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.