There are many reasons to run. One reason that I run is because I feel like running teaches me about life. There are so many life lessons that can be learned through running. I have learned so much about myself from this journey I have taken into running.
One thing I have learned is something that might sound totally obvious. If you want to accomplish something it takes work. You might be thinking, “Well of course it does.” Let me explain what I mean.
I have been very fortunate in my life. I have been able to accomplish a lot of goals I have set my sights on in my life. Things I never would have thought I would do. I graduated college. I earned a masters degree. I continued grad school after my master’s degree. I learned photograph and became pretty good at it. I sold photographs. I became a published writer and photographer. I ran a 5k, then a 10k, then a half marathon, then a 25k. I swear I am not just trying to humble brag. I am very proud of those achievements and they took effort, but they did not take maximum effort.
There were many things I coasted on using mostly natural ability or did the bare minimum to get by. Many things I just chipped away slowly at without a big surge of effort. Very few things in life have I put my maximal effort into, yet I have been able to achieve a lot. I am very fortunate. I try to stay humble.
I am not a naturally gifted runner. No one would mistake me for one and if you saw me on the streets you would not likely think I am a runner. But I have been able to do a lot in running. I have been able to increase the distances I have run over time by just adding a little more effort and a little more training each time. I never put in maximal effort to achieve the best I could do at an event. I did the bare minimum to achieve the desired outcome.
This year I had my sights set on something much bigger. I was going to double the distance I had ever run from a 25k to a 50k and not only that I was going to run a very challenging 50k. Not only did I want to accomplish this goal I wanted to do as well as I could at it. I wanted to enjoy this accomplishment throughout the process when I ran the race. I did not want to suffer through it which would be the case if I put in less than my best effort in training. I committed to training for this race like I have never trained before. I trained hard. I ran when I didn’t want to run. I ran in conditions I didn’t want to run in. I was focused and determined to succeed at this and do the best I could and that required being committed to the whole process and not just the final end goal.
All that hard work and determination prepared me to run the race of my life. I did not win the race, not even close. That wasn’t even a consideration for me. But I did run the best race I could at that time. I was prepared to run the best I could because I put in the work. I enjoyed running a tough race. I did not suffer through it. It was a challenging experience but the kind of challenge that makes you feel good.
Now I am ready to commit to a new goal. One I have thought about and talked about off and on for a long time. I have worked on it in fits and starts. It is one of the many things that took a back seat to my commitment to training for a 50k. But that training has taught me that I am ready and that if I commit to the process I can succeed.
Over the years I have talked about writing a book. I started writing it over a decade ago. I have worked on it off and on. I have started working on query letters and book proposals on and off over the last few years. I am always slowly inching closer to maybe possibly some day accomplishing this goal. Now things are going to change.
I love the quote my Michael Jordan where he says “I have failed over and over again, and that is why I succeed.” I failed to complete my PhD because I was not committed enough to the process I was not putting in the work I needed to. If I had unlimited time to work on it I probably would have gotten it done, but that is not how things work. I ran out of time because I didn’t commit enough time and energy to it. Well, I am going to learn from that failure and from this success. My future goals will be approached from a new direction.
Starting now I am going to commit to the goal of writing a book the same way I committed to running a 50k. I am going to be determined to working on the book process 5 days a week. Working on the book will be my number one priority on the list of tasks to get done. Everything else will have to play second fiddle and get balanced and worked on after my work for the day is done on the book. I will work on the book 1 hour a day 3 days a week during the work week. I will work on the book 2 to 4 hours a day on weekends. This will be just like the amount of time I committed to training for and running a 50k. This is a goal I will achieve and it will not be some goal that I will achieve some day. It will be a goal I will achieve soon.
I will put in the work I need to get this done. Other projects that I want to pursue may have to be put on the shelf until this one is complete. Some things that are ongoing projects will be scaled back while I work on this goal with singular determination. One thing that means is that there may be less writing here on my website. I hope that everyone following me will still stay in touch and reach out to ask me how things are going. I do love to write so I will still try to post regularly here. I will try to have more short posts so I can stay in touch.
The first task I need to accomplish for this goal is to finish writing my book proposal. In its current form it is probably 50% complete. I need to research some items and then complete it and send it out to agents. Those are my next steps. Wish me luck and feel free to send me as many messages as you’d like regarding this. I would love to hear from anyone who has experience in this realm as I chase this dream.
