Our impulse “Ca-Ching”, love at first site, there’s no turning back now, pet store purchase 15 years ago, is now snoozing away his Sunday afternoon on the couch—as long as I stay beside him. If I move, he follows.
He had a couple belly flops today and seems a bit…well, let’s just say he’s working his way back. Yesterday was a big wide smile, tail wagging day, and tomorrow is a new day. His gumption at 105 is a lesson in perseverance. He just has this “Sam” way of lifting us, and anyone he meets, up.
I look at his feet and still see propellers. There was no catching this dog on the run back in the day. You would have thought a golf course could contain an 18 week old puppy. I made the mistake of taking his leash off near the 5th hole and he shot like a cannon, flying towards a street filled with morning traffic. How many times did he run into oncoming cars and not get hit?
His eyesight is still good. I’m sure it’s because of all the glasses he ate. Our neighbor’s new pair was a $300 day. Distructo dog ate Todd’s more times than I can remember, but only if we were heading out of town that day.
Sam never ate my glasses. He preferred my shoes. They had to be brand new and bone colored to be worth his chowing. My first ever designer pair, purchased at an end of season triple markdown sale at Marshall Fields, came tied in a satin bag and snapped inside a cushioned box. Can you believe that? I hid the box in the back of my closet well out of sight. So hidden, in fact, that I forgot I had bought them, until Sam reminded me. I found the box unsnapped, the bag untied and the heel missing on the left shoe.
We have never understood why balloons and other flying aberrations appear to Sam as dangerous, but he wants nothing to do them. One summer, he dove into the clafadora on our lakefront before I could stop him and came up spotting a parasailor. I remember I was recovering from pneumonia. Before I could assure him, he was across the beach and heading into busy Lincoln Memorial Drive, trailing algae, as cars honked and screeched. He looked like a crazy rabid dog as he dodged pedestrians on the sidewalk and disappeared up into the woods. Clinging my chest for air, I eventually gave up my search and headed home in a cold sweat, only to meet up with him cruising along the boulevard one block from our house, matted in moss and seaweed dangling from his head and feet.
He never took to sailing. First attempt, if I hadn’t lunged at him as all four legs spun like wheels on the gunwhale, he would have gone over board.
In winter, he never minded when his entire body was embedded with ice from romping for hours in the snow. I’d melt him down in a hot tub, which he did mind.
So sensitive to sounds, pulling a pan from the cupboard would send him bounding out of the room, and a car’s backfire kept us off the main roads for half a decade. A simple pop, his ears would shoot up, and he’d be under a bed.
He knew our family by name. “Where’s Bill? Let’s go see Bill!” would get him out the door or in the door, whichever was needed, in a flash. One time, we walked to work together—3 miles. That went well. Getting home was another story. “Where’s Charlie?!” I must have said a 1000 times to keep him running forward.
He used to have this clever way of sitting on steps like a person–butt perched, spine straight–so cute it made allowance for all the carpeting he destroyed…maybe. And he is the sniffingest, lickingest dog. In the morning, he’ll lick you to death if you let him, and you can forget the walk. He sniffs his way down the block and back, eventually. He is a fur covered lesson in patience.
When the foxes moved in under the neighbor’s house next door, and our cat made it clear to us that she was an outdoor cat, Sam chased them like a lion. Have you ever heard a fox cry? They screech like a siren. They never did bother us, or our cat. Years later, after the coyotes moved in and Rose disappeared, Sam would sit on the corner of that property just staring off into space as if waiting for Rose to return. Maybe he thought if he sat there long enough, she’d pick up his scent and find her way home. He was a one cat dog. He let Rose, as a kitten, nurse on his nipples like she had her former owner’s dog when her real mama, an alley cat, weaned her too soon. They had a special thing going, Sam and Rose, and I give Sam credit for showing her how to take (slow) walks with us.
No more doorbell scenes in our front foyer with guests trying to be polite while Sam went berserk with enthusiasm. We tried keeping him in the basement or upstairs when company came, but I don’t know which was worse, his athletics or dramatics? He can’t hear now, but he still loves everyone he meets beyond control. What he lacks in leg power he makes up in tail wags.
He never did understand “down” unless it was attached to a treat. That was the one thing he learned at obedience school: how to lay a down. With that, we saw success but I witnessed his trainer flush and sweat when he used Sam as a model on how to train a dog to heal. Sam received his diploma only so we wouldn’t bring him back.
He had a fierce growl when he staked out his territory, but never bit even the fiercest foe. He and Todd had many standoffs, and I don’t even want to try to count all the innocent people strolling past our house with their dogs. Sam would push past me at the door and be in a standoff in no time. One woman in particular, it never failed that I’d bend down to pick up the paper and Sam would dolphin dive over me and be across the street in a shouting match. I saw her at a couple neighborhood gatherings and was able to apologize, (but, “Can you please manage your dog, lady?” echoed every conversation.) Yep, we’re the dog owners you love to hate.
So smart, he knew that on Sunday mornings my dad would pick me up for church. An hour before, he’d start his little barks of excited anticipation watching out the windows for Bill. How did Sam know it was Sunday?
It doesn’t seem that long ago that he’d spin a series of 360s to greet me at the end of the day. “Triple pirouette!” I’d cheer.
Sam has walked with me through my mom, dad, brother, best friend and mentor’s passings. How do I let him go too? He is the best worst dog ever and I couldn’t possibly love him any more.
But for as long as that tail keeps wagging, we’ll feast on summer sausage and cheese curds, Colectico ginger snaps and snickerdoodles. We’ll go for car rides and share spoonfuls of frozen yogurt. We’ll spoon at night and cuddle on the couch by day. I’ll walk beside him on steps and pick him up when he’s too tired. I will love him forever and always. He’s the worst and truly the very best dog ever.
When his time comes, I know he’ll be ready. “Run to Bill, Sam!” I’ll say. And he’ll be off chasing foxes.