No matter who you are, or where you walk in life there is a first-a starting point. For me, it was Sam. I was maybe 11 or 12 at the time and like many children I was in my dog obsessed phase. Of course, before Sam I thought a Basenji was the breed for me but from the moment I laid eyes on my little beagle mix hunched under our car I was in love. He was everything a kid could want!
He came from a family friend’s oops litter. Mom was a beagle, dad was a….? I was reading the book Savage Sam at the time (thus his name). It’s the sequel to Old Yeller that most don’t even know exist. The best part-he was all mine. He got parvo. I spent my time carefully syringing Gatorade in his mouth every couple hours, even through the night, moving up to baby food until he was strong enough to eat on his own. I refused help from my parents. He amazingly pulled through. I got a puppy training book. I worked hard with the Milkbones trying to get him to listen. No one told me hounds don’t understand this concept.
In my young days he was a constant companion. He was kept outside on a run in our yard. Grannie says she even caught me taking a nap with him in his dog house one day. I would ride my bike with him up and down our road (with him on his leash) for miles and he was right with me. He loved to bring dead things home and roll on them. We’d let him run free sometimes if we were going to be home since we lived out in the country. Many hours were spent trying to round up my dog with hound-like recall. One of my favorite things was when we’d have to take him somewhere (like the vet office). Grannie would let me ride in the back of our pick-up with him “to keep him safe” (um, what about MY safety?).
As it is common, I got older and my intense interest waned. Sam was still taken care of through my high school years, but other things caught my interest and my time was invested elsewhere. He was still there, wagging and waiting everyday when I got home. Hounds are such happy dogs and he wasn’t the type to hold a grudge!
I moved into an apartment during college and Sam came with me. Trouble stirred in paradise. Looking back, he did amazingly well seeing as though I completely set him up for failure. Other than house training I didn’t know about teaching him anything about living indoors. I was in school and working. My work shifts were 12+ hours and quite a way from home. He never complained about me leaving before light, and coming home after dark while he was stuck alone in his crate. But there were issues.
He didn’t know how to not destroy things. I had no idea how to train him. At the time, I didn’t even know there were places to ask for help, or dog trainers that could help me. I thought if you yelled “NO” enough that your dog would understand it was doing wrong. Dog trainers were those people in Hollywood that worked on movies and TV shows. He became “grumpy” as I called it back then. I know now it was probably “reactive” but I didn’t know how to fix it. So, we stayed in more and his behavior worsened (he probably needed a lot more exercise). He was a door rusher too. I though his issues were insurmountable. He became stressed and probably depressed. I just didn’t know how to make him understand, and at the time I didn’t know he wanted to do better, but was confused by his new life. After a bad couple weeks (and months of living with me) that brought on multiple episodes of stress diarrhea (he had been to the vet) I had a breakdown. I loaded him my truck and took him to my grandparents house.
My grandparents had a huge outdoor pen that had been designed for a Rottweiler. Sam had stayed there many times in his life because my grandparents would watch him when we went on vacation. It really was the creme-de-la-creme of outdoor dog pens. Basically, I provided them money and my grandparents took care of his daily needs. I’d still visit sometimes and take him to the vet but I would never try to live with him again. He got old, and fat, thanks to my grandmother, and I think he was truly happy living there. His vision faded some, as did his hearing. One day, in spring of 2008, Sam didn’t wake up. He was 16 years old.
I swore I’d never own an animal again.
Sam-Bo Buddy (which was his full name) was a parvo, and two-time heartworm survivor. He had a life of living outside eating Ol’ Roy and Pedigree mixed with table scraps that certainly included onions. He loved to dig cave-like holes he could get into. He loved to run and roll in dead things just like many dogs. He was loved by his human and I hope he understood that I tried to do right by him, even if it looked like I just gave up. I hope he can see the two wonderful hounds I share my life with today and know I wish I could have given all I have now to him.
I can’t change the past, but I can live, learn and do better in the future. For him, and my girls.