What do you think I will be writing a book about? Let me hear your guesses.
Please consider supporting my work on Patreon at KRNaturalPhoto and join with the others who already do so I can continue to work on projects like this. You can support me for as little as $1 a month.
I wrote this following the previous post about Paxton in 2016 and I am sharing it with you now, as I recovered this when I recovered the previous post.
I think one of the most important aspects of life in learning. If you have gone through life and haven’t learned anything you are missing out. Learning comes in many forms. I don’t just mean learning through formal education. There is plenty to be learned through life experiences.
Learning can be fun and exciting. We can learn new skills and learn about things that interest us. We can enjoy what we are doing when we learn. This is a good form of learning.
There is also learning that comes through our mistakes. Sometimes we mess up. It is inevitable. This is where it is critical to learn. No one wants to make the same mistakes over and over and never learn from them.
Learning from our mistakes is not usually fun. Screwing up can be psychologically devastating. It can feel like a real setback and maybe it is for a time. But if you learn from your mistake you can change the meaning of that mistake and while it was terrible at the time you can help it to become a strength for you personally.
I made a critical mistake with my dog Paxton, which caused him to bite me.
The actual physical act I committed that initiated the bite was a mistake in and of itself, but there was more to it than that. I made other mistakes along the way. I think one of those mistakes is taking on too much. I have a lot of passions and goals in life. There are things I care about and it is important to me to accomplish things that are related to my beliefs. However, everyone has limits. We cannot do everything that we would like to. We can’t be involved in every project or task or endeavor that we feel is important. When we do this we risk burnout and that is when mistakes are made.
I am now learning that I have been heaping more and more on my plate regardless of the consequences. Most of which are relatively insignificant in the grand scheme of things. But the consequences of my simple behavior towards Paxton were devastating.
I am a husband with a full time job, a part time photography business who has been writing his dissertation, while caring for 5 dogs and three cats of his own and also caring for 2 foster dogs. Perhaps it should be no surprise that something slipped. How does one balance all of those things without every dropping a plate?
So, one thing I have learned is there comes a point where there is just too much and we must learn to recognize that point so we can say no and stop heaping more tasks on our plates. We must choose the things that are MOST important and focus on those and leave some things for others to do. We cannot do it all ourselves and that does not make us bad people. It makes us human.
I have also relearned a lesson that I seem to be frequently reminded about. Having a dog that has any type of behavior issues and working with them to keep them safe and keep the humans safe requires constant attention. Take your eye off the ball for a split second and you will get hit in the face, metaphorically or in my case literally.
We have been working with Paxton for close to a year with very few incidents. We have been careful and taken precautions to protect ourselves, our other dogs, and to protect Paxton. We were managing his behaviors and working with him on his issues. We paid attention to Paxton and were aware of his issues. All it took was one second where I was not thinking, for whatever reason, to ruin all of the work we had done. This is the challenge with dogs with behavior/psychological issues. You can work with them and everything can be fine but if you make a mistake you will have a setback. Sometimes that setback has dire consequences.
Learning from our mistakes is important and hopefully I will learn all of these lessons and never forget so that I never have to repeat this ever again.
About 2 years ago we had to say goodbye to our dog Paxton. The whole situation rocked me in a variety of ways. I wrote a piece about him as I have about many of our dogs after losing them. However, I could not bring myself to go back and edit this piece to make sure it conveyed the message I intended. I was too emotional to even re read the words I had wrote. It sat in the abyss waiting to see the light of day. A year after we lost Paxton I wanted to publish the piece I had wrote as a remembrance of him on his anniversary but I could not find the post anywhere. I couldn’t remember where I had stored the writing. It’s part of my curse. Complete lack of organization. I was devastated to not have that writing anymore. As his 2 year anniversary approached I once again began to search for my writing about him and some how I was able to find it. So now around his 2 year remembrance I am posting this unedited piece that I wrote after the incident that preceded us saying goodbye to Paxton.
I love dogs. Dogs pretty much run my life and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Sure, having as many as 7 dogs (The number of dogs we have right now and the most we’ve ever had at one time.) all in one house, some ours and some fosters, can be challenging at times. It can be stressful and frustrating but it also has tremendous rewards.
It’s been a long time since my wife and I actually sat down and decided that we wanted to get another dog. Dogs just seem to find us. If you are a dog lover I bet you can relate. Dogs just spontaneously show up in your life and become family.
