March 2005: Dog-less

When I was nine I threatened to kill myself if I didn't have a dog by my 10th birthday - the result was Zoe, a 13 lb terrier mix, who made it very clear from day one that she was my mom's dog and my mom's dog only. She wouldn't go for walks with me, wouldn't play with me, and wouldn't even move from her spot by the window if my mom left the house. Being a terrier, however, she could be coerced to do just about anything for liver...but I dreamed of a dog (literally dreamed, it was recurring, and the dog was always called Sam) of a dog who would play fetch and follow me around and worship me, like Zoe worshipped my mom.

When I was fifteen I threatened my parents again. My mom had almost given in to my constant pleading for another dog, and every time we visited the Lange Foundation, she would say things like "this one's cute, and would probably get along with Zoe". By the end of the summer, I was convinced that she was on the brink of giving in. When I finally sat down with my parents to talk about it, though, they said that we couldn't adopt another dog because it would cost too much to board it when we visited LA twice a year. Zoe always flew with us in the cabin, since she was under 15 lbs - but all of the dogs I had in mind were over this weight limit. So, once again, I resorted to threatening my parents, this time saying that if I couldn't adopt a dog of my own, I would need psychological help, which would surely cost more than boarding. I think what probably convinced them in the end that the psychological help thing was true was when I ended up under a bed at my grandma's house crying like a 3 yr old and refusing to come out until they rethought their 2nd dog isn't adolescence fun?

So the result of temper-tantrum number two was beautiful, angelic Sam. I have to admit that his angelic legacy increases by about 100x every day that I live with nuttymutt...however, he was truly a Very Good Dog. When I first got him I had a lot of issues trying to train him, but looking back at it, his 'problems' seem like nothing. So he barked...a lot...and ran away every so often, usually into people's yards, just for the sake of it, after looking back at me gleefully. And was it really such a big deal that he wouldn't give up any bones that he found on walks, to the point where we had to keep Wheatabix on hand for after he ate a particularly sharp shard?

It was a good thing that I had Sam when I did - he was the perfect teenage girl dog. He loved to be hugged, he would lick tears from my face (unlike Abby, who looked at me when I was crying about my grandmother being sick, ran to the other side of the room and stared at me like "omg you're LEAKING! somebody help, she's BROKEN!"), and he sometimes even managed to stay awake at night when I talked to him about how mean girls in high school are.
Sam was supposed to be two when I got him, but it turns out that he was actually closer to seven (very long story having to do with Sam's tendency to run away). He was still incredibly playful, right up until the day he died. He wasn't exactly a velcro-dog, like I'd originally dreamed of, but he was definitely mine, and he was a perfect family dog. He was the dog that little kids could rush up to and all they would get is a polite lick on the chin. I never once saw Sam defend himself from even the pushiest of dogs (he did like to hump unneuteured males though, but would end up flat on his back within about two seconds). He definitely had some quirks - he didn't like loud people, and when one of my particularly loud friends would come over he would paw at the back door and get bug-eyed and ask to go outside. I wanted to do therapy work with Sam, but I never got the chance. Other than the fact that he barked at electric wheelchairs, he would have been great!

I had Sam for four and a half years. If only I could have had him earlier so we would have been with me longer. Who knows if he was only eleven when he died - he was first found tied up to a pole with duct tape, and his rescuers thought he was a brown dog from all the filth. He was estimated to be about a year old, but he was such a puppy at heart that he may have already been older than that. Sam died on a Sunday morning, and up until Saturday evening he was throwing toys around and stealing Zoe's dinner. He'd had cruciate ligament surgery a few weeks earlier, and the vet was calling him one of the fastest recoveries he'd ever seen, even though Sam had torn both cruciates at once and had only had one operated on so far. Even with one torn ligament and one newly operated on knee, Sam was trying to run around the house. That Saturday night, though, he started acting a bit strange. He was suddenly lethargic and he wasn't acting like himself. His abdomen seemed distended, and after volunteering at the emergency clinic I was so paranoid about bloat that I had already called them up and warned them that we might be bringing him in. A few minutes after the call, Sam had a seizure. We rushed him to the emergency vet. As calm as I'd managed to be when volunteering at the emergency clinic, this was completely different. I was now holding my baby and I knew that he was dying. I could barely breathe, I was shaking. I was trying to calm Sam and tell him everything was ok and I couldn't even catch my breath. They managed to stabilize Sam somewhat throughout the night, by giving him two transfusions, but he was bleeding out somewhere. When he was transferred to critical care in the morning for an ultrasound, they took us into the room with nothing but a couch, and I knew...they told us they were 99% sure that Sam had a hemangiosarcoma, and that they could do surgery but that it was likely they would either find that the cancer had spread, or that Sam wouldn't pull through since he was so weak already. I didn't want to put Sam through surgery when they said that at best he'd have a few more months. I stayed in the room telling Sam he was the absolute best dog, and that I loved him more than anything else in the world. I stayed while they sedated him, until he was peacefully sleeping, but I couldn't stay and see him stop breathing, so I said goodbye then.