Warm Southern Breeze

"… there is no such thing as nothing."

Sam… in memoriam.

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Saturday, October 2, 2010

A dear, longtime friend of mine recently made a difficult and heart wrenching decision to euthanize his beloved pet. He is an excellent writer, and shared about his decision in the following post.

“On Saturday September 18th, I lost something else that meant the world to me. I finally had to make that awful decision to put my oldest dog Sam, to sleep. I admit it was one of the most difficult decisions I have ever had to make. With deeply loved pets, it is the ultimate contradiction: Along with the joy of ownership comes the agony of responsibility. Like anything that you love, you always know in the back of your mind that the day will eventually come when you have to let it go. Even though you know, you can never quite prepare yourself for it fully and you still can never quite say goodbye. I knew someday the day was going to come for Roxie, but I did not have to make the decision for her, as I did with Sam. Roxie passed away before I had the chance to make it. Sam was a different case. She was between 13 and 15 years old, had cataracts, and was getting unable to walk on her back legs. I finally got her to the point where she could stand on them without falling and was working with her to get her to walk again. But it finally just became too much.

“I first encountered “Sam” when I began doing pool work and cutting grass for a customer. They had two little girls, one a new baby, and they had two dogs. One was a Rotweiler (ironically named “Roxie”), and the other was a liver-spotted Dalmatian named Samantha, that they simply called “Sam.” The oldest little girl was pulling her tail, so Sam snapped at her. They decided to get rid of Sam. They asked me if I wanted her. I thought about it, and decided that she might make a good companion for Roxie. I remember the day she climbed into the truck. She never looked back, and made [-ADDRESS REDACTED-] Murfreesboro, TN, her home. She was short for a full-blooded Dalmatian, and had brown, liver-shaped spots (hence the term “liver-spotted”) instead of the usual black. She was probably the runt of her litter, and was a little “fatty,” being overfed and overgrown at the time, weighing in at about 70 pounds. The vet encouraged me to get her weight down, and I got her down to just shy of 50 pounds. When I had her cremated, David at the crematorium made a comment about how beautiful and “big-boned” she was.

“To anyone not familiar with Dalmatians, and whose knowledge extends only to the movie “101 Dalmatians,” they are nothing like the movie. Dalmatians are typically a high-maintenance breed, originating from Croatia. They are a loyal, usually hyper breed that was originally bred as a hunting dog. They are generally one-owner dogs, and are afraid of nothing. The reason they are commonly associated with being “firehouse dogs” is that in the old days, when fire trucks were horse-drawn, they were used to keep the horses from deviating from the desired path. The Dalmatian was the only dog that was not scared of the horses, and while typically deaf as they get older, they were not disturbed by the sirens. They are considered the “clowns” of the dog world. While I can’t speak for all Dalmatians, Sam was the exception. While she was indeed a one-owner dog, she was particularly ‘non-hyper.” She was a docile as a kitten, and about the only thing she could attack was a food bowl, and did that with a vengeance. I also found out that Dalmatians do not have to be spotted. They can be solid white, solid black, or solid brown, as well as spotted. The usual being white with black spots, and liver-spotted Dalmatians are extremely rare.

“Once I brought Sam home, she adapted well. The one thing I immediately noticed about Sam was that she was apparently mistreated by her previous owner. If I raised my arm to get a glass out of the cabinet, she would immediately flinch like she was about to be beaten. I never did fully break her from this. Roxie was intensely jealous of her at first, and attacked her two or three times. Funny thing is that Sam never fought back at Roxie. I never understood that. She would simply let out a yelp, and I would have to rescue her. Eventually, they learned to get along although Roxie could still be jealous at times. Roxie slept with me, and was not about to let Sam near the bed. Roxie would growl, and Sam would stay in the floor on her blanket, and would cover herself up in it. It was amazing to watch her do this. I have pictures of her looking like a druid. Where she learned this I’ll never know, but she loved her blanket. Her previous owner said that she did it at their house. I still remember that finally, they got along so well that when Roxie died, Sam would go outside and just stand and look for her. After the death of Roxie, Sam became a constant companion. She loved to ride in the truck as I did my sign route. She had my routine down and knew when Friday night came around. She was up, ready and barking about 3:00 am. She would bark until I put her in the cab of the truck, and then was totally quiet. She would stretch out and would ride without so much as a whimper. She would sleep with her head on my knee or right beside it if I was getting in and out a lot.

“Sam was not a mischievous dog, and she was never a troublesome dog. She was super-friendly, and her only vices were to always be in the kitchen, and to get into the garbage. I never saw a dog who loved garbage more. Or the kitchen for that matter. Mom hated the dog, and always tried to use the excuse that she “wrang around her feet” as she cooked as the reason why. About the only other time she got into trouble was once while cutting a customer’s grass. The customer has a coy pond. I was always taking Roxie to the farm to run around, so out of fairness, I took Sam this particular time. I was cutting the yard, about 2.5 acres of it, and I got the feeling I better check on her. I did not see her. I stopped the mower and looked around, and then walked by the coy pond. It sits down in a hole, guarded by a round rock wall. I heard a slight noise, and out of curiosity, I looked over in the coy pond. There she was, dog paddling in the middle of it. I had to get her out, and let her dry off.