When you commit to having dogs its a lot like deciding to have children. You make changes to your lifestyle to make sure you can provide for your dogs and give them the life they deserve. This is the case each time you decide to add another dog. You evaluate what you will need to do differently to accommodate this new family member and you do it.
Sometimes a new family member may have some special needs. They may have some sort of physical impairment or some sort of psychological condition that requires more than just the normal amount of consideration in ones daily routine. We seem to have been “blessed” with many such dogs in our family.
Sometimes you don’t know you have a special needs dog on your hands when you first bring them into your home (Mojo our husky who we can’t really pet) but at other times you are fully aware of the issues you are taking on (Caspian who had behavior issues).
When we decided to go meet Paxton at the shelter I didn’t really know what to expect. I wasn’t necessarily looking for another dog, but he seemed to be a model citizen with us and our dog we brought along so we brought him home. Once we were home with Paxton we set about learning who he was.
We learned quickly that Paxton had some degree of separation anxiety as he broke out of multiple kennels and had some mild destructive tendencies while we were away. He was very tolerant with our dogs even our two that barked at him incessantly when we had him around. He became best friends with our dog Brynn. All Paxton wanted to do was love us and be loved by us.
We tried as hard as we could to show him how much we loved him and he was never short on affection for us. He was never short of kisses and snuggles. He slept with us every night we had him even on a camping trip.
As we worked with Paxton we learned more about his anxieties. He did not like small children, so we made sure to avoid them. He was OK being around large groups of people durring community events but he ddid not like having one or a few people suddenly approaching on a hiking path. Keeping him moving with a “Let’s go.” cue worked wonders for him.
We learned that putting collars on Paxton was something he did not enjoy. Using treats we could lure him into putting his head through a wide open collar and then let go. Then we could tighten it after it was on him. You could see in his body posture that he did not really like to have a person reach over his head or even reach out to his head to be petted. He has a momentary hesitation and tension displayed in his body. His tail stops it constant wriggle and he tenses and cowers down ever so slightly. So approaching him in other ways is always preferable. Occasionally something would spook Paxton and he would become very barky and defensive towards one of us, but he could always be called off and settled down in a short period of time.
It can be challenging to learn to treat one dog differnetly than all the other dogs in your home.
Being a dog lover is difficult. You want to help every dog. You try to help every dog you can. And sometimes that leads to mistakes.
We recently brought a new foster dog into our home and we adore her. However, she is an 8 month old puppy and has not yet learned to sleep quietly in her kennel throughout the night. This has resulted in some nights with less than ideal sleep. Our morning routine changed.
This combination of change and sleep deprivation probably contributed to me making a mistake. I fed Paxton as I always do. He knows to go to his kennel to eat and I give him a “wait” cue and he waits while I place his food dish and eats when I release him from his “wait”. He is a pretty fast eater so sometimes I am still in the room with him when he finishes eating and I will give him a quick scratch and pet before I leave the room and go on about the rest of my dog care and work prep morning routine.
For some reason this morning I did something different. I did something I have never done with Paxton. I pretty much broke all the rules of human to dog interaction, especially when interacting with an anxious dog.
Paxton finished eating and jumped up on the bed and sat, waiting to be petted. I walked over to him and stood directly in front of him, towering over him. I placed both my hands on his shoulders. I then proceeded to lean over him to try to give him a kiss on the head. And that last part was too much for Paxton to bear. I invaded his space too much. I put too much pressure on Paxton with my behavior. Paxton responded to `my intrusion into his personal space by biting me in the face.
It happened in a flash. Luckily my wife was right there in bed and responded immediately to put Paxton into his crate and then we left the room.
My wounds required me to see a plastic surgeon to stitch my lip back together in two places, as well as a few other wounds requireing sutures. Thankfully I was not critically injured.
My thoughts turned immediately to Paxton. Once I knew I would be OK Paxton was the only thing I could think about. I do not blame Paxton for what happened. The blame lies solely with the human. I still love Paxton. I did not know where to go from here.
With my stitches I could not allow Paxton to continue to sleep in our bed because he is pretty active and loves to like faces and I couldn’t risk the stitches being compromised or risk infection. Paxton had to be penned up in the furnished basement.
My wife and I debated what to do.
There seemed to be no good option.
