From Samson to Sandy – part 2

In my previous post, I told the story of how our Samson died. Losing a pet is horribly painful and it takes a lot of time to heal. I would think of him at random times – driving by a dog park, seeing someone walk a dog by the house, coming home from work and not having him greet at the door. Those moments stung a lot at first but got less and less over time.

As I mentioned before, I wanted another dog and was ready after a few months. I wanted a medium to big dog, preferably a rescue, though the specific breed didn’t matter as much. CJ however needed more time. He felt like we would be replacing Samson, which didn’t feel right.

So, I took cues from him and patiently waited.

After about a year, CJ started to feel more open and ready for another dog. We weren’t actively looking. We knew the Universe would bring us the right dog at the right time. CJ actually sat one night and talked to the Universe, asking for a dog.

A short time later, CJ went in to the dentist for a cleaning and saw a picture on the wall of 3 Labrador dogs. He commented to the receptionist that we used to have a yellow Lab and what a great dog he was. She asked if we were looking for another one and mentioned that one of the hygienists had a rescue dog that she was trying to find a home for.

A female Yellow Lab/Whippet mix named September.

CJ came home and told me. I was all for at least pursuing it but I also knew it needed to come from him. I could not force him in to this. After thinking it over for a few days, he said he wanted to find out more. We learned she was a rescue. She had been found as a puppy abandoned in a barn and was taken in by a young couple. They named her September because that’s when she was found.

The original owner got ahold of us and sent a few pics of Sandy as a puppy.

Turned out she was a rascal with a lot of energy and chewed up their stuff – including the walls of the house. My guess is that they didn’t play with her or give her a constructive outlet for her energy so she took care of it herself by finding stuff to chew on. It’s what puppies do! So they handed her off to someone else. We don’t know the full history but we know she was passed from house to house several times. We also know she was kept chained outside at a couple of them.

At the last place she was kept in a barn. She tried to escape through a window at one point and tore her shoulder up on the glass. The “man” of the house wanted to take her out back and shoot her but instead they dropped her off at the Humane Society anonymously. The Humane Society was going to put her down because of her injury until this hygienist found out about her and offered to take her home. She is the one that nursed her through the injury. However, she was single, living with her mom and had 2 dogs of her own so she couldn’t keep September long term.

That’s where we come in.

We agreed to meet them at a nearby park so we could see what her personality was like and more importantly, how she was around kids. Samson was amazing with the girls but not all dogs will stand for the way kids show their “love” to dogs…

I fell in love with her as soon as I saw her.

She seemed small to me then but only because we were used to a dog Samson’s size. She was sweet and came right up to us. She let all of us pet her, and didn’t seem bothered by the girls at all. She even licked me!

We decided that night to take her and arranged for me to pick her up after work on Friday November 11th, 2016. When I got there, she jumped right in the car and though she seemed a little nervous she didn’t try to leave.

I had a few errands to run so I took her with me to get gas and pick something up from a friend. She was great the whole time. As we would drive she just laid there. I made sure to talk to her and pet her and she really liked that. She would lick my hand or lay her head on it. Dogs have a good sense about people and I think she knew immediately that we were different from the others and this would be a good home.

When we got home she was hesitant to go inside and seemed skittish once we got her in there. She sniffed around some and then I let her outside – and she refused to come back in. I tried to call her and offered her treats but she wouldn’t budge. I tried leaving her alone thinking maybe she’d eventually get chilly and ask to come in. Nope. Finally as a last resort, I grabbed a toy they sent with her and squeaked it. She came running in and that seemed to be the magic bullet needed to open her up.

She does lover her squeaky toys!!

She ran around the house exploring and getting familiar. She let the girls pet her and she made her self comfortable on the furniture.

Sandy has been our angel and I truly believe Samson sent her to us. She is the opposite of him in a lot of ways which is just what we needed so that it didn’t feel like a replacement of Samson but rather a new addition. Where he was a bull in a China shop, she is graceful. Where he was a rascal, she is sweet. Samson was full of energy and always had to be kept busy. Sandy is content just to just be around us, though occasionally she gets a big burst of energy and will tear off around the house! When she does that we yell “Sandy’s on the run! Take cover!!”

