A Tribute to Sam

January 7th was the one-year anniversary of the passing of our treasured friend, Sam. So it seems only fitting to write a tribute to him, and share some of the special qualities he had that brought us so many memories and stories.

He did live a decent life, at least 11 years. We adopted him in 2012, and the shelter wasn’t sure of his age but assumed he was at least 1, because he seemed to be full size and had all his adult teeth. He would randomly get these nodules on his trunk that would come and go, although we had one tennis ball-sized nodule removed shortly after we adopted him, which did not seem to be going away. That one was tested as benign, but still we always figured it would be cancer to do him in. He had so much energy and life and was “too much” quite often, which made an even bigger void when he left us. He died of a tumor growing in his abdomen, which was undetectable/not visible from the outside, that grew rapidly and burst his spleen. In his last few days we was weak, and without energy, which puzzled us because he had been his usual self over Christmas, when all of our family visited and gave him plenty of affection.

Despite his high energy, we was very docile towards our girls. Brielle knew him for 6 1/2 years of her life, Eva for almost 3, and Haleigh for only 15 months. But Sam knew all three as babies to toddlers and tolerated their clumsiness with such grace. He was a loyal friend who never wanted to leave his family. He loved people, and we were honored to be the people he loved the most. When our extended family would visit, he recognized and greeted everyone. When friends came over, his tail would wag so hard it would thump against the wall he was next to. Some people he “liked” more than others, and he could read people easily — he knew who he could “take advantage of” without being scolded and pushed off. It was the one trait we couldn’t train out of him.

When we adopted him, it was just two of us — Amanda going to college, and James working swing shifts at US Steel — and we lived on 2 acres in Pontoon Beach, IL. Our lot backed to a golf course, and occasionally golfers would drive near our fence line to pick up their balls, and Sam always alerted us when someone was close. He was a great guard dog, always on alert, and only barked if there was something to bark at. Of course, if he was already outside, he would run up to the golfers and jump and wag his tail and work for their attention. As I said, he loved people!

Over the years our family grew, and Sam was never jealous. He accommodated the changing dynamic beautifully, and always gave room for the new baby. When our first daughter Brielle was born, Amanda was actually so nervous Sam would jump on her, that we had him live (next door) with James’ parents for a couple weeks and introduced him to the baby for an hour or so a day. After a while, James convinced Amanda that she was being crazy, and we brought Sam’s bed and food and everything back home. To be fair, he had a track record for jumping, not being aware of his size, and having random bursts of energy. But he sure knew how to behave around Brielle. He showed just the right amount of interest, but was more interested in being pet by the adults than giving any interest in the baby. When we would lay her down in the pack-n-play, or put her in the baby swing, he would lay near her but didn’t bother her. I came to trust him and never worried about leaving the baby in the room with him.

He had boundless energy and it really was impressive at times. I would clap a couple times and say “Go run!” and he would take off, drifting around the yard. He played fetch sometimes, but it wasn’t something he really cared for that much. He would seriously, just run for the sake of running. Our backyard in O’Fallon backed up to a meadow, so just like the other house, which backed to the golf course, we would see deer prancing behind our house at night. He would whimper at the window to be let out. I would have him sit, open the door — close it again if he budged — until the door was fully open and he was patiently waiting, torturing himself in wanting to chase the deer, and then I’d say “Outside!” and he would take off like a gun shot. I have so many memories of him running the fence line, barking at the deer, probably just wanting to chase them for the fun of it.

My favorite animal story was when we lived in Pontoon Beach. One day, I noticed him whimpering at the back window, and I looked outside only to see a family of skunks crossing our yard. Yes, there were 2 larger adult skunks and about 3 or 4 little skunks, and all you could really see where their big fluffy tails bouncing left and right as they scurried across the yard. Of course, I didn’t let him outside, but we watched the skunks until they were out of view. I’ve never seen skunks before. I didn’t let him outside for a while, just to make sure the skunks had left. When dusk fell, after he finished eating, I let him outside. I went back to studying and then realized it had been a long time and Sam hadn’t pawed at the back door. I went to the door and couldn’t see him. I opened the door and could hear a scuffle from somewhere. I walked out and followed the sound. Suddenly Sam came into my view. And so did the skunk. And the smell. Sam had gotten a hold of one of the skunks, and had been sprayed by it. I had him drop it, and follow me. He obeyed, but when we got to the back door I realized I didn’t want him inside smelling like that. So I got his leash, took him to the spigot, and hosed him off. I rinsed his face, too, because his eyes were red as it had clearly sprayed him in the face when he bit it. I brought him inside, and told him to go lay in his bed (which was a big double-seat easy chair). He jumped on his bed and paced back and forth rubbing his head and face and snout against the back and armrests several times. It was probably a half hour before he settled down. The house smelled disgusting that night, but was better in the morning. I guess it eventually dissipated, because I remember we didn’t even get rid of the chair. So skunk smell DOES go away!

Speaking of smell (sorry Sam) his gas was AWFUL. We switched to a grain-free food after adopting him, and that kept his skin pale (not red) and his gas to a minimum. Still he had his stinky moments. Everyone in our family immediately knew when Sam farted. It was worse than all human farts combined. It became a family joke. Ironically though, he tolerated a lot of bad things he ate. He ate a dozen chocolate cupcakes once, which we had left on the top of the toaster oven. He would have had to jump, all 4 paws, on the counter and ducked under the hanging cabinets to get to them, but boy did he. We just stepped over to talk to the neighbors over the fence, and in 15 minutes he had eaten all the cupcakes AND the wrappers! He became our garbage disposal, and food rarely went to waste. Yes, that did occasionally include grain, or something that would give him gas, but hey, he was a healthy and active dog.

So that’s the good, the bad, and the stinky about Sam. There are so many more stories that pop into my head that I will have to save. He was a destructive dog too, and did break out of half a dozen dog kennels. That’ll be a story for another time.

Cheers! We truly love you and miss you Sam.