Paxton’s behavior seemed normal after the incident. He wanted to interact with me and my wife the same as always. Paxton still trusted me despite there terrible situation I put him in.
Unfortuantely, my interactions with Paxton changed. I saw every tension in him. Every time he hesitated I hesitated. I couldn’t trust him. At least not right now.
The options for Paxton are limited:
1.) Surrender him to a shelter: At a shelter with his bite history and his size and unfortunately his breed, he would not likely be made available for adoption and would probably be euthanized. And maybe that would be the most responsible thing for a shelter to do. And I will not pass off my responsibility to make that decision to the shelter, which will do their job. It is my responsibility to make this decision and my responsibility to be there with Paxton when the time comes.
2.) Surrender him to a sanctuary: The biggest concern if this were an option would be what kind of quality of life would he have there. I am not willing to drop him someplace that I don’t know what their reputation is and how they interact with animals that are there for the long term. I don’t have the resources or contacts to know of any reliable sanctuaries that would be willing to take a dog knowing he is not going to be adopted and care for him for the next 10 years. I am only really familiar with one true sanctuary and that one is literally thousands of miles away.
3.) Keep Paxton and continue to manage his behaviors: While I am not completely opposed to this option it does not seem like the most responsible thing to do. If it were just me I would possibly do it and I am sure my wife would say the same thing, but considering we need to look out for each other’s safety and well being this doesn’t seem realistic. We also have to think about those around us. We do not have a fenced in yard. And while Paxton has never shown any indication that he would run off or run up to people it is always a possibility and people getting hurt trying to retrieve him would be my responsibility.
4.) Euthanize Paxton: I hate this option. I do not want to do this. It breaks my to even think about this. However, I think this may be the most responsible option. It protects the safety of my wife and the others in our community. It would ensure that Paxton does not end up somewhere that he may spend his life suffering.
Paxton biting me is like letting the genie out of the bottle and you just can’t put it back in.
Do I think Paxton is a danger to bite someone in general, No. Do I think he would bite me again if I did the exact same thing, yes.
Prior to this incident I was never worried about the possibility that Paxton might bite me or anyone for that matter. Now everything has changed. I don’t know if that is fair to me or fair to him but that is the reality.
This one incident just colors everything else that can possibly happen now. The specter of another bite will always be lingering in the back of my mind.
I can’t risk having that happen to someone else. If my dog bit my wife or someone else the way he did me I could never forgive myself.
I just don’t know that there is any other option that makes sense. There are no good options here. There is no happy ending.
Life can be so unfair. I am angry and distraught. The cost of loving a dog is that your heart can be ripped out of you and that can happen in the most unexpected ways.
I love this dog and I know he loves me. I made a stupid mistake and now it will cost him his life.
I know that no mater what we decide to do there will be people out there who see other options and have other opinions about what we should do and that is fine. This is a situation that has no clear cut answer. You just have to consider all the variables and do what you personally judge to be best. Then you have to live with it.
I think this is a decision one has to make with their head and not with their heart. I think that the only responsible thing to do for all involved is to euthanize Paxton. It tears my up inside to say that. It is NOT what I want for him. It is not what he deserves. The main factors that are leading me to make this decision are his general anxieties and anxiety with being handled in certain ways and his occasional defensive barking episodes directed at us. Perhaps the most influential aspect is how the bite itself happened. While I am sure there was postural body language indications that I should have noticed preceding the bite to indicate that I should stop, there was no obvious warning sign that a human no matter how inexperienced would recognize as a clear warning not to proceed with the behavior. There was no growl or bark preceding the bite to warn me. The bite itself was not just a quick defensive nip to stop me so he could escape either. It was something more serious than that which eludes description by me at this time. I think these circumstances are what must guide my decision.
I think to do anything else under these circumstances is to invite disaster.
Perhaps people in different circumstances with different resources, different connections, and different skills might come to a different decision but this is the only one that I can come to in my circumstances.
I will never know if this was the right decision, but it is the decision that I have made and it may haunt me for the rest of my life. My actions that caused this situation will serve as a lesson that I will carry with me forever.
It might be easy for some people reading this account to conclude euthanasia is the obvious answer, but when it is your dog that ends up in this situation it changes everything. You love your dog and your dog loves you and I feel like I have betrayed my dog by creating this situation where this now has to happen.
