Thursday, January 6, 2011

Ode to Sam

You feed me when I'm hungry,
You keep water in my dish,
You let me sleep on anything,
Or in any place I wish.

You sometimes let me lick your hands,
Or even lick your face,
Despite the fact I've licked myself
In every private place.

You taught me how to come when called,
You taught me how to sit,
You always let me go outside
So I can take a ...........stroll.

I've been with you through oh, so much,
Through laughter and through tears,
I hope you live to be a hundred......
(that's 700 in doggy years!).

Author Unknown

Yesterday morning.  
"Wo-of!"  Sam's low, hoarse bark begging to be let out.  It's early.  Like, dark early.  I stumble blindly to the door kicking legos, pull-ups, matchbox cars and pillow pets (damn you, gremlin-like spawning pillow pets!) out of my way.  

As I reach the door, squish!  I step, no, I should say I gave my foot a bath, in dog vomit.  Blah!!  The dog has thrown up...again.  In his defense, at least this time he aimed and succeeded at vomiting on the tile instead of the carpet.  Score for Sam! 

This February, Sam will be 13 years old.  Just to impress you with my quick thinking math abilities, that's 91 in dog years.  Sam is 100% purebred mutt.  If he were a wine, he'd be a 2 Buck Chuck - blended from unidentified and really cheap grapes but in the end just what you want.  

Eleven years ago as a starry-eyed newly wed, I went to the shelter to"just look" at the available dogs.  Now, Max did not grow up with animals in his home, while my house was a revolving door for dogs, cats, parakeets, fish, rabbits, hamsters and turtles.  We had been living in our newly purchased home for just a few months and it felt empty.  Homes come with dogs, right?  Well this one didn't and I needed to fix that.  So, while I had no intention of adopting a dog without my beloved husband's knowledge and input, I figured it really couldn't hurt to "just look."

Here's the problem.

I'm a ridiculous softy when it comes to homeless, lost, and/or abandoned animals.  It quite literally breaks my heart.  If I see an animal far from home I will stop at nothing to ensure its safe return to the loving family who is most certainly torn apart by the absence of their beloved pet.  Unfortunately, this has led me to once (possibly twice) save a dog from its own front yard.  In my defense, it was very heavily wooded and the dog kept following me.   
Thorns may hurt you, men desert you, sunlight turn to fog;
but you're never friendless ever, if you have a dog.

Douglas Mallock 

That day at the shelter, I wondered around reading the descriptions of Buddy, Toby, Rover and Fido.  Each description assured me that this was the dog for me.  I was trying hard not to make eye contact with any of the dogs for fear that I would 
        1.) begin to sob uncontrollably and then be admitted myself 
        2.) adopt every dog in sight and live the rest of my life alone while I 
             bitterly morphed into Cruella De ville 
        3.) actually have to make a CHOICE as to which dog I wanted to bring         
             home thereby sentencing the rest of the dogs to premature death

Somehow, I met just one pup's eyes.  Sam.  And that was it.  I looked at him and he looked at me with these big, brown, gentle eyes.  His description said, "loving dog, family couldn't keep him, needs good home."  This was our dog. 

I talk to him when I'm lonesome like;
And I'm sure he understands.
When he looks at me so attentively,
And gently licks my hands;
Then he rubs his nose on my tailored clothes,
But I never say naught thereat.
For the good Lord knows I can buy more clothes,
But never a friend like that. 

W. Dayton Wedgefarth 

I did not bring Sam home that day.  Instead, I called Max and told him to stop by the shelter on his way home from the airport the next morning.  "Check out Sam, and see what you think."  Around 1 PM that day my phone rings at work.  It's Max.  He's in the lobby.  He has the dog.  

I run down the stairs and out to the parking lot to our car.  There is Max.  He's pale.  Kinda sweating.  And looking really annoyed.  He tells me that when I told him to "take a look at the dog" what I really meant was "adopt the dog immediately".  (He's not wrong.)  Unfortunately, as soon as Max starts the car and drives away from the shelter...Sam throws the car...a lot.  

Since that day, Sam has been far from a perfect dog.  He has had accidents in the house, vomited more times then we can count, chewed gates, molding, and doors to pieces, and cost us large amounts of money in his health care and Motel 6 hotel bills.  There was even the time he dragged me down the side of a mountain and into our friend's hot tub in pursuit of a squirrel.  But none of that matters.

The dog barks backward without getting up.
I can remember when he was a pup. 

Robert Frost 

Sam is family.  He has watched us as we have navigated through the "what the hells" of pregnancy, newborns, and sleep deprivation.  He has been there when the kids were sick in the middle of the night.  He's gone for walks with me and the stroller skillfully avoiding tail entanglement with the wheels.  He has been nothing but our faithful companion during our "childbearing" years when, with the birth of each child, he gracefully took a step back. 

So, yesterday morning.

My foot. Sam's vomit. Max silently cleans it up. We turn to Sam who looks at us with those gentle, brown eyes.  He's skinny these days.  It takes him a few attempts to get up from his pillow.  He moves slow, careful, like he navigates each step.  We go to him.  Pet his head, rub his ears.  Tell him he's a good boy.  And hope we have given him as much as he has so unselfishly given us.      



  1. Ah, Melissa I am tearing up! This was so perfectly put and so sweet. Last night while the boys were sick and I was cleaning up mounds of vomit, Luke was right there making sure everyone was okay and keeping me company at 1 a.m. I am so thankful for what this little pup adds to our family. I love Sam and he was a huge factor in my decision on getting a dog, I wanted a dog just like Sam!

  2. Okay, I seriously thought (at first) that you wrote that poem at the beginning! I was seriously impressed! : ) What a great ode to Sam!

  3. Oh Sam...
    We just had to let go of our family pet (the one I grew up with at home). Watching him go through cancer and doing everything humanly possible to keep him comfortable...sigh...
    So hard.
    I just hope that he enjoyed his 10 years and that we were good and loyal to him as he was to us.

  4. That was SO sweet! Dogs are great!! And your Sam is a sweetheart! I can't imagine not having our doggies. :)

  5. I love the dogs I have, and the dogs I've had and that passed away. Like you, I get so easily attached! My dogs have all come from shelters, and they've given SO MUCH unconditional love!
    Wonderful poem :)