Seeing a post on Facebook this morning about who I’d sit with – not a single person sprung to mind. What did hit me was the dogs I’ve loved and lost. Not sure what this says about me as a person – that no one has ever touched my heart in the way that one of my dogs has?
I was 3 when my parents finally gave into my demands and got me a dog. Not the dog that most people would choose. He was a short haired, mini red dachshund who had been hit by a car and had a crushed pelvis. After considerable expense by the RSPCA in the UK to insert metal plates in his pelvis and legs, and bring him back to health, his owners no longer wanted him – he had scars. So, my parents bought him home. He couldn’t walk and needed some rehab. For me and Sam it was love at first sight and Sam became my constant companion. He relearnt to walk and when he got tired, would snooze in the bottom of my pushchair.
When we immigrated to New Zealand, people said we were crazy to bring out a middle aged dog – at a huge expense, but he was family and definitely coming with us. He had to spend 6 months in quarantine in the UK before following us out to New Zealand but I remember the day, I was nearly 5 years old, that he finally came home to us and it was a joyous reunion.
He loved having children to play with, he adored us and our friends. He especially liked to give big wet doggy kisses so it was a constant wrestling match with friends to pin someone down and let Sam lick them. The more giggling there was, the more he would lick.
Sam liked to visit my Aunt and Uncle’s sheep farm. His summer holidays were spent playing “big farm dog”. He’d run through the paddocks with the sheep dogs, helping to round up the sheep. The sheep were bemused. The farm dogs accepted him as one of their own. We did have to watch him carefully if he was on the flatbed of the truck as he was inclined to leap off after the farm dogs when they were given a command, so in the end he had to sit in the cab until we allowed him out.
Some years after we immigrated, a family friend who’d looked after Sam when we left the UK, visited us in New Zealand. We all went to meet him at the bus station. Sam came too. We were pleased to see him, but not as pleased as Sam. He screamed and screamed with excitement and cried for ages. It sounded like we were killing him in the middle of the city street. They were screams and cries of shear joy at his beloved friend. For those that think animals don’t remember, or don’t feel love – they are stupid and naive.
In Sam’s later years, he had some health issues. He went blind and his hearing failed. During this period we adopted another dog, Holly, a German Shepherd who’s family were going overseas. Holly loved Sam and he loved her. She acted as his guide dog and would gently wash his face and check in on him constantly. At times she would play with him, bounding towards him and bounding away. He’d join in the game but as he couldn’t see her, would find his playmate vanished within a split second. Funny to watch them playing together, he had no idea how huge she was compared with himself.
He was a feisty little dog, full of life. He smiled when he saw his humans, his lips lifting at the edges. Those that didn’t know him would have thought it was a snarl. I remember not being allowed to pet him when we got home from school until he was outside, as he’d wet himself with excitement. He’d be sitting patiently waiting for us to get home from school – his children.
Sam was the first of a number of dogs that have come into our lives and now gone to the Rainbow Bridge, all who had been cast off by someone else and found their forever homes with us. More recently we have lost Hugo and then Ruby and I have also written about Holly and Chev.