Son of Sam Shows Up

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I was walking Rosie the Wonder Dog last week along the Boorman Trail, listening to NPR and pining for autumn. The oak leaves have begun to fall in our yard. That is one of the few signs that summer is considering a departure. It will leave, I know, but not soon enough for me.

My Beautiful Mystery Companion called in the midst of this reverie and asked where I was. We walk in tag-team sequence now that school has begun. She walks first while I rouse the child, who is slowly adapting to getting up early enough to get to high school in time. I walk with Rosie while my BMC gets ready for work,  then return home to work on various writing projects.

“I’m still on the trail,” I replied.

“Don’t be mad at me,” she said. “I found a dog and brought him home.”

My BMC has a heart as big as our front-yard oak tree when it comes to babies and old folks, indeed all living creatures (except snakes, rodents and mosquitoes) — but especially abandoned dogs or cats. She was coming home from taking our daughter to high school and encountered a furry dog lying in the middle of the street, up the hill from our house.

Let the record show I was not angry. I was not thrilled either. We have the perfect dog. Rosie doesn’t bark, shed, chew furniture, leave unwanted deposits in the house or display any of the other behaviors that even the best of dogs exhibit on occasion. There were many reasons we don’t need another dog — financial, time constraints, the balancing act we already go through each time we go out of town and have to find someone to keep Rosie, etc.

I walked back home. I knew we weren’t going to take this stray dog to the shelter, since that meant almost-certain death. I have personal experience with animal shelters, having worked as an animal control officer for six months in Nacogdoches while in college. I had the sad task of taking the euthanized bodies of dead animals to the landfill each week from the Nacogdoches shelter. It wasn’t one of my favorite jobs. My family and friends were relieved when I got a job at the newspaper, since I kept kidnapping dogs and foisting them off on them. At one point I owned five dogs as well. Plus a couple of cats.

Animal shelters are grim necessities. Most dogs and cats go there to die, and that is certainly the case with the local shelter, which is going through more than its share of troubles these days. So I knew we would either find this dog’s owner or someone to take the dog before I ever met this poor pooch — who just laid down in the middle of the street on a weekday morning and waited for a sympathetic soul to show up.

Talk about great timing. He found my BMC.

Then he found me. I was looking at a slightly larger, somewhat curlier and definitely stinkier version of the first dog I had back in college, before I became a dogcatcher and began collecting other dogs. Sam was an untrimmed poodle mix, a mop of a mutt. My former brother-in-law gave Sam to me. We were inseparable. Now I was looking at a possible descendant, at least in spirit.

My BMC left for work while I pondered what to do with this dog. He had badly matted, curly gray fur, a smell that would give pause to a polecat, but a sweet nature and a gentle, cautious disposition. He was hungry and polished off a bowl of dry dog food in 15 seconds.

He clearly didn’t escape out of one of our neighbor’s backyards, not in this forest of immaculately kept homes and yards, where I appear to be the only fellow who doesn’t employ a landscaping service, a housekeeper and, at least for some, curbside dry-cleaning service. Both the veterinarian’s assistant and the groomer next door to that office confirmed my suspicions. This dog had been on the road for some time, his fur knotted and matted so badly that shaving him was the only option.

That would have to wait. I didn’t want to pay to shave someone else’s dog. I sprung for a good bath with the groomer, confirmed with the vet that he didn’t have a microchip, and put a “found” ad in the paper with his photo.

I texted my BMC. “No microchip. Left him at groomer. His temporary name is Sam.” Later I dug out a snapshot of me in 1974 holding Sam the First. I am sitting on a Naugahyde sofa, wearing a “Farenthold for Governor” T-shirt. My hair, which is nearly as curly as the dog’s, is touching my shoulder. I appear to have a double chin, though I maintain it was the camera angle.

My BMC remarked that the dog in the photo looked pretty cute — me, not so much. She is grateful that my appearance has improved in the three-plus decades since.

A week later, the dog’s name is definitely Sam, not that he answers to it. He is not the sharpest knife in the drawer, though unfailingly sweet with eyes that have seen too much pain and sorrow. The vet gave him a clean bill of health. Nobody has come forward to claim him. I doubt anyone will at this point. He is still skittish, and there are some housebreaking issues that must be resolved. So for now, he lives either in the shop, is crated when inside, lounges on the deck outside, or cuddles in our laps when inside.

He is literally on a short leash, in other words. But at least he isn’t on the road, looking for a soft heart, a kind word and his next meal. Sam has found that.

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