Meet Sam, The Rescue Dog Who Changed Our Lives Forever!

My husband’s three young children were understandably skeptical of me when we became a little family.  We saw them only occasionally as they were living primarily with their mother.  This is a situation I well understand as I too was raised in this type of disjointed environment.  Parents struggle to figure out how to parent independently of one another. Children struggle to stay safely in the middle. Many of us know this awkwardness. It isn’t easy.

I talked my husband into moving into my house after we were married.  Naturally the house was full of my stuff.  I had been divorced ten years, and had accumulated an amazing amount of furniture and knick-knacks from family members, most of them dead! Needless to say, the kids didn’t find my house particularly warm and cozy.  It was too much grandma’s junk and not enough kid stuff. We set about to change that in short order.

Besides happy paint and kid sized furniture, we decided to get a dog. That turned out to be a great idea.  An idea that stays with me now, some 15 years later.  It was clear we would go to a shelter nearby to find an orphan to join us. A dog we could all care for given our back and forth schedules.  Boy, did we get lucky.

Sam, an older black mutt, was just sitting there waiting for us.  He had been at the shelter for months, lingering after his original family had to move and couldn’t take him with them. He was struggling to even greet people as he was so sad.  There is no doubt that he missed his people.  One of the kids caught his eye, and noticed his vulnerability. She had a sense right away that Sam was worth meeting.  We asked to take him outside where he perked up while playing with a tennis ball and successfully ran through all the commands and tricks he knew.  We were crushing on him right away. It wasn’t long before he was nuzzling the girls and so content and happy with them.  He was a renewed dog.  We had broken through to him and just had to take him home. 

Sam became the glue to our new little family.  As we fussed over him, we began to learn more and more about each other. We read out loud to him at night. He slept with the kids when they were over. We exercised with him by walking together and going to the dog park with a bag of tennis balls.   Sam was fiercely protective of his two little girls and begged to rough house with his new teenage brother.  He was very respectful of us, his pet parents, seemingly aware that we needed his help to get us more comfortable just being together. He loved us all, unconditionally.

Fifteen years have passed since Sam came to our home. He was with us almost six years.  At eleven years old he was diagnosed with cancer and died as a most loved and adored pet. He steadily led  us along the path of transition from strangers to a real family. It was a gift he enjoyed giving.

While reading this article recently, New Poll Found Pets Can Make Anything Better, Including Aging[1], it helped me understand why Sam made such a huge impact on our lives.  He helped us learn to love him and each other.  We knew this intuitively, but look at this impressive data: 

  • 86% agree pets make them feel loved

  • 79% believe pets reduce their stress

  • 73% feel pets provide a sense of purpose

  • 65% say pets help them connect with other people

  • 64% think their pets help them stay physically active

  • 62% find that pets help them stick to a routine

  •  60% say pets help them cope with the physical and emotional symptoms that come with health issues

After Sam crossed the Rainbow Bridge, and the tears finally subsided, we talked about him often.  His companion, The Little Colonel – an aptly named Mini Schnauzer doomed to destruction because his AKC breeder said his heart murmur rendered him unmarketable – wandered the house looking for Sam.  Returning over and over to sniff Sam’s collar and leash, Colonel never again would sleep where they often slept together.  Sam was missed.  His presence was missed.  His shenanigans were missed.  The happiness he brought to us each day is still missed.  Sam made a huge impression on each of us.  We still reminisce and relish the important role he played in binding our early lives together.  

The Little Colonel recently crossed over as well. Oh, more tears flowed as he was loved and respected and appreciated for his role in continuing the family on a dog path to healthy decision making. Colonel helped Sam gracefully grow into his elder years. Colonel’s companion, Midnight, a sweet little girl from the same shelter where we found Sam, is now eleven and still begs to take a long walk every day. She too was an older black mutt when we met her and now is a senior citizen! She looks a lot like Sam.

After adopting Sam, we learned of “Black Dog Syndrome.”  It is exactly what Sam and Middie suffered.  Older black mutts who are not AKC breeds and not puppies. Turns out it is really hard to find them “Forever Homes.”  You can read more about Black Dog Syndrome[2]in this article and celebrate National Black Dog Day on October 1st![3]

If you and your kids are thinking of getting a dog…we say “DO IT”.  Our Sam, Colonel and Midnight have each changed our lives in positive and unique ways.  There are dogs everywhere waiting, hoping and ready to change your lives too!