Jamie Carpentier of Nashua, N.H., had always wondered whatever happened to Ginger, the dog that dropped out of his life nearly a decade ago.
On a whim, he logged on to the website of the Humane Society of Greater Nashua one night last month and looked through the dogs that were up for adoption, according to a report from ABC affiliate WNUR in New Hampshire. One click brought him to the listing of a 13-year-old basset hound named Ginger.
There was something about Ginger's bio that reminded Carpentier of his long-lost dog. Though there were no pictures attached, Carpentier was struck by the dog's description, which read: "I have the longest ears and the biggest heart of any dog you will ever meet! I am an older girl, but I still have a lot of spunk left."
Without Carpentier's knowledge, his ex-wife had surrendered Ginger to the Nashua Humane Society shelter in 2003. An older couple adopted Ginger, but they returned her to the shelter last October when caring for the dog became too difficult, according to the Humane Society.
It's a tough adjustment for older animals coming into the shelter, and members of the Humane Society staff opened their homes to Ginger while waiting for a new family to adopt her, Noelle Schuyler, an event and outreach coordinator for the Humane Society shelter, told ABCNews.com.
To Carpentier, the dog on the shelter's website sounded a lot like his lost companion. "Just the paws, that's the thing I remembered about her," Carpentier told WMUR. "She had these 'ginormous' paws."
It was not until Carpentier was on the phone with shelter staff members, who excitedly compared Ginger's spots with the markings in the old photos that Carpentier had sent to them, that everyone realized Ginger could be the same dog.
"She's a little bit more white now," Schuyler said, "but she has three markers on her side that matched up."
Shortly after that call, Carpentier met Ginger at the shelter. Ten years had passed, and many of the staff members wondered how Ginger would react when Carpentier came down to the basement, where she was sleeping, Schuyler said.
Carpentier nudged Ginger gently out of her sleep, and Ginger began to sniff at Carpentier, Schuyler recalled .
"At one point he was petting her head, and he bent his face down, and she started licking his face. That was the moment we saw that she recognized him," Schuyler said, as Ginger had never done that with anyone before.
"She just seemed like she knew it was me," Carpentier told WMUR. "It was me and my father that were there. She just recognized us."
After 10 years and some slobbery kisses, the Carpentier and Ginger were reunited for good.
It is possible for dogs to recognize people after extensive periods of time, said Megan E. Herron, clinical assistant professor in the department of veterinary clinical sciences at Ohio State University. Dogs begin to socialize with their surroundings between the age of three to 12 weeks of age, according to Herron. "That's the time when the [dog's] brain learns everything it needs to be good in life," she said.
According to Schuyler, Ginger was a puppy when Carpentier first acquired her. "It is a strong period of time for learning for the puppy," Herron told ABC News.com. "And any person they grew to love they would remember."
Although slightly older dogs have the potential to remember people, it is more common for puppies, especially "if they have a good experience with a person in that time of their life," Herron explained.
For the Humane Society staff, Ginger's recognizing Carpentier was clear. "Jaime is her person," Schuyler said, "She's absolutely his dog."
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