One year ago today you looked around and suddenly decided it was time to watch over me from a different world. That cold February day continues to replay, one agonizing frame at a time and still remains incredibly vivid in my mind. Not a day goes by that I don’t choke up, shedding tears I know you’d lick from my face with a warm comforting tongue. I’ continue to recall the many ways you enhanced my life, as well as those whose path crossed yours. You are still so very missed…your sweet, gentle ways, that silly expression you had…and that Swiffer tail. A tail that always wagged so hard I often wondered how it didn’t lift you up off the ground.
I’ve gone through hundreds of photos taken of you over the years, fondly recalling each moment. I remember times when you ‘snoopervised’ my garden redesign by sleeping in the warm sunlight while I removed sod and reshaped the landscape and how you’d leap up flinging yourself like a slingshot, doing half gainers whenever someone walked by and asked about you. You were known as the Neighborhood Canine Concierge, welcoming all who passed by. How you’d go nuts barking at the mail lady like she was some sort of serial killer until the glass door opened and then you’d lean against her legs, looking appreciatively up into her eyes, tail wagging like crazy. You loved her and she loved you.
I knew early on that your sweetness would make you the perfect candidate for therapy work but wondered if your knuckleheaded-ness could be properly channeled. Little did I know just how you’d morph into one truly amazing therapy dog. When we attended training classes, I worried if you’d ever be able to focus on this important job. And then you aced your tests, outperforming every dog in the class, and far beyond any of my expectations. My heart still swells with pride recalling how well you performed at your Canine Good Citizen certification.
Your unbridled joy to life brought so much happiness to hospital patients and staff alike, their squealing egged on your tail-wagging delight whenever you’d visit. You never knew a nurse you didn’t adore and watching you around ‘your harem’ always brought big smiles to many hearts.
The way you endeared yourself with the vet who performed the twice-a-year pet screenings. How you somehow managed to stick that long nose into faces, armpits, and other places to inhale the people you loved and how they’d giggle. I recall how you became a rock star entertaining mental health patients at West Pines by licking your chops on command, first on the left side and and then on the right; that long pink tongue slowly sliding back and forth on command all the while looking earnestly at the treats you knew you’d receive. They wondered why you would give so much of yourself for such a tiny reward. They just didn’t understand that was the essence of your spirit. You were always about giving, even to your last breath. You lived to hear the magic word…aww and then would respond as if you’d just won the biggest Lotto jackpot.
I will forever miss you leaning against my legs looking up at me with those gorgeous soulful eyes, as though you were asking, “well…what’s next, mom?” And how I often wondered if you weren’t part pogo stick because of your constant bouncing up and down, especially when I pulled down your hospital bandana when you’d go absolutely bonkers knowing we’d be heading to the hospital to meet all your fans. Even though you’d be bouncing off the walls, as soon as I pulled into the parking lot, a whole other Sam emerged. The calm, focused Sam who loved people with all his heart.
You were such an ambassador for therapy dogs, walking purposely, with such calmness, ready to brighten a weary heart and provided unparalleled love for everyone you met, with never any thought of judgment. You loved the idea of going to the hospital in the car, but I knew you hated the actual ride but were excited about the thought of making new friends every weekend we went to the hospital. It was always about getting there to share your love for people. Even if it meant riding in a car, an endeavor you did not enjoy but accepted with grace. The payback was what mattered most to you.
I recall the first time you rode in an elevator and how you had this panicked look with your legs somewhat splayed out to keep your balance. You looked to me for support encouragement to overcome the fear. But in no time, you became a champ elevator rider who made sure to say hello to everyone riding with us forgetting your fear. I’ll forever cherish our routine where we visited the staff in the reception area and the young college student you adored who would coo over you. When I asked you to say hello to her by putting your front feet up on the counter, you jumped up on top, all four feet in the center of her workspace and she gasped, “oh gosh, wasn’t expecting that!” Nor had I but we both laughed, your tail wagging furiously without any worry that you’d somehow breached good therapy dog manners. I still blush recalling my embarrassment that day yet I’m sure you thought you were supposed to get up close enough to say hi.
I also recall those times you welcomed my sometimes over-the-top grandkids with their noisy rambunctiousness and busy fingers outstretched to touch your dandelion soft hair that smelled so incredible after grooming. You were always a model around them and often far more patient than I was at times. You never shied away from any chaotic attention, always happy to be around people, and particularly children. I often wondered if you ever realized you were a dog and not a human.
My heart aches at these memories but I will always and forever be grateful of that fateful day when a colleague shared your photo with me after seeing it on a website looking to rehome you. You turned her into one of your biggest fans even though she was not a big fan of the breed initially, thinking like many others, ‘oh they’re too frou frou’ but she knew I loved the breed having owned several over the years. But none of them were anything like you. You were…special…so extraordinarily special from any dog I’ve ever know. And I saw that specialness the first day I brought you home.
So, on this first anniversary of your passing and with tears streaming down my face, I wanted to say how special you still are to me. I know you’re welcoming all pets who have crossed the Bridge this past year, showing them your joyful self because that’s just how you rolled. Know I’ll always love you and you’ll always be my heart and soul companion.
Live, love, bark! 🐾