A little more than eleven years ago, my wife convinced me to “interview” a three year old Golden Retriever named “Sammy” for potential adoption. Going into the interview, I was trying to minimize expectations. We had moved into our first home not two months earlier. Having owned two Golden Retrievers as a kid, I was aware of the clean-up and destruction that these fur-balls can create. I specifically recall telling my wife there was no way we would be going home with Sammy. I knew the adult me would stand firm. During his interview, Sammy was a skinny spaz. He was an unbridled and uncontrollable ball of energy and affection. Thirty minutes later, we piled the rust colored beast into my relatively new car. His fur was flying everywhere, permanently attaching to everything within a six foot radius. I am not sure he was the one being interviewed, and let’s just say I gave in before my wife. So much for limiting expectations.
It was not until we got home when I looked past the rekindled memories of my youth to the realization we had unbreakable plans to go out that evening. Adult me had really been in control. What on earth were we going to do with this dog we didn’t know? On a whim, we gave him the run of the house. When we returned home later that night, we were rewarded with a wagging tail, Sammy’s unbridled affection and a pristine home. Well, except for the dog hair we found on the couch and our bed.
As noted, Sammy was on the skinny side when we first brought him home. From what we understood, he was the puppy of a failing marriage and suffered the consequences. Despite our efforts to fatten him up, he didn’t seem to be gaining weight. A short time later we learned he why, heartworms. A substantial investment later, our “free” dog was on the mend and heading back to a happy and healthy weight.
After arriving home, we quickly learned of Sammy’s love of cars. It was a mistake to leave a car door open anywhere near Sammy. If you did, you were not going to get where you needed to be until he went for a ride. It was one of the only times I saw him get mad, when you tried to get him out of car when he hadn’t been for a ride. Let’s just say his determination to out wait you was legendary. You could leave the car door and garage door open for hours. When you returned to check on him, you would find him waiting for his ride when he could have easily gone for a stroll around the neighborhood.
Over the last eleven years, we have shared great memories with Sammy. There are a number of things I will miss, but I will think of two the most. First, our routine for mowing the lawn. As soon as I would start, he would come out and walk-up behind me to nuzzle his nose into my hand. He knew I would stop to pet him. Once I went back to work and he bored of following me, he would find a spot in the sun or the shade to sniff at the breeze. Second, sitting down on the floor just knowing Sammy would be at your side instantaneously looking for some affection and to cure whatever ailed you.
We introduced Sammy to a daughter, relatives, friends and neighbors. I can recall bringing home a baby blanket on the orders of the hospital staff to get him used to her scent. I can recall his meek and gentle curiosity when our daughter reduced his status in the family. Not once did he hold it against her, welcoming her happily to our home. I can’t recall a single person he ever met he wasn’t able to cajole into at least a short pat on the head, and most often it was much more.
On February 13, 2012, Sammy met his maker. I can easily say it was time. In fact, I look back at the last month and know I probably owed him more than my wishes that he would bounce back with the warmer weather just around the corner. I convinced myself his difficulty in getting up and down the stairs was just a symptom of his arthritis from his broken leg as a puppy. (Apparently, he chased cars for a rides before he learned his lesson.) Over the last week, I came to the realization it was time. I owe my wife an unending debt of gratitude for helping me to this realization, and being there for Sammy when he needed it the most. Thank you.
This is the fourth time I have outlived my dog. This is the first time I have outlived my dog as an adult. It feels like there is a difference. I suspect that is because I was one of two people who was truly responsible for his well-being. I am not certain that is true, and it may just be the result of our loss. Someday, I hope to figure it out. In the meantime, I know I received much more than I ever provided. I know Sammy’s unconditional and unbridled affection was undying, and I will have it forever. I do not think I have been able to eloquently relay what that means to my family and I. I just hope Sammy knows what he meant to us.