Today is St. Patrick’s Day. While I automatically think of wearing green and eating corned beef and cabbage, I mostly pause to remember Sam.
Sam would have been twenty-five today. I know Labrador Retrievers — and dogs in general — don’t live that long, but I suppose it’s natural to count the years anyway. It’s hard to believe he died almost ten years ago.
Driving home from work one day, I found myself behind a van. On the back, was an advertisement for a photography studio. Lo and behold, the picture was of an IBM colleague of mine with his wife and daughter surrounded by adorable puppies.
The next day, I went into his office and told him about my commute and how funny it was to see his face on a van. I asked about the puppies. He shared a tale (pun intended!) of how he breeds his purebred Golden Retriever. No matter how controlled the process, it seemed the neighbor’s Yellow Lab jumped the fence and a brood of mutts was born. He had one left and asked if I wanted it.
I enthusiastically set up a meeting time to take my family over to his house to meet the dog. My husband was none too pleased. “Come on,” he groaned, “you’re in sales. Haven’t you heard of the ‘puppy dog close’? Once you hold that puppy, you won’t be able to say no!” I laughed. I knew he was spot on. Brandon was four and Jessie was going on two. A puppy was the perfect addition to the family. And I always wanted one!
David was right. We couldn’t say no. Sammy-Boy became ours. He was rambunctious, yet great with the kids. They would lie and jump on him, pull his ears, and get in his face…but he never growled or nipped at them. He was well-trained, loved to play fetch and was the fastest runner ever.
When Sam was diagnosed with liver cancer, it was a terribly sad day. And when we finally put him to sleep almost nine months later, it was a devastating day. Brandon was a sophomore, away at college. Jessie was a senior in high school and was with us when we took Sam to the vet that Friday evening almost ten years ago. Saying our goodbyes and letting him go was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I still cry as I remember the three of us, sitting on the floor in an examination room, holding Sammy’s paw and stroking his face as we waited for him to take his last breath. He knew we were there. He knew he was loved. And he was ready…even if we weren’t.
Even though we’ve had three other dogs join our family, Sam always will hold the special place that comes with being the first. He was a great dog; a true member of our family. We all were better for knowing and loving him. We still miss him and hope he’s in peace up in doggy heaven.
Happy birthday, Sam.