Samson was a rescue that was passed around a lot too and he dealt with it by being distant and not getting too close. Sandy however compensated for the years of abuse by being extra loving to us – she loves to snuggle, give kisses, and wants to be constantly near us. As I write this out on the patio, she is right at my feet, close by.

There are some ways in which she is like Samson. She has a strong mouth and can destroy a “regular” toy in under 30 seconds so we have to get her the super strong ones made for tough chewers. She’s also super smart. We trained her to ring bells on the door when she needs to go outside and she is never fooled by our games when we try to trick her during catch. She’s also incredibly fast and athletic.

We do see some adverse affects of the abuse. She doesn’t like a lot of men. She’s never had any issues with CJ or my dad but does with most other men. They make her nervous and she’s been known to bite so we have to put her upstairs when we have guests over. She also doesn’t get along well with other dogs. We found out early on that she hates to be confined in any type of space. She will not go in a kennel nor is she comfortable in a room with the door closed – even if one of us is with her. Clearly that’s from the years of being chained up and locked in the shed.

But other than that, she’s perfect.

That’s the story of our Sandy. She is the most loving and well behaved dog. We’ve never had problems with her chewing our things, having accidents, being aggressive or anything like that. She’s been wonderful and we couldn’t have asked for a better follow-up to Samson.

She is also a good example, showing that despite being bullied, abused and treated as less than, she still has an amazing capacity to love. That’s a lesson we could all learn.

I hope we have many more years with this sweet girl. Samson knew we needed a fur kid that would give our hearts the love and care that they needed and he found us the right dog for the job.

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From Samson to Sandy – Part 1

Even though I’ve mentioned Sandy, and talk a little bit about her on the “Family” page, I’ve never shared her full story. Nor have I shared about how Samson died. I know death isn’t a very pleasant topic but it wouldn’t be right to introduce Sandy without first closing the book on Samson.

As I’ve shared in the various Samson Stories , he was a one of a kind dog. He was handsome, energetic, strong, stubborn, OCD, emotionally unavailable, exceptionally smart (too smart for his own good), so-so in the loyalty department, mischievious, and playful.

[Wow, he sounds like a bad ex-husband.]

Boy did I love him.

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He lived to be 9 years old. Toward the end he had put on some weight and slowed down considerably. We thought the lack of playfulness and energy was attributed to his age and increased stature. That is until Memorial Day Weekend of 2015.

I knew something wasn’t right. He had stopped eating and was isolating himself. If you know anything about dogs, you know that is not a good sign. So after the long holiday weekend, we took him in to the Vet. They did blood work and X-rays and decided to keep him there for observation – or at least until he would start eating again.

They gave him some pain medicine and finally he started eating. However, they also determined that his increased size probably wasn’t due to overeating but instead was likely a tumor of some sort. A big one. There was no way to know if it was cancerous without opening him up. We thought about it and decided surgery was the best route. If the tumor was benign, they would cut it out and he’d be home again in no time. If it was cancerous then we’d likely have to put him down as there are very few times when they can do anything for a dog with cancer.

Next came another hard decision. By this time it was Friday and we had to decide if we wanted him to stay at the Vet’s office over the weekend so they could keep an eye on him or if we wanted to take him home and then back on Monday. However, there was a slight risk that the tumor could rupture if he moved the wrong way and he would internally bleed to death. I wanted him home because I missed him so much but I also didn’t like the idea of putting his life at risk. I would never forgive myself if we brought him home for our own selfish reasons and then something happened and we couldn’t save him. So we opted for him to stay at the clinic.

Saturday morning we took the girls to see Samson and we all spent some time petting and loving on him. He had more pep in his step but still wasn’t quite himself.

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Monday was the day of the surgery and I wanted to see him again before they operated. This time CJ and I went alone. I knew there was a very real possibility that this could be the last time I saw him so I didn’t want to miss out on any opportunity to snuggle one more time.

He was about the same as he had been on Saturday. I wanted him to come sit by me and let me snuggle with him but he wouldn’t do that. He kept getting up and wandering away. I told him how much I loved him. I felt a strong urge to just keep saying it over and over so he would really know.