“After Roxie died, I swore I would not let myself get attached to Sam. But, never say that you will never get attached to any dog. They have ways of going straight to your heart. And she got on the fast track. She became a friend, a sounding board, a consoler, and a roommate. She judged my recipes, she was an alarm clock. She was, in some ways, the quintessential man’s best friend. In other ways, she was a miracle dog. Last April, Sam jumped off the porch and almost broke her back. She could not walk for weeks. I thought I might have to put her down then, but I worked with her, and prayed over her and spoke her healing. I gave her a 30-day deadline to get well, or we had to do something. I was exasperated, and on the 30th day, she began to walk. I thanked God for this miracle. She fell off the bed once or twice, and that always hurt her back, but after about 3 days, she was walking. Eventually, it became harder for her to heal, and she stayed in the house more. About three months ago, I was noticing her limping. She could still pick herself up, but it was getting harder to do. Eventually, like humans, age and the physical limitations of her body got to be too much. One thing God promised is healing, but He never promised us that we would be young again.

“Eventually, I noticed what appeared to be a hard, calcium deposit on the left side of her tail. It eventually subsided, but came back on the right side. This time, it got bigger and broke open with pus and blood. She began to have blood in her feces, and her ability to walk became harder. I was in the process of making a little wheeled scooter for her. She then began to use the bathroom lying down. To be honest, I was suspecting the worst then, but just couldn’t make myself do it, because I knew. I loved that dog so much that I would have cleaned up after her the rest of her life if I had to. But the one thing I promised myself and her, was that she was not going to suffer as Roxie did.

“On Thursday the 16th, I began noticing that she was not passing solids, only urinating. By Friday she was not eating and was bloated from the food inside her. I knew the end was coming. I started to take her to the vet that Friday, but she loved to ride so much, that I thought I would give her one last one as I did my route. She rode with her head on my lap almost the whole route and slept. I think she knew it was coming. We got home early Saturday morning, and I put her in the kitchen, in case she finally passed something. I sealed her off, and had to take care of three yards. I got the first two yards done, and then came home to take her to the vet. I had already purchased her cremation box earlier, suspecting that the end was coming soon. I put it in the truck, and then got her wrapped up in her blanket, and headed out. I knew what the vet was going to say.

“On the way to the vet, it was strange that the same ride that I’ve taken before, the one that I thought was so slow, was now too fast. The light that I’ve complained about over a million times as being too long, was now not long enough. I was hoping it would hold forever so I wouldn’t have to let her go. I went to Hobby Lobby, and bought a plaster hand imprint kit to get her paw print. The usual long wait in a long checkout line became too short when the new register opened. I wanted to wait in the longest line possible. And the traffic jam at Old Fort Parkway I usually complained about was not jammed up enough. I pulled into the vet’s office, fighting back tears as I took her inside. The vet tech came out, and looked at the tumor, and said that it had compressed her colon. The Vet agreed and said that it looked cancerous, and said they could do surgery, but it had no guarantees, and that at her age it might be useless. She recommended euthanasia. I reluctantly agreed, and the reality was starting to set in. Again, it’s the joy of ownership balanced with the misery of responsibility. They gave me a choice of being with her, which costs more, or letting them do it without me. I decided that I was not going to let her die alone, in some sanitized way that shows no concern. I wanted to be with her as she died.

“They put a little catheter in her right leg, and brought her back in on a little stretcher. They gave me about 10 minutes alone with her. I loved on her, and she licked me. I talked to her, not fighting back tears of course. I was broken-hearted, and a broken man. I could tell she understood. I told her that sometimes love is a hard thing, and I wasn’t doing it because I was mad at her. I told her I did it because I loved her. The vet gave the shots, and I rubbed her head as she died. She died with her eyes open, staring at me. I kissed her snout, and the vet whispered “She’s gone.” It was overwhelming and I cried bitterly as I left the vet’s office.

“If you’ve ever had to put a beloved pet down, I will not lie to you. The aftermath is terrible. It is the questioning of God and the questioning of yourself. It is the questions of “why does this happen?,” and “Was it my fault?,” “Did I do all I could humanly do??” and “Was there any more I could have done??” It is so ironic that you look after something, you raise it, you nurture it, you love it, you feed it, you medicate it, and now you have to be the one to give the consent to end it’s life. I told someone that in some ways, I wish she had been hit by a car or something. At least that way, I knew someone else was responsible for her death and not me, and I could lay a finger of blame. But, there is no blame. Then there are the questions of wondering if she knew I loved her, and thinking of the times I had to scold her and get on to her. Then there is the spiritual side of me that knows that somehow, she and Roxie both know I loved them. As I’ve stated before, the Bible does not say they have souls, or if they don’t. The word “breath” in creation translates as “soul.” Again, not to challenge anyone’s belief, but the Bible says that animals have spirits. So I prefer to think that they have souls, but do not have to be redeemed. There will be animals on the new Earth, and in the millennial reign, and God has horses, so I prefer to think that she is there keeping the horses on the desired path, or is with some little boy or girl who could not have a good dog when they were here. And right now, they’ve got two of the best ones, along with my friend Marsha’s dog Buck, another great dog who was well loved by it’s owner, and Gretchen, the dog of a best friend.

“It’s going to be hard to get along without her, but life goes on. I’m sure down the line there will be other puppies, and other dogs. But as for now, I just need to preserve their memories and let them be like a fine wine that gets better with age. Yes, there may be another dog someday, and I’m sure that even another Dalmatian would be nice. Or an Alaskan Malamute. But it could never have the same disposition that Sam, and Roxie for that matter, had. But that’s what being one of a kind is: Often imitated, but never duplicated. So for now, I will let them rest in peace until I see them again and am happy knowing that they are somewhere with Buck, and Gretchen living life to the fullest, and awaiting our arrival. When we see them again, their tails will be wagging and their tongues licking us in a joyful reunion, never to be separated again.

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