On this date in 2005, a reddish-blonde knucklehead entered the world. Officially christened “Brians Yosemite Sam” with the American Kennel Club, he was simply known as “Sam” to his owners. For you newer readers, Sam was the inspiration behind this blog.
For years, Sam was a proverbial pogo stick. Bouncing straight up and down to express excitement with life, he bounced straight into my heart. Sam was the most unfocused dog I’d ever met, long after his puppy years. Most dogs grow out of that puppy exuberance, but Sam didn’t seem to recognize it was the natural progression of acting more dignified as he aged and was actually normal. When I brought him home, he quickly burrowed deep into my soul and made his second best friend my Old English Sheepdog, Puck. For his entire life, he adored her and even after she passed, he would always do double takes whenever we encountered one, thinking it was his long lost pal.
In 2015, Sam graciously and lovingly welcomed a very feral Ninja. He seemed to realize Elsa needed extra gentle loving and slowly earned her trust. Though never great pals like he was with Puck, he patiently and selflessly taught her how to be a dog instead of a shut down puppy-mill survivor.
Despite his buoyant personality or maybe because of it, it was hard not to just love on this goofball. I just needed to find out what his job in life should be, beyond being an absolute treasure of a companion.
It was clear early on that Sam had a special knack for bringing joy and smiles to all he met. He was the neighborhood concierge, greeting every two and four legged inhabitant walking past the yard with an infectiously charming personality. Everyone loved him and he made them all feel special. It seemed only natural to share his gift with others and thus began the process of training for pet therapy work. For weeks I was convinced he would fail since he just couldn’t seem to stay focused on even simple tasks. Sam’s mantra in life was “oooh, a kitten…look a butterfly…ahh…shiny object!!” More than once I nearly abandoned the notion of getting through classes. When the time came for the test, not only did he perform flawlessly, he outshined all his classmates. I was stunned but ever so grateful to be able to share his gift of love with others.
We began visiting patients and in no time, Sam became a beloved rock star at hospital but especially with mental health patients. He would calmly allow them to hug him (which most dogs would not appreciate) and patiently waited while they petted him. His crush on all nurses was legendary and he often had eight or more surrounding him, oohing and ahhing over those soulful brown eyes, soft fur and Swiffer-like tail that was constantly in hyper-motion whenever people were around him.
Sam brought such joy and happiness to everyone at pet therapy but especially to me. While I have Norman to carry on in Sam’s pawprints at hospital and the Ninja to remind me that “still waters run deep,” Sam will always hold an extra special place in my heart.
On his Sweet Sixteenth birthday, I send my very best birthday wishes to my heart dog. Happy birthday, Knucklehead. I miss you every. single. day. You’ll always be in my heart and soul. Love and miss ya, buddy!
It’s been a long standing fact around the Ranch that Elsa will eat pretty much ANYthing (in case you missed some of the more memorable posts, click here, here or here). I’m still convinced she thinks wool socks are their own food group. To administer Elsa’s anti-seizure meds I make pill pockets with a peanut butter base and she’s always taken them like a good girl. Recently though, she’s apparently decided that they aren’t quite up to gastronomic snuff. She will either sniff at the offering then walk away completely unamused, or she’ll take it, and then spit it out as soon as I’m not looking. I’ve taken to coating them in various grated cheeses for her to even consider them remotely adequate.
Not sure what has prompted this discriminating behavior lately given her past history of eating pretty much ANYthing; but I can only surmise she’s begun to channel her inner Gordon Ramsay, the notoriously critical TV chef. Perhaps like Ramsay, she considers herself a perfectionist and feels pill pockets are falling woefully inadequate on the taste front. Oh. That. Dog.
Do you live with a canine food critic? Regardless of what you’re currently noshing, we hope your Monday is tasty.
Welcome to Monday. As I was looking for a smile to share, I came across this cartoon. My dogs cannot fathom spending too much time with me. They make sure it’s in the tightest of quarters just to keep things interesting. In my small, narrow galley-style kitchen, Norman apparently thinks I need tightrope walker training by ‘encouraging’ me to navigate around him while cooking. Having this dog means your joints get well lubricated as you high-step over him.