Paxton has been such a happy, exited, playful, and loving dog. When I think of dogs being euthanized because of a dog bite I think of aggressive, uncontrollable, and unmanageable dogs that pose an obvious and immediate danger to people. I do not see Paxton.
The wounds to my face caused by the bite were serious but they are already healed. They are not the most serious wounds I will carry with me from this. My heart has been wounded and I fear it will never heal.
If anyone else has had to wrestle with a terrible situation like this please feel free to share your story in the comments. I would appreciate the support and community of others.
Training for an ultra marathon has been a lot of work. The first race I’ve ever done any official training plan and I picked a doosey. The have been challenges along the way, but today was a big one.
Today was the closest I have come to not running at all on a day that my training plan has me scheduled for a run. I was mentally exhausted after a long day at work. I was hungry. I was tired. I just needed to eat and sit for a minute.
I nuked some rice and beans and ate it quickly. Then I just wanted to sit back and close my eyes for a minute. My eyes were burning and my brain was buzzing. Just closing my eyes would help everything settle down.
As soon as sat back my loving dogs swarmed me. Three of my dogs laid on anf around me. Theu snuggled up with me and nearly put me to sleep. After about an hour I was able to pry myself off the couch and change into running clothes.
I got in the treadmill and started running. I needed some motivation for running and REI Presents: How To Run 100 Miles https://youtu.be/iC7Lh4opLsc was spot on.
#1. It Helps To Have A Friend Along
#2. It’s Going To Be A Struggle At Times
#3. You Have To Put In The Work
#4. Eventually You Have To Start The Race
#6. You Have To Keep Moving
This might have been the perfect movie to watch durring a struggle of a training run.
Then I watched some Jam Jam and some Ginger Runner. They helped get me through.
Today was supposed to be speedwork but after 2 miles at 10 minute miles I tried to speed up to 8 minute mile pace for 1 mile but I just didn’t have it. I was too sore and tired from yesterday’s workout. At about 2.5 miles the combination of the big TV, the space heater, and the treadmill managed to blow a fuse. So I had to get off the treadmill and reset the breaker. It took every ounce of willpower to get back on the treadmill.
The next 4.5 miles were a mental challenge. Being on the treadmill where I can literally stop any time I want with no negative consequences is a real challenge to keep going when it gets tough. Boy did I want to stop. With one mile left I was literally chanting out loud to myself “One more mile.” Over and over until I was done. But I did get it done.
Since I began training for my 50K in the beginning of January I have yet to run any trails. Trail running is my favorite kind of running and my training is to prepare me for a trail marathon and then a 50K, so I have really been itching to get on the trails. So far timing or weather or any other of life’s many variables have conspired to keep me from trails.
Going into this week 6 of the training plan long run I really wanted to get out on a trail to run. The weather had not really cooperated with multiple days of snow into mid week. But I really wanted to run trails. Then life circumstances really started hitting home and I really just felt like I needed to get out into nature. Nature is where I can find my peace and maybe just escape from life for a while. It is what I needed. So I doubled down on my desire to hit the trails today.
Normally on a long run in the winter I would were some running tights, but aparently life prevented me from having any of those clean. I have a pair of windpants that I can run in that have a light mesh lining to them and I figured would be perfect for the temperature and at least keep me warm. So I geared up and went out to my favorite local trail spot at Trnaglewood Nature Center.
My assumption was that Tanglewood is a pretty popular outdoor destination locally. I assumed that people would have been on the trail over the past few days so that the snow would be a little packed down and more runnable. And that is where it started to bite me in that ass. I always think I have learned my lesson about assuming. You know the saying when you ASSUME you make an ASS out of U and ME. Well I sure began to feel like an ass once I began running.
There had been almost no one on the trails. Miscalculation number 1. Especially not on the trails I wanted to be on. I was pushing through fresh 6+ inch snow with every step. I was wearing my Altra Lone Peak 3.0’s that I love but they were no help in that level of snow. There was no traction to be had. The snow was so deep every step was over my ankles. Every step pushed snow up into my open pant legs of the wind pants. Miscalculation number two. Thank goodness I did have the good sense to where nice warm and tall Smartwool winter socks. Also since the snow was pushing up into my pants and the pants had a mesh liner the snow was powdery enough at first to just pass through the mesh liner. Once the snow got between the mesh liner and the outer layer of the pants it compressed and did not come back out through the mesh. I stopped to try to get it out but that was not happening. The snow just built up inside the bottom of the pant legs. Miscalculation number three. By the end of the run it was like trying to run in the snow with ankle weights on.
