come with four paws and Ginny was certainly an angel to Philip and the hundreds of cats that lived because of her remarkable love for them.

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