We hope your week is spent with lots of pawsome ‘underfoot’ time. Happy Monday.
You may have noticed we’ve been absent lately. A death in the family has taken an emotional toll on my heart and posting has been the last thing on my mind. When I returned home from being with the family, I was greeting by a deck of cards on the floor along with a certain card shark. Through my tears from the unbearable loss our family has suffered, the clouds over my heart lifted for a just a moment. Today’s moral…never play cards with the Ninja. This girl plays to win and will eat you alive.
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.
While I typically do not post on Saturday’s, I couldn’t let this particular Saturday pass without acknowledging an important anniversary. It was one year ago today that I drove to Colorado Springs to pick up a moose, er, I mean, my buddy “Stormin’ Norman” at a restaurant parking lot. I had been introduced to him a few days earlier at his foster dad’s home and admit I wasn’t quite sure just what I was getting. Oh sure, he seemed absolutely lovely and he was great around Elsa but I knew he would need some time to find his inner self after being uprooted from his long-time family and fur-sister and placed into the world of rescue where getting used to new people, new routines, etc. would be what would occupy him for the next several months. As I drove home from the initial meet and greet a few days earlier, I kept wondering what would an addition of this size be like around the Ranch? I couldn’t help but wonder how he would handle the 70 mile drive home, let alone integrate into a new pack with vastly different players and energy from what he was used to experiencing? I didn’t know if he’d balk at getting into my car and knew for certain I couldn’t lift this hunk but he easily climbed into my car and we never looked back. He was the perfect gentleman in the back seat and the perfect road companion, then and now.
To say much has happened over the past year is a bit of an understatement. Norman and I have become use to one another’s quirks and idiosyncrasies, he’s been a model Big Brother to a less than hospitable at times Ninja sister, he survived a life threatening event (bloat), and became an intern therapy dog. Norman is one of the most affable, laid back dogs and his core personality has unfolded over the past year to reveal one of the sweetest dogs I’ve ever known.
Let’s take a look back at this lovable joker over the year.
One of the things that impressed me most is how this sweet boy will allow me to pose him in the silliest of hats, etc.
To say he’s larger than life is a real understatement. Weighing in over 85 pounds, this boy is BIG…and v-e-r-y tall. Like all sheepdogs, he has a big, fat large head (the better to munch bones on apparently) and has managed to master being adorably photogenic like a puppy without even trying.
He has no problem being photographed as a unicorn (super patient with me laughing hysterically trying to capture the photo while not moving the camera) or as a slumbering sofa-surfer.
It was just ten minutes after he arrived at his new home that he was making himself comfortable on the sofa, despite being assured by his foster dad that “no, he never gets up on the furniture.”
This past year I’ve watched as Norman’s personality blossomed especially during the past few months when my son was staying with me. This mellow giant is just giddy expressing his love for people through significant butt wiggles with a one-sided smile (I’ve never managed to capture that smile in a photo as he’s constantly wiggling and my cell phone just can’t focus without blurring). He’s become a master at sniffing every tree and bush encountered on walks and I’ve learned the hard way that when he puts the brakes on or suddenly stops I’d better be prepared for significant recoil since he’s not easily moved. And I’ve also learned to hang on for dear life when he suddenly takes off after a squirrel and pray I stay upright.
Norman has brought such joy to my grieving heart after Sam’s unexpectedly crossing to the Rainbow Bridge just a month after Norman arrived. Sam must have thought he was leaving me in good paws when he departed and he was right. Norman seems to know when my heart is particularly heavy and will quietly lay next to me with his head across my lap or legs. It feels like a big furry hug that comforts my aching soul.
And so on the anniversary of his first Gotcha Day, I wish this handsome pile of fur many happy returns. Turning eight looks pretty darn good on you, Dude. Here’s wishing you a ‘pawsome’ year of great adventures and fun. Love you, buddy!