(Sammy the Wonder Dog, 6/23/1997-8/31/2009)
"Hey! Do you want a dog?"
It's been a bit over twelve years now since an envelope salesman spoke those words to me after we concluded some business. Sean was his name, and he had gotten himself into a bit of a pickle. It seems earlier that summer he had promised his parish priest back home in northern Minnesota that he would take a puppie from a litter that was due in June. Since then he had moved into an apartment building that didn't allow pets. Why he didn't just explain that to his priest wasn't entirely clear to me, but I think it had something to do with "living in sin" and avoiding that whole discussion. "You're going to Hell for lying to your priest and you want me to help?", I asked. He blushed a little and said, "Well, yeah."
I agreed and a couple of weeks later he brought me a little just-weaned bundle of fur. I originally was going to name her Nikki, but coincidentally I had just hired an intern named Nikki, and I thought that might be perceived as a little weird. So I picked Samantha, Sammy in reality, for no particular reason.
She was a smart dog and figured out the "do your business outside" thing pretty quickly. It was a few months before she was able to wait more than about four hours though. I felt like the parent of a newborn those first two months or so, as every night she would wake me up at about 2:00 A.M. to take her outside. I kind of wondered what I had gotten myself into, but that passed and we settled into a routine that would last 12 years.
She wasn't really a wonder dog, of course, and she didn't always mind me so well at home. In the field though, it was a different story. She always minded me when we were off tromping through the woods and always stayed within eyesight of me. I don't think she was afraid of the woods, it's just that she knew she wasn't anywhere close to home and she better not lose me. I had bought a shock collar for her when we first started hunting because I was afraid she would get the scent of a deer and run it. She never did though, and I never used that collar. I gave it to a friend a few years later.
I didn't train Sammy that much, I didn't need to. She got the basic commands down quickly and she easily became socialized to people and other pets. She had a sweet disposition and never bit or was aggressive toward anyone. Well, except for strangers at the door, who got greeted with a pretty ferocious sounding bark until she confirmed that they were okay. Out in the field and the woods she instinctively picked up what she needed to do. "Find the bird" was a part of her and she did it well for many years. I have no idea how many miles and hours we spent bushwacking our way through Superior National Forest for grouse or scaring up pheasants in Iowa. It was a lot, and those will be my fondest memories.
When she hurt herself somehow a few weeks ago I was afraid it was the worst. I had ruled out surgery at her age and so we did what we could to see if she would recover. She seemed to rebound a little the weekend before this past, but it didn't last long. By the end of last week she had stopped eating even my food and so I knew it was time. Like I told the vet this morning, "If your old dog won't even eat bacon, it's time."
I cried this morning as I held her head, but I take comfort in that she had a good and long life and many times she got to do what was in her genes. She was a good dog and I will miss her and our walks through the woods, just the two of us. But I have the memories and they are good ones.
Rest in peace, Sammy.