I am glad I went out with the intent of taking some photos and getting some time lapse footage or I may have given up sooner. Having something else to focus on other than the inability to run helped me to want to stay out there longer. And I did get some decent footage.
It is odd how something can both be a bad experience and a good experience at the same time. Thinking about this experience as a run and it was terrible. It was a grind and miserable at times. But when I think about it as a nature experience it was nearly perfect. I was out in nature experiencing something pretty unique for me, pushing through fresh snow and taking photos. As a nature experience it was something I needed. My dog just died and I needed to get outside and connect with nature and feel some connection and try to let the tension melt off me. This was the experience I needed. It was not the run I wanted or hoped for but it was the therapeutic nature experience that I needed to help me cope with life.
There was really nothing about this trail run that was normal. The snow slowed me to basically a walk at times, especially on hills. The deep snow made finding footing difficult. I couldn’t tell if my footfalls would be on trail or on flat ground. I spent much of the time fitting the edge of the trail being of balance. Tanglewood is a place I love to run at in part because I am so familiar with it. I have been there to hike and run dozens and dozens of times. However, on this occasion the snow also made the trail in general difficult to see. The trail was so difficult to see at times that I couldn’t tell if I was even on the trail during the course of my adventure. I found myself stopping multiple times and looking around trying to figure out if I was still on the trail or not. I could not really tell. I looked around slowly searching for trail markers. It really slowed me down in my progress on the trails but I did eventually find the trail markers and succeed in getting back on the trail.
I kind of think of this as a metaphor for life. In life unexpected and unfamiliar circumstances can blind you to your usual path. The path that you are so comfortable with you can follow blindfolded. But this new life experience has thrown you for a loop and no you are struggling to find your way. So, if you find yourself stuck by some unexpected life circumstances and you are struggling to find your footing or you can’t see the path your life normally follows anymore, stop and take your time. Get your bearings. Look around and find those trail markers that will guide you back to your path and help you find your way. Look to those friends and family members that have always been there for you and count on them to get you back on your feet and help you find your way again.
There are dog lovers and there are crazy dog people. More and more I feel like we fall into the second category heavy on the crazy. When most people bring a dog into there lives it is with the thought of how how great it would be to incorporate this dog into our lives and share our life with this dog. Sometimes though that is just not how things pan out and we have had several dogs come into our lives where that is the case and Sammy was one of them.
I don’t think most people being a dog into their lives thinking this dog is going to upend every aspect of my life and cause me to change everything I do from the most mundane to the more complex aspects of life. But we seem to do that time and again. Its not that we like change and struggle and challenge, its that we love dogs and we cannot bear to let a dogs life fall to the whims of chance if there is something we can do to help that dog out.
Sammy came into our lives under some unusual circumstances. Sammy’s parents had medical circumstances that prevented them from being able to care for Sammy despite their desire to do so. Sammy ended up in the care of his veterinarian. Coincidentally that is where my wife worked. Also Coincidentally my wife had previously worked on dog training with Sammy and his owners when he was younger.
While Sammy was at in the care of the veterinarians my wife and I would go down and take him for walks because we lived close by. When it became clear that Sammy would not be able to go back home we began to take steps to find Sammy a new home. We contacted rescues and other organizations in an effort to find him a new home. We were in discussions with a rescue in Ohio to take him there and a local rescue that thought they might be able to place him. On the day that we were to head to Ohio to start Sammy on his journey to find a new home we heard from the local rescue that they would work to get him adopted if we would be willing to foster him. What to do?
Of course we agreed to foster him. We knew that because of Sammy’s history and some of his behavior issues he could be a difficult placement but we thought that having Sammy stay at our house in the interim was the best solution. He already knew my wife and had been getting to know me. Why make him go through yet another transition.
We found out relatively quickly despite the initial appearance of getting along that Sammy did not like our dog Mojo. So this was going to require constant supervision and management and separation of those two dogs. Sammy also had some issues with strangers coming into his territory. He loved us and loved people in general but he did not like it if people he did not know showed up in his space. We also learned that Sammy had some pica issues. He would eat lots of inedible objects. We had to start learning how to manage these issues. This required a big change in our life routine for both us and our other dogs.
