Requiem for Sam the Dog

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Sam the Dog had a good final day on this planet on Feb. 1. Our 12-year-old poodle/cocker spaniel managed to slip out the back door and make his escape in the mayhem of me trying to corral Mollie the Granddog and her sometimes surly cousin, Rosie, after they all had gone outside to do their business.

Our yard is fenced, but Sam rarely failed to find an escape hatch under the deck, despite our best efforts to keep him confined. He could slip through tiny openings, with his stocky body and stubby legs. I went looking for him. He always came back and rarely roamed more than a few houses up our cul-de-sac. About 10 minutes later, I found Sam lying next to our neighbor’s driveway, his body limp. I rushed him to the veterinarian, but he couldn’t be revived. Sam was on medication for congestive heart failure; his heart finally gave out on him.

Of course, we’re sad. Sam had been part of our family for more than eight years, since my Beautiful Mystery Companion found him lying in the road while on her morning walk. He wasn’t injured, just filthy and worn out. It is a sad irony that he was found lying down and lost lying down. But his passing wasn’t exactly unexpected.

Sam and I had a rough start. Lots of accidents and poor behavior. He spent a lot of nights out in the shop. At one point, I put an ad in the paper to give him away. When someone called about taking him, Sam was sleeping on the sofa in my study that I built 15 years ago for napping. I turned around and looked at him, then told the caller, “He’s already taken.” And he was.

At my BMC’s wise behest, I began devoting much more time to training him. It worked, and Sam became a great dog. He loved everybody, tail constantly in motion. One of his more unusual habits was to lean against someone’s leg as they sat on one of the barstools along the kitchen island, still and content. He would happily let you use his back as a footrest. Even my late father-in-law, who was not exactly fond of inside pets, admitted that Sam was unique. Sam would lean up against Mr. Teel and stare upward with his soulful brown eyes. Who could resist?

We walked every day first thing in the morning. In the early years, whenever Sam saw a cat, he would bolt, ready to chase it up a tree. Then, four years ago, we acquired two kittens, Tater and Tot. It took a few days of restraining Sam on a leash and sharply admonishing him to keep him from harming these tiny creatures. Something clicked and before long they were all sleeping on the couch together. He still wanted to chase other cats, of course.

Sam and Rosie, a Maltese/something mix, were buddies from the start, spending most of the day sleeping next to each other on one couch or another. Sam was not the sharpest knife in the drawer. Rosie had learned that if they went out back to do their business, they would get a treat upon returning. Sam would dally on the deck. Rosie would run back out, slap him in the face with a paw, as if to say, “Come back inside, you dummy! Treats await.”

When we acquired another granddog, Mollie the Maltese, Sam was at first grumpy about having this whippet of a puppy trying to ride him like a horse, but he soon decided that he would tolerate whatever Mollie dished out. I often had to toss her a chew toy to distract her from constantly gnawing on the fur hanging from Sam’s floppy ears.

That’s how Sam’s last day went. As always, he waited by the front door early in the morning, face between his paws, tail swishing the floor, watching me put on my tennis shoes and don a jacket. We didn’t walk far these days, just up the hill and back, Sam stopping to mark most everything in his pass. He was all boy. Later Mollie chased him around the house, at times actually riding on top of his back. A nap was necessary after that.

Then Sam escaped, as I said. As my BMC noted later that sad evening, he died doing what he loved best — running free without a leash. And as her youngest brother Jim — who loved Sam dearly — texted, “Sam was the kind of dog that caused love to flow out of everyone. He was a gift. You didn’t pick him. He picked you.”

I can’t put it any better than that. I’ll miss that good boy.


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