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At one point, I grabbed a hold of his face and kissed his nose. I looked in to his eyes and he looked right back. Samson was not one to do that. He generally looked away. That’s just how he was. But this time he held my gaze and I felt like he was telling me good-bye and that it was going to be ok. He then gave me a lick, turned and walked toward the door to leave the room. We said one final good-bye and left.

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Now the hard part came – waiting to hear back from the doctor on what they discovered. We were hanging around the house, killing time and but neither of us could concentrate. Finally the call came – the tumor was filling his spleen, spilled out in to his abdomen and was also in his liver. There was no way they could cut it out and it was likely cancerous. So we could have them sew him up and bring him home for a few more days until the cancer took him on its own or we could have them put him down, while he was already on the table and asleep. We chose to put him to sleep. It was not an easy decision but yet it was really the only one.

He died on June 1, 2015.

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In a matter of a week we had gone from one big happy family to losing our fur baby. We cried off and on the entire day. We held each other. We called our families. We told the girls but they didn’t really understand (Isabella was 5 and Cora was 2). At one point in the afternoon, the girls were napping and CJ went out to the store. Alone, I found one of his favorite blankets, took it outside and laid down in his “spot” of the yard and cried. It was a beautiful afternoon and laying on the grass in the sun, I felt him there with me. I talked to him in my mind telling him how much I loved him and missed him. That we’d never forget him.

I was out there for about an hour. By the end I felt a sense of peace and though I still mourned for him for months to come, I was much more at ease.

We later buried his ashes in that same spot in the yard.

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Fast forward days, weeks, months and life goes on. I struggled for a long time over the decision to leave him at the vet’s office over that last weekend. I felt so guilty that his last day’s on Earth were spent in a cage at the doctor’s, all alone. I know there were risks with bringing him home and we made the best decision we could but I really felt like we let him down on that one. I’ve mostly let that go but every once in a while still feel a pang of guilt over it.

We got used to a new life without him and began to talk about getting another dog. I was ready but CJ was not. He and Samson were best buddies and it was especially hard on him being home all day, in the empty dog-less house. I didn’t want to push him to do anything too soon so we just waited for the Universe to present us the right dog at the right time.

Then came a fateful dental appointment in the Fall of 2016.

[...to be continued!]

Crouching Labrador, Flying Mom

Ah, President’s Day. A holiday to relax, be grateful for our country, and of course, take your dog to the veterinarian’s.

Well, at least that’s what I did.

I purposely scheduled Samson’s annual shots/vaccinations appointment for today so that it would be easier to manage. I’m off work so either CJ or me could take him, without having to tote the kids.

In the end it was me who got the pleasure of strapping Samson into his nose lead and migrating to the vet’s office.

The whole ordeal started and ended quite comically, depending upon who you ask.

In order for Samson to fit in the backseat, I had to remove Cora’s car seat. That meant that 2/3’s of the seat was open and the other third was occupied by Isabella’s car seat. Samson jumped up on to the floor. He doesn’t have the leg power to jump directly on to the seat of my SUV anymore. Once inside, instead of jumping from the floor to the seat, he walked forward. Now, there’s not all that much space for a 90 lb. dog to walk in the back seat of a car. Soon he was at the other door unsure of what to do. In front of him was the door. On the seat beside him was Isabella’s car seat.  He was trapped! I was trying to help by coaching him to walk backwards to the open side but of course he didn’t take that option.

Not Samson!

Instead, he jumped INTO Isabella’s car seat and then sat there, facing backwards. I was laughing so hard! I so wish I could have been fast enough to get a picture. It would have been priceless! But he jumped out and on to the open seat before I could grab my phone.

I was giggling over that one for like the first mile.

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We got to the vet’s, weighed him, and got him checked out. He passed with flying colors. I was given my summer supply of flea/tick meds and heartworm pills in a little baggie so I paid and then we were out the door.

Now, let me paint you a picture.

In my right hand I have ahold of Samson’s leash and the bag of meds, then over my right forearm is my purse. I was using my left hand to put my sunglasses on.

We step outside and to my immediate left is a low brick retaining wall, around which we needed to walk to get to the car. Samson must have smelled something because before I could clear the corner of the wall, he lunged.

And I went flying.

Literally.