After agreeing to foster Sammy we started to think about things differently. Sammy clearly loved my wife. He seemed to remember her from his training days. It was just completely evident from the way he followed her around and responded to her the he adored her. We had six dogs at the time and had recently lost our 10 year old Bernese Mountain Dog. We had been doing what we considered to be the “responsible” thing and had not been planning to add another dog to our mix any time soon. But just seeing how Sammy and my wife were the perfect pair in so many ways I couldn’t not suggest to my wife that maybe we should just keep Sammy. Surprisingly my wife hesitated. She was trying to be “responsible”. After all keeping Sammy was not going to be an easy feat.
After Sammy had an altercation with one of our dogs we thought he got along well with we started to think maybe him staying with us was not the best plan and maybe we needed to find him a different home that better suited his needs. We had support from other organizations trying to find suitable matches for him. We spoke to multiple people who were expressed interest in opening their homes to Sammy, but none of them quite worked out.
The experience of living with a dog that you are actively trying to find a new home and interviewing potential adopters was a new experience for me and quite stressful at times. Just hoping and praying that something would work out in Sammy’s favor created this inner turmoil.
After lots of discussion we decided our house was the best place for Sammy to be. And this decision meant a lot of different things for our life. We had to completely dedicate ourselves to managing the situation.
Having Sammy meant spreading ourselves around a lot more so that we could spend time with each of our dogs now that even more of them could not all be in the same rooms together at the same time. It meant closing a door here before you could open another door there. It meant painting a window black so he couldn’t see his arch enemy Mojo. It meant never leaving anything lying around that he could eat. It meant careful interactions when we had visitors. It meant caution and vigilance when he was around the other dogs he seemed to get along with. It meant always worrying you would forget something and something bad would ensue. Sammy was a good dog but a very anxious dog. We loved him and tried to do as much as we could do for him.
Despite the other issues Sammy had he was in many ways a perfect dog. He had great leash manners. He was the only dog we had that did not pull on a leash when he was walked. He was super affectionate. He loved to climb up on his humans and snuggle. He wanted nothing more than to be petted. We were even able to take him camping, although that did have its adventurous moments.
Sammy slept with us every night. He loved sleeping in bed and would roll over on his back. I think it was his favorite part of the day. A little over a week ago Sammy began to eat a little less each day. He also began to vomit periodically. But his behavior remained unchanged. He seemed to be the same energetic happy dog he had been. Then Thursday he didn’t eat any food which he never does. Then Thursday night he vomited multiple times.
It was obvious at this point that Sammy needed to go to the vet. Friday we took him to the vet hoping for the best but fearing the worst. X-rays revealed a mass that was expectes to be an obstruction. The decision was made to have surgery to remove the obstruction. Durring surgery it was discovered that what showed up on the X-ray was not a blockage but a large intestinal mass that was likely cancerous and was inoperable. Our vets are amazing and took the time to explain everything to us and answer our questions. We were even able to see exactly what we were dealing with.
We were able to go to the vets office and say our goodbyes to Sammy while he was still under anesthesia from surgery. We were able to be there with him when he passed on into the next realm. I don’t know if he knew we were there or could hear us talking to him and feel us touching him but i hope that he could.
Knowing full well how difficult Sammy could be at times and his penchant for eating things I had been quietly steeling myself for the day when this time would come. It did not make this particular outcome easier, but i think i was ready for it in a way. Not knowing what Friday would bring I said my goodbyes to Sammy Thursday night when he was still wagging his tail, snuggling me, and looking into my eyes.
Having a dog like Sammy requires a lot of commitment and at times sacrifice. All the little things you give up or change when you have a difficult dog. Sammy’s death was obviously sad and hurt but there is this other stream of thoughts that creep into your mind saying things like “know I can have my life back.” or “Things will be so much easier now.” The selfish feeling thoughts about how this animals death will make your life easier eat away at you a little bit. You feel like a terrible person. This is when it is great to have amazing friends to talk to that have also had experiences like this and assure you that these feelings are normal and that you are not a horrible person for thinking those thoughts. Another part of what makes this loss so hard is with all the changes we made to our life to accommodate Sammy as it starts to get back to “normal” everything you are now doing differently makes you think of him. So that loss stays fresh in your mind and your heart as you realize how much he changed your life.
We did not have Sammy in our lives for long but he was a true force to be reckoned with and we will miss him.