This is our Sammy. He is 15 years old, and not doing well. He is part of our family, and our hearts are hurting. It’s a difficult thing to reconcile our feelings for him now, because we did not always like him.
We got him from the local Humane Society when he was about four months old. When I say “we,” I mean that I went there, by myself, and picked him out. I was blamed for the choice, too. The folks at the shelter thought that he was probably a Doberman/Weimeraner mix. We already had a Doberman, Cricket, so we thought that their personalities might mix. They did not mix that well, but they got along well enough.
Our Cricket was a dominant dog, and although Sammy was pushy, he was never aggressive or dominant. If he got too pushy with our girl, however, he would get taken to the ground. She never hurt him, but she let him know who was in charge. He never really fought back, but he would put on a show to pretend that he was.
In 2012, a few months after my first period of unemployment, Sammy got sick. He was vomiting and losing weight. We were worried that perhaps a mesh bag full of fish food that he had eaten at the lake that summer had gotten stuck in his gastrointestinal tract, but it was much worse than that. Our friend and veterinarian did every possible test before telling us that he needed to have exploratory surgery. He was 12, and could die on the table, or we could watch him die a slow death from starvation. We opted for surgery.
Later in the day of Sammy’s surgery, our friend called to tell us that Sammy had a grapefruit-sized tumor growing through the wall of his stomach, and that he’d had to remove half of his stomach and part of the duodenum as well. When we visited Sammy a few days later at the vet’s office, he was skin and bones, but was walking well, and obviously glad to see us. When he came home to us a few days later, we gave him our kid’s old baby mattress covered with blankets to lay on, and tended to his every whim. I came to understand that I was lucky to be unemployed to have the time to spend with him after his surgery.
He slowly but surely came back from the brink, but three years later, has descended to that place once again. We have been giving him cortisone shots, but his spine/hip disease has progressed so much that an anti-inflammatory and pain reliever is needed more, rather than injure his kidneys with the prednisone. As I wrote in a previous post, his hindquarters sag once he has been standing for a few moments, and he has trouble getting out of his house. He still poops everywhere, because he doesn’t have the strength to posture for an intentional shit, so I am still hosing away turds everyday.
I saw a Facebook quote earlier today that said something like this (sorry I can’t remember it exactly): there are all kinds of love, and each kind is different than but as strong as the other. I immediately thought of my 18 year-old cat, Gino, who died two years ago. I always thought I loved him as much as I could love a child. I realized after I had my child that I did not love Gino THAT much, but I still loved him very, very much, and his death was difficult. He has been gone for two years now, and I still think of him sometimes like he is here. I still miss him.
I know that Sammy is slowly making his way out of our lives, and that I am going to miss him for a long time too. We weren’t crazy about him at first, but we grew on each other. He was our 6 million dollar dog. He ripped his leg open, shoved a stick into his eye socket somehow, and was bitten by a very large rattlesnake that he was saving us from. He traveled with us, shoved his large body into my carry-on suitcase one night because he didn’t have a blanket to sleep on, and was always nice to new or temporary dogs we were keeping. He was even careful about his barking – he would only bark at something outside of the fence if he could not see us.
You may already know, but pets aren’t just pets. They are part of our families, and impact our lives in ways that we don’t realize until the end is near, or has already come. Until Sammy’s time comes, I am trying to fatten him up with $3 cans of dogfood, and treats that are too expensive to mention. I will crouch by his house and hold his bowl as many times as I have to, so that he is fed, and feels happy that I am with him. He still enjoys laying in the grass and playing with our other dog, and getting a scratch on the head. He is still our Sammy for now, and we are still trying.
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