A Dog’s Tale

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A Dog’s Tale

This is a story about how “my dog” became “my mom’s dog.” The true tales of their recent years together are far more hers than mine to tell. So I am not the best or most worthy writer of this story, only a teller of the highlights to celebrate a special pup.
Sixteen years ago I was 24 and living in Birmingham, Alabama, for graduate school. My roommate was engaged and getting ready to move out, so it felt like the right time to get a dog to have as company in my apartment. My mom agreed this would be a good idea and found a Shitzu she thought would make a cute and manageable companion. I, however, insisted on visiting the local shelter where I discovered a 3-pound mixed breed puppy with an uncertain lineage {part Jack Russell, part daschund, other parts unknown} but an endearing and helpless demeanor. Against everyone’s advice, I settled on that puppy, gave him a quarter of a Benadryl tablet, and traveled from Knoxville back to Birmingham with my new guard dog, “Samson.”
Like countless other new dog owners I had no idea what I was getting into with a puppy. I didn’t know the first thing about how to housebreak or train this tiny terror. I just knew he was completely dependent on me for both his survival and his entertainment.
He was cute but stubborn. I took him to an obedience class. I had a pet trainer come to my apartment and give us advice. I enrolled him in a couple of sessions of doggy daycare in hopes he would pick up a few skills there. But Samson wasn’t interested in following rules or learning tricks. And, as a full-time grad student with a part-time job at a coffeehouse, I wasn’t a consistent or responsible pet owner.
He peed on the carpet and occasionally on the couch. He ate holes in socks and panties. He was sad when I left in the mornings and over-excited when I finally got back in the evenings. He exhausted me, and I failed him. By the time Thanksgiving break rolled around in late November, I took him home to Knoxville with me and persuaded my parents to let him stay with them “just until I got through finals.”
And, there began Samson’s transition from being “my dog” to “my family’s dog.” They, of course, never let me live this hand-off down, subtle as it might have been.
In record time, Samson settled into a routine at my parents’ place. He was introduced to table food, more activity, far more space to play, and a feline sister named Maggie. Despite Maggie’s total disdain for him and my parent’s continual hope he would return to Birmingham, Samson loved his new home. And, albeit more gradually, I think the people there grew to like him, too.
Like a parent with visitation privileges, I enjoyed time with him at the holidays and on long weekends. And, he loved a visitor! Anytime someone he hadn’t seen in a while walked in, Samson had a signature greeting: eight to twelve high speed laps around the room.
When I went on my first date with the Spouse—a blind date back in Knoxville in 2003, Samson was there in the kitchen waiting to greet and interrogate him when we returned. When we got married in 2005, Samson was there for all the pre-wedding festivities acting a fool every time a new person arrived at the house. And, when my dad passed away later that same year, Samson was there providing comfort with his familiar routines and comical antics.
When my mom moved to a condo in 2006, Samson moved with her and became her loyal housemate in a life and a setting that had changed dramatically for both him and her. She didn’t necessarily like it, but he had become fully her dog. I was just the negligent original owner.
With his snaggle-tooth and bowed legs, Samson was never a pretty dog. He never fully mastered house training, and wouldn’t be labeled a smart dog by many. He drove my mom crazy, and she developed a love-hate relationship with her canine companion. He caused property damage, cried when she would talk on the phone, woke her up too early on the weekends, and became a more finicky eater with each passing season. But, his affection for her was consistent. Though Mom worked long hours in her job, he was always happy to see her return and much enjoyed his walks and late evenings with her on the couch while she finished computer work and dozed off each night. While Mom might say he was the thorn in her side, she routinely bought him new toys and treats {including the occasional McDonald’s hamburger} and always boxed him up the best of scraps when she would dine out.
Sam continued his multi-lap greeting for us and any other houseguests until well past twelve years old when his back began to wear out. Despite his old age and ailments, he was still a great source of entertainment for visitors. The girls loved to walk him and feed him treats anytime they spent the night with Mimi. He was slower, weaker, and calmer each time we saw him in recent years, but he was always happy and ever eager for attention despite his age-related health issues.
When we returned from a family vacation this past Sunday, the kennel called Mom to tell her Samson wasn’t doing well. He had been okay all week but had suddenly lost use of his back legs and was whimpering in pain. His 16-year-old body was giving out on him. So on Monday, the vet gently advised Mom it was time, made a keepsake paw print, and laid the tired body of a pound puppy turned loyal companion, to rest.
Mom wanted him buried at home. So late Tuesday evening when the sun had almost set, the Spouse and I dug his grave {the Spouse did most all the digging} and buried him next to her condo in a spot where the hummingbirds and rabbits he enjoyed watching can visit him anytime.
After sixteen years of service first to a grad student, then to a family, and most faithfully to my mom… Samson is home. He was a hyper, awkward, and often high-maintenance dog. But, he was a good dog. And, he will be missed and forever remembered for his years here.
I sure hope that upon his arrival in heaven he was able to greet my Dad with healthy legs and twelve of his very best laps around the place.
Rest in peace and amidst many dog treats, Sam.
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