We said goodbye to our beloved Sam yesterday. He was our precious puppy, the Pooper, the Snoggy Rog, our Sammy.
He also answered to “Here kitty, kitty.”
Fourteen years ago this Christmas, Santa left a bag of dog food, and a leash with a note that said “J, I’ve picked out a puppy for you. Your parents will take you to pick him up tomorrow.”
So the following day we drove to rescue the chocolate lab Santa had picked out. Funny thing was, when J was introduced to the puppies, the chocolate lab ignored him. But the little black one came right over and started playing.
Sam picked out his boy.
And for the next 14 years, Sam and his boy were best buddies. They tolerated the arrival of the little brother, most of the time.
We never got around to taking Sam to obedience school, but still he learned. He learned not to be on the stairs when Daddy was carrying the baby. He learned to distinguish his toys from the baby’s toys. He told Mom when the baby was fussy.
That “baby” is twelve now and grieves in an empty house that he’s never known without Sam.
For many years, Sam spent his days out back on a cable run. Because, once again, we never got to the invisible fence. But when my Mother-in-law moved in with us in 2003, she felt more comfortable being alone in the house when Sam was inside. But she had mobility issues and wasn’t able to take him out. So Nana stood at the back door with a Milk Bone and trained Sam to go out to the woods, take care of business and come back in. For nine years we never had to take him out on a leash again.
That’s not to say he didn’t take his occasional joy romp through the neighborhood. And he loved Ms. Linda, our backdoor neighbor who would save bones for him. On warm days, we’d often find him in the back yard staring at her window, waiting for her to appear. Her husband frequently told her “Linda, your boyfriend is here.”
So many wonderful stories. So many wonderful years.
Sam was a big dog, and big dogs don’t get many years. Fourteen was old for a lab. But for us, it seems like we didn’t have him with us long enough.
Perhaps what kept him young for many years was a gift from the men of the church. Because of my Mother-in-law’s mobility issues, the men’s ministry came to build a ramp. But the design plan worked out better to install a series of graduated steps that she could maneuver with her walker. When the work was done, Nana cried. Sam, who was five at the time, ran up and down like a puppy, every bit as excited as his Nana.
Nana left us in 2008. But she would have been thrilled to know that those steps helped keep Sam young for a long time. A couple of years ago he could no longer manage regular steps, but because of these special steps he could still take himself out.
As old dogs do, even with the steps, Sam started showing signs of old age. Some days he’d be our grumpy old man. And some days he’d sit next to you he’d be the crazy old uncle wanting to play a joke, but he’d forget the part where you say “pull my finger.”
Over the last few months, we watched Sam’s health decline, knowing that the day would come and there would be a decision to be made. The legs got weaker, the hearing lessened and some days he just seemed confused about his surroundings.
Saturday, after one last Thanksgiving with his boy, now away in college, Sam stopped eating. He went rapidly downhill after that.
Sunday night we came home after a day of rehearsal. Sam hadn’t moved, and wouldn’t again until we moved him. He was often needy and had to be close to us, mostly Mom, so he was barking most of the night when someone wasn’t with him.
I spent a few hours next to him in a sleeping bag on the kitchen floor. I stroked his head and told him it was okay to let go, but he couldn’t. By morning, we knew it was time and made the arrangements.
We know we did what was best for Sam. We know we did the right thing.
It still hurts. We still miss him.
I don’t know what I think about the Rainbow Bridge. I know it’s the way a lot of people grieve over the loss of a pet.
While I think it’s theologically questionable, a friend put it best “our animals bring us so much joy here on earth, how could they not be with us in heaven?”
Another friend posted this video, which I love, but it makes my screen all blurry.
But life was better and richer because of Samuel Adams Fletcher. He loved us unconditionally and brought us much joy.
Thank you, Sam.