I landed on the wet sidewalk evenly between my right elbow, hip and knee, with my right arm fully extended and still clutching the dog, bag and my purse. Samson then dragged me for 6 inches or so before I he realized Mom wasn’t upright anymore.

I was mortified.

I quickly got up and made a beeline for the car. I needed some place to hide.

Once we were all inside, I assessed the damage. Because I was wearing layers, there was no real harm to me. I actually do have a small scrape on my elbow, even with a coat and long sleeved t-shirt on. I have a scrape on my knee too, though none of my clothes were ripped.

The bag of meds however was not so lucky.

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I’m pretty sure Samson got a good laugh at my expense. I’m actually fairly impressed with myself that I didn’t let go of anything I’d been holding. #mommydeathgrip

Sadly, that wasn’t the first time Samson has pulled me off my feet, and it probably won’t be the last. One thing I am grateful for is that I didn’t have the girls with me. Would hate to think of one or both of them getting caught up in all that and somehow sustaining injury.

Never doubt the power of a Labrador, no matter how old they are.

I got a good laugh at his expense and he got a good laugh at mine. I guess all is fair in love and dog ownership.

More posts: By the Hammer of Thor! | Me, 30 Seconds Ago | Re-starting Over

Samson Stories: Something to Say

Samson never barks.

Well, ok, I guess one should never say never.

Let’s put it this way. He’s a quiet sort of fellow. The only time he barks is when he sees another dog walking by the house. Otherwise, he sticks to whining or grunting (and these only happen when he’s begging for food).

So imagine my surprise the other day when I took his collar off and he decided to have an opinion. See, Isabella wanted to put a string around his neck and I was explaining to her why it was a bad idea. There are many reasons why putting anything around Samson’s neck other than his collar would be a bad idea but the one I went with was that her string was to short. I told her that Samson had a big, thick neck and to prove my point, I took his collar off and showed her how long it is when opened up.

And then this happened.

Samson suddenly gets very vocal

Surprised at how high pitched his bark is, for such a big guy? Yeah me too. I think it’s because we snipped him early. Who knows.

2 things: 1) he always responds immediately upon commands to sit or lay down. So the fact that he didn’t means he was really jacked up. 2) Notice how the word “treat” immediately gets his attention? Yeah, he’s very food focused.

Not sure if he was all fired up because he liked having his collar off or because he wanted it back on. At any rate, I calmed him down with a treat and then put it back on.

I guess there’s life left in the old boy yet!

Want to read more about Samson? Check these out!

Aging | Dude is Back | Thief

Samson Stories: Aging

Have you read the book “Marley and Me”?

(If you answered “no”, and you’re a dog lover, run out and buy it immediately. Like, seriously, right now. Go ahead, I’ll wait.)

That book is about a mischievous yellow lab. Samson is a yellow lab. He was a puppy when I read that book. We had literally had him for only a couple months. We could relate so much to that book as Samson also was an ornery little dude back then.

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When Marley dies at the end I immediately thought of Samson and became terrified of the day when he would leave us. CJ reminded me that our little guy was only 5 months old and would probably be around for a long time so to just chill already.

Samson is 6 now and he’s certainly not on his death bed, but he is aging. Lately I’ve been noticing how grey his face is getting.

Here’s a pic of him from2  years ago.

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And here’s a recent one.

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See all the white on his face?

Also, we discovered this year that he has arthritis in his hips really bad and as a result of overcompensating for that, he had to have knee surgery.

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Don’t let this fool you. Age hasn’t slowed him down too much. He’s still as spunky as ever, tearing around the yard when the mood strikes him or jumping up on the bed to wake CJ in the morning (and he has an uncanny knack of always landing on CJ’s family jewels).

As much work as Samson was in the beginning, he’s turned out to be the best dog. He’s so good with Isabella and is a great pal to us. The hours and money spent on training was well worth it.

He’s even earned a spot on the leather couch, which is saying something.

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Lately I’ve been telling him more that I love him. I know he doesn’t understand the words but I hope he understands the message.

It’s an inevitable fact of life that our pets will pass on before we do. This is something we accept when we sign up to be a pet owner. I hope we get 6 more good years with Samson. However much time, I plan to cherish every single day with him.

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