SPOKANE — Ginger's smile hides a hard history.
The amber-colored Weimaraner-mix dog doesn't shy from petting hands or treats. Her tail wags when she hears the voice of her owner, Carmel Travis. She seems like just a regular dog — except Ginger spent almost four years running wild in a rocky open field in Liberty Lake.
Travis, a real estate broker from Pullman, trapped and adopted Ginger last month from a one-acre field between the Quality Inn and Accra-Fab, a sheet metal firm.
"We weren't planning on keeping her," Travis said, standing near the field where Ginger lived. "But she's special."
Pet rescue is Travis' passion. She's a certified Missing Animal Response Technician through Missing Pet Partnership, an organization dedicated to helping stray and homeless dogs find homes. Travis has three dogs and four cats, all of them rescued. They're her "four-legged children," she said.
Accra-Fab employees say they first saw Ginger in September 2009, alone in the empty lot.
Employees at the company call Ginger "tough girl." Human resources director Barry Stewart said employees didn't want to risk putting her in a shelter where she might be put down. Instead, they continued to give her food and water.
"If she was going to go, out here would at least be the spot," he said. "This was her home."
Ginger was skittish, he said. She didn't come when called and ran away when approached.
Travis first heard of Ginger when trying to rescue a loose golden retriever in Coeur d'Alene last month. A man who was also trying to help the retriever mentioned a stray dog living in a field in Liberty Lake.
Travis knew she had to help.
"It would haunt me that there's a dog living in a field," she said. "That's not right."
Travis said she contacted Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Services, but they couldn't guarantee a live release from the shelter. So Travis kept Ginger's location secret and set her own trap.
It took two traps and two 180-mile round-trips from Pullman to Liberty Lake to capture Ginger, but on July 6, they caught her.
"We baited it with a double-meat double-cheeseburger," she said.
From scanning her microchip, Travis found out that Ginger's first owners had relinquished her to the Spokane Humane Society because they had too many pets, Travis said. When her second owners returned home from the shelter, Ginger bolted before they could even enter the front door.
"It's very, very common for newly adopted dogs to bolt if you don't have the leash on them," she said.
Travis tracked down Ginger's most recent owners and found they'd since moved to Billings and recommended she take the dog to the shelter.
Instead, Travis took her home. With the removal of a tick, Ginger received a clean bill of health from a veterinarian. Travis originally planned to take her to a shelter for unsocialized dogs, but when Ginger behaved well around her other pets, she couldn't resist.
"There was nothing to say no to with her," she said.
Six years ago, Travis helped find homes for the Great Eight, a pit bull fighting ring involved in Washington's first animal fighting convictions.
"I found out about their situation, and I knew they had no voice and wanted to help," Travis told The Spokesman-Review in 2008.
The dogs were sent to Stray Release in St. Louis, Mo.
Travis doesn't know Ginger's full story. Even the breed and age report she received from the Humane Society isn't certain. But she knows she's found a miracle dog.
"We were going to make sure she wasn't homeless," she said, turning to the dog. "Huh, sweetheart?"