This week I had to put my precious Sam to sleep. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Like me and Molly, Sam survived abuse and unspeakable heartbreak. Each of us were lost until James found us, and together, we became a family.
Sam was with me through breast cancer; losing James; Goldie’s stroke; mother’s death and Molly’s death last month.
Fourteen years ago James found Sam in the backyard of our spy house on the hill. Sam was emaciated and scared. Even so he pawed at the air with first his right front foot, then his left, waving and dancing and using what little strength he had to be adorable. James said Sam was the only dog he’d ever known who’d read the “Puppy Handbook.”
It was obvious Sam was in bad shape. We wrapped him in a blanket and took him to our vet who said there was no guarantee this little man would survive, but if we hadn’t found him, he would have surely died in two or three days. That’s how fragile he was.
In addition to the worst case of heart worms the vet had ever seen, x-rays showed injuries conducive with being kicked… unmercifully. Sam’s rear hip sockets were shattered. There was nothing keeping his legs in place except somehow, the muscles had knitted themselves around his hip sockets and the top of his leg bones. It was a wonder he could walk. He was in pain with every step, but his spirit shone through. He’d been abused beyond belief, but he wanted to trust. He wanted to be loved.
Sam was terrified of most everyone, especially men, wearing black. I became the person he trusted most, and he became the light of my life. At every opportunity I would love on him and massage his rear hips and legs, then up and down his back. I think it was a form of physical therapy and together with his daily pain meds, it gave him the flexibility he needed to walk.
When we moved to the Little House in the Texas Hill Country, I liked to go outside with Sam because I loved watching him. Everything he did made my heart soar with happiness. Like a racehorse, Sam’s legs would dig into the ground and propel him forward. He would run around and around the outside of the house, then stop on a dime, look at me and grin, and turn around and run in the other direction. I loved nothing more than doing things I knew would make him feel safe and loved.
The day before he died, I cried in the car, at the gym and on the phone with the vet. When the checkout woman at Whole Foods said, “Have a nice day,” I burst into tears.
The last afternoon at the vet, Sam was scared, so I didn’t allow myself to cry. I couldn’t do anything that would scare him even further.
I sat on a mat on the floor and cradled his head in my lap. I stroked him and spoke in a soft calm voice. I told him how much I loved him and what a lucky dog he was… He was going to live with God.
“When you get there,” I said. “I want you to be a proud puppy with your head up and your tail up… Tell everyone you meet that you are the most loved little dog in the world.”
Last night I laid on his bed and out loud, for the umptieth time, said, “I love you, Sam.” My voice was small and sad. I couldn’t stop crying.
Please God… Tell me dogs go to heaven. Please tell me Sam knows how much he’s loved. Please, God… I don’t think I can bear this if you don’t.
I LOVE YOU, SAM! DON’T EVER FORGET THAT!